That’s A Wrap

         (INAUGURATION Day 2017)

Tempting though an escape from the Trump years may be, time to get back and get to work — amazing to see friends and family marching the day after the election– and to be with family and friends. Videos and FaceTime are not all no substitute! 

Such a temple!

Vaikunta Ekadasi , the greatest festival of  the Ranganatharswamy Temple  year,  is about to begin in this Hindu temple, so today, police and people were swarming, traffic was redirected, and the hawkers were having a great time. Devotees – men, women, ancient and fairly young – were brilliant , the whole place just  glorious chaos.

The temple is enclosed by 7 concentric walls, and according to Lonely Planet it has 21 gopurams (those pink and blue towers), 39 pavillions, 50 shrines, including  the Hall of 1000 Pillars (though I read somewhere that the number is actually 994). As a non-Hindu, I  could get up to the 2nd outer courtyard, but as always, not inside the gold-topped sanctum sanctorum. 

See these chappals (photo, below)?  I set mine there (black Crocs, left of the pink ones), paid the ancient woman the 10 rupees she required, then walked barefoot across the road to enter the temple. There, I saw a stall offering chappals storage. FREE. I know it was just 14 cents, & I know it was perfect weather – high 80’s(Minnesota people notice this sort of thing) – but it probably took a good 5 minutes for me to let go of the injustice. It was probably a good 5 minutes before I saw the malnourished, hunched-over woman, probably my age, leaning against the temple wall and holding out sticks of sandalwood incense for people like me  to buy.                                   REALLY, Mary Ellen?

Good day. Feeling very ready, now, for the ashram.


Christmas Eve 2016

Man Mo is a temple  dedicated to the God of Literature (Man) and the God of War (Mo). For Jeanne, Elizabeth, and me,  the visit  was one of fragrant if chaotic moments filled with devotees’  incense and offerings of joss paper and oranges.

Later, with Allan and Cecilia, we heard Christmas Carols and and attended Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel – amazing to follow it all w/o understanding a single word, until it was time for Communion, and the choir did a completely recognizable “O, Holy Night.”

(single-click any circle –> slide show)


After Mass, we walked to and through and around and up streets and escalators for a “Shanghaiese” meal,  which may have been the best yet; Allan ordered perfectly: 3 styles of noodles and  Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings). It was an incredible variety of hot (spicy), sour, and sweet,and as Elizabeth later pointed out, he kindly avoided ordering things like  Century Eggs

 Later, we spent a couple hours on the rooftop of the Prince’s Building – this link has a few photos (my camera-phone battery being long gone). And this one of Victoria Harbor  captures some of what we saw.




Planet Earth Part 2: SwissLand

A Note: Much, much more to my time here than recyling centers and Christmas markets, but before I lose these moments, I’ll send along some weekend photos.
It is probably stating the too-obvious to say that the Cronins are NOT in Kansas anymore!

Recycling Day @ the Commune (entirely DIY)


Chris & Gus make a weekly drive to the Commune recycling center (open Saturdays, and “for about 10 minutes on Wednesday”).  A Commune Card allows entrance.

Augustine neatly lobs a bottle into the WHITE (vs BROWN or GREEN) glass bin.

Christmas Market ! 

It’s a huge (“largest in French-speaking Switzerland”) covered market in nearby Morges.

Planet Earth, Part 1: The Melissa Project

Melissa means “bee” in Greek,  a nod to the dedication of the young women who go there every weekday for Greek, English, poetry, art, knitting…I taught English at this Greek nonprofit for part of November-December.

img_9546For too short a time, I worked with women who mostly spoke Arabic and Farsi, and who came from the shelters, camps, and squats spread across Athens. I have many photos, and when I see you in person sometime, I’d love to share. For now, here’s a lesson from the first day . Melissa students are the most eager I’ve ever known, and the administrators, teachers, and other volunteers, the most committed. Lots more to do there, lots of people doing it, and I’d love to return

I’d walk back to Elizabeth’s studio at night, grateful, tired, hungry. I  often stopped for dinner in the neighborhood, Exarchia — 

img_9491For me, as  welcome in cool weather as in hot. Only the color of the wine changes! 

Athens’ Exarcheia: “An empty wall is a lonely wall/An empty wall is a sad wall.”

                  Rainy day, unforgiving marble stairs, so I trod carefully, the better to see it all. 


“As you set out on the way to Ithaca, hope the voyage is a long one… “

It will take 4 minutes to listen to Sean Connery read  C.P. Cavafy’s “ITHACA.”    Aside from being the place Odysseus left, Ithaca is also where he returned, utterly changed. Some have said that “Ithaca” is about the journey. So here we go —

No photos of yesterday’s odyssey from San Francisco to Athens, but the memory of some moments worth savoring, all of them involving the latest in travel gear for those long hauls through Trump-size international airports. A WHEELCHAIR.   Really, it’s amazing what you can take in from that perch.

There was the family of young and old women in gold and red saris in San Francisco – headed home for a visit. Or a funeral, as I think.

By Rome, the sense of being shepherded or rather, sherpa-ed, came  more easily.  I sat back in my chair and saw shops I’d never really attended to back in the day when I was always  focused on dragging myself and my carry-on to the gate in time:  the scents of seafood from a seafood restaurant (L’Osteria Dell’Orologio, I think), could make you change your mind about leaving Rome.  And the shops! Armani (jeans only), Boggi Milano, Bulgari, Vasari (“ottico” – eyeglass frames only, I think)…

At JFK,   I had  befriended the woman sitting in a wheelchair next to mine,  who explained she was traveling “to be home for 6 or 7 months.” By the time we arrived in Rome,  I understood her English and she understood my very broken Italian.  But she wasn’t stopping in Italy; I mean  I thought she understood my Italian, until we had been wheeled  into  the outdoor lift, called an   “elevator-to-plane,”  which was our method of  boarding the plane to Athens – no stairs for us! She explained that she had “much family near Athens,” and I suddenly realized she wasn’t Italian at all, wasn’t going to visit Greece — this woman was going home to Greece!

That also explained why, after our Italian lunch courtesy of  Alitalia,  she slipped  her hand delicately into a ziplok snack bag and took out a piece of Greek lemon shortbread she’d made the night before at her home in Connecticut: “Lemon. Like Greece. You like.” I loved that she  wasn’t posing a  question. My mouth full, I wiped crumbs from my chin and   nodded an enthusiastic endorsement  as we got into our chairs and were pushed – before everybody else –   towards the airport exit.

It really is a white city, isn’t it?



Thanksgiving evening in the garden, Hotel Brazil

 Pleased to say that not even Japan’s latest production line could break the peace —

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