What’s in a Name?


Juliana!

Internet tells me I am Jove’s child.

I’m a goddess??!!

Where I grew up, no one had

my name.

The Queen of Holland had my name.

I wondered why?  A Spanish name.

Research explained:

Holland once ruled Spain.

It did not go well.

 

Juliana!

Internet tells me I am

Aspirational

Benevolent

Honest

Inventive

Original

Is this true?

Maybe. Probably.

Does a name create who

one becomes?

If I had a different name

would I be someone else?

 

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Note:  This poem came out of an assignment in a class I am taking with the Story Circle Network, an organization that promotes women writing and telling their stories.   The instructor, Yesim Cimcoz, lives in Turkey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Italy–a day in Naples


Naples is big; it is old; it contains stark extremes.  How old?  The New Castle was built in the 13th century; yes, that one is the new one.  Coming from Sorrento one first sees the ship yards, huge apartment complexes where the less fortunate dwell, industrial areas.

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Some said they thought it looked dingy.  I laughed to myself.  These buildings are old and near the sea.  Will anything built in the US last this long?

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IMG_4505Then we drove up higher and higher into another part of Naples.  You can see Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

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The island to the right in the distance is Capri. More on Capri in a later post. In this part of Naples it is obvious that some people live very well there.

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Then we went lower again driving along the seafront and parked where we could walk to the oldest part of Naples.

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A very old cathedral in the background to the left.  We wanted to go in but it was closed until later in the day.  To the right of this photo, a large group of protestors were shouting slogans, etc. through loud speakers. Military were evident in the square.

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A city government building.  The statues are of various famous people in the history of Naples.

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Looking across the square from the church steps.

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The oldest opera house is in Naples.  Operas are still performed here.

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We walked to another area and went inside this building which is filled with restaurants and shops, many with very high end clothing.

IMG_4532As we left, I noticed the bay was filled with tiny sailboats.  It was very windy and I thought they were very brave.  Later, I learned that these tiny boats are training boats, the ones you use when you are first learning to sail.  It looks daunting to me. I have only sailed on boats much bigger.

Why do so many people still live so near a non-dormant volcano?  Someone asked this question.  The response was:  Why do people live in Florida, Houston where there are hurricanes rather often.  Why do people live where there are tornadoes, earthquakes, mudslides? At least Vesuvius provides a beautiful backdrop.

 

 

Italy–Sirens’ Song


As we drove along the Amalfi Coast, the guide told us the mythological story of the Sirens.  My daughter took a photo out the window of the Sirens’ islands.

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Later I wrote this poem remembering the travails of Odysseus.

 

The melodious Sirens’ song

lured Odysseus

begging to be untied from

the mast.

Even the roaring sea’s

voice whispered in

comparison.

They sang honeyed

love songs to starving

sailors, longing for a woman’s

touch, a kiss, ecstasy.

With knife claws, they

ripped them asunder,

crunching bones, blood

erupting.

Satiated, they sang,

eternal, etherial, deceptive.

 

 

Several days later at a shop in Sorrento, while my daughter was looking for a medusa cameo, the owner, a cameo artist, brought out Siren cameos.  He insisted the Siren’s have been terribly misunderstood.  I wanted clarification but unfortunately other customers appeared and I remain mystified.

Cooking in Italy


After spending most of the day exploring Pompeii, we rushed back to Sorrento for an evening cooking class up on a mountainside above the main part of the city. We made eggplant parmesan and  cheese ravioli. Their take on the eggplant dish was different from any I have seen in the US.  They had sliced the eggplant on the diagonal and already cooked it.  Each person received several pieces of the already cooked eggplant and a bowl of their homemade mozzarella cheese.  We were instructed to place a teaspoon of the cheese in the middle of each piece of eggplant, roll it up, and place it in a small casserole dish with their homemade tomato sauce already in the dish.  Instead of layers of eggplant, sauce, and cheese, this was rolls of eggplant filled with cheese atop a tomato sauce in a casserole dish which they baked while we made ravioli.

For making the ravioli, in front of each person they placed a pile of a couple cups of flour and dishes of water and oil.  We were instructed to add the oil and a little water to make a stiff dough.  Then we were told that the key to really good ravioli dough (and I am guessing any pasta dough) is to knead it a lot.  Yes, to do all this, we had to use our hands.  After the dough was thoroughly kneaded, we patted it out into an oval and then ran it through a pasta maker several times to make it thin.  We laid this rolled dough on the table and then with a ravioli cutter, we cut circles, filled them with mozzarella cheese, but not too much.  The key is to get just the right amount of cheese so you have enough but can still fold it over and seal the edges with the cheese inside.  It must be sealed thoroughly so it does not fall apart when being boiled in the salty water.

The owner asked my grandson to help cook the ravioli.  Here he is working away.

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After the ravioli was done, we all sat down and enjoyed the eggplant, the ravioli with their homemade tomato sauce, and their local wines.  Making both dishes was much easier than I expected.  And fun.  The evening was filled with joy, laughter, and good company.

 

 

 

Italy–the Amalfi Coast


On one of our day trips from Sorrento, we headed down the Amalfi Coast.  For years I have seen photos and told myself, “Wow”.  No photo can do this coastline justice.  The highway is excellent but narrow.  On many of the turns, only one vehicle can proceed.  A large bus cannot travel this highway.  Even with the small ones we took, the driver would often honk as we turned a corner which we could not see around.

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We stopped at one of the few turnoffs along the highway and took a short hike down to an overlook.  This is the town of Positano. I took the following photos while at this overlook.

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I love bougainvillea and all colors grew everywhere.

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Looking across the Mediterranean.

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The land is rugged with both new and ancient buildings hanging off mountainsides and cliffs.

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A closer view of Positano.

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Another view across the Mediterranean.

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The highway, houses hanging off the edge, olive trees, lushness everywhere.

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It was a stormy looking day.  We kept thinking it would rain but luckily it did not.

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The Amalfi Cathedral in the town of Almalfi.  Its design is unique and shows the cultural influence of the Muslim world with whom the town was a major trading center for centuries–arches, gold and green.

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A typical street in Amalfi.  We walked all the way up this street to just below the school, found all sorts of delightful shops, and ate our favorite food of the entire trip.   My favorite was spaghetti with a lemon creme sauce.  Recipe comes later.

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Near the sea looking up into the city.  The large building up on the slopes is now a cemetery but used to be a monastery.

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Same spot as previous photo, just looking the other direction.

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We were supposed to take a little boat trip out into the sea but it was too rough.  Ema, my daughter, walked all the way out to the end of the pier.

The water was so high I thought perhaps it was high tide.  I was told it was not.

 

Today I asked my daughter and grandson what/where was their favorite in Italy.  We all agree, Amalfi. I also loved Capri–more about there later.

Italy-Sorrento


It takes approximately four hours to travel by road from Rome to Sorrento.  To get in and out of Sorrento, the highway goes through three tunnels, one of which is more than three miles long.  Like all cities along this area of coastline, Sorrento is a city where many of the buildings hang off the edge of cliffs above the water.

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This part of the primary street off the main square is full of shops and pedestrian only.  Christmas decorations were already being installed.  From the time we arrived until we left, the giant metal tree in the middle of the main square went from just metal to covered with greenery to the installation of lights.

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A typical side street off the main street seen in the first photo.  Sorrento is the perfect place for those who like shopping in all sorts of little shops or enjoy hanging out in restaurants, many of which are open air along the street, sipping cappuccino.

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From the main street, we walked out to a cliff park overlooking the sea.

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This photo, taken from the same spot as the previous photo, shows Mt. Vesuvius in the distance.  Cities below the mountain include Naples and Pompeii.  Several thousand people also live on the slopes of Vesuvius.

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Again taken from the same spot, looking in the opposite direction, this photo shows the steepness of the cliffs around Sorrento. Houses, vineyards, businesses, olive and lemon groves hang off the edges.  The volcanic soil here is very rich and conducive to intense, successful farming. This is lemon country where limoncello is very popular.

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A few feet from the overlook, we visited a very old church courtyard.  Very old is relative everywhere in Italy.  New can be several hundreds of years old.  I kept thinking about the US and question whether anything we have built now or even at the beginning of the country will last as long as much of what I saw in Italy.

Italy–Rome


Where have I been?  Italy, on a trip planned for months, a trip with friends and family centered around a group of women writers with The Story Circle Network, a group focused on women telling their stories.  Yes, we had classes and wrote every day.  When we were not writing, we discovered a little part of Italy.  The first half day we strolled through ancient Rome, starting with the Coliseum.

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To the left of the Coliseum stands this arch–see a bit of the Coliseum on the right side of this photo.

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The Coliseum is so large that it is impossible to take of photo of all of it at once.  We were there on a holiday.  There was a long line of people waiting to get inside.  We did not go inside.

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The arch in the first photo seen from the side.

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On the other side of the Coliseum facing down a wide pedestrian only boulevard.  Many of the following photos were taken along this boulevard.  The trees in these photos are umbrella pines.  They are everywhere in Rome and other parts of Italy south of Rome.

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My daughter and grandson strolling along with friends in the background.

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One of the things I found most enjoyable strolling along were the street musicians:  One played classical guitar music, farther down the boulevard another was playing popular music while another man danced to it. I wanted to stop and dance along but everyone was walking fast away from me.  Getting lost in Rome did not seem to be a great idea.

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While sauntering along, I turned around and took a photo of the Coliseum in the distance.

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In one short walk in Rome, I saw so many things from thousands of years of history, it was hard to fathom.

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Away from the boulevard and walking toward Trevi Fountain, we saw this memorial.  It was a rainy, stormy day.  I kept thinking it is going to rain but it didn’t. In many places, the ancient, the not so ancient, and the new could all be seen in one place.

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And, of course, one of the most famous places in Rome.  We found a little restaurant near here.  I had my first Italian cappuccino and a delectable desert which I tried to find everywhere else we went but did not. It was in a little cup, 2/3 was a creamy bottom, 1/3 was berries on top.

 

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Walking along another route.  I seem to have a little problem taking photos, walking, and keeping my fingers away from the iPAD mini frame while taking some of these photos.  So much seen in a mere half day in Rome.  Shortly after lunch, visiting the Trivi Fountain, and passing by the above monument, we headed on the four hour road trip to Sorrento.

I could not resist taking a video of the lush emerald Italian countryside south of Rome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teacher Tales


Sometimes a teacher’s work seems to never end and, honestly, it keeps me from posting here as often as I might like.  At the same time, it provides me with endless joy and entertainment.  The last couple of days brought lots of laughter.

I teach 8th – junior English and Spanish 1 and 2.  This past Friday, Spanish 1 class became the site for lots of laughter.  We were practicing translating sentences from English to Spanish.  To date they have learned to say what they like, sentences about the weather, write about time, and to use the two “to be” verbs used in Spanish among other things.  Somehow in the process of describing a person using a variety of adjectives they have been taught, one of the students blurted out, ” I think old people are ugly.” I said, “So you think I am ugly?”  This caused a minor uproar with laughter and indignation.  In an attempt to make the situation better, he continued, “No, I mean people over 60.”  I repeated, “So you think I am ugly?”  By this time everyone was laughing, including me, protesting his attitude.  He started to try to wriggle out of that one when I pointed out that it might be better if he kept quiet.  He started to say something about wrinkles but that got shut down by the other students.

Just before all this,  his younger brother came into the classroom.  He is the student who wrote a page-long poem about my hair last year.  He said to his brother, “What is wrong with you?  She is beautiful.”  Then walked out of the room.

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By this time everyone was laughing and talking except the student who made the original remark about old people and a few were shouting at him about his awful attitude.  By the way, in case you do not know, the word for ugly in Spanish is feo or  fea, depending on whether you are describing a male or female.

This weekend I read 50 or so book reports.  One of them included this statement in response to the question, “What did you learn from this book?”  “I learned it is sometimes fun to be bad.” The student was referring to the book, “Tom Sawyer.”

I have no clue how to respond to that remark.

 

 

 

Summer Reading


IMG_3957Last year I joined Now Read This, the online bookclub sponsored by PBS and The New York Times.  Why did I join?  To expand my exposure to books I might not otherwise read, to learn, to explore, to interact with others reading the same books.

I rarely read fantasy or science fiction.  This summer has become an exception.  The June choice, The Fifth Season by Jemisin, won the Hugo in 2016.  The other two books in the trilogy won in 2017 and 2018.  I wanted to know what happened to the characters so I read them all.  The spine says Fantasy.  I think they are more science fiction.  Even people who claimed they did not like either fantasy or science fiction became like me and read them all.  This series tells a futuristic tale extremely applicable to events, both social and political, in the world today, how prejudice kills both overtly and covertly,  how fear of those who are different affect everyone, what it costs to live in a world where certain attitudes exist.

It took me two days to finish the July title even with chores, touchup house painting, all the things teachers attempt to do during summer break.  Although I had previously read at least three books by Luis Alberto Urrea, I had not read this one, The House of Broken Angels about a family who lives back and forth across the border–San Diego and Tijuana.  It is a tragic-comedy about the endurance, hopes, dreams, cooking, living of several generations.  His non-fiction book, The Devil’s Highway, is a must read for those who want to understand what occurs along the US-Mexico borderlands.

In the midst of all this, I went back and reread Ursula LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.  Wow, no wonder it caused a stir when it was published in the 1960s: a whole country where everyone switches back and forth between male and female and those who cannot do this are considered perverts.  Additionally, the main character is described as having very dark brown skin and those who do not behave exactly as they should or politically protest are sent off to a stark camp where they work in excessive cold and eventually die.

Then I read an article about Toni Morrison and authors who do not write for people based on a certain audience, e.g. black, white.  They write about what they know, what they feel, for a different purpose. One book listed was Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, a fantasy, all of which takes place in what we now think of as Nigeria. It has not one single white character in it.  I kept thinking, wow.  I read a lot of literature from Africa, Middle East, and Latin America.  Most of the time, for better or worse, characters from other cultures show up, usually European and usually for the worse.  Not in this one.  If you go to a book store looking for it, look in Young Adult.  Jemisin’s can be found in Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy.  When I mentioned to someone I could not tell why some are categorized one way and some another, I was told there is less graphic sex in YA.  Really?  I cannot tell the difference.

Next on my list?  I annually act as a judge in a literary contest.  Three novels arrived in yesterday’s mail.  Guess I need to get busy.