Rosé, the cure-all?

In Season

The man and woman on the blue and white

mug we have owned for so long

we can hardly remember

where we got it

or how

are not young. They are out walking in

a cobalt dusk under the odd azure of

apple blossom,

going towards each other with hands outstretched.

Suddenly this evening, for the first time,

I wondered how will they find each other?

For so long they have been circling the small circumference

of an ironstone cup that they have forgotten,

if they ever really knew it, earth itself.

This top to bottom endlessly turning world

in which they only meet

each other meeting

each other

has no seasons, no intermission; and if

they do not know when light is rearranged

according to the usual celestial ordinance –

tides, stars, a less and later dusk –

and if they never noticed

the cotton edge of the curtains brightening earlier

on a spring morning after the clocks have changed

and changed again, it can only be

they have their own reasons, since

they have their own weather (a sudden fog,

tinted rain) which they have settled into

so that the kettle steam, the splash of new tea are

a sought-after climate endlessly folded

into a rinsed horizon.

– Eavan Boland

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How Do You Say “Oh Boy” in Greek?

My dear Melissa,

Here I am, fresh-faced, re-acclimated to cold Maine weather, missing my upright Danish bicycle and adjusted to the proper time zone. After a week of just plain luck with the weather in Copenhagen–I had to buy sunscreen–the only thing keeping me sane in Portland (other than news of snow in the County) is the longer days. Daylight is reaching its claws toward gloaming, urging the trees to bud. I even heard a few birds singing this morning. I read both your letters with a sigh (you couldn’t read my last letter because of a nose bleed?) and a chuckle (are you outdoor catting, again?).

I had to google your coordinates and they point toward Athens, where this summer Laura might be saving me from a terrific disappointment (I didn’t get the grant to go to the Cheryl Strayed workshop) and trying to regain some Milna glory by finding an alternative Grecian destination. I’m not sure my ferry tickets are transferable (why oh why did I buy them last month?), but there are bigger problems than trying to find a new island to visit to hold my own workshop. It will involve wine and books.

I did just purchase tickets to visit my niece and nephew at the end of July. Are you headed back to see yours?

But. Enough logistics. I know you’ve “been there, done that” with Copenhagen, but I really think you should go, again. Beautiful weather, warm people. Did you go to the Louisiana? One of the most terrific museums I have ever been to. We saw a fascinating Jeff Wall photography exhibit and some great drawing by David Hockney, who is always a favorite. The museum seems to go and go and go. There is a new maritime museum in Elsinore (right next to Hamlet’s castle!) and it felt like you were walking down into a ship. And the gift store! If I had world enough and money, we all would be cuddled in new blankets and soft, stripey clothing.

The Danish Design Museum was another highlight, as was the quirky, fun and well-flowered Tivoli. We rented bikes for the week and my broken toe was happy for it. We experienced bicycle rush hour a few times, but used our hand signals well. Did you go to the big food market while you were there? The treats! The coffee! The open-faced sandwiches! I thought of you at every turn.

We did a lot of cooking (Danish style) in our Airbnb and Jason made many a delicious picnic. I bought two different herbal teas made by Puka Puka: an elderberry/black currant blend (delish) and a lemongrass and ginger (yum). Mostly, however, I drank coffee. By far my favorite meals out were at Grød, an all-day porridge restaurant. We bought the cookbook and our first day back in Portland went out and bought as many ingredients as we could. You would love it. Plus, you’ll appreciate their beautiful website.

I had completely forgotten about Brevity, so thanks for the reminder. I’m trying to get back into the writing swing over here, readying for my workshop for one, but also for a little jaunt to Bread Loaf with one of my students in a few weeks.

I’m reading the unputdownable The Terrorist’s Son by Zak Ebrahim and the putdownable-but-everyone-else-loved-it-so-I’ll-keep-reading My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante.

I’m not posting any pictures in case your line about dying of jealousy comes to fruition. Stay gold, Melicat.

Love,

T.

37°58′46″ N, 23°42′58″ E

Dear Tasha,

I’ve tired of waiting for my letter. I’m sure you’re exhausted from your trip and still catching up, but I have letters to write. My pile of books yet unread continues to grow as well as my pile of essays yet unwritten. I am drowning in words. Meanwhile, I spend most of my free time at the Apple store trying without success to fix various devices, shattered. Also, the right side of my space bar key sticks, and most of my words come out pasted together in a form that reminds me of a poorly executed Whatsapp message. I spend more time adding back spaces with a firm thumb than I do writing words. More than annoying, it’s a deeply uncomfortable sensory experience.

In other trivial news, the sun is shining and there is nary a cloud in the sky. I feel guilty leaving my bed and the insistent glare of my computer screen reminding me that there is always something more I have to do. My article appears soon in the Metropolitan, and I’m getting started on my next one, so that’s something to look forward to. I’m heading to Madrid for a weekend, then to Menorca, then to Ibiza, my first vacations of the entire year. It’s been a good long wait.

For my online class, we’re reading about structure and there are so many things to love about this little interview. I like particularly the idea that your poet voice and my literary nonfiction voice might actually make us kin. I thought this was likewise fascinating, given the fact that my students were always horrified by the often factual coldness of Danticat’s writing.

Last but not least, here are some new activities for us to try in our spare time between planning trips to Greece and feeling left out.

Love,

Melissa

You, the Northern Wilds. Me, the Southern Symmetry.

Dear Tashita,

I am secretly angry that you’re in Copenhagen without me, so I’ve put off your letter to be honest. Today I discovered that there’s another Baluard in the center of town one block from La Pedrera. It opened a year ago, and I never knew! I bought not one, but four of their famous loaves for a photo shoot that was then cancelled by my partner and so I spent all morning prepping and packing them for freezing. Saddest morning. In any case, I’m currently supposed to be taking driver’s tests and I have a meeting with the beer guys about an article I’m writing, so this letter will have to be a short one.

The weather is overcast, and I’m still dying of heatstroke on the tennis court. I don’t think I would ever survive a single’s game, although I did win handily one against two today, so I’m pretty proud of that. I’m counting down the days until Sant Jordi. The other day at the stadium, as you saw, they gave us free books (in Catalan) and roses. It was the icing on the cake after we won, and I got to see Messi score his (easiest) 400th goal. Good day.

The other day I started reading The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared. So far, so good, but I liked his last one better. I have Americanah to read when I finish. Much better reading than for my graduate class, which is on technology in education. I have a 12 page paper due in a week, and I have no interest in writing it. I think I’m going to write about adaptive technologies. Try not to fall asleep. Much more interesting is my creative nonfiction class I’m taking online.

In your last letter, I was much intrigued by your weird matzoh dessert, but somewhere between spread and bake, my nose started to bleed, and it really put a damper on the experience of your letter. So far, I haven’t had any repeats. Maybe my nose doesn’t like spring?

I’ll see you in Portland this summer where we will write another poem and send it out to another hundred places hoping to get published. Someone will want us someday…

Hope you’re taking lots of pics of the northern country. Please don’t tell me what you’ve eaten there. I’ll die of jealousy.

Love,

Melissa

Time for Shell Collecting

Dearest Melipone,

Would we call my emoji messages passive aggressive? Or just gentle, sweet nudges? I prefer the latter. In any case, I was happy to read your letter. I didn’t realize you were still in the master’s program! What are you writing about?

What I wouldn’t give for a cardamom cortado. How divine! Though I can’t complain on the food and drink front, as the last few weeks have been filled with various delights. From a Seder dinner at a family friend’s, complete with the best eye-watering, nose piercing horseradish around, to Easter lunch at my parents’ house (poor little lamb) and my own homemade matzo ball soup, I’m not longing for much these days. I will say that your photos from in and around Barcelona tugged at my heartstrings a bit (I recognized the maletas blancas), but the sun is finally shining in Maine, the snow is almost gone in Portland and the crocuses are blooming. Finally.

I’ll work backwards, starting with yesterday when I returned from a quick trip to NYC (grandma beat me at Scrabble by 60 points), parked my car and walked down to the prom. It was like a scene out of a movie with people appearing seemingly out of the ground. Those who share my complexion showed their near-translucent skin after months of leggings and wool socks. Everyone was smiling and basking in the 64-degree day. The wind was chilly off the bay, but no one was complaining. Or if they were, their complaints were drowned out by the joyous shrieks of a packed park. I sat and read from Anthony Doerr’s The Shell Collector, one of the best books I’ve read in ages, that includes a beautiful story set in Harpswell, Maine, next to a heartbreaking story set in Liberia and Washington. Five stars.

So that’s backwards. But let’s go forwards in photos.

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Copenhagen planning (I made lemon yogurt cake and raspberry sorbet for dessert)

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You know I love a “streetwise” map!

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The sweetest of books, the blackest of coffee, the yummiest oatmeal raisin cookie

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Biddeford Pool, snowing

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An experiment in making chocolate caramel matzoh aka the Delicious Matzos

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Melt sugar and butter

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Boil, but not too much

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Spread (I couldn’t bring myself to use all the allotted butter and sugar, so you can see the matzos aren’t completely covered.)

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Bake matzos for 15 minutes, then add melted chocolate.

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Sprinkle with toasted almonds and sea salt. Break apart. Eat.

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Pre-boiled matzo balls for soup.

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My broken toe, healing.

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Cooking for GG, always an adventure.

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Harlem Spring.

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Portland Spring.

I want to go to the breakfast spot with you. And you know that if there’s anyone who appreciates a post-breakfast dessert more than you, it’s me. I made my first jug of iced tea and had my first iced coffee of the season. Things are looking up.

I have so many things to do before leaving for Denmark on Thursday, but most of them involve laundry and household chores, and why do that when I can start reading a new book? Oh, and next time you visit, Otto now has happy hour. $5 for a glass of wine and a slice of their finest.

Love and miss,

T.

Cardamom cortados and other things

Dear Tasha,

I’ve been receiving your passive aggressive emoticon messages and have appreciated the not so subtle reminder that I owe you a letter. It makes me miss you.

It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, it’s that I’ve been overwhelmed with deadlines, like usual it seems. Since we last spoke, I wrote an article on crafting that was interesting to work on, and now I’m onto a new one about how to be a vegetarian in Barcelona. I’m working on a paper for my Master’s due today, a revision for another article, working on an article on beer, and late with an assignment for my creative nonfiction class. I found this when I was looking up Japanese crafts and thought about how we would take this class together.

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The one I wrote on fish was also interesting, although I made an error in it and someone wrote in to point it out.

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It’s fun, but it takes a lot of time. Next year, the plan is to rent my apartment for a few weeks at a time and spend it outside the city traveling and eating and learning. I realized I should have been doing that this year, but I got caught up in life in the city a bit too much.

I did have the chance to escape and take a nice ride out in the countryside. It was good inspiration for the spring section of my book. I need to start riding more regularly. It’s something I miss a lot. Maybe when I finally get my license and some form of transportation, I’ll be able to.

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This is not me, but some day it might be.

Since we last spoke, Barça has won almost all of their games.

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Pol spends most of the time we are not cheering on Barça trying to convince me not to get my motorcycle license because he’s afraid I’m going to die.

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How I spend my days.

Otherwise, mostly everything is the same here. (He wants you to know that the war is not over yet, but I’m writing up a truce.)

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I take my (written) exam on Sant Jordi, which I can’t wait for (the holiday, not the exam). The worst part of the whole day will be that you aren’t here to enjoy it with me (unless I fail my test, which might be the topper). I will miss climbing onto the bus with you, roses in hand. I will be sad that you won’t see the Catalan flags waving cheerly from the public buses, the streets thick with people buying books from the stands, the rainbow of petals pressed onto the sidewalks, crumpled from a stampede of feet. What will you do to celebrate the day?

The last two weeks have been filled with visitors and I’ve spend a lot of time being a tourist in the city.
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We had really nice dinners on their amazing terrace overlooking the city and reminisced about Florida.

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I took them to the National and fell in love with this wallpaper in person that I had been drooling over in Pinterest a while back.

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In other news, my cat sitting days are over and for this I think you might be glad.

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The last one was extra cute but spent most of the time here:

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When are you going to Copenhagen and why wasn’t I invited and will I never get a reservation to Noma??? I have to be tortured with Renee Redzepi’s Instagram posts every day… Life isn’t fair. I was just talking about it the other day with someone else.

Recently I went to a breakfast place you would love, and ran into a wall design that made me think of you.

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Then we left and went promptly to a bakery for a post-breakfast dessert and I found this wallpaper and thought of you again:

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I spend a lot of time making breakfast these days and not enough time drinking tea, but I am a new fan of the blood orange which I eat every morning now.

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The weather is warm enough now to spend most of the day on a patio in a t-shirt as long as the sun is out. I’m pulling out my box of summer clothes each week now and staring at it longingly. It won’t be long now… Although, there are moments when I wouldn’t mind being in a place where the crocuses pop through the soil, where winter’s end is tangible, where a warm coffee is the perfect place to take shelter from a damp spring day. I would order a cortado with cardamom and a splash of milk, please.

I have changed out of winter boots and into these:

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I spend most of my days taking long hikes across the city researching articles and discovering new places.

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I’ve discovered a new Mexican ice cream shop that also has excellent nachos and the hottest Mexican chocolate ice cream I’ve ever eaten in my life. I actually had to throw half of it away. I couldn’t believe it.

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I’m also revisiting a few of our favorites as well.

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The wisteria is blooming in our favorite park.

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Easter came and went, and I finally ate my first mona cake ever.

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In my house, the light is cutting across the balcony in the late afternoons and making its way into the gallery, soaking the chairs and the jasmine plant with the kind of light that makes me happy. I wish it would make its way over to the sofa where I’m sitting but it just doesn’t ever make it that far.

On that note, I have to start studying because it’s getting late and my list is long. I hope you won your Scrabble game and tell your grandma I love her cat doodles.

Kisses,

Melissa

Spain in Maine

Dearest Melissa,

Of course I never forget you. Now that the snow is finally disappearing and my osteopath is performing miracles, I am getting back into the writing swing. You are never far from my mind. Here are a few times this week when I’ve thought of you:

The sun has risen pink each morning this week at 6:34 a.m. in the exact hue of the sunrise we could see down C/Rocafort a few hours later (well, earlier if you follow the time zone) makes me think of you.

The hot cross buns dotting bakery shelves in Portland make me think of the rocas de gaudí we could see out the bus window when we made the turn near C/Berlin but I could never find in my neighborhood and I always wanted to bite into a giant one and let the white dust cover my scarf.

I bought Holy Donuts for my advisory this morning. Maine potatoes, sea salt and dark chocolate. There was one left; it had your name on it.

I’ve been researching Copenhagen like a maniac and remembering sitting in your old apartment when you announced, “We will NEVER get a reservation at my potentially favorite restaurant in the world.” (Were you referring to Noma?)

I’ve been grading essays on Turnitin.com, remembering you in the Bunker circling paper rubrics and questioning your own math.

I walked along the ocean by Biddeford Pool where Maryb used to live and thought to myself, “Melissa would love this, too, though she’d hate the cold.” Sophie and I walked with our heads down, pacing quickly as snow whipped our faces on the second to last day of March.

I made hummus by “just winging it” and over olive oiled. I needed you. I made delicious salad dressing with shallots and lemon and wished I had some orange juice, Melipone style.

I’ve been drinking a cup of orange pekoe each morning with just a splash of milk, imagining you with a cortado.

So it’s April and I’m still reading for Spring. I’ve been reading and loving Torch by Cheryl Strayed and working my way through a new-to-me Melissa Clark cookbook.

Lots of love from here,

T.

The Hours In Between

Dear Tasha,

I thought you had forgotten me. I wasn’t terribly worried, but still… I have been filling my hours in the meantime with lots of things. It’s rained torrentially here for the last few days, and the tennis courts have been charcado as my tennis instructor likes to say and I haven’t been able to play in days. After the last big storm, which I slept though–the one my roommate said was the night the sky almost fell in–he said they were inundada. I had hung my sheet out on the line the day before, so I didn’t have to fill the living room with clothes drying on the rack like I’ve been doing all winter, but it’s back in the wash again. I thought I would never play again, but today dawned bright and sunny and warm once again. It felt basically like spring. While I was holed up in bed these last few days, avoiding the rain and trying to work, I too spent hours obsessively reading the stories about the downed plane and trying futilely not to cry. It seems everyone I know here and in Germany knew someone with family or friends on that plane. It struck way too close to home. We sent a school group home two days earlier on the same airline, headed the same route with possibly the same crew. Life is so so fragile.

I’ve been working on a new article about crafting for the Metropolitan (por fin!), another one on nightlife in Spain (much harder than you’d think), and yet another about artesanal beer. It’s been nice to get more hooked into the community here, through food. I’m still working on my book, but it seems to be a week on, week off sort of thing. I can’t sustain daily focus. I always seem to work in bursts and waves anyway. I’m patiently waiting for our poem to get picked up, and have been making new lists of journals for us.

I went to my first Classico game, and it was amazing. Better because we won of course. I loved the mosaico, although Polpol contends it’s not the best he’s seen. Otherwise, I spent most of my free hours at the driving school trying to figure out why I can’t ever seem to pass one of my exams. It’s absolutely exhausting. I’m studying like two hours or more a day, then squeezing in work around it. It’s killing me. I’m supposed to take my test mid-late April. Please send good ju-ju my way. If nothing else, I’ve learned a lot of new Spanish words that I’ll never use like diaphanous and submarine.

Tomorrow I’m off to go watch dressage again and hopefully aprovechar another sunny day. I’m not sure how many days left of cold there are, but I’m tired of running the heat all the time. There is a cat under the sofa, and I would really appreciate it if he would come up and sit in my lap to keep me warm. It’s been suggested that I get business cards made with the title Cat Au Pair. You can talk to your former bandmate about that.

Enough procrastinating. I’m off to try to write an article, so I can enjoy my Friday night.

I hope it’s still light out where you are, for once.

Besos,

m.

Worst Hours

Dearest Melipone,

I wrote you a letter last Friday but I never pushed “publish” and now it seems to have disappeared into cyberspace. When I thought to myself, “Why hasn’t Melicat written to me?” I checked the site and, to my horror, found that I was the egregious one. Apologies.

Let’s start with Horst Puff, who of course makes me think of Harry Potter. Jason and I took quizzes on Pottermore to see which house we would be placed into by the sorting hat. I have always considered myself a Ravenclaw. I’d like to be a Gryffindor but I don’t think I’m brave enough. In any case, Jason had taken the quiz a week before and got Hufflepuff. I was surprised and teased him mercilessly. He then watched as I answered each question and with each reply he said, “You are so getting sorted into Hufflepuff.” And sure enough, I’m a Hufflepuff. I was too kind in several of the responses. Alas.

I am still awaiting crocuses in Portland, but I did spy many in your windy city of Chicago. We had a lovely trip visiting with our pal, walking around the streets and eating delicious food. I was agog at the vastness of the city. The scope! I’d like to go back again, maybe with you?

This week has felt like a whirlwind. The temperature is rising, though it’s still chilly. The third quarter of school is almost over, but it still feels out of sight. I delighted in reading The Storied Life of AJ Fikry, such that I was savoring the last pages and not wanting it to end. I met your friend (now my friend) Rachel for coffee. I made brussel sprouts that were “on their last legs,” as my mother would say to describe soon-to-be-moldy vegetables. I saw my friend Max play a show at Slab, a pizza place downtown. I couldn’t walk for a day and a half after a too-effective osteopathic massage. I’ve been getting hot cross buns from Rosemont for breakfast one morning a week. I obsessively read sad stories about the passengers of the plane crash.

This is my first weekend in Portland without visitors or travel in a long while. I am headed to Brunswick this afternoon to see two dear friends at the restaurant where I worked my senior year of college, Frontier Cafe. Tomorrow, I’m planning on some major spring cleaning, reading and an adventure with my writer pal Sophie to check out the Palace Diner in Biddeford; I used to be in a book club with the chef before I moved to Barcelona. It is muy importante that I get some groceries and fill my fridge on Sunday for some cooking.

Missing you and thinking of you.

XO T.

This Pun’s For You

Dear Tasha,

I like that the man’s name is Horst Puff. I also like that he’s okay. And the dog and lobsters, too, presumably.

I can’t believe that you actually said you missed the grossest “coffee” ever to come out of a mechanical device. I have never drunk anything so disgusting in my whole life, and you “almost miss” it. Shocking. Why? Even the para llevar packets of Starbucks are better than that swill. I have approximately 17 bags of coffee in the cabinets to be used–a pack rat I remain about food–slowly inching toward their expiration dates. I have coffee from Costa Rica, from Starbucks–I have a tremendous soft spot for their Christmas blend (don’t shoot me)–from Blue Bottle, from Intelligentsia, and my Illy espresso that I drink almost every day. Someday I’ll make it through them all.

I have to say, I haven’t had a cup of tea in ages. I think maybe because it’s gotten a bit more like spring here, I haven’t felt like I needed to warm myself with a cup of late. I have what seems like thousands to choose from, although my favorite cinnamon mint is acabado. It was quite cold this morning, though, and I really could have used a thermos on my walk down the hill from tennis. I had a good lesson today, and took some photos of the court in preparation for my documentary that I’m going to start someday… With every wall they take down, I feel more and more defeated.

I meant to say in my last letter that I am now finally really excited to read this Japanese book you speak so highly of. I do feel like I could actually learn a lot from it. And several mentions in your last letter seem intriguing. Although the irony of my life now is that now that I actually have time to read, I don’t. I haven’t read anything more than an article about Arequipa in about two weeks. It’s weird how lazy I’ve been. But it would be good inspiration for my writing as it always is to read more. It motivates me to write.

I too prefer to write in the morning, most of the time. It really depends on my mood and what I’ve been doing during the day, but sometimes I am more productive at night. If nothing else, it’s the only time of day the drills aren’t running in the empty building next door, so at least I have a quiet space in my brain to think.

I am also a Jane Austen snob and couldn’t bring myself to read that book, but I will try the one you mentioned. Someday soon. In the meantime, I’ll continue failing driving test after driving test, hoping that some day soon the tide will turn. The language is not so much a problem, although I did run into trouble today when it asked me if I should pour used motor oil into a drain or a sewer and I didn’t know the word for either. I mostly have a problem with the ridiculous amount of temas I need to cover and the exceptional number of road signs that exist here in Europe. It’s impresionante. En serio. You know I couldn’t take the test in Catalan because it’s a national driving test so it has to be taken in the language of the national gobierno. Although today the woman from the CPNL (language institute) called me to talk to me about the parella lingüistica that I’m supposed to be having with a man named Natxo and gave me an inadvertent guilt trip about it, and now he and I have a coffee date for tomorrow so I can millorar el meu catalan. In any case, I’m pleased I was able to sustain a basic phone conversation at least.

Enough about all this. I’m off to watch an episode of Girls if I can keep my ojos open long enough.

Tell me when the first crocus pops up! I can’t wait to hear it!

Love,

melipone