Wednesday, September 22, 2004

I am back from my overseas vacation to Denmark and Portugal. I would have sent you a postcard ("Weather is here. Wish you were beautiful") but I forgot your address. Instead, my souvenirs for you are two bits of travel advice that I wish in retrospect that I had followed:
  1. bring a radio

    Well, only if you love the radio as much as I do. I trusted that all accommodations these days come with a radio in the room but this wasn't the case on this trip. Now I can only guess if there is any alternative to the ubiquitous 80's pop music that was piped into some of the buses we were in and the eating establishments we tried out. The memory of my first visions of the hills of Portugal as we were taken by bus from the Lisboa airport are now irrevocably attached to the sounds of Kenny Roger's Lady. My sibling, who took a parallel European vacation to Paris, told me that she sat in elegant French restaurants that played George Michael as background music. Next time I will bring my Porche.

  2. eat your fruits and vegetables

    Even though you are on vacation you should always eat your daily requirements of fruits and vegetables. If not, you will get very tired by the end of your trip (like my sib) or a little sick (like me). It's no fun to be sick but at least I can relate at least one positive memory out of the experience.

    I was in poor shape for the first leg of the flight back home and spent most of the flight waving off offers of food, losing all the colour in my face that I had worked so hard to attain, and trying to understand the chatty Portuguese grandmother who was sitted to the right of me. Her english was poor but unlike most speakers who don't have a grasp of a second language, she showed no shyness or hesitancy to speak.

    From what I could make out, she was going to Montreal for four months where years ago she had raised two sons and then left because of its cold winters. One son was in Victoria and the other was in Toronto and at least one of them was an obstetrician- at least, I think that what the words "baby", "hospital" and a catching motion means. Like all stereotypical grandmothers, she was very interested in babies. She told me the number of her grandchildren, their genders, their ages and after I had openly winced in pain as the plane continued to circle endlessly around the airstrip, she looked at me expectantly and asked, "baby?" and then looked crestfallen when I shook my head to say, no.

    It is very strange to be - like myself - an attached woman in your 30s and accordingly, to cause looks of barely hidden joyful expectation when you state that feel unwell or publicly refuse an alcoholic beverage.

    Now I did not really mind this woman's question as she was an openly kind soul who was concerned with the well-being of everyone around her. For example, she had a particular fear of injury from unexpected turbulence and would not so quietly abdomish (please correct my spelling here) those who were standing in the aisles within an hour of the plane's landing. And the positive memory I now have associated with being sick on vacation is because of her.

    When we were making our final descent, I was feeling my worst and had braced myself in my seat, still and grim. But to my left was Ghengis, holding my hand and to my right was my Portuguese grandmother, who was pressed against to me. I glanced up to see her sitting as if she was in church - one arm extended to the seat front, the other arm touching mine, as she prayed quietly but fervently. The whole scene suddenly struck my little sick body as stangely - and if you can forgive the self-indulgence - beautifully poignant.

    As we left the plane I turned to say goodbye to her and she replied as a stereotypical grandmother would "Drink hot drink. EAT EAT". If she had known more, I'm sure she would have also told me to eat my fruits and vegetables.

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