My Photography

Sunday, March 30, 2014

15 years of sisterly love

My sweet, intelligent, and beautiful sister Maria is 15 years old today! B or Bia, as I usually call her, has always held a special place in my heart. I was almost 10 when she was born, and old enough to help care for her a lot when she was small. I remember staying with my mom in her hospital room with tiny baby Maria, the smallest of all of us, and filling out her homemade birth announcements with my shaky, childish cursive. I thought she was so perfect, and wanted to be around her all the time. My one and only (and utterly failed) venture into the world of knitting was a baby blanket for her, which I randomly found last summer and realized was much, much smaller than I remembered.

Newborn Bia in the hospital
My best 9-year-old handwriting

As a baby and toddler Bia was generally very sweet tempered, and once Tessie came along they were inseparable playmates. Though their personalities are quite opposite they have always complemented each other well and gotten along beautifully. When I was homeschooling in 7th and 8th grade Tessie was a baby and Bia was a toddler, and I often helped mom take care of them--I especially remember many hours spent watching them playing in the bath! I loved the special sisterly bonds that developed between us from all the time spent together. Neither of them remember much or any of it, but I do, and I know if I had been in school those two years we wouldn't be as close as we are now.

They wore matching clothes for years and years!

One of the hardest parts of living in Morocco for me is being so far from my sisters. Bia was only 8 when I left for college (and Tessie was 6) and I feel like I've missed so much of their growing up and becoming who they are now. Each summer I feel like I rediscover a "new version" of my sisters, who are essentially the same but who have a year's worth of changes behind them. When I got home last July Bia's hug felt different--she'd passed me in height, and was no longer the pre-teen I had left the September before. It's hard to see so tangibly how much I miss. 

B, Tess and Volamino in Brazil, 2006.

Maria is a very unique member of our family, but she and I share a lot of common traits and we understand each other well. We even look the most alike of the sisters! She's the witty one in the family--she may not talk much but when she does it's worth paying attention to. Philosophical and hilarious comments that cut right to the heart of whatever dinner-table discussion we're having are her specialty! She's a lover of paper--whether it's in a book, in one of her many notebooks, or she's drawing or painting on it--there is always some close to her. She and I are probably the two biggest readers of our siblings, and we're definitely the two who write the most. She recently started her own blog, which is full of personality, and gives me wonderful doses of her from across an ocean. Bia also likes to bake, and during my weeks in South Dakota in the summer one can often find the two of us making cookies and laughing together in the kitchen. She's a private person whose mind is constantly full of all sorts of fanciful thoughts, whose mouth and manner may be calm, but whose spirit definitely isn't. 

One major difference between us is the environment we grew up in. It still kind of confuses me that my two youngest sisters basically grew up as South Dakotan country girls. I think Bia took the move away from the acreage and into the city this past August the hardest, and I don't blame her for it. Every day she'd take an after-dinner walk around our property and in our woods, enjoying the beauty, the quiet, the alone time. She took me on her walk a few times, and it was wonderful to share that with her, and to remember how I used to do much the same when I lived there in high school.

I think that was our very first farm cat, aptly named "Kitty"

This year for Maria promises all sorts of things--a new house (we hope!), an overseas trip (we hope!), a learner's permit (maybe?), and a continuation of her growth into a beautiful young lady who is wonderful to be around and who can make everyone smile. Happiest of birthdays dear little sister, and here's hoping this year is the best one yet. I love you and am so proud of you!!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Marrakech- a restaurant worth visiting

Last Friday through Monday Othman and I spent a long weekend in Marrakech! It felt great to get out of Casa, and we ended up doing and seeing all sorts of interesting things. I'll be writing quite a few posts about our different activities, along with plenty of pictures of course, but I wanted to begin with something simple and sweet.

For lunch on Sunday we decided to check out the restaurant at Association Amal. It's a non-profit that functions as a culinary training center for under-served women in Marrakech. I had heard of it previously, and when Othman stumbled upon the extremely positive reviews on TripAdvisor we decided it'd be worth a trip!

It wasn't horribly difficult to find since we had Googlemaps on Othman's phone, but without that it wouldn't have been so easy. It's located in a residential neighborhood off any main roads, which made it a nice little haven from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. 

According to TripAdvisor it's a great place for traditional Moroccan food, so that's what we were expecting to eat. From what we understood the menu changes every day, so the daily choices are quite limited. Luckily I was able to find both an appetizer and a main course that fit my oh-so-complicated dietary needs, but Othman was a bit disappointed because other than the briwats as a starter there wasn't really anything traditional being offered that day. Beef brochettes were about as close as we got.

Someone deliberating over menu choices

That being said, the food we were served was high quality, well-prepared and nicely presented. I requested no peppers and tomatoes with my veggies due to allergies and I still got them, but we were able to swap with each other easily enough. The chocolate moelleux Othman got for dessert was so delicious that I had to cheat a bit and have some, because it was pretty incredible. (We were too hungry to think about taking pictures of our food, so you'll just have to take me on my word!)

The seating area was all outside and filled up completely as we lunched. We heard Germans, Americans, Brits, some sort of Scandinavians and Moroccans all chatting in the sun. There were lots of kids running around and playing with each other in various languages, and a few cute kittens providing everyone some entertainment.

I loved the simpleness of everything, from the two fresh roses at each table in simple clay vases, to the large and colorful clay plates the food was served on, to the floppy woven straw basket that held the homemade bread. 

The serving sizes were reasonably portioned, and though I was full at the end of our meal hungry hubby wasn't totally satisfied. If you're going to lunch there and have some big-eaters with you, be aware of that. We got all of our food (2 starters, 2 main courses, bread and a dessert) and our fresh squeezed orange juices for about 180dh, which is quite reasonable. We rounded up and gave them a full 200dh with no hesitance, because we enjoyed the experience and because it felt good to eat so well while supporting a non-profit!  

All in all we had a pleasant lunch, and are glad we went. Due to the nature of the center I think if we went another day with a different menu we may have come away more enthusiastic, but even so I'd definitely recommend grabbing a meal there if you happen to be in Marrakech!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Top ten: favorite TV shows

One thing Othman and I have loved to do since we met is watch TV series together, starting from the pilot and going through to the end or till we catch up.  It's actually not that easy to find a show we both agree on there have been quite a few that we've started and given up on, or that one of us likes much more than the other. 

Othman's musts: an interesting, logic-driven plot, at least a bit of humor, and bonus points for elements of surprise and special effects.    
Claudia's musts: good characters and on-going character development, interesting cinematography, and I don't want to be smarter than the characters. Bonus points if there are nice costumes or if it's set in the past.

Of the many we've seen together, here are my top ten favorite TV shows, in no particular order:

Mike (on the far right) is the best.
Breaking Bad (content warning)—first of all I love New Mexico, and especially Albuquerque, so how could I resist watching this one? The 5 seasons are a modern day Greek tragedy, and while being far from uplifting they’re absolutely riveting. Walter White is someone you just love to hate—who knew watching the demise of a character you never much liked to begin with could be so gripping? A must-see. (completed)

Plus he's a hunk, no denying it.
Dexter (content warning)—just don’t watch the series finale and you’ll be happier for it. Ending a great show that’s had a good run must be hard, but how they botched it so badly is beyond me. I’m not much into gore and it took some convincing on Othman’s part to get me to watch the show, but I love well-thought out characters who are realistic even in somewhat unrealistic circumstances, and the show does that beautifully. (completed) 

Sherlock—of course. It’s THE modern-day adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, with fascinating cinematography and great character development. Plus each episode is basically a stand-alone movie. Who could ask for more?

A little example of the stunning cinematography.
Game of Thrones (content warning)—absolutely beautiful sets and costumes and a entrancing story make up for the fact that wow there are a lot of characters. But there are also lots of strong female leads, including one who has DRAGONS. They don’t talk like Smaug, and they’re only babies so far, but I’m a fan. I really want to get my hands on the books—I’m sure the show will come alive even more once I understand the full story.  But even so it’s a beautiful and impressive show. 

Orange is the New Black (content warning)—a very interesting and humanizing glimpse into America’s broken prison system. It shows very effectively how prisoners are just people—and generally good people at that—who got caught up in bad situations. Plus it’s funny, and somehow plays along with stereotypes while breaking them down. So far there has been only 1 season, and I'm very much looking forward to future seasons. 

"Granny" is my fav.
Downton Abbey—yes it’s basically a soap opera, but who can resist a well-acted period soap with beautiful costumes and strong characters? Sure no one ever seems to get any older, and time goes by in bizarre leaps and jumps, but there are so many people to like and so many interesting sub-plots that I just keep waiting for more. (Disclaimer: Othman doesn't watch this one with me.)

The Office (US version)—though many might argue it went downhill in the later seasons, it never lost my interest, and remained just as funny right through to the end. I love the normalcy and the non-Hollywood feel the actors give it, and the show has produced some gems of characters. I mean really, who can forget Dwight? (completed)

Elementary—as previously mentioned on this blog, Othman and I love Elementary.  Once you get past the obvious breaks with the original stories, the character development is shockingly good, and it really opens up new facets of Sherlock Holmes that haven’t been explored before. Absolutely worth a try, but make sure to begin from the pilot for the full effect.

Can you say charming?
The Mentalist—yes it’s another formulaic detective/cop show, sure. The difference with this one lies in the oh-so-charismatic main character, Patrick Jane, and the strong female leads as well, who are not there just as love interests but as bona fide characters. Unfortunately the current season isn’t wowing me, and I’m crossing my fingers and waiting to see if it redeems itself.

So many people we can barely see the guys in the back!

Boardwalk Empire (content warning)—another HBO show, albeit less well-known than Game of Thrones, that definitely deserves its place on this list. Again it's plagued with too many characters, and thus can be hard to follow. It also has a bizarre gimmick of showing you scenes that make NO sense until later on in the episode or season. Once you get past those, it’s a fascinating glimpse into gangster politicians in prohibition-America (with gorgeous scenery and costumes of course) that shows us how so little has changed almost a century later… 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Dubai trip 3: the conference

The entire reason for my trip to Dubai was to attend the TESOL Arabia conference. I had never been on a business trip before and was very excited, ready to learn a lot. The Conference had many speakers that are celebrities in the TEFL world, including Scott Thornbury and Carol Read! It’s a large, annual conference, in its 20th year or so, with hundreds of attendees. There were people from all over the Middle East and North Africa, as well as quite a few from Eastern Europe and even some from Asia. They ranged from university teachers to teacher trainers to language-center teachers (like me) to “normal” classroom teachers in primary and secondary schools. The mix was enriching, even if it meant that some of the things discussed would naturally not be applicable to everyone’s job or experience. 

The lobby of Dubai's Hyatt Regency,
where the conference was held.

We arrived on Thursday morning around 9 am to complete chaos, as is probably often the case at the openings of conferences. Our MENA team leader, Jim O'Neill, somehow managed to get us all through registry to collect our name tags and goody bags and corral the 13 of us together for a team meeting. Most of us had never met before, as there was only one participant from each teaching center (apart from mine, which was able to send both me and a colleague), so it was nice to have some time before the conference started at 11 to chat a bit and start getting to know who was who.

One general meeting-point where we all spent a fair bit of time was the impressive British Council stand that was set up. We all got all sorts of goodies from them, from resource books to “egg timers” to notebooks to BC polo shirts! (I gave mine to Othman, hehee.) We all joked that this stand was more impressive than the entirety of our centers. Whether or not that was completely true, it definitely was striking, as well as a good meeting place!

Resources and screens galore.
Our BC sure doesn't look like that!

Both days I attended the conference were jam-packed full of interesting tips for teaching, talks on theories and different methodologies, and very interesting people! Not only did I get to know a colleague from Rabat who I had met on occasion better, but I also met two lovely Americans, one who works in Saudi Arabia and another who works in Palestine, and really enjoyed getting to know them too.  We laughed about having to teach British English and swapped ideas on how to make the difference of our American speech less confusing for our students. We compared our childhoods in the States and talked about how we got to where we are now, and what we hope for the future in our careers. We compared how our respective British Council centers work and commiserated over bad management, lack of supplies and uninspiring coursebooks. We attended sessions together, some great and others not so much, and filled the others in when there was a good one we attended alone. We sat outside together for lunch, escaping the incessant cold that comes with being indoors in Dubai.

The aforementioned "egg timer". They were a hit with all of us and we 
all made sure to get one! There are actually three in the same 
structure, the two other sides being 3 minutes and 7 minutes.

Most of the sessions I attended were really interesting, though there were a few duds, more so the second day than the first. Some highlights were Carol Read’s talk on how to encourage creativity in the classroom which was full of practical tips, a session on giving device-neutral assignments so that students can use technology as far as they see fit, and my dear friend Anna’s talk on giving effective feedback and why sometimes our students don’t seem to accept that feedback. I’m supposed to do some cascading of what I learned to my center, and I’ll likely be taking ideas from those three sessions to share with my colleagues. 

Anna setting up for her very interesting talk!

I really enjoyed the entire experience and hope to be able to repeat it in the future! My first business conference was an undoubted success, and I’m very grateful that the BC funded it! Another reason to love working there. =]

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dubai trip 2: around the city

Dubai, what a city! Everything is huge and clean and glittery and looks like a mall. Anyone can tell you the city already has way too many malls to begin with, but even the metro stations and the gleaming gigantic airport looked like the inside of luxurious malls! Cars are mostly huge, expensive SUVs and are all spotlessly clean. Roads are wide, and the traffic patterns reminded me a lot of Dallas, but on a smaller, fancier scale. The streets are not littered with trash or billboards which was extremely refreshing. There is construction all over the place. While we were there the weather was between hazy and rainy, and I never really saw or felt the full sunshine. The weather was balmy and lovely at around 80F and it was humid but not horribly so. Even at night it was still warm, and the sweaters and light scarves I carried were simply due to the air conditioning that was on full blast in every inside space. Why why why that is deemed necessary in such beautiful weather is simply beyond me.

This is not my picture but it is a Dubai metro station. Whaaat? 

I’m not much of a sightseer and I didn't have much non-conferencing time, but I was able to see a fair bit of the city thanks to two lovely friends.  I met Anna last summer at work as she tutored the CELTA and then we really got to know each other during the CELTA Young Learner’s extension course we both took in September. We had so much fun during those two weeks, that when I learned she’d be in Dubai for the conference I was so happy! She and her husband took me out for Pakistani food in an Indian district of Dubai called Satwa I think, and it was just so much fun to hang out with both of them and wander the area buying little bits of school supplies! Unfortunately I didn’t bring my camera that night so I have no pictorial proof of our wonderful evening.

Not my my picture either, but this is where we ate! Got it
here which gives a nice overview of the restaurant.

This is what the area looked like by night! Picture from tripadvisor.

The second friend I saw was the lovely Livia. We completed our CELTA course together here in Casablanca but then her Moroccan husband Zak got transferred to Dubai and off she went. She and I find it so easy to connect on so many levels, and seeing her again was just wonderful! We met up twice, the first to do some food shopping for things like good quality rice and cooking coconut oil which are hard to find here, and the second to go out to dinner in the Jumeirah district in south Dubai. Jumeirah is popular with well-to-do expats and is mainly full of luxury hotels and residences, but because it’s beautiful area it’s popular with tourists also. She and Zak picked me up after I was done with the conference on Friday, and took me there to look around.  While there we met up with a few friends of theirs (who work for Emirates airlines, coincidentally).  We all had a really lovely time at dinner and the mix of nationalities and accents was quite fun.

In Jumeirah, with a famous hotel in the background.

Liv, me and Zak
Afterwards, even though it was about midnight we headed over to the Dubai Mall to see Burj Khalifa which is right next to it. Just the parking garage of the mall was impressive! (Think of the biggest and brightest parking garage you've been in, make it bigger, and have it stretch five floors up and down.) We walked in, and most shops were closed but there were still quite a few people walking around. I saw some of the cool things to see there, like the pool-sized aquarium: 

It was late so the lights inside were off, thus the glare. I was
impressed by the size of that shark!

and this cool diorama of the area we were in:

Of course I couldn't capture everything AND the top of Burj Khalifa!

 Then we headed outside to see THE tower. Burj Khalifa was interestingly underwhelming as I stood right in front of it. I think that part of that is because there are no very tall buildings close to it, so its height doesn’t really register. It was pretty magnificent though.

Apparently during the fountain shows every night (which we were
too late for) the tower lights up and sparkles like the Eiffel Tower.

That's the Dubai Mall entrance on the left.

A hotel opposite the Burj Khalifa,
looking pretty small in comparison.

There’s a lot of Dubai that I didn't see, and I’d love to go back someday and explore a bit more. Hopefully next time Othman will come along too!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Dubai trip 1: on the airplane

Exactly a week ago, on March 11th, I boarded an Emirates flight direct from Casablanca to Dubai, off to TESOL Arabia—a large English language teaching conference in the region. I was really excited to be going on my first real “business trip” and had high hopes for the stay. Happily, I was not disappointed! I’ll be writing three posts on the trip—this one, another about Dubai the city and the last about the conference itself.

Flying with Emirates was a great experience. Though I fly quite a bit I usually pay for my own tickets, meaning I go with the cheapest option. Iberia, Royal Air Maroc and most American airlines leave much to be desired when it comes to points for “experience.” You get what you pay for with those, and with Emirates the same is true. From the start the flight attendants were very helpful, and as we were seated, before we even lifted off the flight attendants handed out hot hand towels. (Not sure what the point of that is other than to say "hey you should like flying with us," but I guess it worked on me!)

On the way back we ended up being delayed almost an hour but the pilot kept us informed with regular updates, and the AC was kept on and the staff was so attentive (and the passengers so tired, seeing as most of us were at the airport before 6 am) that no one really got upset about the delay. Behind each seat was an HD touch screen with tons of things to watch, including brand new movies. The screens also never turned off, meaning before we lifted off and up until we got off the plane we could keep watching, which also made for happy passengers during the delay I think. 

I'm not a great flier— I get nervous at the slightest delay or bump out of the ordinary, I have an awful time sleeping even though I can usually curl up nicely, my skin gets super dry and uncomfortable, and my ears and head hurt a lot during flights— so anything to make the flight more comfortable is greatly appreciated!

During the flights I captured a few nice scenes out the window:

Interesting mountains and a lake in 
the north of Morocco

A cute island close to a town somewhere in Algeria

Pretty clouds over the Mediterranean;
they were a lot more pink than the
picture shows, but they’re still cute. 

On the way back, the Moroccan countryside greeted us with green fields and 
lots of wildflowers! At least I assume those yellow and orange areas are covered 
in wildflowers— every few months the colors of the ubiquitous wildflowers change, 
and right now they’re that exact orange and yellow. I boosted the contrast 
before posting this, but it was only to make up for what got lost with the window 
and  the atmosphere— the colors really are that bright.

On the way to Dubai we skirted the southern coast of the Mediterranean the whole time, whereas on the way back we flew over Turkey and the bottom of Italy’s boot, before heading over the water after flying over Sicily. Turkey was full of white capped mountains and the Italian countryside was very picturesque, even from that high up, but I was dozing the whole trip and my sleepy brain didn’t think of getting out the camera. Oops.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Volamino, Volamina

My mom has been in Brazil for about a week now. Last Wednesday evening, March 5th, my grandfather, my Volamino, passed away. 

He and my grandmother were my older brother's godfather and godmother, which translates to padrinho and madrinha. In combination with vovô and vovó (grandpa and grandma) their names became Volamino and Volamina to his toddler tongue. Since then that's what we've all called them.

Volamina passed away five years ago, and since then my grandfather has been kind of lost. The last time I saw him was also the last time I was in Brazil, during the summer of 2009. It was about 8 months after she died, and it was hard to see how he'd wander the house looking for her. After 57 years of marriage and being parents to 11 children together, I guess life without her didn't seem as bright. 

Volamino, Patrick and Volamina in 2006

Volamina was one of the kindest, most selfless people I've ever met. Her smile was constant, her eyes bright, her hands soft. She was a natural teacher, and while she never had an full time job she was always giving classes to someone. She was incredibly talented and bright, spoke Portuguese, French and English fluently, managed a huge household that moved around Brazil many times, and raised 11 children that turned into wonderful people. Volamino was much the same. He was an esteemed engineer in Brazil working in the steel industry, and as he got older traveled all around the world as a consultant due to his expertise. He was fair minded, kind, and delighted in beauty. Music was a passion of his, and I learned from a facebook post of my aunt's remembering him that he was a graduate of the Brazilian conservatory of music in classical piano. It makes perfect sense, but it was one of those things I never knew, or had forgotten. Most of my aunts and uncles are musical--the siblings formed a choir when my mom was young and friends called them the "Brazilian Von Trapps". The fact that two of my sisters took up piano made him so happy. I remember the proud and contented smile on his face in 2006 when Isabel, aged 11 gave a little piano concert at Christmas. 

In 2006, for Volamino's 80th birthday, 9 of their 11 children came to celebrate.

I remember being 4 years old and walking in the mountainous countryside in the state of Rio, huge trees overhead, damp smell in the air, birds and insects adding their voices to our laughter. I was picking bouquets of the small red, pink, and orange wildflowers that pop up everywhere with Volamina. Every time I see those flowers, ubiquitous on the Rio mountainsides, that memory comes rushing back.

I remember being a four year old at the beach with Volamino and his red box kite and the diamond one with a funny face. In my memory he made the kites by hand out of bamboo and tissue paper, decorating them with faces, and then helped us fly them. It's one of those memories that I'm not sure I got exactly straight, but one that I wouldn't want to change even so.

Me at 4 and 5 years old. Volamino and the red box kite are on the left.

I remember our days at Sitio Santa Helena, the property with a summer house in the mountains 2 hours from the city of Rio that my grandparents retired to. It was in Volamina's family since she was a little girl, and I spent many beautiful months there with my family when I was younger. I loved the hills, the horses, the little lake with its rowboat, the chicken houses and pig pens that still housed animals when I was very small, the smell of the rain on the hard red dirt, the wall of said dirt that extended 3 meters up lining the driveway, with plenty of footholes allowing us to climb it and dance around the giant ant nests above. I loved our summer bonfires filled with dried bamboo that made huge, loud pops when the hollow chambers inside got too hot and exploded, and the flying newspaper fire-balloons we'd make on summer nights. I loved the big pool with the water slide, the little lizards that lived high up near the ceiling on the walls, and the huge blue butterflies that sometimes wandered in the house. 

I loved the hammock, the funny-looking well my grandfather made, the swings, the long walks we'd all take around the extensive property, the cobblestone drive leading from the garage down to the pool, and the rooms above the open garage that housed a walls of bookshelves filled with titles in many languages. The books were full of little tunnels going from cover to cover made by bookworms; but my literal counterparts didn't stop me from devouring the Agatha Christies and whatever else I found in English. I loved the old pool table in that same room--if I remember correctly it also served as a table for Volamino's model trains. I loved the lines and lines of white laundry hanging in the sun next to the orange trees with oranges that stayed green but made delicious juice. I loved how good everything smelled. I even loved how we'd try to watch the VHS of Apollo 13 or Snow White (in Portuguese) only to realize the mildew got to the tape again and it wouldn't play. 

I remember the terrified feeling in 2001 when we would lose sight of toddler Tessie, and my heart jumping in my chest as I'd run to the un-fenced pool to make sure she wasn't floating there. I remember the relief finding her with gardener, her staunch friend, almost every time. I remember the Nesquik popcorn we'd eat, and how I was never sure how much I liked it. I remember making trips into Mendes, the nearby town, and getting coconut ice cream at the Apollo 11 ice cream shop with Volamino. I remember the heavy feeling in the rented van as we'd make the trip to the airport in Rio, always with a stop at Bob's--Brazilian fast food--when I'd giggle at how Volamino would eat even his burger and french fries with a knife and fork.

Volamina and me in 2007.

I have so many memories from sitio, and so many more from the house they moved to in Petropolis in 2005 or so, when living in a smaller, simpler house, and closer to medical establishments, became more essential. Teaching Texas Hold 'Em to cousins, French and Portuguese lessons with Volamina, poolside reading, bathing Blungo the overweight golden Labrador, trips into the historical city and into the surrounding areas, with Volamino pointing out which mountains my uncles had climbed in their youth... I have such wonderful images in my head.

I think of my mom, in Brazil right now with her siblings, and how she must be feeling. Her memories are more vast, more deep, more painfully beautiful than mine, simply because the first quarter century of her life was spent in those places, as a part of that unique and loving family. She is the 7th of 11, and ten years separate her from my oldest uncle, and ten years again from her youngest sister. She has been so far away from them for so long. What joy it must have been to grow up in such a beautiful place, surrounded by the love only a close family can give. 

My mom with her dad.

In a way I feel it is a blessing that my grandfather passed when he did. She was able to be by him till the end, which must have been a comfort, since she did not have that opportunity when Volamina died. Now she can grieve for both of her parents in the company of her siblings and Titia, my great-aunt who has always been a part of the household. My mom hasn't been able to visit these past few years unless there was a sickness or other such emergency in the family. Now she has a couple weeks to enjoy her family, and simply just be with them. 

Of course I am sad, we all are, that Volamino is gone. It's hard to think of how I'll never see him again. But he lived a long, good life, had a peaceful passing, and is out of pain now. He desperately missed his wife, and is with her now.

At Volamino's 80th birthday party in 2006.

I wrote a poem a few months ago I'd like to share and dedicate.

To Lucia and Claudio Braga, may you be happy and together now, for eternity.

Molded by me

My heaven's shape will not be constant;
its fluid sides will undulate
like those giant bubbles I made
in the garden at four years old--
rainbow-prisons that colored the air.

My heaven will smell like mountainous slopes
from long ago, off highways outside Rio--
heady wet soil and wild bouquets
dirtied my toddler hands
as fresh storms filled the air.

My heaven will sound like my sister's fingers
when they fly over ivory and pound
out the melodies I hoard
as notes and silence hover
in the slowly stalling air.

Eu te amo Volamino. Te amo Volamina. Obrigada por tudo. Saudades.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Moroccan carrot-orange salad

This Moroccan salad is a favorite of mine, and it's so versatile--it can be a side dish, as it is here, a dessert or even a breakfast! It's extremely healthy yet so delicious it feels somehow naughty.

-1 large carrot
-3 oranges
-a handful of golden raisins
-honey or sugar to taste (unneeded if your oranges are sweet)

Shred the carrot finely, either in a food processor or with the small holes of a grater. Squeeze the juice from the oranges in a medium bowl and combine everything. (Tip: I would very much recommend against using store-bought orange juice in this.) Best if covered and refrigerated at least 30 minutes before being eaten, but delicious freshly made as well. 

My chronic sinus infection flared up again last week and I was mostly horizontal for a couple of days. Othman made this for me and brought it on a tray to have as breakfast in bed on Sunday. He's a keeper. =] He made way more than I could eat, and when I was feeling a bit better the next day I put the rest in a little bowl to be photographed!