Wednesday, June 20, 2007

First day or days--I really can't tell...also the directions come up in French!

June 20, 2007

Jam-packed flight with everyone in a good mood. Lots of different kinds of people traveling—a large group of mostly high school age singers (and their parents) with matching t-shirts going to build good will by singing around Europe (I thought of Beth’s similar experience a few years ago). A less obvious group of Stanford MBA students on the way to celebrate graduating by checking out how the Russians do it. I talked with the spouse of one for a while. It was an interesting conversation. His wife is a pilot and he’s a firefighter. He described being the nurturing parent and how much he loves and misses their daughter (who isn’t along for the ride). I thought—yeah, just wait ‘til she leaves home if you want to experience missing your kids!

I’m realizing that there are a couple of questions that have already come up and will continue to:
One is: Why aren’t you traveling with your husband? This is actually an interesting question because it can mean so many things. It can mean precisely what it says. It can mean “Your marriage much be in trouble or you wouldn’t travel alone.” It can mean either “You should stay home to take care of your husband” or Your husband should come and take care of you.” Point being—it’s an oddity that needs to be explained. When I started planning, though, I didn’t think of what I was doing as unusual, simply pragmatic.
The other question is: Why do you want to learn Hebrew? This is much harder to answer, because I don’t really know why. I just know I want to do it. I want to be competent to speak and to understand—I feel inauthentic without that capability, somehow. I’m not even sure what I mean by inauthentic—as a Jew? As a scholar? I don’t know. And why this area in particular as opposed to intensive Talmud study, say? But “inauthentic” isn’t quite right, because I don’t feel like I’m going out inferiority, but out of love, out of pure love for the language. So I have no reason. It’s enough for me to really want it, without needing to explain it, but I know that we humans like explanations (which are really stories about our life and world) and not having a good “story” is a bit unsatisfying.

Below me are sharp mountain peaks poking out of glacier ice—Greenland. Looking at them, I can see why some have trouble believing that global warming is occurring. There is a serious amount of frozen stuff there—hard for me to look at that and believe it might vanish.
I tried to take a picture, but it didn’t work—I can’t get the flash to turn off. The sun has never set this whole trip. It dips below the horizon and pops back up. I missed all of Canada, sleeping and woke up over the Atlantic, a few minutes before coming up on the coast of Greenland. So the first pictures I took were of sunrise/set and of the islands and coast. And then we moved over land and the glaciers took over. For the last few minutes, we’ve flown over mountains peaking out of ice, and then low clouds, and now higher clouds. Something happened in me when the flight attendant confirmed that it was indeed Greenland. Somehow this great adventure became tangible. And we land in three and half hours…

Somewhat later…

I’m sitting on a bench overlooking the Thames. It’s an odd sight, actually. Tour boats are going up and back and every now and then the voice of a tour guide floats up unintelligibly, but with that edge of authority distinct to tour guides of every kind. The buildings on the other bank are such an odd mixture of new glass, old spires and domes, and everywhere building cranes. The weather’s also about perfect—blue sky with puffy clouds, a nice wind, and a temperature that is fine for either sitting or walking.
This is the “Thames walk,” and boy, people sure do. It’s lunch time and a hell of a lot of them are running past at various speeds. Lots of tourists meandering, and not a few people simply taking a break from work and eating. I walked down the Thames from the Jubilee Bridge to the (new) Globe Theater.
On the way, I stopped at the Tate Museum and took a tour at the Globe. I could do more—I have the time, but need a few minutes to absorb it all.
The Tate—one really interesting exhibit on cities. Nicely done, showing where the urban population comes from, how it’s distributed, how people get around. A 3-D “map” of population density illustrated how dense Mumbai and Cairo were (35,000 people/km2) as compared to LA (900 people/km2). How many people ride public transportation (7% in LA as compared to 70% in Tokyo (I think it was Tokyo)). Interesting stuff.
Then I wandered off to see the art, but what really interested me were the incredible number of school groups touring the museum. We’re not talking bored high school kids. We’re talking six year olds, sitting politely in groups, being made to pay attention (one little girl let her attention stray—she wasn’t doing anything, just not looking at the docent—and her teacher pulled her attention back to the front), but also actually engaged in learning. Older kids (say, ten) observing museum etiquette as they wandered about with sketch pads. And we’re talking boys as well as girls.

Continued down the road to the new Globe, where there were tons of school groups, all in different uniforms and many groups segregated by gender. I decided to go ahead and spring for the tour, largely because they were rehearsing and I wanted the chance to see how they did it. They were rehearsing the end of Merchant of Venice, which was a jolly jig. The guide explained that all of Shakespeare’s plays ended with a jig…there was a lot of competition, so you wanted to send your audience out dancing in the aisles, as it were. Which raises the “Shakespeare in Love” question: what happens when your two protagonists have offed themselves (as in R&J)? Or “that’ll have’em rolling in the aisles.” Well, it turned out that you just manage to dance around the bodies. In the case of Romeo and Juliet, the parents lifted up their dead children, had them join hands, and they participated in the dance. The docent assured us it was very effective performance. Oh, and in the case of Othello, they just pushed the bed with the dead bodies on it to the rear of the stage and danced in front of it. Yeah
Turns out this is the third Globe (the first burned down, the second was torn down by the Puritans). It was made as close to the original as legality allows (as in, the reed roof has been fireproofed!). The joints are held together, not with nails, but with wooden dowels. The walls are plaster and goat hair (go figure).
Othello and Love’s Labour’s Lost are both playing August 19, the one day I’m in London. I might just go…

Oh, and I didn’t really think I looked like a guy. Not once, but twice today I have been addressed as sir. Huh?

I'm posting from a suburb of Paris now, but too tired to fill in those details now.


Viv said...

Hi Trish! How wonderfully exciting that you are truly the 'Wandering Jew' and are getting to see some of the continent and Israel as well!

I'll be following you on your blog daily and look forward to reading your comments & insights!

And NO u don't look like a man! What were these people thinking!

Much love, Viv & Art

beth said...

Great stuff!

beth said...

I didn't realize you were going to be in Paris, or I would have given you the address of my exchange student from 4 years ago, Sandra. She and her family live outside Versailles. It looks as if you won't be there very much, but I'm happy to send you her e-mail if you'd like.