I figure I’ve been in about 80 airports around the world. That’s a lot of time spent in airports. I started out at 7 months and just kept going. As a typical TCK, I learned to fly before I walked. By the time I was 11 months old I had been in a car, on a train, on a plane, on a boat and up a funicular. All those “at what age” questions in my baby book were full in no time.
I know some people feel at home in airports, or love being in airports. I hate them. For the most part, they are just boring. I have spent hours zoned out, jet lagged, and sleep deprived on hard benches waiting for the weather to clear or the congestion to ease up or to make up for a lost connection.
Some of my life’s most terrifying experiences happened at airports. When I was 5, my family was in a plane crash in Denver, Colorado. When I was 14, I almost missed my flight from Miami to Bogota. When I was 18, I ended up being wait-listed on a midnight flight from Geneva to Nairobi, not knowing if I would be stranded.
It seems that whenever I was in these kinds of situations, I never had much money and I never had needed contact information. I just got on airplanes and expected everything to go okay and didn’t worry about it. Had I missed that flight to Bogota, all I had was my parent’s address in Bogota. No phone number, no other contact info. I suppose I could have called my brother but I’m not even sure I had his contact info. After all I was 14 years old.
But I was lucky. There were times when things didn’t go that well, but somehow I always managed to get where I was going. Over the years, I learned there were times when you really could depend on the kindness of strangers.
Travel has become more difficult, more crowded, more expensive, more stressful. But I keep doing it. My next trip is to the Arctic via Scotland. Wish me luck!
I took my car in to get the dents banged out of it this week. That meant getting a rental car. I had the choice of this tiny little thing or a “small” SUV. I took the SUV because it looked much sturdier. But it is big. Bigger than my car. And of course it is an automatic.
I bought an automatic (my first) about ten years ago. The first day I drove to work, I parked my car in the garage and I couldn’t get the keys out of the ignition. I panicked. I tried it again and again. I got out the user manual. And finally I phoned roadside assistant. After some back and forth, the mentioned the gear should be in “park”. What a complete idiot. I apologized profusely for wasting their time. I put the car in “park” and out came the keys.
So now I know. This is happening to me with the rental on a daily basis. But at least I know what to do.
I’m making pumpkin pie this weekend to take over to my dad. My grandmother made her pie with full fat cream and molasses. I started out with her recipe but modified it a bit because I like my pie spicy!
Here we go.
Mother’s Pumpkin Pie
1.5 cup pumpkin (cooked and mashed – I use it out of a can – 425 g., or 15 oz.) 1 tablespoon flour ½ cup brown sugar 5 tablespoons molasses 3 eggs 1/2 tsp ginger 2 tsp cinnamon 1/2 tsp cloves ¼ tsp allspice ½ tsp salt 1.5 cups cream or evaporated milk (I used half and half since that is what I had on hand)
Beat eggs, add pumpkin, sugar, flour, molasses and seasonings and beat thoroughly. It will look dark.
Stir in cream. The cream lightens it up and makes it soupy.
Pour in unbaked 9 inch pie shell. The shell is the hardest part to make as far as I’m concerned. I used to be fastidious about it and make perfect little ridges around the edge and cut-outs for the center. No more. To heck with Martha Stewart. My crust is always overworked and a little tough but frankly, I like it better that way. It’s not beautiful, but it is functional and tastes good!
Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees F. Pie will be done when a knife inserted comes out clean. (I check it at 30-40 minutes after reducing temperature. It will kind of puff up.)
In the continuing saga of my mother’s letters from Burma, 1955… The family took a trip from Pyinmana to Kalaw for a mini vacation. Kalaw is in the mountains so cooler than Pyinmana (and of course was where the British spent their holidays in colonial times). Traveling in those days and places was not an easy task.
“We started out from here last Wednesday morning at 7:30 – The Hewitts and Doss, our bearer, in their jeep, and us and Doss’s mother (who lives near Kalaw) in our jeep. Kalaw is about 160 miles northeast of Pyinmana. In true Burma traveling fashion, we had our water, coffee, lunch, soap, and all other necessities right along with us. Hewitts even took an extra 5 gallons of gasoline, but we passed three oil stations between here and Kalaw, so used up the gas and thew the smelly can away. Since our jeeps are new, we did not bother to take extra tires and parts, as people do who travel in older vehicles.
The worst part of the road is the first 20 miles north of Pyinmana, and that wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been expecting, so rather enjoyed even that. The roads are only one car width with all passing vehicles putting one set of wheels on the often muddy and always rutty shoulders. One bridge was out, but there was a definite rut around that was passable. This end of the trip is in the arid valley and very dry and hot. Not much vegetation – sort of like scrub-brush land at home. There are no fences along the roads, no road signs to speak of, and certainly no billboards or advertising of any sort. We didn’t see a single real automobile – only jeeps, a few station wagons, many trucks all overloaded and often in a dilapidated condition, pony carts, bullock carts (which often have a separate rut on the shoulder), and lots of pedestrians; besides herds of cattle, ponytailed sheep, goats and water buffalo grazing over the roads. As I say, there were three oil stations – one at Tacon, one at Meiktila and one at Thazi – all without restrooms! We got to Meiktila, about 90 miles from Pyinmana, about 11am and ate our lunch in a sort of park on the highway mid the stares of many local people. Then we headed east toward the Shan States and the mountains. The road starts to rise and we found lush jungle growth on all sides with a big snake slithering across the road once, monkeys chattering, flowering teak trees, and perfectly gorgeous views on occasion. The roads are not so bumpy, but are still without fences or barriers of any kind, and passing one of those big trucks on a sharp mountain curve often made one catch one’s breath! We arrived in Kalaw (rhymes with guffhaw) about 2:30 after making excellent time. (Note: 7 hours to go 160 miles was considered excellent time.)
The main attraction in the hill areas besides the cool weather and lovely scenery is the interesting bazaars where the different hill tribes sell their crops and handicrafts. These hill tribes are very colorful and usually quite friendly. I am always interested in their jewelry which is solid silver usually in the form of heavy bracelets or heavy large earrings. One tribe of interest is the one in which the women wear brass bracelets just below the knee. I’m sure these must be painful at times – especially if the woman has gained weight, for they are soldered on and never taken off. These people make lovely trinkets out of silver which they sell, and also very interesting and pretty baskets of different designs and uses. You may be sure we came home well-stocked with jewelry and baskets – as well as delicious fresh vegetables and a bunch of blue orchids which we hope to grow here.
On Saturday evening we were invited to Kingswood School – a Methodist Mission boarding school, also a day school. A friend of ours, the minister’s wife from Rangoon, was running it for a few months until a regular headmistress arrives from the States, and so she wanted us to see the school and get to know some of the children. We found the school to be a beautiful place with fine brick buildings set in the hillside amid more beautiful flowers. It conforms to government standards for schools and prepares children for entering the University of Rangoon. It’s teachers are all very well qualified and the Christian atmosphere, although most of the children are not Christian, is a very fine influence besides being very pleasant. Pre-war the school was filled to capacity but now with the troubled times there are only 30 boarders but almost 300 in the day school. I feel sure now that the internal trouble in this country is diminishing, Kingswood will regain its former popularity. After dinner that evening we played games with the children and then all sat around the fireplace (with a real fire) and sang songs, ending with a prayer to the tune of Brahms’s Lullaby. It was a lovely evening for all of us.
Most of these bazaars are what we call “a five day bazaar” which means the hill people come into town once every five days, and that is the big bazaar when all the place is full of products for sale. It happened the big day was on Sunday – the day we left to return to Pyinmana – but we got up early and went bazaaring before we started for home. Our trip home was uneventful and we drove in here about 3:30 pm.
There was just one blot on our otherwise delightful holiday – while we were bazaaring in a little village not far from Kalaw one morning, a dog bit Bill on the leg. Since we do not know the dog and have no way of seeing it within a week or ten days to know if it has died of rabies poor Bill will have to take the 14 rabies shots to be sure! They are perfectly terrible to take, but we can’t take the chance, for dogs with rabies are very prevalent in this country and everyone takes the shots if there is any question at all. But I guess we should be glad that such shots are available and that we know enough to take them.“
I wonder if the trip is very different today. They stayed at the Kalaw Heritage Hotel, built in 1903, the second oldest hotel in Myanmar – still there today (pictured above in 1955).
This week I took a trip to the MIA (Minnesota Institute of Arts) museum to see “Eternal Offerings, Chinese Ritual Bronzes”. The bronzes were from the museum collection but the display was what made the show. It was very atmospheric. At first I felt disoriented. It was dark and there were mirrors and “pools” and silks blowing in the wind. Once my eyes adjusted and I figured it all out, it was impressive. The rooms were Setting the Scene, An Animistic World, Temple, Ritual, Banquet, Rule of Propriety, Coming Full Circle.
Rule of Propriety
Like I said, atmospheric…
It is kind of snowing, sleeting, slushing today. Winter’s last hurrah.
The weather turned. It got warm. Almost 80 degrees F. So we took advantage of it and spent the day in Red Wing, a town on the Mississippi with a population of about 17,000. It has a great used bookstore and a Scandinavian shop along the several blocks of downtown.
They have an “Art Walk” downtown with several statues scattered around. One was of a young Rosie the Riveter: “We Can Do It!” Lee Leuning & Sherri Treeby, Bronze. They even had prices on them. This one was $25,000.
Red Wing is the home of Red Wing shoes founded by Charles H. Beckman in 1905. It was one of the primary companies manufacturing footwear for American soldiers fighting in WWI.
A whole section of town is devoted to pottery. When it was discovered that the glaciers had deposited large clay beds in the area, the clay was shipped to Red Wing and the Red Wing Stoneware company was founded in 1877. It changed hands several times but it and other pottery companies are still in business and welcome visitors from all over.
The architecture is eclectic.
If you are lucky and Memorial Park is open, you can see a view of the whole area from the top of the bluff. We were not lucky this time. But here are some views from last summer.
We did find a good restaurant – Home Plate Grill & the Dugout Lounge is a sports bar with live music, trivia, and comedy nights. The food is burgers and sandwiches with some salads and entrees. We had the spinach and artichoke dip and a couple of burgers with blue cheese and bacon. It was all quite tasty. Good atmosphere, good service. Fun place.
After dinner we walked down by the river where we found more statues.
I was thinking about eyes. They take in light. Images pour in. Movement. My brain processes them into things I recognize. My ears take in sounds. Add music and conversation. My brain keeps track of it. I’m driving. My hands on the wheel. The cruise control the gears the radio.
Feet on the pedal. Brain keeps track of sights sounds conversation cars. Surrounded by semis. Speeding up to get around semis. Rain starting. Windshield wipers. Billboards along the road. Leonard singing Hallelujah. Bruce belting tramps like us baby we were born to run…. Billboard flashing. Anti choice. God is here. He sent Trump. Brief thoughts about possible identities of “he”.
Impressive all the things we can do simultaneously.
Saw an interesting exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Some of it thought provoking. Some of it just depressing because of what it represents. All the horrible history. America in denial:
“In Native America: In Translation, 10 artists consider Indigenous histories, cultures, and representation through a contemporary lens. Photography, a medium historically used to suppress and stereotype Native cultures, is reclaimed by these artists, who are, in the words of the curator Wendy Red Star, “opening up space in the art world for new ways of seeing and thinking.”” (From museum pamphlet)
Lake Michigan was crazy with big waves. Too cold to surf.
In Moscow they had mesh skirts around the bottom of tall buildings to protect the passersby from falling ice. Even so, people were killed each year by icicles. In Minneapolis they close the sidewalk around tall buildings when the ice starts falling.
It is St Patrick’s Day! Who doesn’t love St Patrick’s Day? The patron saint of Ireland who drove the snakes out of Ireland (even though there were no snakes in Ireland). Sub zero wind chills for the parade today. I think I’ll skip it.
I watched the film Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles the other night. It is a three and a half hour film starring and directed by Chantal Akerman, first screened in 1975. What little dialog there is is in French. It follows a single mother over three days. It is slow and mundane. She cooks, she shops, she feeds her child, she does the washing up, she takes a bath, and she provides sex for money. It is mesmerizing in its monotony. But the changes are subtle, you have to watch closely to see her controlled behavior begin to unravel. She is a complicated woman trapped in her own world. Trapped by society? Very interesting film.
She cooked potatoes every day and some kind of meat. One day it was veal. I am feeling so uninspired. Nothing sounds good lately. I’ve been watching the Sopranos. They eat mounds and mounds of pasta at every meal. Manicotti, Ricotta, Salami, meatballs, Spaghetti, Ziti, Fagioli, etc etc. What I really want is a short rib bolognese but I’m too lazy to make it.
Requiescat by Oscar Wilde
Tread lightly, she is near Under the snow, Speak gently, she can hear The daisies grow.
All her bright golden hair Tarnished with rust, She that was young and fair Fallen to dust.
Lily-like, white as snow, She hardly knew She was a woman, so Sweetly she grew.
Coffin-board, heavy stone, Lie on her breast, I vex my heart alone She is at rest.
Peace, Peace, she cannot hear Lyre or sonnet, All my life’s buried here, Heap earth upon it.
Not a very happy poem but nicely done by an Irish son….
It’s snowing again. What else is new. I saw a movie years ago, I don’t remember the name of it or really much about it except it was about some nuclear war in the future. What I remember about it was the nuclear winter. It looked like it was snowing all the time. (It might have been The Day After) When I moved to Moscow I used to say I lived in the nuclear winter because it snowed constantly. That light steady snow that never accumulated much but just kept coming down. This winter feels like that. Constant snow.
I’m typing my mother’s letters she wrote to her family from Burma in the early 50’s. I’m almost done with 1953. She helped to edit the Rangoon International Cookbook put together by women, both expats and Burmese… and Indian and Chinese, American, English, French, Australian…In the Forward it says:
“There is a Thank You written invisibly to every contributor and source of treasured recipes, named and nameless. But here we wish to record our special thanks to Mrs. Sung San, honored with Burma’s martyr-hero, and beloved herself as Daw Khan Kai for her service to her people. In the midst of new and heavy responsibilities as Chairman of the Social Planning Commission for the Union of Burma, she has found time to give us her entire delicious “company menu”, with the recipes for the nine distinctive Burmese dishes therein.” (She was Aung San Suu Kyi’s mother)
One recipe contributed by my mother is an old favorite of mine. There were no lemons in Burma but she substituted limes and that worked fine.
(Mixture may have curdled appearance, but no matter)
Beat: 2 egg whites until stiff and fold into mixture.
Pour into buttered 1.5 quart casserole. Place in pan of hot water Bake at 325°F uncovered 40-45 min or until set (1 hr).
Serve warm or chilled. I like it warm!
The cook book was published by the Woman’s Society of Christian Service of the Methodist English Church, Rangoon, Burma 1954
About this time my father was traveling around Burma visiting schools to potentially help with agricultural education. He writes:
“I returned last Friday evening from my trip up country. We had a very enjoyable trip for that area is comparatively free from insurgent activity. We were able to drive about 150 miles away from Mandalay without a guard. That has been impossible until recently. On Sunday we were in Maymyo (by car) and the following Wed. the insurgents blew up the train and killed 14 between Mandalay and Maymyo. Day before yesterday the insurgents blew up the guard train and the regular train following behind between here and Moulmein. They then attached the train and killed several and robbed all the passengers. On our trip we were royally received everywhere we went. These people genuinely seem to like to have us visit their schools. At several schools we were presented bouquets of flowers and at practically every school we had to have tea or food. All the schools are clamoring for agricultural teachers so my program should continue to grow. They have never had teachers of agriculture in the schools before and the ones I turn out this year will determine how effective my program is for I’m the only one in Burma doing this work.
The Honorable Vice President of the U.S. is visiting here this week. There was some comment in the papers before his arrival that the Communists were going to demonstrate to protest his visit here but nothing has come off. There was a short meeting on Tuesday of the Embassy and TCA personnel to meet Mr. Nixon. So, when I get home you can shake the hand that shook the hand of the Vice President.”