Posts tagged “life

Across Hemispheres

Posted on 12 November 2018

I walked into the hostel’s lobby, agitated after the most harrowing taxi ride of my life, during which the driver threatened to veer off the mountain road at each bend and then tried to raise the price when we arrived, spurring a Spanish language argument with me. Thus shaken, it took me and my traveling buddies a bit to correctly navigate through the streets of Potosí to the hostel we’d booked. After all of this, I just wanted a bit of security and dinner for the evening. I remember plopping into a chair in the lobby, plugging my phone in to charge, and conversing with a French woman who was traveling through South America solo. We realized we’d met the same fellow traveler at…

The Stories We Tell and the Stories We Take

Posted on 7 October 2018

Use of the Hammer and Sickle in Former Soviet Territories and Outside These Areas What do you say when someone tells you their father was sent to the Gulag? He came back from the war and off he was sent – Stalin’s orders, to the lager! Z.’s back was to me as she hunched over my bed, fixing the sheets, curling into even less space than her short body could claim. “He came back from the war, from the front, with children’s books in German, because I was studying German, you see?” A German book claimed a life where a war could not.   Ghosts occupied every shadow of the apartment. Molotov-Ribbentrop. A siege. Young girls, starving but never quite dead. An unlikely reunion…

Before Us / Beneath Us

Posted on 20 August 2018

There are over 6 million people artfully scattered and stacked in tunnels beneath Paris. The problem of overflowing and stinking cemeteries in the late 18th century was answered with the availability of tunnels leftover from limestone mining centuries prior. Between 1786 and 1860, bones from a handful of cemeteries were relocated into these passageways, but more than that – bones were carefully arranged into decorative walls and pillars. The catacombs of Paris aren’t open in their entirety to visitors, but their sheer volume is conveyed by the mile that is. It takes about 45 minutes to wander through the ossuaries. The scale of death expands and compresses. Each bone you see belonged to a person, a life in its expanse – and bones are…

A Haunting

Posted on 10 June 2018

My most vivid memory of Saint Petersburg is this: Listen. The cold sun glares at me as I walk along the Fontanka embankment. I walk southwest to where the canal meets the Neva, and then turn around and walk back on the other side. I keep my gaze fixed straight ahead and step in time to the music in my ears. The grey of the streets and the buildings blends with the blue of the sky where the white light of the sun rubs them together. As a woman, I stick out with my flat shoes and casual clothes, but I’m stopped and asked for directions anyway. I’ve been here long enough, have been walking around long enough, to often answer. I walked a…

Rise and Fall

Posted on 22 February 2018

It’s early in the morning but the sun is already sharp above us, the air clear. We’re among the first onto the grounds of Monte Albán that day, which I like, because the grassy plains between the pyramids stretch out empty before me. What I imagine as a once-busy square is now abandoned like the city itself was about a thousand years ago. We scale the pyramids, shoes disturbing tufts of grass that have made a home amid the rocks. We look out at the flattened ridge top before us. How did they do that? We walk around the edge of the city and look out over the valley below. How did they build a city, up here? And why did they leave? What…