Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Is the first of December and the first day of Advent!
Like silly procrastinators, we forgot to get our Advent calendars and so will get them tomorrow at some point....
I adore Christmas.  I adore the songs (especially Lo, How A Rose) and the lights in the Boston Common and the people in coats ringing bells for the Salvation Army.  And now it's almost Advent!
Tomorrow I'm taking my darling sister to see the Harry Potter movie.  We don't hang out just the two of us enough, so hopefully I can either pick her up at school or meet her somewhere and then we can go have lunch and the movie.  Has anyone seen it?  Is it any good?
I'm excited, are you?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sometimes I love...

I was walking home from the hospital today through Boston.  I walked up Charles Street to the Common, and down Boylston through Copley Square and to Newbury.
There is something lovely about walking through the city.  Something that defies definition, something to do with the people who all have somewhere to be (it seems), all the people talking on their cellphones and hurrying to catch the light to cross the street.  Something about how everyone is already playing Christmas music, about how the air smells like snow in the afternoon (well, snow and car exhaust), about the wind on the choppy Charles.
I love my city.  I love the river and the people and the churches and the grime on the brick sidewalks.  I love that all the streets have beautiful names like Milk and Commonwealth and how bikes and cars run, horns honking, through yellow and then red lights.  I love that in between the high glass buildings of the MIT Media Lab and software firms are tiny greasy-spoon diners with chain-link walls in front when they're closed.  I love the lights shaped like dancing people strung up above Central Square in winter evenings.
And I take pride in knowing the city.  I don't know it as well as some do (my brother knows everything about the city, including where to find the best vegan pad thai), but I know my way around.  I know the best bike route home from downtown if you have no light and it's dark.  I know where to find the high vaulted ceilings of the andala coffeehouse and where to find a mess of eggs for seventy-five cents.  I know where to get ice cream.
It's on days like today I love the city - cold days, days when noises and smells are crisp in the sharp air and you can hear the T on the Longfellow Bridge from way down the Esplanade.
Perhaps all this week (it's rounds - that means I get to go in every day) I will walk home through the city instead of taking the T.  It's more beautiful this way.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What are you thankful for?

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, so here is what I am thankful for, in no particular order:
1)  My family.  I love you guys more than anything - I love watching the Lord of the Rings, I love singing Jason Mraz songs, I love just sitting and talking.  You're the best.
2)  My friends.  Especially Mike and Alex this past little while - you two have been pretty amazing.
3)  Books.  All books.
4)  Tea.
5)  A bike that gets me around the city.
And... that's all I can think of off the top of my head.  What about you guys?  What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Don't get excited yet, but...

We always win.  Photo via thefire
Christmas is absolutely my favorite holiday, but I am of the firm belief that you don't start celebrating (or even planning celebrations) until after Thanksgiving.  There is one exception, and that is Advent calendars, which you kind of need before December 1st.
So I will do something for Christmas (posting ideas for presents, etc), but not until basically December first.  If you know me personally, and you see your name/an apt description of you in the title of a post with the word "present" in there, don't read it.  It's supposed to be a surprise.
In other exciting news, Harvard beat Yale.  Yeah.  Because we're that good.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, etc!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Oh, New England...

You are beautiful and sweet and I love the autumn and winter here, but you just can't compete with Turkey.  Specifically, what I believe to be Istanbul in my brother's new cookbook Turquoise by Greg and Lucy Malouf.  Mosques, cold mornings on the Bosphorus, spice bazaars, coffeehouses with high ceilings and many-paned windows...
Have any of you been to Istanbul?  If so, did you like it?  If not, do you want to go?  It just sounds beautiful and bleak and vibrant and alive...
So my current travel obsession is Turkey.  What's yours?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Other people do this too, right?

My family plays a kind of game on Sunday mornings.  My parents and I do the crossword, but somewhere in the depths of the Sunday New York Times is.... the Travel section.  And the Modern Love essay in the Style section, but that's less important.  The Travel section fuels our wanderlust in a way that little else on New England November Sundays can.  At the bottom of the first page are about six places, and we all choose which one we'd like to go to.  Yesterday it went like this:
Options: Japan, Angkor, Istanbul, Kutna Hora (Czechoslovakia), Newcastle, Brazil
Caleb: Istanbul
Ursula: Istanbul
Daddy: Istanbul and/or Angkor
Mum: abstain (in Berlin, so she can't really say anything)
Me: Angkor
To be clear, even on days when Istanbul isn't mentioned in the paper, it's a big deal in our house.
What about you guys?  Out of those six options, where would you like to go?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Caleb!

Yesterday was my darling brother's birthday.  Also, a public health symposium.  But that doesn't matter right now.
Caleb turned sixteen (Sixteen!  Only a year younger than me, now!) and we celebrated in style.  Because he loves food, we had something like four courses and wonderful presents.  I think it went something like (1) tortelli of butternut squash with sage brown butter (courtesy of the Olives cookbook)
(2) coquille st-jaques
(3) rack of lamb with sour cherry sauce, creamed spinach, and jerusalem artichokes
(4) chestnut souffle with brandy creme anglaise.
The chestnut souffle was our attempt at a dessert we tried in Paris at a restaurant called Le Cosi, and is honestly the best dessert I have ever had.  And I adore sweets.  Our version wasn't exactly the same, but perhaps the best dessert we have ever made (including, you know, years of Pavlova and chocolate cakes and pumpkin bread puddings...).  And then we had presents.  Caleb is really really difficult to find gifts for.  My father is the same way, but he generally asks for "music we're currently listening to," which means Radiohead or Belle & Sebastian or something.  Caleb has very specific music tastes, so I don't really buy him music anymore for fear that he'll laugh at me.  So I got him two shirts, a tie from the 1930s, and an IOU for tea at Laduree the next time we're in Paris.  It's also difficult to see what kind of clothes he'll like, but he bought me a sweater that I wear basically all the time for my birthday, so I figured I'd return the favor.  And then, you know, he got cookbooks and serving dishes and a computer since his was stolen a while ago.  I'd say it was a pretty successful birthday.
Happy Birthday, Caleb!  I love you!  Thank you for promising to beat up my ex-boyfriends, for spending that five days with me in Paris by ourselves, for making the same jokes that I do and putting up with the fact that I have long telephone conversations in the next room basically every other night.  You're the best brother anyone could ask for.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Homesickness (weirdly)

Sitting in the global health conference today, staring up at the projection, it hit me like a wave of nausea.  Homesickness.  It was just a picture of a hospital up there on that screen, but the speaker meant the hospital to be an example of private-public partnerships, and to me it was home.  Looking at that picture, I knew how long it took to walk through the long grasses and up the red dirt road to my concrete room on the hill.  I knew the slightly sneezy feeling in my nose from all of the dust in the Dry Season air.  I knew how god-awful the cassava pesto tasted.  I knew it all, hitting me over the head with just a picture of a hospital.
Ever since we came back from Africa before my junior year, I'm not sure I've been home.  Don't get me wrong - I love my room.  I love the Russian painting of a cat above my bed, the pointe shoes hanging on a hook, the Wall-E made of scrap metal, the calendar of vintage seed catalogs.  And I love my house.  I love the woodstove in the kitchen, the four windows in the library, the wheezing noises of the radiators.  I love my room, my house, my city.  But I'm not sure if it is my home.
I miss Africa more than anything.  I miss Africa when I hear Rwandan accents or see hospitals in the hills.  I hadn't realized how much I missed Africa until then, listening to a lecture in which the speaker showed a simple photo - a landscape that brought tears stinging behind my eyelids.  For the first time in a long time (which I don't get - did I just bury all of this?) I feel I can't go on without the red dust and heat and smells and noise that pull me back.
When the photograph came up I called a friend of mine.  His response was that people are normally homesick for their past and present homes rather than a future home, and I know that he's right.
It's odd, though.  I always thought that I could go wandering without being tied down to places.  And I love London and Paris and Greece (the extent of the rest of my travels).  I could live there for a while - I'd love to, in fact.  But when I see a photo of clouds over Parliament, I think "oh, I love London, I wish I could go back."  I don't think that I might die if I don't return.  That was melodramatic, but you know what I mean.  I still think that the light on the moors is perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, but my heart is not wrenched in the same way it is towards Africa.
Meryl Streep in "Out of Africa" understands the indescribable pull of the continent.  In "The Grass Is Singing," Doris Lessing examines its darker, destructive side.  But it is always there.  The rawness of Africa grabs you and holds you tight and never lets go.  So I am homesick.  I am not homesick for my past and present home, for the place of my birth, for all that I love about New England - fall and winter and muddy spring.  I am homesick for red dust and wooden bikes and the rawness of an entire continent.  Somehow, in this whole mess of things, I am homesick for Africa.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sometimes I pretend to be a grownup....

... And weirdly, most of the time people don't notice.  For example, I've learned reasonably quickly that you can bypass all of the standing in line at the hospital by looking harried and making a beeline for the elevators.  This happens elsewhere, too - waiting for the T, in coffeeshops, anywhere really.  Maybe it's dressing like a grownup (also known as stealing your mother's clothing).  Maybe it's just pretending.
Also, it makes one feel like a fraud.  I was meeting with a woman the other day who thought that I was taking a gap year between college and medical school.  Nevermind that I'm not sure I want to go to medical school.  But I am seventeen years old and apparently I look like I have my life planned out.  What?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Heartbreaking, breathtaking....

On Friday night my little sister and I got dressed up and I tottered in the high-heeled shoes I wore to my senior Formal to the Boston Opera House for the second night performance of Boston Ballet's La Bayadère.  Those who know me know that I love ballet, and this was honestly the best performance I have ever seen.
The ballet tells the story of Nikiya, the temple dancer, and her doomed love for a soldier.  Chaos ensues, including a poisonous snake hidden in a basket of flowers, cat fights (including an attempt to stab the princess with what looked like a letter opener), and the most thrilling fourth act of all time.  Seriously, all the women in the Company had to be on stage then, doing the exact same thing, slowly climbing into their arabesques.  Absolutely beautiful.
Ursula and I had seats in the fourth row (!), which was absolutely incredible.  We both cried when (spoiler alert) Nikiya died, and watched in wonder when one woman spent about five minutes entirely en pointe.  Also, when the shirtless men came out.  That was most definitely a high point in the ballet, and not just because they were wearing practically nothing.  Because they were leaping higher than I previously believed possible for a human being.  Also because they were really hot.
We celebrated my father's birthday on Sunday with cassoulet and bread pudding... an excellent end to the weekend.
How was your weekend?  Did you do anything spectacular?  If you live around Boston, do you plan on going to the ballet?  You should!

Friday, November 5, 2010


Tonight my little sister and I are going to go see La Bayadere at the Opera House.  It's second night (who puts opening night on a Thursday?) and I'm super-excited.  The tickets were a Christmas gift from my parents, and I haven't been to see something cultural in ages.
What are you doing this weekend?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

When does something become art?

This may be frivolous and a little silly and also a way of procrastinating, but I've been wondering about something.  When does fashion stop being about frivolous pursuits in the way of clothing and become about art?  Is the fashion industry really a machine of capitalism or is it a machine that shows us new works of art from various artists?
My parents and I talk about this every so often.  I maintain that some collections (like Rodarte's Spring 2010 collection, the one that looked like the post-apocalyptic highlands meets Maori warriors) are art, but that the way that the fashion industry presents these works of art - you know, two weeks a year in far-off but beautiful and expensive places - is less than ideal.  Because then they're making art into a capitalist venture, somehow.
Maybe what I'm trying to say is that if your inspiration comes from some unknown place - let's go back to Rodarte's collection and say the Scottish highlands and the haka - and the way that you express that inspiration is through making garments, that's a good thing.  But art shouldn't really be an industry, I think. Maybe it makes it impersonal that way, or maybe I've just grown up in a culture where industry means dehumanization, but if fashion is art rather than a necessity or a way to make money, why are there fashion weeks and magazine advertisements?
Everything about the fashion industry confuses me.  Everything.  Except the Rodarte Spring 2010 collection, which was the first collection that I really fell in love with...
Have a picture:
Image from Rodarte's Spring 2010 Collection via projectrungay.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Sorry about not posting!  Yesterday I was a little under-the-weather and I didn't have time over the weekend....
About that - the weekend.  Usually I don't have very exciting weekends (Ursula goes to choir, church, etc), but this weekend was pretty amazing.  Since Caleb doesn't have school until Thursday, we had the whole weekend free to  do whatever we liked instead of conforming it to a homework schedule.
Friday night Caleb went to a dance so the four of us went out to dinner at a nice restaurant (I can't say where lest Caleb reads this and is angry) and then watched a very interesting movie - Before the Rains.  Have you seen it?  It's about India in the thirties... Parts of it are well done and others just aren't believable at all.
On Saturday, we went to climb Mount Cardigan in New Hampshire.  It was freezing cold, and we only got up Firescrew (the mountain next to Cardigan that you have to climb as well) before it started getting a little dark and more than a little chilly.  We should have been expecting this (you know, almost November and in the mountains and all), but there was ice all along the creases in the rock and once we got above tree line, it began to snow.  I was excited - the first snowfall of the year!  I love the snow and wintertime in general, and it was so beautiful looking across the valleys from the top of the mountain, even though all the leaves had changed and fallen already.
On Sunday - Hallowe'en! - we went out into the countryside to go apple picking, which we try to do at least once a year.  We always go to the same place - Phil's Orchard in Harvard - and then go hiking at the Oxbow reserve afterwards.  Then it was home for us and getting ready for Hallowe'en!  The four of us (my parents, Caleb, and me) watched the house while Ursula went trick-or-treating with her friends.
Since my father's birthday is Hallowe'en, we celebrate the next weekend.  We're making cassoulet, I think, and pumpkin bread pudding....