My Summer Vacation – Social Studies
I guess I should be writing about Laos, since that episode, the first of a new block of shows, is what airs tonight. But I wrote about Laos already, while I was still there, while it was still happening, still shaking off the cold from the night before, wood smoke from the morning fires still thick in the air. I recall a skeptical comment in response, suggesting the unlikely prospect of an internet connection in such rural conditions in Southeast Asia and that my post was clearly a fabrication.
How wrong can one be?
One of the great wonders of the New World Order is how you can find an internet connection, a cell phone signal, just about anywhere. At a tiny bed and breakfast in a far flung 16th century village in Yunnan Province, high speed wireless that beats what I\’ve got in my apartment in New York City. At home, my cell phone kicks out every time I cross Central Park. But in the mountains of Szechuan Province – where they still cook over wood – four bars and clear as a bell. Underneath every djellabah, abaya, burka and kente cloth, it seems, lies a cell phone. In a one horse town in the Moroccan desert, dirt floors, fly-blown market, and little else – there\’s an internet cafe.
And yet, where I am now – on vacation in Sardinia – connection to the internet is a sometimes kind of a thing. It\’s ITALY for God\’s sake – in a rather luxurious hotel and spa in a mountain range near some major towns and yet, here I am, bent over my lap top in the lobby, the only place where there may (or more likely may not) be a signal. The flies on my currently blank screen only add insult to injury. Apricots, plums and figs are literally falling from the trees in the lushness surrounding me.
Unfortunately, that means a large and well fed population of the buzzing little f@#$%*! – everywhere. They\’re all over my breakfast, my bar snacks, my sleeping daughter, my negronis, drawn to the sweet smell of freshly fallen, fantastically ripe fruit sizzling on red terracotta. There\’s some kind of a metaphor here. I\’m sure of it.
On the bright side, it\’s spectacularly beautiful here and I\’ve been fed like a visiting pasha by the large and very nice Sardinian wing of my new family. Meals usually start around here with a stack of \”pane carasau,\” thin, crispy flatbread – brushed with olive oil and sea salt. There are sausages, cured hams (put up special for family about six months ago), olives (from out back) baby artichokes and tiny asparagus in olive oil (also from out back), maybe some \”malloreddus\”, gnocchi-like things tossed with wild boar ragu, whole roasted suckling pig, or baby goat – accompanied by raw veggies from the garden. Or maybe – like last night – giant prawns, a seafood salad of mussels and octopus, followed by spaghetti with shellfish (they\’re big on shellfish sauces here), lobster \”a la Catalan\” – in a sauce made from its own guts-or whole \”spigola\” (roasted fish) on the bone.
Afterwards, there\’s fruit – always fruit. Cherries and peaches and the ubiquitous apricots, figs and plums. And there are excellent local cheeses. If you\’re really lucky (and I was), the legendary sun-ripened Pecorino – wriggling with essential maggots, but so creamy delicious you don\’t care – and a bewildering array of precisely crafted Sardinian sweets. Oh – and there\’s wine. Lots of that. They have that here too.
From Tuscany to Sardinia and now to Lombardi for a couple of days and then the long drive to Rome and then home – and back to work. Meaning: Mexico, DC, Vietnam, Venice, Chicago, Ethiopia, Provence, Thailand – and some other places I forget right now.