Day four was our all-day Lake Mývatn “Game of Thrones” tour. Our guide, Sandra, was terrific. We didn’t see any of the GOT sites advertised on the tour’s site–not the wall (which is of course not a real thing, though we’d imagined sections of it used for filming), not the “love cave”–and that was a little disappointing, but the day could not have been any better. We had fabulous weather, and the light was unbelievable pretty much all day. I took many shots with the borrowed fancy camera I had, boring shots of fabulous clouds, none of which capture the reality of it.
The first stop was back to Goðafoss, the waterfall of the gods. Much prettier in the daylight, and with the sun rising behind it…
On day two we got up early for the hotel’s fairly epic breakfast, then fought a crowd of other people who had purchased the same cheap deal as us for cabs to the Reykjavík airport (a view of which I had from my window). I really feel this transportation should have been included, since it was a bit of a logistical issue getting so many people there. The airport is tiny, with zero security. It took about a minute to get us checked in, and Darin’s lack of a passport was no issue.
Oddly, it was my idea to visit this northern country in the dead of winter. A special popped up somewhere: airfare, hotel, etc. for a reasonable rate. I sent it to Bunny and Crow, who are as crazy as we are. “Who’s up for Iceland in January?” They were. So were their friends, Chris and Mer, and since we’d all traveled before, if only as far as Las Vegas, it seemed a perfect plan: three couples, all of whom had been to Iceland before. Never in the winter.
How’s that for a sensational headline? But according to some, Ragnarok, the “Viking apocalypse” is due on Feb. 22. The countdown began when the horn of Heimdallr was blown on Nov. 14th in York. According to legend the god himself would have blown the horn to warn that the end was a mere 100 days away. At which point, theoretically, the Vikings would have thrown the biggest party the world had ever seen.
Putting aside the question of who decided it was a good idea to blow Gjallarhorn, I have a few problems with this.
November 16, 2013
It was our last day in Cuba, and thanks to Air Cubana’s multi-hour delay, we had some time. We set out with no real plan. We walked toward the capitol, which is the same as ours but a little bigger, with palm trees and classic cars surrounding it. It looks like a bizarro world set piece–it could be the US capitol after some serious climate change, or in an alternate reality.
The capitol building as seen from taxi #2.
We also saw the whole building or two that constitute Chinatown, and the bar where Hemingway drank. The most famous one anyway–Husband and I have a theory that any bar of a certain age can make the claim that Hemingway drank there. I was also told that there’s a bar down the street advertising the fact that Hemingway didn’t drink there, but we didn’t pass that one. At any rate, this is purportedly the bar where Hemingway invented the daiquiri, though the idea of him sipping a daiquiri doesn’t compute in my head any more than does his bidet.
Today was our visit to Trinidad, a town that apparently was the highlight of the trip for many. I feel like we failed at seeing the town properly. Husband was ill again and stayed behind. The rest of us went and wandered the
town, but we had no agenda or plan or even map and so just wandered around buying things. Trinidad is famous for its weaving. We thought we had less time than we really did, so we aborted a mission to climb a tower, and just sort of hung around. Another of Trinidad’s claims to fame is its stone streets (not cobblestone, stone), which are definitely a throwback.
I feel I must take a brief break from my navel-gazing travel blogging to say something about Nelson Mandela. I am no student of history, especially recent history. I can’t claim to know much more about Mandela than what I’ve read in the last day or so since learning of his death. But even that is enough to give me pause.
History is, as we all know, written from the winners’ perspective. This places Mandela’s legacy into an odd category. He lived long enough to become one of the “winners,” universally acclaimed as a force for good and a moral person. But as many have pointed out, the US didn’t remove him from our terrorist list until 2008. Why? Among other things, Mandela refused to renounce violence as a method of seeking justice. Therefore, from certain perspectives, he was a terrorist.
The definition of a terrorist is, of course, completely dependent on perspective. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. The British thought of our founding fathers as terrorists, and with good reason! But no one is the villain of his or her own story. So who else might we be erroneously demonizing? It’s a tough question.
I saw some of this while in Cuba. Growing up in the US, I was of course taught that Fidel Castro was an evil man. In Cuba, he’s a revolutionary. Here he’s a rebel, and a tyrant. Now, a week in Cuba doesn’t make me an expert, but while people there do seem to prefer Raul, I didn’t get the sense that anyone felt crushed under Fidel’s iron fist (as my American education led me to expect). It is possible that there’s so little freedom there that no one felt safe enough to criticize the regime, er, government. But it is also possible that people really do support the country birthed by his revolution. Perspective.
In order to accept Mandela into the pantheon of winners, the other winners are already trying to shape his legacy, erasing the violence and claiming that they were behind him all the way. Let us not forget that the truth is more complex than that.
Today was another long bus drive out to our all-inclusive resort on the beach. A little break to enjoy the fact that we’re in the Caribbean! Have I mentioned the weather? It’s so nice to be too hot in November.
On the way we stopped at a nature preserve–the Cienfuegos Zapata–where we were supposed to take a bird-watching boat ride. Some of us had prevailed upon Michael to keep the crocodile visit on the schedule, so we started at the breeding center for the endemic Cuban crocodile. They have adorable young ones, and amazing grown ones. They are as still as statues, just waiting, I guess, for something edible to wander past their mouths. Michael and Danilo tried to rush us out of the place in order to catch our
boat, but us bad kids went back in and I’m thankful we did, because that’s when Husband spotted the man with a little crocodile we could touch. He asked us if we wanted pictures holding it, and we said Hell Yes. The little crocodile felt so soft and warm, and I’m so glad we didn’t miss out on that chance. We still rushed out after three of us had held it, only to wait around. It turns out that the boat driver wouldn’t take us on the kind of slow bird-watching ride we apparently wanted, so instead of taking a speedier trip we decided to forego it.
November 12, 2013
Today was my birthday, but it wasn’t my all-time favorite. Husband was sick (with what we are calling Fidel’s Revenge) and didn’t go on the day’s adventure. I admit I was pretty worried about him, especially since if he got worse and had to go see someone we would have no way of communicating. Even if we hadn’t minded the probably astronomical cost, US phones simply do not work in Cuba. And I didn’t really trust the hotel staff, because someone had already taken one of Husband’s inhalers and pretended they didn’t have it, when they did. Husband had to sneak behind the reception desk and steal back his own medically necessary property.
November 11, 2013
Today we visited an organic farm in the outskirts of Havana. It was pretty with bright red soil, and they served us a delicious lunch. During the food shortages post revolution, Castro set up a series of small urban farms to meet local demand. The one we visited is one of these, though it’s now run collectively by the workers. They are mandated to sell a certain percentage of their food to the government, but the rest is theirs, and the profits likewise.
“What do they do with the bunnies?”
“Um . . . What do you think?”
November 9, 2013
On a plane to Cuba. It’s late, and we’re missing half a day in Havana as a result, but at least we knew about it days ahead of time so we knew we could take most of the day to meander back to Cancun.
November 8, 2013
Day three was mucho mas bueno. We left semi-early and hit the cenote at Ik Kil, which was amazing. When we first looked down into that seemingly bottomless sinkhole, we almost didn’t know what it was. We were the first ones there, and we got to see it pristine, vines and roots trailing down into the water, dark but for a few sunbeams. My first thought was, “I don’t want to swim in that.”
November 7, 2013:
Yesterday our trip began, far too early, with Bunny and Crow picking us up for the airport before dawn. Our first flight was after theirs, and yet we got here ahead of them. Husband and I spent a boring couple of hours on the floor of the Cancun aeropuerto, not going outside for (legitimate) fear of not being allowed back in. When they did arrive–their flight late, of course–the man from Fox car rental bundled us all out of the airport before we could change money, look for maps, anything. I’d thought to take care of money-changing while I waited, but it seemed silly since I’d just have to wait for Bunny and Crow to do the same thing. I wish that I had at least checked the exchange rate. Then I would have known that the ATM in the 7-11 ripped us off by at least half, giving me only 500 MXN for my $100 USD [update: the ATM only charged me around $40 in the end, so all kinds of WTF]. Instead we erroneously used this as the exchange rate, and spent about a day
thinking things in Mexico were incredibly expensive, instead of just very
expensive. Who would have thought that Mexico was such an expensive place to travel? Not I. Continue reading ““Live” blog of Yucatan/Cuba trip, days 1 & 2: Getting there is less than half the fun.”→
While I was away another story came out, in Daily Science Fiction. It’s called “The Taking Tree,” and it’s sort of an evil sequel to The Giving Tree.
But enough about me. I want to tell you about some books I’ve read in the last few months. Writing reviews always makes me feel a little unsure of myself, because sometimes when I think I’ve uncovered (or stumbled upon, or been shown) a hidden gem, it turns out that everyone else in the world has already read it.
But anyway, here are some books that I liked. You should read them.
Having recently written two stories about yard gnomes, I’m in danger of becoming The Gnome Writer. Thankfully, my birthday isn’t until November, so hopefully my writing group will forget about it by then and I won’t end up with a collection.
No, I really don’t want a gnome collection,
even if I did buy this beer for the picture.
Bear with me, if you will, for a moment. I have something to say about women and publishing and society, but I don’t know what it is yet. As you may or may not be aware, VIDA’s 2012 count once again showed us that women are underrepresented in most book reviews and literary magazines. There are, of course, a lot of reasons and excuses about why this is so, one of which is that women don’t submit as often as men. I really like this unpacking of that particular excuse, which strikes fairly close to home. I also love this explanation of how two magazines made their numbers more equal.
Here is your installment of The Next Big Thing, that chain-letter blog post for writers that’s been making the rounds. Like all parties, I find myself late to it. But better late than never!
What are you kids doing in there?
1) What is the working title of your next book?
I despise titles. After many deranged ideas, mostly cribbed from the text of Romeo and Juliet, I’m now calling it STARS CROSSING IN THE NIGHT. While I was drafting it, I simply called it Romeo and Juliet in Space.
Yesterday my cousin posted a picture of his son dressed in an Indian vest and feathered headdress of construction paper, and I thought, “What a cutie.” But I immediately worried that what I should have thought was, “Cultural appropriation is wrong at any age.”
And then I thought about the other kids, dressed as Pilgrims with big paper buckles on shoes and hats. And this is even more problematic, almost like dressing as a Klan member or a Nazi. I wonder how cute those kids look.
I generally try to keep politics off this page–I have very strong opinions about political issues, and the leanings of these opinions would probably not surprise anyone who knows which broad demographic slot I fit into, but I don’t think they are particularly relevant to my life as a writer, which is what this site is about. All of which is to preface this post about last night’s election. This will be an exception to that rule. You’ve been warned. Continue reading “Peaceful Transitions”→
I’ve met a lot of authors now, at conventions, readings, or in a classroom setting. For the most part I can avoid gushing like a teenage fangirl. After all, authors are just people. Even famous ones.
But for some reason, Sherman Alexie is different. He makes me nervous, and when I get around him–say, at one of the two recent Seattle readings I attended–I say silly, embarrassing things. What can I say? I just want him to like me.
I have always hated audience participation. When a performer on stage asks me to clap, or to sing a portion of the song, or to raise a finger to the sky and twirl around and pretend to get drunk, my immediate reaction is to balk like a horse asked to cross a shallow puddle. Continue reading “Everybody clap now!”→
It’s campaign season again (still?), which has me thinking about Truthiness. I’m for it, especially in politics, but that is another post entirely. The following is excerpted and adapted from an application essay I wrote for a PhD program some years ago. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t get in.
I know I’m a bit late here (as usual). The Olympics are over, and we here in the U.S. will now go back to arguing about politics. But the stories from the Games are far from over. I wish I could hear them. Continue reading “Narrative and the Olympics”→
So, I’m weirdly obsessed with the Olympics this year. I’ve never watched so much of it before (or so much of what NBC deigns to show me, but that is another story), and a few things have struck me so far.
1) Some Olympic sports are weird. I mean, synchronized diving? Why is that a thing?