I’m over the moon that New English American Theater festival is presenting two of my plays. This is a brand-new form for me as a writer and I had a blast trying my hand at comic drama. If you find yourself in the Stuttgart area for any reason, come on out to the show! David Burmedi, Director of the One Page Play Festival, explains how the festival came to life.
Click to see more. If you make it the show, don’t forget to cast your votes! Signing off from somewhere over Cloud 9,
I’ve written before about travel karma.  You know, that sense of crushing inevitability when the tour bus arrives late because of the traffic, and it’s crowded, and the guy in the seat behind you won’t stop whining, and you’re about to turn around and open your mouth and give him something to really complain about. Travel karma is a bitch.
It can also be awesome. Uwe and I spent a too-short week on Gran Canaria, and we ate twice with Guillermo Ramirez. But let me back up.
Eating is a major aspect of traveling with my spousal unit. If you see us poring over the guide books, we’re probably checking out the historic, cultural, and Nature highlights of wherever we are.
I can guarantee you we’ve already scoped out all the good places to eat! Gran Canaria was no exception, and Uwe found a highly praised locale kitty-corner to our hotel. Hungry, on Thursday we headed over to Restaurante de Cuchara and entered a small family restaurant, probably 12 tables max. The owners greeted guests like old friends (most of them were) and only the owners’ handsome son Guillermo spoke English. He took it upon himself to serve us each course – which he was also cooking – and explained each dish with pride. The meal was great. I’ve retained a little of my high school and college Spanish (moving to Germany and having to learn Deutsch highjacked most of the foreign language area of my brain). But I could read the flier on our table that said Restaurante de Cuchara was serving a special six-course menu on Saturday.
Even before we finished dinner, we’d made a reservation for the coming Saturday. We got the last free table.
On Saturday night Guillermo again brought each course to our table and told us how he’d prepared them. Our meals cost a grand 30€ apiece.
Here are some of the dishes we ate those nights: A fermented, champagne-style gazpacho. Rabbit in a roll that you ate with your hands. Melt-in-your-mouth croquettes of suckling lamb. Grilled Canarian cheese with tomato jam. Quail stew with chickpeas. Cod fish Bras style. Canarian pork cheeks stew. Duck breasts. Pickled cucumber on edamame purée.
I was dying to ask him a question. When he came with our desserts I said, “We’ve been wondering if we might ask you, where did you train as a chef?” He smiled. “NOMA, in Copenhagen. I worked for a while in Bangkok, too.” NOMA! We knew NOMA has been repeatedly rated the best restaurant in the world. 
Guillermo was back on Gran Canaria for a few months, helping out in his parents’ restaurant. This particular dining experience was a way to show off what he could do with local ingredients and creativity. I told him that I blog and would be writing about him. I added, with absolute certainty, that I think he’ll be famous someday. His cooking is that good.
No, I didn’t receive a discount for saying I’d write a rave review. And yeah, travel karma. Sometimes you hit it just right.
NOTES:  I wrote about travel karma in a post I unimaginatively titled Travel Karma  NOMA was rated the Best Restaurant in the World in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.
I have no idea if Señor Guillermo Ramirez is still in the kitchen, but here’s the contact info for this tasty restaurant. Restaurante de Cuchara, C/. Alfredo L. Jones, 37; Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Tel: 928 26 55 09. Their website: Restaurante de Cuchara
6 October 2018 update… Note to anyone lucky enough to be heading to Gran Canaria: Guillermo informed me that he’s opened a new restaurant named Picaro. Here is the link: Restaurante PicaroIf you are in Las Palmas, go!
Last week I wrote about the Bun Bang Fai. This is another installment of a new feature for this blog: I’m transcribing my entries from an old travel journal. I hauled out the journal I kept then to make sure that my memories match up with the facts. I use a travel diary to record first impressions and get down the details to go over later (like now, yearslater). As I said with the last one, enjoy, and let me know if this post is something you want to read more of in the future. — Jadi
“13 March. We stumbled into a rocket festival. The guide asked us if we’d like to stop and look around – a large wooden platform had been erected in a clearing so teams from some 30 surrounding villages could shoot off home-made rockets! The three categories were for small, medium and large and a village head scored them for height and at the end of the third day would give out awards, ranging from a house to a water buffalo.
It’s all pre-Buddhist, pre-recorded time: a wish to impregnate the skies so that it begins to rain. Food stands set up all alongside the one road, a band stand with live music and people dancing before it, a big pavillion for sitting and partying with lots of tables and chairs. The village teams cross-dressed and parading around with their rockets, lots of silly play-acting and laughter.
Depending on the region the 3-day festival takes place just before the start of the rainy season. For example, our guide’s home village has their rocket ceremony later, in May. The fest goes on somewhere in Laos from March through May.
We were the only foreigners. People noticed us certainly but other than a very drunken pair of pals who semi-interviewed us in English, no one ogled or jostled or tried to sell us anything.”
We were in Laos and Vientiane for the first time, and only had a couple of days there. So we booked a car and driver and a guide, and left the city for a day. On the way back, we drove down a road filled with stands selling food and drinks. “It’s a rocket festival,” our guide exclaimed. “Would you like to stop and see it?”
Hell yes, we’d like to stop and see it! A cardinal rule of travel is that when the unexpected beckons, follow your curiosity….
We got closer and the scene grew busier, and more and more interesting. A platform had been erected and people danced as musicians played.
What really drew our interest were the large numbers of men in dresses and skirts, wearing make-up. It was still the afternoon, and most of them were already hammered.
We’d stumbled into a Bun Bang Fai. The title breaks down this way:
Bun (Lao: wikt:ບຸນ) merit (Buddhism) is from Pali Puñña merit, meritorious action, virtue, and Sanskrit पुण्य puṇya virtuous or meritorious act, good or virtuous works.
Bang (Lao: wikt:ບັ້ງ) (alternative spelling bong บ้อง,) is a cutting, specifically of bamboo.
Fai (Lao: ໄຟ), is Fire (classical element). 
The Bun Bang Fai is a 3-day traditional festival that takes place just before the rainy season throughout Laos and eastern Thailand (the Isan Thai). The highlight is on the final day – the day we stumbled in – when rockets are shot off. But the rockets have to be home made (“Honey, do you remember where I put the gunpowder?”), and teams compete to shoot off the best rocket, with prizes given out for beauty of vapor trail, height, and size.
No. I’m not going there.
However, you as the reader can and should, because this is one bawdy fest.
Students had dressed up as reporters and ran around the grounds ‘interviewing’ the crowd. They were interrupted by a group of women parading by, repeating a phrase over and over in loud voices. Our guide grinned as he translated. “They’re saying, ‘Ladies rocket! Ladies’ rocket!'” he told us. Since the rocket competitors are usually men, they’d built their own rocket and were carrying it in to be registered.
Once their rocket is registered, the teams have to climb a scaffolding to tie the rocket on, and shoot it off themselves. Alcohol, crowds, and home made rockets… what could possibly go wrong?
It’s time again for the Weihnachtsmärkte. Stuttgart’s Christmas Market runs from 29 November to 23 December. Uwe and I always go to drink a glühwein with friends. You should, too!
The Christmas Market began as a short winter market.  Europe has held seasonal markets for centuries. Vienna, Austria’s Dezembermarkt dates all the way back to 1294/1296. But a Weihnachtsmarkt is special, and signals the beginning of the Advent season leading up to Christmas. This tradition is found in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Alsace region of France. 
Medieval guilds tightly controlled who could produce or sell wares, so each city market was unique and had a distinct, regional flavor. This remains true today. At a German Christmas Market, you’ll find these items for sale at open-air booths:
Tin, blown glass, wooden, and straw ornaments
Round wooden presses or molds for cookies known as Springele
Gebrannte Mandeln (candied toasted almonds)
Magenbrot and Lebkuchen gingerbread (Lebkuchen is often sold in beautiful and reusable decorative tins)
Clothes, including hand knit hats and gloves and scarves
Hot sausages and
Glühwein: a magical drink of mulled wine served from huge brass vats, with a shot of liquor added if you want to get extra-warm 
Our city of Stuttgart’s Weihnachtsmarkt is famous for its decorated booth roofs.
The market attracts more than 3,000,000 visitors each year! Tour busses pull up and unload shoppers from all over Europe. The Weihnachtsmarkt takes over several piazzas downtown; the 3x weekly Wochenmarkt for fresh produce and flowers moves to the Königstraße, the main pedestrian street.
I try to go a couple times each year. I head for the weekly market for fruits and vegetables and then meet a friend for a Bratwurst and a Glühwein. Or I arrange to meet Uwe after work.
We wend our way through rows of booths, enjoying hearing so many different languages along with the local Schwäbisch dialect.
NOTES on NOTES:  ….and nothing is better than a starry winter night, a hot mug of Glühwein, snow gently falling as you stand with your sweetie, the sounds of talk and laughter of other Weihnachtsmarkt visitors all around you as carolers sing in the courtyard of the 16th century castle across the plaza. Prosit, und Fröhe Weihnachten!
With a nod to Vanity Fair, here are 7 facts about me.
State of mind: Blissful. I was presented with 2 awards!
Next move: Back to the drawing board. Oh, heck: I can’t draw. Back to the laptop key board.
Listening to: http://www.radioparadise.com Nancy over at Laughing Maus — who is also a member of my writers’ circle here – turned me on to this commercial free, listener supported indie station. They play an amazingly eclectic mix of music. Check it out (you’ll thank me later).
Trait I most admire in others: Grace under pressure.
Trait I find saddest: Fear of change. Unwillingness to admit a mistake. I know that’s two traits, but I can’t decide between them.
Weirdest personal trait: About two years ago, I began to wake throughout the night while dreaming. I can recall every dream in vivid detail.
Current physical condition: Tired. I was up all night dreaming.
“But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley.” –Robert Burns To a Mouse, on Turning Her Up in Her Nest with the Plough
Feste the Fool: [Singing]
“He that has and a little tiny wit– With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,– Must make content with his fortunes fit, For the rain it raineth every day.” —Shakespeare King Lear, Act III, Scene 2
“Man plans; God laughs.” —Anonymous
We’re renovating our apartment, and line up all the dates for workmen and repairs months in advance. We decide that once it starts will be the perfect time for me to fly back to America and visit my family. It’s finally about to begin, when suddenly…
We receive a phone call that my mother-in-law is in the hospital. She lives about 1 1/2 hours south of us, so Uwe and I take turns heading down there. He spends a night in a hotel. I arrive by train the next day and take over so that Uwe can drive home to work.
We need to move Mama into assisted living; I volunteer to go meet with the nursing home staff. For anyone contemplating life in a foreign language, the year I spent in submersion classes learning to speak fluent German pays off now. It would be scary not to understand what is happening, and awful not to be able to help my husband.
Her doctors think she needs an operation and schedule a day for it. Then the next time I go down, they inform us they’ve decided not to operate. She is moved out of the ICU. And then back into the ICU. And then back out of the ICU. Uwe deals with banks and Mama’s newspaper deliveries and the phone company. We need to keep updating the nursing home. Each day is a roller coaster experience.
Should I cancel or push back my flight to the US? I keep asking, but Uwe continues to assure me I can head out as planned.
Germany has record flooding. It rains every day and the train runs alongside the banks of the Neckar River. I have the surreal experience of watching the waters keep rising, along with our concerns about Mama.
In the meantime I try to write. I see massage patients. But I’m shocked when my sister announces my nephew’s birthday has arrived. I know it’s still a few days away, and then l look at a calendar. I have the date and what day of the week it is both wrong. I lost 48 hours somewhere.
Friday the tile layer begins work in the hallway. Saturday I go to my monthly writers’ group and come home to find an email about an award. Sunday I take my last train ride. Monday the tile layer returns and Mama can finally leave the hospital. Uwe drives down to get his mother settled in and buy furniture, etc. for her new digs. I remain home to hold down the fort. Tuesday the next Handwerker arrives and for two days walls are fixed in the next room (as I type these words. Literally.)
I am grateful for the completely unexpected VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER Award. It’s a glad moment in what have been harried days and nights. The wonderful, creative Jen Payne at http://randomactsofwriting.wordpress.com has honored me with the nomination. It’s a lovely recognition. It doesn’t involve answering or posing questions. Best of all, it arrived at the height/depth of 2 weeks of insanity. This award provided me with light for the end of the tunnel, letting me know that maybe I’m not just viewing the headlights of an oncoming train ….
The word inspire means to “fill with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” I feel my creativity slowly returning as the flood waters in some spots finally begin to recede.
Heartfelt thanks again to Jen at Random Acts of Writing [+ art] for the nomination. I’m delighted to pass on the compliment by following the award rules and nominating 15 other bloggers.
VERY INSPIRING BLOGGER RULES
• Display the award logo on your blog.
• Link back to the person who nominated you.
• Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them.
• Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements.
May my nominations bring you amusement, relief, or whatever you may be needing at the moment. It’s great to be part of this community! (Written June 12th, 2013)
A few days ago I gleefully told my husband, “Blogging is fun! There are such creative people out there and I’m having a blast discovering them!” And then the next day I received notice that Jaded Apothecary (someone who embodies creative) nominated me for a Liebster Award.
The Liebster Award is intended to recognize up-and-coming blogs, particularly those with fewer than 200 followers. The rules are as follows: Post 11 facts about yourself. Answer the questions posed by your nominator. Pass the award on to 11 new recipients. Pose 11 new questions to your bloggers.
Next, post a copy of the badge on your blog (you can find several options by doing a Google image search for “Liebster Award”). Finish it all up by notifying your selected nominees, and be sure to include links to the originating blog, as well as to those of the new recipients.
First off, thanks to http://jadedapothecary.wordpress.com/ for the nomination. This mysterious blogger stays private while questioning the world in a funny and informed fashion. Jaded Apothecary, your own acceptance post for the award is a hard act to follow! Here are my answers to your 11 queries:
1. Do you feel like you were destined to become a writer? And by that I mean, do you kind of feel like that scene in Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit when Whoopi Goldberg tells Lauryn Hill that if she wakes up in the morning and can only think about singing, then she’s meant to be a singer? Is Whoopi Goldberg saying to you, “You’re meant to be a writer, girl!”…or guy?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since the age of 6. I took way too long to get serious about it.
2. Since I can’t cook, I’d love to read about your worst cooking disaster. Go on now. Make me feel better about myself.
It was a dessert soufflé. I mastered savory soufflés so easily that I thought, How hard could it be to make one for dessert? I disappeared into the kitchen with 2 baskets of strawberries and good intentions. Pride goeth before a fall… and fall is exactly what my soufflé did. I came back out 3 hours later (really) with something flat that had the color and consistency of a rubber eraser. That is the first and last time I ever tried to make a dessert soufflé as the failure scarred me for life!
3. If you were a tree, what tree would you be? And don’t you roll your eyes at me. They ask this question during corporate “development” sessions for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is, but still. I’d like to know your answer.
4. What’s the last television show you gave up on watching because you just couldn’t deal with it anymore?
24 Hours. The word ‘jingoistic’ comes to mind.
5. What’s your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving, hands down.
6. Did you, like me, have a panic attack (but a good one) when you first realized that people in other countries were reading your work?
No, I had that panic attack when my husband first talked me into becoming a blogger.
7. If you could make a difference in the world (and I’m talking about a genuine, magical difference…not the Miss America crap), what would it be?
Convince people that we really are all connected. There is no “other”.
8. I can’t watch the commercial for the ASPCA without crying uncontrollably for 20 minutes, clutching my own dog and loving on him until he literally forces himself away from me, and, sometimes, placing a quick call to my therapist. Can you? I mean, it’s sad!
I leave the room when reports on animals caught in man-made disasters come on.
9. Do you have any friends in your life who date back to your childhood?
10. What’s your favorite color, and what do you think it says about you as a person?
What does it say about me that I actually have several favorite colors?
11. When you travel, do you ever wish you could pull someone aside, open their suitcase, pull out a different outfit, throw it at them, and then send them to the restroom shouting, “You will change into this right now, because as things stand, you look ridiculous. Who let you believe this was okay? You’re in an airport, ma’am! Pajama jeans and an old Body Glove t-shirt are unacceptable!” Explain.
No. But I’ve wanted to strangle fellow travelers more than once for holding up the plane while they try to stuff their obnoxiously oversized carry-on luggage into the overhead bin. Which part of “must fit into space above or below the seat” did they not understand?
And here are 11 factoids about me:
(Photo from Wikipedia)
I’m a southpaw.
My father worked for the Forest Service, so as a kid I spent every summer in the woods.
We had flying squirrels as pets every summer. (See #2)
My siblings and I agree: we had the perfect childhoods. (See #2 & #3)
I’ve probably watched the film Blade Runner 50 times.
I used to speak conversational Spanish and Italian, but right now German takes up most of the brain space reserved for foreign languages.
I can laugh at myself.
I’ve been licensed as a massage therapist for 25 years. It’s the perfect work for me: it combines science (treatments for injuries, anatomy) with intuition (yes, there is a mind-body-spirit connection).
I’m named for a grandfather who was struck by lightening – twice.
I’m sometimes overcome with Happy Feet! (Steve Martin fans will get this reference.)
My husband is German and no one does cake and coffee better than the Germans. For our stateside wedding party we had the bakery make 6 different cakes rather than the traditional white one. We had chocolate, coconut, yellow, spice, carrot cake, and so on… and asked the bakery to misspell our names on all but one of them. Since we’re Jadi & Uwe it was an easy request.
I nominate the following bloggers for the Liebster Award. Thanks to each of you for inspiring me, as well as giving me a good reason to turn on the laptop each morning:
http://cvheerden.wordpress.com/ Her wonderful blog Bridging Worlds currently has 120 followers and I’m happy that fact makes it eligible for this nomination.
Questions for my nominees:
Do you want to live to be 100?
If you dream that you can fly, where are you flying to?
What is ‘your’ song?
If you could climb in a time machine, where would you go?
Do you need a private space to write, or can you write anywhere?
Are there foods you absolutely refuse to eat?
Do you have a book you reread over and over?
What person or past experience makes you sentimental?
What is the best vacation you’ve ever had?
Do you believe in reincarnation?
If yes, what do you hope (or worry) you’ll come back as? If no, what do you think comes next?