Lucia has something to say

Thursday, May 31, 2007


This morning. I envied. Women on the bus. Not one woman. But half a dozen of them.

When I see photos of myself. I think. I do not know this woman. This can’t be my skin. Except for that tattoo. That’s definitely mine. She is not me. And I am not her.

Women absorb somewhere along the line an envy of other women. Sometimes friends. And sometimes strangers. Why?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007


My colleagues from around the world. And I. In Belgium. At an international fair trade conference. Just a blur and blacktop. Sort of a placeholder. While I am too busy to blog.

Add: Oh, and that's me standing to the left of the roof over the entry. There, in the back. I'm sure you can spot me there. I'm having a conversation instead of looking at the camera.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Sometimes when I’m tucked in bed and my eyes are closed, I imagine I’m in a bed somewhere else. Under the big white puffy comforter in Belgium. In my friend’s upstairs bedroom that feels safe and wonderful. Sleeping under the stars at the edge of the Sahara.

Sometimes I go to yoga in the middle of the day since my fitness center is in the building where I work.

Sometimes I visit the thrift store pretending I’m an artist and come home with all sorts of wonderful stuff to morph into something else. The wooden boxes, ephemera, paint, and this-n-thats are filling my basement.

Sometimes I think I’ll be a writer when I grow up.

Sometimes I stare at my tomato plants to see if they’ve grown.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m doing out here in blogland. Picture Carmen Miranda tripping over Dick Van Dyke’s footstool and that’s pretty much how I got here.

Friday, May 25, 2007


I’d already been thinking about it. Letting a single word come to the fore. After reading Strange Piece of Paradise. In which a woman goes to investigate her attempted murder. By axle and axe. In a tent. Many years before. And she starts to notice. The word ax. Or axe. And images of axes. Everywhere.

Then I was reading the blog. Of the illustrious Nancy Dancehall.

And she said:
Your assignment, if you chose to accept it, is to pay close attention to birds for the next week. Watch them in nature, of course. But also watch for them to turn up in songs, in images, in dreams even.
So I started to watch for birds. There are all the usual yard birds. Purple finches. And chickadees. And sparrows by the score. Sitting on the power lines. Swooping to the feeders. One of my corgi’s primary activities is herding. Birds. Out of the tree and back again.

A purple finch with a red head lands outside my office window. When I lived in Ecuador, seeing a red bird meant good luck. So I smiled. And took it as a good omen. From a bird messenger.

I notice books on my shelf - Blackbird House, The Hummingbird’s Daughter. And small birds painted on the back of a fan of a Japanese ceramic in my back yard. Do I flit or do I soar? Do I chirp or do I sing?

Mine are the birds of northern climes. Not the bright birds of the tropics.

And I remember. The birds of Africa. Birds come to the feeder in Kenya in a blaze of primary color. Blue. Yellow. Red. African gray parrots and crowned cranes grace the hotel on the shores of Lake Kivu in Rwanda. Uganda. Ethiopia. Cameroon. Madagascar. Birds without geopolitical boundaries. Birds without. Free birds.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Bus Station

I went to the bus station. To pick up a visitor from Bangladesh. He was coming here. After the meeting in Belgium. And visiting our colleagues in Canada. He arrived in Milwaukee. And needed to take the bus. Here.

It’s a grim place. Dark. With plastic molded chairs attached in a row. And a water fountain with a big paper sign with “Sorry. Not in service.” scribbled in black marker. There’s an entire wall of vending machines. With dollar candy bars. And ice cream sandwiches. And sodas. Grimy. It doesn’t look all that different from bus stations in any number of countries. But it is here.

People who don’t watch their kids closely. And university students. And others riding the bus. Congregate in the station. Waiting.

The bus arrives. He is the first one off. And we go inside. To purchase a ticket for the next leg of his journey. The acned Greyhound employee says, “Good thing you’re buying this today. If you had waited until Friday, the bus would be full.” Yes. Good thing. I had forgotten about the holiday weekend. And that students are still leaving town.

I hand him a credit card. He whispers to me, “Do you need this stamped NO REFUND?” “No,” I say. But the question makes me sad. Because of all the people who have been in the station before. Buying tickets for others. And saying yes.

Monday, May 21, 2007

New Doctor

I went to a new doctor today. For a physical I had scheduled a month ago. She waltzed into the room with the cutest little white skirt. And I knew I was going to like Dr. Wong.

New doctors always seem interested in my work. Most of them get it. They get what I do and why. And some, I think, envy it a little, and spend a few hours that afternoon thinking about volunteering on a short-term mission for Doctors Without Borders. (Or at least I like to think so.)

New doctors always have questions. Lifestyle questions. Health questions. Vaccination questions. Yes, I have a stunning array of vaccinations from everything from polio (which does still exist in small pockets of the world, including in India) to meningococcal (which I think has something to do with meningitis) to the hepititises. She asked if I’d been in contact with anyone with TB lately. Who knows? I wonder sometimes about those people hacking on buses, but how would I know what they’ve got? When I was a teacher, I had to get regular TB tests. Now, they seem to be only on an as-worried basis.

I scheduled blood tests, and we'll talk again. I’m sure Dr. Wong and I are going to get along just fine.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


The human body is not made to hurtle from one continent to another by air. Through time zones. From one climate to another. If you think about it, before air travel, there would be time to adjust. Traveling by land or sea.

Despite my best efforts to stay healthy, I’m not. I don’t do sick well. I crashed in Belgium on Wednesday night. And missed a world music dance party. I pushed myself. Too many meetings. Too many late nights. Walking in the rain. And I think some sort of mild food poisoning took me down.

And now, between jet lag and a serious cold, I’m not myself. But rather a ill shell of myself. Jet lag doesn’t just affect sleep cycles. It impacts all sort of things. Body temperature. When my brain is awake. When I’m hungry. And, yes, when I sleep. At times I feel that sleep is pulling me under, without my consent. And with the combination of cold symptoms, I’m stranded on the island of the couch.

Belgium: Last Day in Brussels

A life too planned leaves too little to chance.

So I parted ways with friends to venture out on my own for a time in Brussels. Being with myself. Experiencing the city. Passing by the reclining statue of 'T Serclaes, which I had earlier rubbed for luck. My Indian friend and I agreed that there’s no sense passing an opportunity which may bring good into one’s life. Especially in an instance where it takes very little effort. I stroked from head to toe. I did not do it again when I walked by this time. Perhaps a second time may have reversed the charm rather than bring double luck.

I continued down the street to Manneken-Pis. Yes. Translated: Manequin Piss. A statue of a small boy pissing that has become a wildly popular tourist symbol. Hundreds of people stop to have a look, and he has more than 600 costumes, all designed so he can continue his endless pee. We adorned him in fair trade clothing from India earlier in the day. Because that’s what is done with official sanctions from the mayor. There’s a mildy Monty Pythonesque site on Manneken-Pis here that’s worth a look, just for the amusement.

I stopped in a restaurant for dinner. I was there only a few minutes when, as often happens in European restaurants, two guys were seated right next to me. They had met at the youth hostel. One a South Korean student in Europe for his first visit. And the other a tennis-pro from California competing on a team in Switzerland. The Korean spoke very little English, so I spoke mostly to the American. We shared travel stories. He’d been playing ‘round Europe, and told me that Nigeria has a great tennis player who rates in the top 200. (I learned that only the top 200 in the world can really make money playing tennis.) While I finished my beer and gave half of my pizza to the tennis-pro, who seemed not to be flush with money and burning thousands of calories a day, he started. Proselytizing. And I talked about my friends - Hindu and Muslim, Christian, Jewish - and how I can no longer believe that all of those cultured souls must adopt a foreign religion.

I slept soundly in puffy white comforters at the hotel, woke up refreshed, and dragged my luggage, wheels bumping over the cobblestones, to the central train station to go to the airport. Goodbye Brussels.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Belgium: Outshined by a Meteor

This feeling I recognize. It is the feeling of not being picked for a childhood team. It is the feeling of being outshined. Not by an actual bright star. But by a flaming flash. A soaring meteor. Likely born of insecurity. I won't compete. And instead trust hard-earned sureness in myself. I walk down the cobblestone street. Slowly. Heel. Toe Feeling my feet. And their connection to the earth. Solidly on the ground. Looking through windows at Belgian chocolates and lace. At passersby with waffles piled high with chocolate and strawberries and whipped cream. Most of the time being reliable. And steady. And strong. Does not draw invitations. Or flirtations. It is being picked first for valued tasks. And being picked last. Or not at all. By those I respect. And love. For diversions. While the meteor. Whose light is a temporary one. Is taken into the fold. With what seems like no effort. At all.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Belgium: De Brasserie du Parc

We got off the tram in Oostende. A small port city. In the rain. Although I'm not an ardent admirer of Europe, it feels more genteel than North America. There aren't wide open spaces, but there are narrow streets with gentle bends. There are small shops instead of big box stores with mammoth parking lots. We wound through the wet streets until we found De Brasserie du Parc. A dark wood pub. With stained glass accents. Here we sat. And were greeted by a tall waiter in black with a white shirt, a crisp bow tie, and a white towel affixed to his shoulder with a large paper clip. I perused the menu. The waiter said, "You are the boss. I am the waiter. You can have anything you want." We ordered Belgian beer and shrimp croquettes and an omelette au frommage. The beer came with a plate of small crackers and another of marinated olives. Wonderful crusty baguettes and butter followed. People strolled in with their dogs. (I would love to take my dog into a restaurant with me!) The waiter was pleasantly amusing, with a dry sense of humor. And at last, I feel as if I have actually spent a little time in Belgium.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Belgium: Snapshot of a Day

I. Am. Exhausted. At the end of every day when I go to this conference I feel this way. I get too little sleep and have long busy days. Yesterday, a woman was looking for me among the 300 people who are here, and she said it really wasn't so hard, she just asked on her way down the hall, and everyone seemed to have an idea in what direction I was heading or where I was. I think I'm fairly unassuming, but respected. In large part because of the organization I work for and, I think, because I really listen when I'm working, because I believe that our partners in other countries know much more than I do.

I went to some conference sessions, and in between, on top of, before, after, during meals, and in the hall, I had meetings with colleagues and friends from Nepal, the West Bank, Kenya, the Philippines, Thailand, and India. We talked about natural dyes for wool and cotton. Sending interns. Organic certification of olive oil. Reducing our environmental footprint. Soapstone carving. Opening a new store in Chiang Mai. Inflation of the Indian rupee. I love the variedness. Dipping into and out of topics. Like swimming in the deep end of the pool.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Belgium: Ten Cool Things

1. At the start of our meetings, a woman in a tall gold headdress from Bali did an amazing welcome dance. This was my point of epiphany, where I got over all the crap and remembered the wonder in my life.

2. My Egyptian roomie's bathroom case has all sorts of bottles and tubes labeled in Arabic.

3. I'm on a polder. Polder is one of those words I stopped thinking about after Junior High geography.

4. My Bangladeshi friends assured me that our Fall is a good time to visit. No rains. And hopefully no general strikes (like earlier this year, when I had to cancel).

5. Euros feel like play money to me. It makes them easy to spend.

6. My handmade paper notebook is full of scribbles and names - Geoff, Vi, Kevin, Renice, Michael, Shahnewaz, Florence, Helen, Martin, Patrick, Surendra, Gerardo.

7. Someone gave me a newsletter that gives the following statistic (among others) - Number of women adapting the value of taking nutritious food in day to day life: 1,478.

8. Belgian chocolate.

9. Belgian beer. And cheese.

10. This town's attractions which include de Pier, a 350 meter "bridge" stretching out into the sea, a serpentarium, and a bowling alley named The Bowling Stones.

Belgium: Group Photo

It is tradition at this meeting to wear one's traditional ethnic clothing on the first day. And to take a group photo. So dressed in bright saris, African fabrics, and Thai silks, we trickle outdoors. We were planning to walk to where the polder meets the sea. But it's overcast and drizzly. There's a strand of sand. With big purple jellyfish. And thick foam not created by nature. So the photo is taken. And will be available to attendees online. I won't be visible. I'm always in the back. In my world, the women in saris and men in smart Nepali hats belong in the front.

I am reviving through lively conversations over Belgian beer. Through meetings. Remembering my work and the passion I have for it.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Belgium: Landed

Once the plane landed in Brussels, I made a concerted effort to boost my morale. But, my friends, life's crap machine continued to grind, and combined with my travel weariness, I have yet to achieve a happy state. On the train, every girl and boy scout (they pronounce it "scoot") in the whole of Belgium was in my car on their way to a Saturday outing. Scoots everywhere. In the aisles. Under the seats. Passing the time by playing 1000 Bournes and screaming. A virtual storm of loud and wiggly scoots.

I arrived at the conference center more than ready for a nap and a shower. Unfortunately, the conference's so-called organizers have no ability to do so. After much toe tapping and urging by me to fix the problems (which included me not being in the room with the correct person, but rather a woman I have not yet met, a stranger, from Egypt, and her having the only key to said room, and no one being able to find her), I moved into the room and burst into weary travel tears at everything and nothing. An odd state for me, because I'm fairly travel flexible. I think maybe being in Europe (as opposed to Rwanda or East Timor or Cambodia, all of which I'd be much happier in–Europe doesn't do much for me), I expected some level of order, and that expectation resulted in frustration.

Frustration that, thus far, no amount of whoops and hollers and hugs from Chile and Bali, India and Bangladesh, Canada and New Zealand, have rectified.

Friday, May 11, 2007

I've Gotten This Far

I don't feel like flying. I arrive at the airport to find my flight is an hour late. I had to get up early. My bad. I didn't check online. I don't entirely trust that online info is in real time since I've seen it change enough that I've needed to rocket to the airport. I'm told I need to claim my bag and change airports. I did not know that I will arrive in LaGuardia and leave from JFK. I'll need to find a bus. I'm stopped going through security. They need to check my bag. They pull out yogurt and tell me it's 6 oz. So? They consider it a cream. I tell them I thought it was a solid. They take it. I've done nothing but leave my house. I feel headachy.

The bus to JFK is late. Caught in traffic. When it finally comes, we go through Queens. Past Shea Stadium. And I am dropped off at the wrong terminal. And go down. And up. The ticket agents and security are just doing their jobs. They don't really care if we all need to wait.

So I've gotten as far as JFK. And now I've got more waiting to do before my overnight flight to Brussels.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Conference

People working in fair trade. From all around the world. Come together every other year. For an international meeting. Hundreds of people. From dozens of countries. My inbox has news. Every day. Of who got visas from their Belgian embassies. And who did not.

For me. The next week will be a blur of meetings. As I pass people, they stop. And say. Can we meet? I pull a small crumpled grid out my pocket. And look for a slot. And scribble them in. A full schedule. Of meetings before breakfast and at breakfast. During breaks. At lunch and dinner. Between sessions. After sessions. Until late into the night.

Add: Looks like for Friday, I've got a big block of time at JFK. I arrive in Belgium in Saturday morning and take the train to the coast.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Body and Mind

Move with your breath. Exhale. Inhale into chair pose. Why am I going to the cold Belgian coast when it’s warm here? Exhale to forward bend. Wind and spray. Inhale. Will I have time for a pub visit? Exhale. Beer and chips? Inhale step right leg back. What airline am I flying? Exhale forward lunge. What airport am I flying through? Hold. Breathe. I don’t know. Inhale. Typical! Exhale into downward dog. Why am I afraid to meet people from blogland? Inhale to plank position. Maybe fear. Exhale. I never know when I might meet someone who will change the course of my life. Inhale to Chaturangasana. Send me off in another direction. Exhale. I crave excitement. Inhale to baby cobra. Looking up. Am I breathing? Exhale back to downward dog. I haven't had much time to read blogs. Relax into child’s pose. Why hasn't anything really amazing happened lately? Sit with souls together. Hands through the heart center. Once for the body. And once for the mind. Namaste.

Monday, May 07, 2007


My long-time friend called yesterday. We are motherless, sisterless, daughterless women. So when she said. Summer. Her birthday. Chicago. I agreed instantly. To come. I understand. Birthdays (and Mother’s Day) in a motherless, sisterless, daughterless world. Motherless. In this I am vulnerable.

Kenya Air flight 431. Crashed leaving Douala. In a mountainous, heavily forested area. In a mangrove swamp. People from two dozen countries. Were aboard. Along with a sense of adventure comes risk. I fly Kenya Air frequently when in Africa. Because I consider it safe. And I flew out of Douala not so long ago, where the flights are often late, glad that we were finally leaving. And I can only imagine that these passengers thought the same on this stormy night. I have always thought that if I die while traveling, I will have been doing something exciting that I loved. Travel. In this I am vulnerable.

Half a thyroid. Is all I have left. I’ve been tired lately. A few weeks ago in the middle of a hike, I climbed onto the top of a picnic table. And fell asleep for more than an hour. I’m not on thyroid meds. And I need to see a doctor. Health. In this I am vulnerable.

I have been restless. Not traveling. And envious. Of a woman who is. Having adventures in Turkey and Georgia and Israel. In my strange life. I am leaving for a week in Belgium on Friday. For meetings. On the coast. In a town that guidebooks describe as the town not to go to if you’re vacationing on the coast. And I realize that any travel to Europe or Boston or San Francisco has fallen into the not-really-travel category. Excitement. In this I am vulnerable.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

La Virgen

I’m a fan of the Virgin Mary. Not in a religious way, but a kitchy sort of way. ‘Nary a month goes by without her popping up somewhere. She’s a very busy saint. She appears in tortillas, under viaducts, on turtle bellies, in sonograms, in stained cookware, in windows, and the patterns of wood paneling. Like Where’s Waldo or Carmen Sandiego. And then shrines pop up in her wake. Flowers. Candles. Teddy bears. And people come. Just in case there are any leftover miracles hanging around.

I especially like the Virgen de Guadalupe. Standing on the moon. Stars on her mantle. A Mexican icon. The miraculous cloak her portrait appears on is in an enormous bunker-like concrete basilica. Behind bullet-proof glass. Short moving walkways keep devotees from taking too much of her time. So they pray facing her on the short trip one way, and do it again on the way back. You can go back and forth endlessly. You just can’t stand still.

Who knows? Maybe she'll make an appearance today.