flights, nights, and super sights…there are no rhymes contained in this long email…i promise (2/08)

May 15th, 2010 Comments Off

orford knows how to say goodbye…and i’m not talking about the “bugger off” i received my first 3 weeks.  i’m speaking of my official farewell.  as with most languages it’s the rules attached to the formal and informal that can be so tricky. the monthly sea shanty sing along happened the evening before i left.  there were a few new faces (to me).  this time a former violinist from the london philharmonic happened to be back in town and a 65 year old woman with a voice as lush, soft and rolling as the fields of ireland played the fiddle and bared a green mandolin tattoo on her right forearm.    charlie, a winker by nature and a former sailor by profession, sang “peach pickin in georgia.”  a tribute to my departure and georgia roots.  (one state is just as good as another there.)

one thought as i left the lovely countryside for warmer climates….my legs…they were the color of milk.  they had successfully avoided the sun since my november 20th exit from africa. i had fears of lactose intolerant south americans recoiling in disgust.  especially, since a few weeks prior a dear friend told me someone she knew was looking sickly.  while i care about her friend’s health it was the way she worded the said “sickliness” that concerned me more.  “you know the way you look after a week on the beach…that’s what she looked like.”  proving…you see…one person’s week at the beach can be another person’s death door.  i didn’t mention my friend, rosa, by name because she certainly didn’t mean anything by calling me out on my swiss heritage and blatantly whacking me over the head with the fact she is fortunate to live on an island where, unlike manhattan,  it’s a beach day everyday.  (her friend is fine and healthy and has returned to “normal” coloring… and as you can see i took no umbrage.)

my first time on south american soil was less then awe inspiring.  the sao paulo airport left much to be desired and after 24 hours of travel i was practically a lump with few requests to sustain my sleep walking state. but, at 3,800 feet sao paulo is magical.  the lights of the city appear as constellations….scattered and clustered in mounds of varying sizes and shapes.  which makes landing an mc escher experience where you feel as if the sky below you is getting closer and closer until you are about to land directly on orion’s belt.  landing in buenos aires is more like a lit up grid of the board game battle ship. a pulsating mondrian.

i have to say i’m disturbed and flummoxed by movies with doris day getting on a plane wearing a pillbox  hat, white gloves, heels and a pencil skirt only to arrive at her destination in the same zip-locked condition. not to mention they allowed smoking on planes in those days.   i am completely incapable of this celluloid fete.   yes,  i realize it is a film but it challenges the eternal realist in me none the less (it really did bother me that the “golden girls” woke up in the middle of the night with full make up and hair…i’m just that kind of person).  now, that being said i am fully aware i’ve never gotten off a plane anywhere near ms. day’s pristine/fictional state.  so, after 30 hours of travel the extremely lovely couple i am renting from met me at my apartment at 3:30 am. where they very sweetly handed me the keys  as i pushed them out the door i had just crawled practically comatose through.  the next day i saw them both again only to be told that on a second viewing they both agreed i really was quite lovely.  apparently, if i have to choose between 2 continents, 3 flights, 30 hours of recycled air or meeting people after a good rest and shower i should always opt for the latter.  note to self: no blind dates in airports.  i know some of you have seen me after 10 days in the puerto rican jungle or 2 weeks in scrubs.  i do have to say this particular journey tops both.

to answer the question so many have been asking. how am i getting along language wise in beautiful buenos aries:
1.    i actually don’t remember half as much spanish as i thought
•    it seems those italians were all lying to me
•    in reality i have occasional linguistic amnesia of sorts (more below)
2.   no one here (that i’ve met) speaks english fluently (except my land lord and a brit who knew i  was a gemini from a block away)
3.   i’m doing fabulously
examples of my ability to survive (besides me typing this).  i’m riding buses, reading maps, ordering food, going to movies. my landlord split off from me in search of a table at the calcuttaesque bus station as we waited for his girlfriend. i waved him over since i had found and claimed a table.  then he gave me the look i thought was reserved for babies that were left immobile on their back one second and when you turned around again they were sitting in the corner.  “how’d you do that?”  i’m sure it is a coincidence that it is always men giving me the look after completely seemingly simple tasks. the women on the other hand speak so rapidly and then look at me as i blink, catch up, and give one word grammatically incorrect answers.  they expect a lot more.  i have met several people who are eager to practice there english with me….so either i will return with a little bit better grasp on my trusty spanish or speaking remedial english. if languages were animals spanish would be a steed: bred in nobility but with a workhorse mentality not too proud to get dirty, most content when left to roam at its own pace, a creature of resourcefulness stamina and every once in a while a little too speedy for this cowgirl.  that’s the language update.

if you’ve ever wondered where buttons go when they slip from your sweaters and you look down to be greeted by stray threads where there once proudly stood a clever addition to your attire.  i found them.  they’re happy and i won’t be bringing them back.  bins, buckets, strand after strand of vintage buttons that most certainly migrated the entire world, have come to rest in san telmo, buenos aires at the weekend market. 1/3 of the consumers are tourist so some are sure to cross a few borders again. buttons dangling from booths… a shangri-la of distraction hanging in rows like beads at the entrance of an opiate den.
buttons from children’s sweaters with bright primary colors and raised animals of all species families and orders: zebras, giraffes, kittens, horses, lions, apes
buttons where tiny sea horses  ride in amber waves.
buttons bearing flags that never waved but stood prostrate in plastic.
some were separated by size. pea to full on baseball orbs (seeming completely nonfunctioning and impractical… but i wanted one none the less).  others had them categorized by color: cream, ivory, peach, crimson, teals.  then of course the few that had them sub categorized color then size.  my favorite booths, to some who walked by must have seemed overwhelmingly chaotic with disorder,  had crushed purple velvet saucers dwarfing peach leather quarter sized  buttons. it looked like a children’s birthday party… but one an actual child decorated.  i wanted to make a floor length gown of black rose buttons with pearly pink pleats and one cleverly hidden zipper. but instead i bought a necklace which beside being stunning is held together with fish wire and a hook clasp.   sensible  if i should be out on the town and then in need of catching my own dinner. which i believe all woman should be prepared to do.
i also  bought a pair of sunglasses that intimidate my old ones. which i’ve loved for years after acquiring them when my friend austin was cleaning out  his apartment.  the scavenger i am just happened to be standing between him and a trash bin.  they could be eaten by these new shades so large are they to behold.  they swallow half my face.  i love it.

i’ve been dying to use the word patina all day.  i’ve kept my eyes peeled for the opportunity to arise and…. nothing patinaesque in the least.  i’d love to hear if someone ran into anything patinaesque to share…maybe just reading it it will be adequate for the time being.

non sequitur of the day: i kid you not folks i was drinking a soda at the pub when i read this in the london times. “intelligent people are at a higher risk of suffering from alcohol problems then their less gifted friends.  a study by the Medical Research Council has found women, in particular, are more likely to drink heavily in their thirties if they are bright.”  what a way to prove your genius.
cheers leah
p.s:  wow!  if you made it this far you are either a very generous spirit, care about me to some degree or are extremely bored.  i will take advantage of any and all.

in new york i worked with a fantastic team of documentary film makers.  it so happens that the film crew is now working on a project in the dominican republic on clean water.  they have been bringing down donated baseball gloves to the children they are working with on this production.  if you have an old glove tucked in some closet they could find a nice home for it….if not you should check out the pictures.  the link to the pictures and work they are doing is below.

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