Sunday, December 30, 2007

pictures!

we finally uploaded our pictures to a disc, which makes it oh so much easier to put them online! i've started the process of putting them on picasa, and you can follow this link to take a look at the album-in-progress.

http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/carsonandmelissa/EuropeAndBeyond




Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~Mary Oliver

Saturday, December 29, 2007

it's easy to meet great people in a small town

pai is flooded with new years holiday tourists, the streets are full tonight of everyone, the riverside is crammed with tents and cars that drove in from other places, from the south, from bangkok, from everywhere near. much different a place than last week! today we took a ride out to a guesthouse in the country and had lunch, and then went to one of the nearby temples, this one up on the hill, with over 300 stairs to climb to reach the top, big-leaved trees on either side with their leaves falling off (remember, we are chasing fall!) and then at the top, we went into the temple and a monk welcomed us in. we sat with our feet not facing the front, as that would be rude, and put our hands in prayer looking up at the golden buddhas in front of us. the monk motioned for us to come closer, and with two other people, he dipped this bamboo brush thing into water and flicked the water over us in a rhythm, as he recited a mantra, said it was for good luck from the buddha, showering us all three times...i felt renewed. we went outside and bought two little packs of offerings...three sticks of incense to light, a yellow candle, and a little boquet of white or yellow flowers wrapped in woven banana leaf. we took those back inside and a thai woman told us how to light the candle, light the incense, say our deepest prayers and wishes, and then stick the incense in with the rest of them, and the flowers on a tray for our offerings....lighting the incense reminded me of how in all the catholic churches we visited in europe, there were always trays and trays of little tealight candles burning, and you could light one for someone and keep it burning there for them....here, the incense keeps burning for your prayers and wishes and for "good luck from the buddha" too....the monk acknowledged us again, so amazing to look into his eyes, i felt so humble and blessed to be there, the light pouring through, this little temple above pai with an extraordinary view of the valley and mountains beyond.

we've had lots of little synchronicities and nice things happening....we had a wonderful christmas dinner buffet at one of our favorite little cafes, the good life. they cooked a buffet for all the farang (foreigners) to celebrate christmas. i saw the people who had played music the night before at phu pai (really great! the band is called the tonic rays) and asked if we could sit with them. they said yes, and it was lots of fun, turns out the guy is the editor of the thailand lonely planet for the past 20 or more years! then another friend of theirs came to join, and he has also traveled extensively in SE asia, and we all had the greatest conversations. we met them later at phu pai, and met a friend of theirs named sarah who lives here, and it turns out carson and i met her two years ago at burning man at an acroyoga workshop at the heebeegeebeehealers camp!! we all thought we looked familiar to each other, and somehow she remembered how we had met...amazing! then they led us over to a bar that just opened that night for bikers...the couple both ride big motorcycles and were so sweet, and there we met the taco lady, who kira had told carson about just that morning! turns out they are not making their delicious, fresh homemade tacos anymore, which kira enjoyed very much when she was here, but we got to meet the taco lady none the less through this network of newly made friends :) the next night we dined with a musician named fantuzzi who i had seen play in bellingham when i was like 17....he is in pai with his girlfriend and they invited us to join them at na's kitchen...we went to watch them play later, and lo and behold it was rebecca and cyril from our first night out on the town! we'd all been bummed that we hadn't gotten each other's contact info that first night, and luckily rebecca had stayed an extra week in pai (which seems to happen to everyone we meet) and just happened to stop by phu pai that night :) how great, as she already feels like a great friend and we may have convinced her to come to burning man next year :)

we are both deeply immersed in our books right now, carson with shogun, and me with jonathan strange & mr norrell....we switched when we got to thailand, as we each finished the other while we were in italy. they are both over 1000 pages and we are both 3/4 of the way through. today i bought harry potter #3 to keep going with that series...if anyone has book recommendations please send them our way, it's quite easy to get english language books here. in fact, english is everywhere in these towns and it's the preferred second language.

we keep thinking of our choice to stay here for another month...on one hand it sounds so nice to relax and really deeply explore this area, and on another, we think, should we get going? will we get bored, are we not "doing" enough? so hard to not be 'doing something' all the time, living with some 'purpose' that seems 'worthwhile' than just relaxing...learning how to do that better every day. so we'll see. we have to go to chiang mai next sunday to head up to the burma border to renew our visa, and also to go to the chiang mai sunday market again and have juice at Juicy 4U of course! if we want to leave Pai a little early, than we can just forfeit a little of our month's rent....but our place is so cute, with a great view and our own little table with chairs to sit at, and windows all around, a larger clean bathroom, and a little refrigerator to hold yogurt and fruit and carson's favorite cookies from pai blues down the street.

we will continue to eat lots of smoothies and lassis and carson his iced coffees too. and whether we stay in pai for another month or not, i think we're planning to go to laos after this, and then to cambodia, and then back into thailand to visit the south after the hordes of tourists leave. oh, but i think at least a horde of tourists are here in pai tonight, and i guess we're two of them aren't we. it feels like we've been here for AGES, it's been 10 days or so, but it does feel like a home.

we are starving for check-in emails, and would love to hear from anyone who reads this! does anyone have any creative or interesting questions about our trip for us to answer?
much love!
melissa

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

merry christmas!

merry christmas to all at home!
your faithful travels experience a surreal holiday in a warm place, with christmas decorations put out for the sake of the tourists, and bands playing christmas songs for us too, little santa hats floating around here and there... :) our wheatgrass juice bar place, where our favorite girl works, she is soooooooo sweet and friendly and welcoming always and excited to see us, and us her, we all just smile and smile and laugh...they are cooking a "christmas" buffet tonight of traditional thai food from the area, and they invited us to come along. it sounds like fun!

i wanted to describe the beautiful paper lanterns we see floating in the sky every night....you can buy them from the night street vendors, and i haven't seen them released yet, but they fly up into the sky with a candle? or oil? not sure, but all aflame, and become these little glowing orange stars in the sky as they float up and up....our friend cyril said to make a wish every time you see one. i think they are for letting go of what you want to let go of, symbolically, putting it all into the little lantern and letting it float on up there and release. last night we saw quite a few, i love them!

today we are going to go check out the place on the hill...perhaps we will rent it for a month...i really just wanted to say hello and send love! hope you are all enjoying being with your families and loved ones and friends, if you are! we'll be there in spirit!
love,
melissa

Saturday, December 22, 2007

welcome to pai-radise




until we get our camera contents uploaded, i've resorted to getting images from google images to at least share a little of what we are seeing with y'all (though i suppose you can do the same!) the first two pics are of the surrounding valley and mountains here, and the third is the cutest little coffee place here in the VW van that we walk by every day :)

we are writing blogs simultaneously right now so i don't know what carson is sharing, but wow do we love pai! we have been going going going on our trip and now.....stop and breathe and be. we find more things to love about this place every day. the night before my birthday we sat down on the side of the street that is full of food vendors, clothes and things, little bars that remind me of burning man, etc. for some homemade indian food, samosas, fresh parantha bread, dal, chai, and vegetables...so yummy!...and we met the two other people who were sitting at our table randomly that didn't know each other either...a woman from west virginia and a man from northern france...we all started talking and talked of traveling, in india, in thailand, in bolivia, how to keep traveling, our love of traveling, etc, how you really do just want to stay in one place for a while to soak it up (cyril had come to pai last year intending on a three day stay and stayed for three months!). we walked through town a couple of nights later to the be-bop, the for sure most happening place after 10:30 or so, and there were four bands from bangkok playing, the most rocking roll almost metal music but really good, and the place was full of thai people and travelers and smoke and lots of buckets full of thai whiskey and thai red bull that have seven straws that everyone passes around and drinks together (carson discovered my trick of bringing the liquid up to my mouth like i was taking a drink, but then not sucking any in, he knows me too well :) it was so fun though, we all danced, and stayed till they close, we met some other people from holland, france, slovenia (who were so excited when we told them we'd just been there!), portland (!!), germany, and this great thai woman named bee that kept calling me "honey"....we all hopped on motorbikes after they closed and headed to don't cry, this place on the other side of the river that stays open till seven a.m. and has a big bonfire outside to sit around. by this time it was after midnight, and everyone sang me happy birthday around the fire! so special!! carson and i made it home by 4 and gratefully fell into bed. my birthday was wonderful, a breakfast by this place that has this huge beautiful outdoor pool a little bit out of town, a nice oil massage done thai style, lunch/dinner at our favorite place, na's kitchen (we ate there tonight too!), and we when to the most beautiful bar/music venue last night called phu pai where there is acoustic music, a man played guitar so brilliantly as we sipped on our fresh mint/lime/orange/sugar cane/thai rum mojitos, candles everywhere, remixed billie holiday music on inbetween acoustic acts....it was a really special day!

today we took a motorbike ride up into the hills out of town, checking out different places for more of a long-term rental. we saw everything from a bamboo grass shack for $5 a night, to a absolutely gorgeous landscaped former-orange-plantation pond/river/lotus blooming resort bungalow for $75 a night (a LOT for these parts!) we met some great people at all the places, co-owners from japan, new zealand, england, and their thai spouses. we found one place for around $30 a night that is absolutely gorgeous that we are going to inquire about renting for longer. we just happen to be here in the highest tourist season of the entire year, new years, so after that there will be more openings (we can stay at the place we are in for as long as we want). we just love it here....especially getting out of town a little, all the rice paddies and hills and green everywhere, and the people who are so very kind, and fellow travelers. we met a guy from england today who has just been extending his visa for a few years! he told us he will talk to some farmer friends and see if they have any places for rent.

since being in thailand, i have felt so peaceful, powerful, and connected. carson and i were talking today and i was thinking of my "home" places, those that i love the most where i feel so good and inspired to be in...bellingham of course, and heartwood always, and maui...and here too. it feels like we've been here for a couple of weeks, yet it's our 4th day! we are familiar faces now at our wheatgrass counter, one of the girls who works there is so sweet and is always happy to see us there, smiling, kap kun kaaaaah we say and bow to each other. i put my hands in prayer here a lot to say thank you.

tonight at dinner we met a man from texas who lived in hawaii and he told us of swimming with the sea turtles, honu, in hawaii and how he rescued a big "grandaddy honu" from under the coral, and then a few days later a turtle led him out to a community of turtles and they were all just swimming there facing him, as if to thank him. on thursday night, cyril told us of his time in senegal, and how everyone there is dancing, all the time. to think of not dancing is....unthinkable. constant rhythm and movement. if a person dies or gets married, they dance for three days and three nights, nonstop, people come and join from all over, dancing and dancing. i want to learn to dance like that! i want to be free in my expression. yesterday when carson told a thai woman at the massage place that it was my birthday, she just started laughing and raising her voice so excitedly, "happy birthday!!" laughing and laughing so happy for me, we both laughed so hard too, i felt so honored.

come to pai! (morgan, you would love it!)

i'm sure i'll write again soon, but i hope everyone is having a beautiful holiday season, we miss you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
love,
melissa

ramblings from pai

hello from pai!

it is i, carson, you're not so faithful blogger saying hello to you from southeast asia. i am sitting in this internet zone in a huge padded leather chair relaxing. the chair slightly reclines, and so i'm taking advantage of that and slouching down slightly just to be the most comfortable that i can be. i have no sandals on, as you don't wear sandals in this particular shop. it is cooler up here in the mountains and so at 8 pm i am wearing jeans, a t-shirt, and my bamboo jacket that i purchased at same-under-neath in portland during the mississippi street fair (20 bucks! normally 110 what a bargain!) my head is shaved...i did that in chiang mai last week. on my wrist is a red coral bracelet that i got during the sunday market from a really nice girl from holland. each piece is fire red and about 1 inch long. there are 34 pieces strung vertically. i also purchased a really amazing ring that is all silver on the band, with a black pearl from southern thailand on one side, three really small horizontal stones one on top of the other, (moonstone, a deep black one, and an orange one) and then a vertical turquoise stone on the right side of the ring. i wear that on my pinky on my left hand. i am slightly tan, and like i said...really comfortable right now! today was a very nice day and pretty typical of what we are doing right now. we woke up in our beautiful bungalow, hung out for a little while. we walked a few blocks, and then sat down at the wheatgrass bar that we frequent daily, having a delicious shot and some tea. there we met steven from victoria b.c., who was really nice. then we walked down to this great organic restaurant that is situated right on the river. we sat in big plush bamboo chairs on an open terrace and talked, eating delicious breakfast. then we walked back to the bungalow, hung out during the hot midday sun, ate some cookies with peanut butter from a great local bakery/restaurant. we decided to go out for a scooter drive to find another place to stay that is a little out of town, and so upon leaving we met another person from holland and chatted with him for awhile. we took the bike out and rode up hills and on the left side of us had an amazing view of pai valley, and on the right side we checked out some really funky places, and some amazing pristine places. all ranging from 5-70 dollars per night. next, we started driving back to ginger's secret garden. we rode the scooter up a hill to the cafe' and sat down in the sun in some really nice reclined bamboo chairs, i drank iced coffee and melissa a smoothie. there, we met claire, from france who we had seen the night before at an acoustic bar. she was hilarious and really nice. then we met jim, from england, who has lived here for 4 years and has lots of connections and owns a bar in town and is really friendly and helpful. he's in his 20's, and had just gone into the jungle with a machete knife and come out with some orchids. he cuts off a section of log that they are growing on and then puts chains on either end and hangs them in his house. i guess they get huge! he asked how long we are staying in pai and we said maybe a little while, because we love it here. and he offered to find us a place to live. so now we are looking at renting a house in pai for a month or so, to really soak it in here and take advantage of the mecca that it is. we came back to town after watching the sunset and ate fresh fish and curry at our favorite restaurant with coconut mango smoothies (for 8 dollars) and now we are here!

righttttttt. i have only been in pai for just over 4 days, but it feels like i've been here for a couple weeks. my life feels like a dream here...i think about what i do and it is all so idyllic. i wear an easy smile on my face, and i just relax and let life happen and enjoy the familiarity and unfamiliarity of it all. i wonder a lot how long it can last for?? does it just keep going while i'm in pai and able to do all of these amazing things, how do you keep it going and going... some people get here and it seems like they never leave. some people travel and they never want to stop, or they never do stop! i thought i would be here for a week or two and now we might rent a place for a month or two. (for 100 dollars/month!) there is definitely a circuit of travellers and once you tap into it it's easy to see how people just keep it going and going. sometimes in the states though it's so hard to see how it might be possible or how to step out of that routine! soooo, i wonder and ask and right now i just know that i am very fortunate to be here and that when i do come home it'll be the perfect time! and the lessons that i'm learning i'll just take with me forever and tell you all about my experiences often so that i willl always keep them alive!! so get ready to here stories and maybe repeat stories a lot!

well, i guess that is all for now! i hope that everyone is enjoying the holidays, they are somewhat surreal over here being in hot weather and a buddhist culture.
much love to you all!
carson

Thursday, December 20, 2007

pai in the sky.....



(walk down the path, take a left, and there is our little bungalow at breeze of pai!)

do you remember that scene in the movie "Amelie" where she takes the blind man's arm and steers him across and down the street for a minute and, as fast as she can, tells him everything she sees, describing every color and expression and detail that she can to his eyes who cannot see? sometimes these blogs remind me of that scene, i want to recall everything i can to all of you who are reading, so that you can see what we are seeing and can be connected to where we are.

first of all, the sunday market in chiang mai, where we left off last time....wow!!!! i had a dream that night that i wrote a blog about it and all i could write was wowwowowowowowowowowowow! it was so amazing, expansive, and huge, you can't even see everything in one night because it goes on for blocks and blocks and down side streets, everyone selling traditional thai foods and clothes and jewelry and handmade fabric beadspreads and pillowcases and paper lanterns, foot massages, thousands of people strolling, locals and tourists alike, street musicians, blind men singing, some of the most amazing photography i've ever seen....we met two wonderful women by the bee pollen stand that we hope to get together with when we return to chiang mai....and this market goes on every sunday! it's like a festival!!

we spent a couple more days in chiang mai, mostly drinking delicious fruit smoothies at Juicy 4U, and eating good food, and walking around our little area, and visiting the sweetest internet cafe owner ever who always said hello and thank you so graciously and each day had a sweet little offering outside his door, a fresh cup of water and a piece of banana bread or a roll, or an orange...i love all the little offerings by the doorways, or on the other altars that are everywhere here. we also walked up to a temple in the evening as monks were chanting, and sat outside on the steps looking through the open doors and being almost hypnotized by that chant, it's so beautiful and soothing and rhythmic and familiar and new, the orange robes, all of them facing the buddha, so strong and holy. we circled this beautiful golden monument outside that pointed up to the sky and had buddhas looking out in four directions, under the moon.... wow.

we took a bus to pai yesterday, it's a 3.5 hour ride with over 700 curves in the road, up higher into the mountains (but still warm, it's not chilly in thailand for the winter here :) and met two great guys from israel that we ended up running into two more times in pai (it's quite small) and we had lunch with them yesterday too. it's so nice to be here, much smaller and surrounded by nature, hills all around that look like they have fall colors on them, a river...our little bungalow at breeze of pai is so nice! we walk through the little path covered in huge leaves and have our own little porch, it's new and clean and comfortable, just for the two of us (we are both quite tired of european 8-bed dorm hostel living and shared showers!) so far, we have been walking around the town and eating the delicious food. we just found the best thai restaurant, called na's kitchen, and it is so cheap and so good, run by these three sweet (everyone we meet is sweet) thai women. we had a red curry with coconut milk, local eggplant (nothing like the eggplant we have at home, more like a zucchini), fresh basil, and pumpkin which was so yummy just like a kabocha squash! and we also had a salad with little slices of onion, carrot, cucumber, lime, tofu (made fresh in pai daily, somehow we are both enjoying tofu here) little chilis and fresh mint...wow!! and the best coconut shake ever for 70 cents! yum yum, i think we will go there every day. we also found an all organic restaurant called the sanctuary, which is more expensive but delicious, and a cute coffee shop called 'all about coffee' that has the sweetest little art gallery upstairs and some art by a local 5 year old boy on the walls. we are also taking a daily wheatgrass shot at this little cafe down the street, they serve unlimited tea with it, carson's first wheatgrass :)

carson just rented a little motorbike so we are about to go cruise up into the hills...there are hotsprings nearby, and waterfalls, and much else, i'm sure...i feel a little nervous to jump on the back of it, but we both have helmets too :) i'm sure it will be fun to feel the wind in my hair!

my birthday is tomorrow and i think we are going to try to find a yoga class in the morning and then have dinner in the evening, i don't know what else yet :) i'm sure it will be a nice day though! my birthday is the first day of winter, the solstice, and it feels strange to be in such a warm place for that day!

i will write again soon! we're off to cruise the road!
love,
melissa

Sunday, December 16, 2007

thailand.....

what to say (there is so much!)
i've had little blog entries scattering around in my head for the last few days, and i wish i just had an automatic computer to download them onto. in the moment, you know, they can be quite poetic and very observant and beautiful, and then i get to a computer and have to recall them from somewhere back in time.....

well we're in a different place in time than europe, for sure. we automatically settled here in a way we have not on our entire trip....even in bangkok, which is a crazy big city, we slept a lot (14 hours the first night!) and stayed very central to our little room near khao san rd. (but not as crazy as that road, which , as kira said is the "times square of thailand"....not nearly as big obviously but signs everywhere and a tourist mecca, with so many people selling clothes and jewelry and little food carts and bars and live music, like thai cover bands playing "one" by U2 and tuk tuk drivers at the entrance to the road wanting to take you somewhere, as long as they can drop you by their connected travel planning establishment or custom made clothing store first to get you to buy something and them to have a commission....all that was fun for about a day, and then too much, so we just stayed on our little three block strip that was a little more mellow, and slept a lot....the last day there we wandered across a little river and through a local neighborhood and just happened to find (how do we do this?) the only "99% organically grown restaurant in bangkok" (!!!) how great! i had a fresh carrot/beet/celery/ginger/apple juice and carson had his first thai iced coffee and we had a delicious coconut milk/lime leaf/galangal root veggie soup with Brown and Red!! rice! oh it was so delicious. we then took a taxi over to the station and bought the last two seats on the bangkok to chiang mai train, we were so lucky to get them...oh but the train ride....at several points i thought, if there was a hell than it might involve being stuck on this train forever, having it be eternally dark, and humid, and hot, with nothing to do and no way to get comfortable...well we did experience that for 13 hours, SO LONG to sit on a train, and it felt like an earthquake, much more bumpy than the queens to manhattan subway ride we went on, like is this train going to stay on the tracks? because it sure felt like it would rock off at any moment....we had to sit in separate cars and didn't see each other for the whole time, i think it's the longest we haven't seen each other on the whole trip, even though we were quite close in distance :) but the train-attendant woman was so sweet, they had a food service on board for free which we didn't eat but just it being there was nice, and as the sun rose i could see out the window, rice paddies and hills and green and farms and dogs at each stop (the thai dogs we've seen so far are so mellow, like little people walking around)....so much nicer than a big city... and chiang mai, where we are now, in the north, is much nicer though we still want to venture more rural so we are going to go to pai (kira's favorite (? at least one of them) place in the world....on tuesday. we might just stay there for a week or more and just CHILL. that sounds lovely. thailand feels to us all about chilling out and relaxing after so much sight seeing and 10 hour walking days in europe....now it is warm and easy going and just time to relax. which is very nice! i am loving all the fresh fruits, coconut papaya dragon fruit (so beautiful! it's like the color of beets, but pinker!), mangoes, bananas, passionfruit, pineapple....all of these things made into smoothies, or lassis with fresh yogurt, or breakfast sundaes with yogurt and muesli.... we bought some clothes the other day and it felt so great to put on something different than what we've been wearing for three months straight...tonight is the sunday market in chiang mai, where for blocks and blocks the street closes to traffic and everyone sells all of their wares, and clothes and silk scarves and food made on the spot, everything...we might just go on a shopping spree and say good bye to many of the things we brought with us, adios, sayonara, ciao (did you know we can say "thank you" and "hello" and "good day!" in 7 or 8 languages now!?)

so far the strangest food item that i've seen here was as we walked by a little outdoor food market yesterday....deep fried chicken heads...hmm..and by the end of the day they had all been purchased!

for the next three nights we are staying at julie's guesthouse, which is very cute, backpacker-like and cheap, we have our own room again (thank goodness for affordable private double rooms!) and they have a couple of nice hang out areas with their own little cafe and several journals of all of their former guests who write reflections, words of thanks, travel tips, etc. i'm going to read through those later to get ideas of what we should do here....i really can't wait to go south to the islands and coast, but we're thinking of waiting until after christmas for that because a lot of europeans frequent that area (we've been told) for the christmas holiday. for now we will explore chiang mai and pai and maybe do some little trips around here, or go to laos (kira and flora and fred and cimon--what did you most enjoy here? where did you stay? what trips did you go on?) carson just got his hair buzzed, now he looks like a monk, we see many of them walking the streets in their beautiful orange golden robes. tomorrow we will visit some temples for the first time, how beautiful, there are more temples in chiang mai than in any other city in thailand.

we are getting better at bargaining and at knowing what something should be worth, versus what you are told it costs at the beginning of the transaction. we took our first tuk tuk ride yesterday morning as we were tired and delirious from the train ride.....they are quite the experience, but fun, and everyone drives crazily here, you just kind of fit in somewhere and go, all the motorbikes and tuk tuks and taxis and converted pick up trucks with covered back areas that act as taxis too....the thai people we have met are really so sweet, i bought a t shirt from a woman who didn't speak a word of english but just made all of these cute little noises to indicate that she thought the one i got was the best one for me, it was such a sweet exchange! we got a juice from another woman in a little booth that she owned, and she took so much care in chopping up each vegetable and juicing it for us...we see so many travelers like us, with their "Thailand Lonely planet" books in their hands, searching out the spots, trying to make their way in such a different place. all of them either have a silk scarf or some thai pants, something they bought here, like us, which is cute and also redundant...but alas we are tourists too, aren't we! and we look just like them and we're finding our way just like them. i wonder if you can ever escape the tourists if you are a tourist...i guess that's why helpx is so nice, a chance to live with a local family and be with them for a while instead of so much sightseeing and going to all the hotspots all the time. that's why pai will be nice, to be in one small place for a while and just BE there. :)

last night we slept for 16 (!!!) hours straight, fell asleep at 5 for a "nap" that turned into an all night rest, but it felt so great...catch up from our train ride and our plane ride and everything in between....we both feel caught up. i feel really healthy right now, all the smoothies and fruits and juices and yogurt, and we are both taking probiotics and have some grapefruit seed extract to help keep us intestinally sound...let's pray that our food choices continue to be good and that we don't have to go through any hard times with it, if you know what i mean :)

other observations and thoughts...hmm let's see...in thailand they drive on the other side of the road, like in ireland and the UK...it reminds me a lot of maui, with birds of paradise and hibiscus and plumeria and little dove's cooing in the trees and all the fruits (morgan today i said to carson, doesn't this feel like Hui F road?!)...coconuts are one of my new favorite things....so many new smells, walking by the food markets or little food carts, of course the strange things like the deep fried chicken heads or toasted grasshoppers and grubs, or little pieces of meat grilled and stretched out on sticks (now what kind of animal is THAT, i ask myself, and i don't know)....lots of fresh vegetables in little stalls, fresh orange juice from little thai oranges like mandarins (or mandarinis, as they say in italy)...chiang mai has a ton of coffee shops, and lots of western food is advertised everywhere, across the street is an 'authentic italian restaurant' with homemade pasta and a wood fired pizza oven....carson got measured today for a pair of custom fit shorts....i have seen a few western men walking around with younger thai women...that is strange, i don't know what the situation is there but i can only guess...so many motor bikes with at least two people on it, sometimes a mom and two kids or a whole family....sunny and warm, humid in bangkok and thankfully not so much here...little altars everywhere with fresh glasses of water and little juice box or oranges for an offering, yellow flowers....so many temples....so many honorings of the king everywhere, i could even see them from the train, all lit up in the night, white and yellow, large sparkly constructions with the king's smile and waving hand, and offerings to him there...the beautiful monk robe colors....languages everywhere, thai and also german, french, people traveling from everywhere....oh so much....i've been on this computer for too long, but thankfully i can frequent them much more often now, as the price is around $1 at the most per minute, where there was one day in italy we spent like $12 on internet time! it is so relieving to be in a cheaper place and to be a little more extravagant with our living costs...because even better things here cost way less than they did in europe. europe was so wonderful, no regrets at all, but we both feel ourselves relaxing in a way that we didn't there. we are enjoying each other a lot here, taking everything in, a new phase of our journey together, which has been so rewarding and challenging at times, but continuing to be patient with each other (and with ourselves) to appreciate the travels we are having, to remember to be present continuously!

we miss everyone so much! i'll write more again, absolutely!
love,
melissa

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

3 continents in one day

wow! 24 hours can happen so many different ways, and for us, it was touching upon 3 continents. we left italy, landed in egypt, and then flew on down to thailand. the trip went very smoothly with confusion occuring trying to figure out how to interpret arabic and thai characters. but it seems like the world (for the most part) is set up these days for most anyone to navigate it..and we are now sitting in an internet lounge in bangkok after having just received hour long thai massages (to the tune of 5 dollars each). it is still 80 degrees, the sun now sets after 6... we had a luxurious dinner at a restaurant eating phad thai and coconut green curry with a beer for 9 dollars, listening to two thai men sing old classic songs with guitars. we are both pretty tired, pretty culture shocked, in a really nice island feel kind of way, and enjoying this new leg of our journey.
(carson)

on our stopover in egypt, we felt quite out of place and not sure what to do with ourselves under those glaring lights, and we wandered up stairs and what did we find but a....starbucks! (mom, i thought of you for sure!) it was such a little haven, so welcome amongst everything unfamiliar, and we ordered some food and mango juice (mango juice is everywhere in the egypt air planes and airport) and proceeded to meet the most wonderful egyptian man, zayed, who came over every chance he could when he was not making coffee drinks and wrote two pages for us of arabic translations, like "i want to kiss you" and "my love" and "horse" and "melissa/carson you are so beautiful"....it was so amazing! so wonderful to meet this person, and all three of us were touched by the experience....then on the plane to thailand we sat by two italian men and made conversation with them, so fun, each of us speaking some italian and some english and being able to understand each other for the most part....

of course arriving to thailand, we had absolutely no idea where we were going or where we were staying or for how long, etc....we took the bus in and walked two blocks and miraculously found this guest house called the wild orchid that we had read about yesterday online...went up, looked at a room, very nice, and for $8 a night we are staying here...it's right by a lovely night market with all sorts of foods like carson mentioned, fresh fruits, fried bugs if that's your taste, lots of clothes and silk scarves and jewelry and whatever you could imagine, massage places everywhere, it feels like a little burning man, morgan we are thinking of you and know you'd love walking around these streets and meeting people from all over the world!! lots of music (most of it in english, like sweet home alabama or house of the rising sun) and djs and wandering....we don't know how long we'll stay in bangkok, tomorrow we will just explore for a long while like we always do on our first day in a new city, and probably sample some yummy food>>>could you have guessed?! :)

the last day in italy was lovely too, walking around with jennie for the early afternoon across the river, and getting lost in a park at night, and eating a delicious little meal at a tuscan restaurant called terra de siena, a real authentic lasagne and the best bufala mozzarella caprese salad we've ever had!

love to you all! write us emails!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

words of encouragement!

hey everyone!

read on for a very long complete post from melissa...the postmaster. in the meantime, hi from me! i am currently wearing a big puffy jacket, long sleeve shirt, tshirt, undershirt, jeans, and very soaked shoes and socks. in less than 48 hours i will be wearing, shorts, a tshirt/tank top, and flip flops! that's right, the sun is calling my name and we are leaving for thailand very very soon. i am excited to lay my belly to rest with all this pasta and bread and cheese and move on to the fruits of tropics. i feel melancholy to leave italy, especially tuscany where i had such a great time meeting nicola and his family and other helpXers along the way. i have my 'learn italian' book handy though and will continue to bring it on my journey and hopefully have picked up a fair amount by the time i return to this part of the world. if anyone has been itching to learn another language, i would highly recommend it!! travelling brings out so many things and one for me has been how important it is to appreciate the many languages that are spoken, and so many people in the world speak at least 2 if not more. so go out there, get a language book and look on craigslist for people who are looking for language buddies! ciao, bonanote, mille grazie for looking at our blog and much love to you all!

carson

roma

what can you really see in one day? if you are carson and melissa, you see all you can in a city on the very first full day you are there by walking endlessly for hours and hours till your shoes are soaked (one of the only rainy days of the trip!) and nearly every point of the map has been covered. this is rome for us today. we have seen the colosseum, the roman ruins surrounding it, some over 2000 years old (!!!), meandered narrow streets, went to campo de fiori and piazza navona, where there were carnival like booths set up, the kind where you shoot little moving targets to win colorful stuffed animals, and everyone was eating grilled dough with nutella spread on it...we watched people scurry around in the rain, all of these men trying to sell umbrellas, "nice price" and we finally bought one, carson bargained a big $8 one for $4.94, all the change left in his pocket...we went into a coffee shop with coffee beans from brazil and had both a delicious cappuccino and a ciccolati, hot drinking chocolate, rich and perfect, where we met a wonderful woman from santa cruz area and we spoke to her about traveling, she was here visiting her daughter who goes to school here and was just so excited about her opportunity to be here and to see the sights and to just be in such an old place, to be out of her routine...after being here for five days she was already convinced her and her husband should sell the house and start visiting more places...it was so cute, and so great to meet someone and connect, we shared pictures of slovenia with her from our camera and she told us of some places we should see while we are in rome...we visited the pantheon and went inside, such a enormous dome, with an open circle at the top, the rain was falling down onto the beautiful marble floors...we walked through the (pouring!) rain to vatican city where the clouds started to glow and a full rainbow ended there as we walked into saint peter's cathedral, the largest and most beautiful (absolutely stunning) breathtaking cathedral in the world....wow is it huge, entirely marble, immaculate, and an honor to walk through....how many beautiful catholic cathedrals have we witnessed....so many here, so many in all of the cities we have visited, all with that smell of incense and tall cielings and tribute to those who are worshipped. it was amazing to visit it.... we walked across the river again in search for the best pizza in rome (yesterday in florence we had perhaps the best pizza of our lives, it rivaled the one we had in NYC, it was at a place called il pizzaiuolo on via dei macci, we got one to-go with capers, onions and olives with buffala mozzarella...neopolitan style crust....we ate it messily in the park with our fingers and every bite was utter perfection....it's so amazing to eat something so balanced and perfect, where nothing is missing, there's nothing to add or take away, every bite is heavenly...) we followed a guidebook's recommendation tonight to the best pizza in rome...it was good, but unfortunately not matched up to the one of yesterday. the roma style crust is even thinner and a little crunchy, where the neopolitana style...bellisimo! we tried another pizza at a different restaurant that was semi'ghost shaped with two olives for eyes, we ate it by a fountain tonight...the fountain water is so beautiful, a glowing light blue color. we went to the trevi fountain (threw a coin over my shoulder for a wish and good luck!), to the spanish steps, walked by countless other cathedrals and through the streets, so many ristorantes, so many gelaterias, so many pizzarias, so many stylish stores, so many men trying to sell roses or umbrellas or little glow in the dark discs that you toss up into the air and catch on a stick.... unfortunately our hostel is not quite where we want to be, we arrived in rome last night and the one we had originally booked, which felt so cozy and nice, was overbooked and they sent us to another one which was too full and loud. two of our roommates though are from israel and they are also traveling around the world, they were very nice and we talked with them for a while last night.

florence (firenze) was great too....of course the pizza....but the beautiful duomo in the center, the huge outside so colossal, with white green and pink marble...so many amazing tuscan restaurants, you could spend weeks trying them all...we ate at a little panini and wine place that our friend jennie recommended to us, it was so cute, you drink your piccolo (small) glass of wine out on the little street, there are little wooden shelves extending out from the wall that you put it on, and they make a fresh little panini for you to eat too...it's been a gradual adjustment to cities again after our lovely time in tuscany. it was hard for both of us to leave nicola's, such a great life we had created there, with that family and the trees and the wonderful food we ate every day, with nina and tomaso who also lived there, with the dogs, and alex the woman who worked with the horses, and colleen who was the new helpxer and former international fight attendant who has been to over 50 countries and had so much to share....florence felt big, and rome is bigger, and i just can't imagine what bangkok will be like, we are flying out on tuesday afternoon!!

is there anything anyone is wondering about or would like to hear more about? there is really so much both of us could share about our travels so far, what we have seen and experienced, what it's like, and i hardly feel like i can cover it all in these little blogs. it would be neat to have some questions or guidance to write by! we have one more day in italy, tomorrow we are meeting jennie (she was living at nicola's for a week, the one who cooked us thanksgiving dinner!) for lunch here, how neat!, and then wandering around for the rest of the day, of course scoping out a couple more pizza places, we have some in mind! :)

love to you all!
melissa

Sunday, December 2, 2007

cinque terre

sitting in a little internet point overlooking....the mediterranean!!  si, we made it to the ocean, walking along the absolutely gorgeous cliffs and little trails through the cinque terre, five beautiful little towns all connected by little walkways along the northern italian coast, colorful buildings, little winding streets, and so very quiet for this time of year!  we arrived yesterday via train and walked out on to the sand....apparently all the little markets take a 5 hour siesta in the afternoon from noon to five, so we were quite hungry for a while!  but the place is so beautiful, we walked from monterosso to vernazza, 3km of thousands of stone steps and little terraced vineyards and lemon and orange trees and olive trees....sooooo beautiful and like a little road to hana (maui) for walking...last night we ate at a little restaurant and drank some wine that was produced on the very slopes we walked upon....the towns are all so sweet.  it's nice to be here in a non tourist season.....we stayed in riomaggiore last night, and will walk through the trails today through manarola, corniglia, back to vernazza, and then take a train back into cecina where we will be at nicola's until thursday.  it has been so wonderful at nicola's, really you can't imagine the view, the rolling tuscany hills and all the olive trees we know so intimately now (we are becoming quite good pruners, hours of practice now!) and we eat so much olive oil there, produced in last year's harvest.  the three golden retrievers (blue, alba and penny who is pregnant and very emotional) follow us down to the trees every day and hang out while we prune, blue always wanting us to through sticks, pinecones and sometimes rocks!  there are two little kitties, stella and simba, who love human food and are so cute as well.  we are studying italian and are picking up more words every day, we bought a 'learn italian in 10 weeks' book and are going to continue studying it in thailand!  we are going to florence on thursday, our friend jennie who was WWOOFing with us at nicola's told us of a few great places (ie. restaurants) to hit up in florence/firenze....then we are stopping in abruzzo national park for a night and off to rome for a couple of days before we fly to thailand on the 11th (with a stopover in cairo, egypt for 4 hours, i can say i've been to africa [sortof])....
  yesterday we said good by to simona, the other wwoofer we have been living with, she is so wonderful, she's from brazil and led ashtanga yoga with us for a few days, the three of us moving together in sun salutation and breathing together and stretching together...she inspired me a lot about eating fresh brazilian fruits and cooked a wonderful coconut milk rice pudding!  lots of wisdom, i felt like i got a new little teaching every day that i would write down in my book to share with others and remember for later.  carson and i finished our first page a day book a few days ago, it is so beautiful!!! we look forward to sharing it with everyone!  hopefully we can find a way to post more pictures soon, especially the ones from the cinque terre it is such a beautiful place!!!  google image search for pictures of it, absolutely breathtaking!
much love to everyone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 23, 2007

thanksgiving

today we write from the lovely medieval italian town of siena...it is a walled city, all the buildings are made of sienna-colored brick, and it is so beautiful around every turn, every narrow street. the duomo (cathedral) here is made of black, white and pink stone...over the city walls you can see the fall-turning-colors hills of tuscany, vineyards, more beautiful buildings....we are on a day-off field trip from our amazing help exchanging experience outside of cecina...the property is up in the hills, reminding me of northern california and heartwood, the rolling hills....olive orchards, kaki (persimmon) trees in the garden, almost 200 acres of this, 40 horses, 3 golden retrievers that love attention, our own little cottage with a little twin bed loft that we squeeze into, and a most beautiful old italian style house that nicola and his 2 kids live in... the night we arrived we walked into a delicious meal with nicola's sister, nephew, and mother... we ate a traditional italian dish (kira, carson and i both thought of you independently as we ate the stewed pork dish, thinking "i bet kira would love this!") surrounded by the italian language here, nicola speaks good english and the kids do some, but mostly we sit around the table and listen to italian which is wonderful. there are two wwoofers here too, one from arizona and the other from brazil (but amazingly she lived in olympia for three years in the 90's and ate at the urban onion all the time! how wild!) and they are both so great....jennie is here to cook for a week, and yesterday the four of us spent 7 hours in the kitchen cooking the most amazing thanksgiving dinner ever. buying a whole turkey here in italy is rare, they had to order it at the butcher shop and everyone gawked at the size of an entire bird! we made all the traditional things and invited the other people who live at the farm over for dinner, we made fresh bread to bake in the outdoor oven, and we had 8 desserts on the table, including home made gelato and...oh i could talk about food forever, couldn't i!? we are having so much fun here....lots of laughter and expression, lovely fruit at the end of each meal, fresh salads, so much yummy olive oil that was produced on the farm, rolling hills, a much warmer climate than we experienced in austria for sure, and the ability to learn little pieces of a new language.

so far we have worked a few days trimming olive trees, learning the art of it, how to trim the old branches and the straight shooting branches to make way for the olive producing branches, and to do it in a way that maximizes the tree's health...also we have worked to refill ditches and burn a burn pile, it was fun to tend a fire and keep it going! to anyone who is thinking of traveling, we love helpx.net and the opportunities it has offered us thus far, just amazing!

hopefully we can find a way to put some pictures on soon, we have a lot of them! much love to everyone, we were thinking of you all yesterday on thanksgiving, giving thanks for you in our lives!

love,
m & c

Sunday, November 18, 2007

ciao!!

we have been walking the narrow winding streets of venice this evening...getting lost in the maze of canals and little streets that intersect and turn and get lost and emerge again into a piazza or another thoroughfare or little bridge....quite picturesque, yet again...it has been our week of picturesqueness, from the beauty of the vienna buildings all painted in yellows and cremes and rose-peaches....to the train ride to salzburg through the danube river valley, with a multitude of green fields and church steeples rising up in every town, to salzburg and it's sound-of-music-ness, dramatic castles on the cliff, snow flakes big enough to aim and catch them with your mouth, a cozy big hostel that plays the sound of music every night on a big tv (wouldn't that get old after...say...one night?!)...to our trainride through the austrian alps, which started out snowy and foggy and mysterious, trying to see the peaks, and then we emerged through one tunnel and the sky was blue in patches and it was SO beautiful, just amazing, riding in the middle of the valley between all of those magnificent mountains with the cute little ski village towns interspersed.

we arrived to bled, slovenia in the dark, and made our way to the place where carson's aunt and uncle live....they set us up in a little self-catering apartment for two nights, it was so luxurious, our own little room and private bathroom and even a kitchen which we did not have time to use, because the first night they took us out to a traditional slovenian restaurant where i had a whole trout baked with potatoes in foil (fresh from the pure lake nearby) and carson had dumplings with turkey and mushrooms, a local special...of course we had some lovely slovenian wine, which was very good too! yesterday the sky was entirely blue and we walked around the lake in bled which is absolutely stunning (search on google images for bled, slovenia to see pictures!) the castle there rises above these sheer rock cliffs, and we walked up to that too....the mountains rise in the distance...it is so beautiful. everyone we met was so very nice and friendly to us. bill and lisa drove us to ljubljana last night, which is the capital of slovenia and was quite charming down by the river with little bridges and willows hanging over the water...we went to a mexican restaurant which may have been the loudest restaurant we've ever eaten in! it was so much fun, we saw two of bill's friends from the shipyard and ate huge plates of mexican food and had a bucket of assorted mexican beer....wow was it fun to hang out with bill and lisa, they've been traveling and sailing around the world and working in between for about 20 years and have been to so many places, a real inspiration for us right now! it is such a blessing to spend time with family and to see familiar faces. bill also gave us a most thorough, informative, and behind the scenes tour of the 80 foot luxury sailing yacht they are working on, we went down below and saw everything coming together, and toured the warehouses to see other boats in process and a huge robotic computerized machine that drills and cuts so precisely (and quickly, compared to doing it all by hand) one of the only machines in the world like that. bill and lisa inspired us about sailing some day, maybe checking out the possibility of working on a yacht as crew (massage...serving...?!) they are so great!!!!!!!!

today we took a train to venice, through the rest of the alps that we'll see and through flatter lands where many backyards of houses have their own little grape collection growing. venice is wild...beautiful, confusing, charming, quite touristy at every turn, amazing, and a wonder of the world for sure. we spent the evening wandering around endlessly, getting lost a little and then finding our way back to something familiar, looking for places to eat, drinking a delicious cappuccino made from an old large tall copper espresso machine, and having lovely thin crust pizzas with ricotta and spinach on them...(and of course, wine again, a beverage i've never enjoyed so much of since coming to france/spain/slovenia/italy)....we will spend the morning in venice and then take a train to cecina via florence for our next help exchange, on 200 acres of beautiful property near the coast, working with pruning olive trees and hopefully working with the many horses that are boarded on the property, as well as some golden retrievers, which i have to say are my favorite kind of dog (i miss you tobin!.....and we miss you too, bernard!)

we are not sure of our internet access at our next help exchange, but we will write when we can and we are thinking of you all!!
much love,
m & c

Thursday, November 15, 2007

snow falling in the alps

hi everyone!

i am writing from snowy salzburg austria! a little while ago we stumbled into a austrian liqueur shop called sporers which is over 100 years old (4th generation)and had all sorts of hot spiked punches of orange or christmas like spices, as well as flavored liqueurs...it warmed my belly right up! i made the joke that the snow flakes are here just because it would make the town more picturesque, because that's the kind of place this is, like a postcard. the town is old, and all around are hills and mountains covered with snow and adorned with castles or cathedrals. (this is where the sound of music was filmed) it is great to be a part of this winter weather, as today we just bought a ticket to sunny warm thailand, which will fly out of rome on the 11th of december. we have just under another month in europe, and most of it will be in italy..staying with a family on 200 acres of pasture and woods just below pisa (that's right, with that leaning tower thing). it has been so fun being in austria and hearing the german language for the first time. it is beautiful and romantic and gutteral and special all at the same time. we spent the last three days in vienna exploring the town and the market and seeing what local fares this part of the world has. lots of bread. dark bread. and sauerkraut, and cheeses, and cheap austrian wine. the highlight of the time there was staying with a friend named marianne, who we found off couchsurfing.com she had been on a year long trip when was 24 and so it was a perfect match to stay with her and be inspired by her journey alone and see photos and hear stories, and vice versa to share what we've been up to and inspire her. the first night there she made us a traditional austrian dish that is mainly dumplings and eggs, and invited one of her friends over. we had great conversation and laughed a lot and i was overwhelmed by the hospitality and graciousness of these fine people.

so now we leave tomorrow for bled, slovenia where my uncle bill and aunt lisa live, and we will have dinner with them. the train ride there is through the alps, which will be a highlight of this time that we've been here in austria. from there we go to venice, and then onto cecina, where our next help exchange is. hope that everyone back home is doing lovely, and know we are thinking of you all often. much love,
carson üöä ...a few german letters on this german keyboard.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

hola from barcelona!

we made it here after a (very) long trip in the camper van through southern france and northeastern spain. the earlier french bit was beautiful, fall was sweeping the hillsides and the leaves were all golden and turning brown. most of the roads on the way were toll roads though, and we realized how expensive it can be to drive in france and spain, with gas sold by the litre as well!

but barcelona...it is a city easy to fall in love with instantly. it is much warmer here than where we've been so far, and it's right on the mediterranean sea, so there's that freshness in the air, close to the ocean, a port town. we walked down la rambla yesterday and cut off into the market...the most amazing market i've ever seen, so large and expansive and has everything you need....fresh juices in all fresh fruit flavors, like coconut, mango, kiwi, peach, passionfruit, pineapple, coconutstrawberry, banana chocolate....tropical fruits and all other fruits and fresh green herbs and lettuces of all varieties and nuts and cheese stands and fresh fish and prawns that are still moving and walking around and falling off of their displays, sausages, pig legs hanging from above that the people cut fresh slices of prociutto off of, rabbits skinned and with their hair still on whatever your prefer, chickens with their heads still on but skinned, pigs feet sold by the kilo, fresh tapas booths where the seafood is cooked right in front of you, little pots of fresh goat milk yogurt, croissants dipped in chocolate, candy and bonbons and truffles, a wandering accordian player, the smells and sounds, spice booths, organic paella and salad and savory crepes....brown eggs and white eggs and more coconut juice. it was incredible. we went there twice. :)

we walked down to the harbor where they have all of the racing sailboats poised for the barcelona world race...there were also old sailboats docked and the sun shone through their ropes....we found sweet little cafes everywhere, winding narrow streets with beautiful architecture extending up to the sky, so you want to look down and up at the same time, little shops selling beautiful funky clothes (flora we thought of you all day and how much you'd love them), great shoe stores, tapas bars, irish pubs, wine shops with spanish wine, meat shops, cheap falafel restaurants and all you can eat tapas buffets, old churches interspersed (we walked into one in the afternoon and a group of nuns were singing, like angels....i love walking into these old churches and being immersed in their sacredness). we found a little outdoor cafe by the market and had the most amazing 11E meal...large salads with balls of the sea (little shrimp fresh fish balls fried in sesame seeds)...chicken with sauteed spinach or fresh seabass with market mushrooms and romescu sauce...a glass of rose....coffee (carson) or the most delicious melissa dessert ever (fresh yogurt with honey and blackberry compote!)...bread and olive oil/balsalmic...wow it was such a great deal! later we went to a little place called la luna de jupiter and shared a bottle of local barcelona torres wine and dedicated our toasts to kira and flora who would love the day we had (earlier our rose toasts were dedicated to morgan, who carson was last in barcelona with and who he misses terribly, and to my dad, who would just love this place too, all the ships and the harbor and the architecture and the winding streets, i can just imagine all the pictures he'd take here!) we went into the basilica de santa maria de la mar last night, an enormous cathedral almost as tall as the notre dame inside...then to a wine bar with over 300 wines on the menu, sitting up stairs overlooking the square and the church through the open window drinking a glass of sparkling pinot noir...then we went to a little restaurant called mar de la ribera and had our official spanish paella, with mussels, fresh prawns with their heads still on, and white fish...dedicated to sarah tucker who always told me about how much she loves spanish paella. we've been having fun dedicating our toasts to different people we are thinking of in the moment who we'd know would enjoy what we are doing, where we are.

last night was so busy on the streets, many clubs don't even OPEN until midnight here, and go until 5 in the morning! we walked around for a while, but by then our legs were so tired that we made our way back up to our little catalonia hostel. we're in bunkbeds again, but they are so soft and cozy it's wonderful (sometimes our beds have been a little less than comfy in our hosteling experience). i think today we're going to la sagrada de la familia, one of gaudi's famous creations, and then back to the market for sure, and who knows what else! we are leaving tomorrow morning for vienna!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

home is where you are



bittersweet...
our last night at berthegon...i'm sitting in the common room with carson, leah and julia, drinking homemade mulled wine and writing my reflections in "the banana book," the youngs' book of all previous helpxer commentary of their experiences here. tonight we had a huge bonfire, burning all of the brambles that we heaved and hoed over the fenceline, all the ivy roots that we so committedly pulled from their pieces of earth surrounding the property. it was a large fire, and we drank the mulled wine and ate pancakes with nutella and homemade walnut butter and blackberry apple jam and butter...

i am feeling so sad to leave...i grew quite attached to being here, to being a part of this wonderful family, to leah and julia, and to this simplified way of life. it's been nourishing to stay put for a couple of weeks. today carson and i took a precious walk with mhairi down the green line and at one point she said "shoes!" and we took her out of her pram and walked with her...she grabbed one of each of our hands and the three of us walked down the trail, saying "woo hoo!" and "animals!" and "bramble!" and "mommy!" and "carson!" and "flower!" as she picked up leaves and acorns and tromped down the trail. it almost made me cry. how is it that you truly start appreciating where you are sometimes just as you are about to leave. i wished i had another week here to revel in being here. so often i'm comparing or waiting to get to the next place or longing for what i left behind. i'm thankful that i was able to really enjoy being here these past few days and let myself integrate into being present where i am. this is one of my best lessons and experiences of our trip so far, and my experience here will enhance the rest of our journey for sure.

carson and i have found a wonderful joy in this community, much laughter and fun just getting to know new people and spending so much time with them. last night we took a walk with julia and were all talking about travel and how much we love it but how HARD it is to miss people we love so much from home, to be away from them while we discover...and then we keep meeting new people to love and to be with and to leave and to miss...i want to keep remembering that "home is where you are," as my friend floyd told me once right before i left for heartwood, and to continue to carry all my homes with me and to keep letting new places become home for me, again and again and again, and to let my definition of community expand, to let my definition of family expand, infinitely. why hold that back? why hold back any part of myself? why hold back laughter or the expression of who i am?

tonight as the sun set a little white van pulled up, and at last, the goat cheese van had arrived (we'd been missing it the past two weeks)....up pulled the cutest little van who's doors opened to reveal a full back cab full of goat cheese....logs and fresh chevre and pepper chevre and shallot chevre and chevre with fruite compote and chevre with salmon...we bought a little bit and it was oh so charming and tasty.

tomorrow morning we have breakfast and then carson, leah and i leave with colin for barcelona...we're stopping in toulouse for tea and then i think we're making it to barcelona in the evening. i'm not sure what our internet access will be for the next few days (or few weeks for that matter, i don't think we will have internet at our homestay in Italy)....but we'll write when we can and we'll take lots of pictures and we'll think of all of you often and send you our love...feel free to write to us and let us know that you're listening! (carsonandmelissa@gmail.com) this week we're going to 6 countries with 6 languages! (france/spain/slovakia/austria/slovenia/italy)!!! wow!

thank you for reading!
love,
melissa

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

sunset walk

a walk up our favorite little road this evening...
1. julia, mel & cars
2. little fairy like bugs flying in the sun
3. julia & melissa
4. who else?
5. our shadows





pictures of our book!

here are some of our page-a-day paintings!
1 & 2: galway
3: paris
4 & 5: berthegon, france





Tuesday, November 6, 2007

an assortment

1. an angel in nashville
2. the prized kombucha our first day in ireland at cafe bar deli in cork
3. the park near cite universite in paris, idyllic
4. the view of paris from montmarte and the sacre coeur...right where the man in the movie amelie ran up the stairs to look through the telescope to find his photo album!
5. paris at night with moving hands






a day of posting pictures

there are many more pictures below in previous posts....i'm trying to post a bunch while i have access to unlimited internet and computers that already have the contents of my camera on them!

1. our special things at kilronan hostel on inishmore
2. the pantheon in paris...we were just walking around the night we got there and came upon it...it was unreal, almost like a mirage or a painting, to see this huge beautiful old building just standing there like that, all lit up in the night
3. the moulin rouge...just up that hill is the best chocolate croissant in the world, montmarte, the sacre coeur, a beautiful view of paris....
4. melissa at the arc de triomphe
5. carson looking cute in galway






yes, more pics

1. the painting i did of where we live
2. where we've been living, the former berthegon train station!
3. bramble the goat
4. the cutest baby in the world




pictures from the market yesterday

1. julia, carson, and leah at the market
2. the beloved pain au chocolat & croissant
3. spices at the market
4. €1 for all that celery!
5. the master bread baker's booth






berthegon photos 2

1. church in sauvigny
2. look at those brambles we cleared!
3. hay bale sunset
4. the road up from berthegon that we walk on for the sunset
5. a sunset over fields






france photos 1

these are some scenes from our bikerides around the berthegon area






markets are the heart of france

today was my favorite day we've had in a while...we woke up early in the cold morning (frost on the grass!) to drive to loncloitre, the town 10km away, for their once-a-month-first-monday market.  it was absolutely huge!  it took up the whole town center, rows and rows of intertwining booths with fresh produce (celery root, carrots, potatoes, endives, small onions, garlic braids, cabbages, lettuce, pumpkins, and the hugest bunch of leaved celery we've ever seen, carson had to buy it because it was so amazing for only 1€!  we'll post a picture...), lots of boucherie and charcuterie booths with cured meats, sausages, etc., fromagers, little wine bars with glasses of rose poured to enjoy there; apples galore, patissiers and boulangers....we did enjoy a couple of delicious chocolate croissants, and a couple of other treats....fresh cooked foods like sausage sandwiches, a huge vat of seafood paella, etc....clothes, shoes, boots, working tools, parfumes, fresh fish st ands....the most surprising and exotic of which was a live eel booth, with three or four containers of live black eels slithering on top of each other...when it was time, they snapped the eels head on the corner of the cooker, and then grilled it fresh for waiting customers!  needless to say, we didn't try that delicacy.... :p  we did get an amazing loaf of bread, made by a master bread maker, and it may be the best bread we've ever had....we nearly devoured the entire thing at lunch even though it was so huge...it will be nice to have a break from all the cheese and bread we consume constantly!
 
we walked around for about 3 hours (cars, julia, leah and i) and had so much fun!  there were cages of chickens for sale, ducks, geese, pigs, ponys, and other little birds, horse saddles, CDs, imports, and a wonderful "tout 2€" booth where all the hats and scarves and gloves were only that much each.  i was missing this type of festivity and community here, as we could find it in paris every day on rue moufftard.  i love wandering in markets and all the smells, vegetables, people, new things to explore and enjoy.  we'll post some pictures soon from the market and more of berthegon and la gare.  only two more days here until we venture off again...we both feel bittersweet about it and feel like we're leaving a little home here....already we've been here two weeks and feel quite close with the family and the other helpxers we're living with.  mhairi finally started saying carson's name and it is SO CUTE.  it's her new favorite word! "carson, ca rson, carson" all day....when i walked down this morning she said "mel" and then "carson?!" over and over, not being able to wait until he walked in the door.  i've never enjoyed hearing his name so much, and it's already my favorite male name in the world :)
 
the leaves have finally started changing here, yellows and some bright reds, and yet we head south once again, evading fall all the longer....it was so sad to leave vermont knowing what was to come of the fall color...i wonder if we'll ever see any...hopefully in austria or in italy if we're lucky! 
 
 

Sunday, November 4, 2007

opening doors

unfolding plans....
we are going to leave berthegon a week early because we met a scottish man who is helpxing down the road, who has a little camper rv/truck, and is driving to spain....sooo we are going with him, and leah (another helpexer that we are living with now) on a roadtrip through france to toulouse, and over to barcelona!  how exciting...we'll drive all day on thursday and get to barcelona in the evening...we're going to spend the weekend in barcelona.  last night we were looking at tickets to italy, and then thought, well where else could we fly (ryanair has such good deals) and we decided to fly into vienna austria....to be there for a couple of days, and then take the train down to bled, slovenia to visit carson's uncle, and then go to venice, and then take the train down to cecina, italy (in the tuscany region) for our next help exchange experience on the 18th....  suddenly adventure and seeing new places and three new countries added to our travels from the blessin g of the roadtrip! 
 
we've been steadily clearning blackberry brambles for four days straight, there's a huge burn pile in the yard now (hopefully we'll get a picture of it before we burn it down on wednesday, i'll post it here) and we're all a bit tired of that gnarly plant!  (but much more skilled at removing it now). 
 
will write again soon!
 
--
"you are one of the most important characters in the history of the world. the gifts you have to give are so fantastic, it would be a crime for you to be stingy in doling them out. the lives of everyone you know will become steadily richer if you can manage simply to be yourself in their presence. act as if every move you make will send ripples of influence to theends of the earth, ultimately affecting everyone alive." -rob brezsny-

Friday, November 2, 2007

photos from france

1. a view of saires, with the sunflower fields in the foreground, and the church steeple pointing up.
2. a view of our house in the distance (it is an old railroad station, la gare berthegon)
3. the old remains of the windmill at their other property in coussay, there are also several old caves that you can walk into, probably from the 14th century they think, and a cellar under the house where a little bat lives
4. a common view of the fields around here (beautiful!)
5. the old castle grounds at richelieu, a town we visited last saturday