travel

Mediterranean (Verbal) Polaroids by Diana Khoi Nguyen

I could say that it's been a whirlwind past couple of weeks, but as infrequently as I update this, one would have no reliable or valid way in which to comprehend that statement.

Due to a cancelled flight from the first leg of my travels, things were a bit hectic/rife with last-minute decisions while waiting for hours at the Harrisburg Airport. While I did make it to Fes, Morocco, the trip was cut in half, and I ended up with only about 30 hours--needless to say, all last week I barely slept, but it was worth it:

Harrisburg > Chicago > Munich > Marseille > Casablanca > Fes > Aix-en-Provence > Arles > Cassis

Am here to capture my memorable/favorite moments thus far:

Fes

Befriended local shopkeeper Sidi inside the medina (who had impeccable taste and curatorial style). Spent hours--had homemade tagine lunch with his friends, witnessed/helped him procure shop items from one of his sellers (who travels from the Sahara). He introduced me to an American, Summer Coish, who's been living in Fes for the past 2.5 months--and in Kabul for the past 5 years.

Ran across young local who guided a skeptical me to a local hammam. Turned out to be an incredible, incredible experience in which I was not scammed or harassed. For the equivalent of 5 USD, I gained admission into the hammam (no tourists in sight, only naked women and their children, bathing), where an elder-lady bathed me (as if I were a child, wonderful), scrubbed every inch of my body with Moroccan soap (blended with local spices, etc.), the massaged my entire body. When I returned to the young local to tip him for his kindness, he refused and only wanted to know if I enjoyed my experience. Yesyesyes. I wish I never had to bathe myself again.

Aix-en-Provence

Woke up early to run outside of a friend's AirBnB at Place Richelme, to where what is considered the best open market (in all of Provence) takes place. There was a large area devoted entirely to a flower market--and then a rich, lush produce market and seafood market. Bought mussels and fish to make a 4 course dinner for the new friends with whom I was staying. If only I could acquire food materials like this for every meal of my life. What bounty this land yields.

Cassis

My Camargo apartment is literally situated above the sea, overlooking both the Cassis port/lighthouse and Mediterranean expanse. After putting down my bags, while standing on the balcony, I spied a snorkeling-fishing-man, in a wetsuit, spear in one hand, and row of hooked fish silver and gleaming around his waist like a skirt. I watched him dive and surface, unable to turn my eyes from the fish.

The next day was non-stop pouring rain and I ran around town (breakfast, groceries) with a coated yellow tablecloth over my head--like some sunny ghost up and down the limestone slopes. From the balcony: a woman doing squats at the base of the lighthouse, facing the sea, with no one around (everyone safely dry indoors, of course!).

Yesterday, I thought I saw a drowning person in the sea, but then it must've been a rock against which the sea foamed against. As the minutes slowly passed, this thing came closer, and I saw two arms, alternating in stroke--a swimmer--but never once did I see a head turn up for air. Where did the swimmer originate from? Where would s/he finish?

Every morning (except in rain), I see a man on a paddle board, paddling away from the shore.

Cloudy today, with a bit of tumult in the sea. Waves crashing against the pier--and along one lone dock, a man with red string from his hands to the sea--the dock violently bobbing in various directions (with the surf), the man, steady, his line steadier still.

(Un)Planned Tectonics by Diana Khoi Nguyen

2015 has been thus far filled with multiple serious plans of change and grief. 

And during these dark weeks, I have received some wonderful news and opportunities. I'm eagerly hopeful for what the future holds and am excited for the upcoming months:

April: AWP in Minneapolis (eating adventures with Mr. B); 3-day trip in Fez, Morocco (oh the sights, smells, and spices!)

May: Funded fellow at the Bread Loaf Bakeless Camargo Residency in Cassis, or the beautiful south of France.

June - July: Journeys and stays in LA, the Bay Area, and home-hunting in Denver.

August - beyond: Denver PhD student life.

Monthly Check-In by Diana Khoi Nguyen

I've survived a month. Over a month! Not sure I can rehash everything here, but I did just finish drafting a potential blog post for Boston Review's blog. Fingers crossed that they'll take it. If not, I'll post it here!

It has been a whirlwind, to say the least. Sheep/wool conference, trip to Reykjavik, Landmannalauger, ride-sharing back to Blönduós, productive days and evenings in the studio, trying to hitchhike and failing, renting a car, taught myself to drive manual, spent a whole day exploring Northern Iceland (Akureyri! Lake Myvatn! Nature Baths! Hverir!) with fellow resident Alma, obtained pony-hair from the slaughterhouse, showed some WIP at the end of September art show, went to Skagastrond Nes Residency and to their open studios--picked wild crowberries,

And now it's just me and Nancy left at the residency here. It feels so quiet here now--and this week only I've been struggling to wake up early like I usually do.

There's so many more things to make! I shouldn't disappear into loneliness.

More soon.

Greetings, from Blönduós! by Diana Khoi Nguyen

It was an adventure/marathon getting here. Left Vermont with Lydia Conklin at 11am on Saturday. She dropped me off in Andover, where I took a train to Boston. Then took the metro to Boston's Logan Airport. 5-hour red-eye to Reykjavik. Then shuttle to bus terminal. Then 5 hour bus ride to my current beloved village in the north. I arrived at 2pm on Sunday.

In less than 2 days of being here, I have already learned how to use the amazing knitting machine and made some swatches--and extravagant plans to make so many things. Also got to do a house visit of a local ceramicist whose work is gorgeous. She even picks her own tea leaves from the fields and made that tea for me. Insane.

I'm in love with the Icelandic people, but not the poor grocery/food scene here in (this particular) village. The studio is right where the Blanda River meets the ocean, and I feel like I'm part of the soundtrack to Wuthering Heights. It's windy.

The other artists here (who leave too soon at the end of this month) are incredible and I'm trying to learn so much from them before they depart!

There's Moi Tran, who is like my only in that she is Vietnamese, but lives in London and has the most enviable of all accents. There's also Michelle Forsyth, who's been teaching me SO much about all things fiber arts, and Catherine Fairbanks (Cathy) who did these amazing naturally dyed machine knitted sheets--dyed with things found in the fields of this town.

I feel like it's Halloween/Christmas every day--this is surely already better than my time in Sweden AND Greece--and those two places were life/game-changing sojourns. I feel so lucky to be here.

Soon I'll post some videos/pictures of my living space / studios later this week as I'm in a lovely room now, but an even lovelier room come Wednesday.

Michelle taught me how to use the knitting machine and I hope to make wool leggings for myself and JB--as well as blankets! Scarves! And then naturally dip dye some of these items. Cathy learned to weave here and used pony hair as her weft! Apparently I can go across the street to the abattoir, ask the butcher for some ponytails and he will let you know when to come back, at which time he will hand over some frozen ponytails still attached to the horses' spine. Cathy said she would take the spine/ponytails to the river to wash then cut the hair before she wove with it. Insane. I can't wait to do this.

And there's a thrift store in town! And a library! And apparently lots of art supplies to be bought in one town north of here (will likely venture there next month).

There's not enough time to do all the art! And to travel/see Iceland!!!!! Must. Not. Sleep.

Oh! Did I mention? There's a geo-thermally heated pool here open year-round (complete with killer tubular winding slide) that I can get an unlimited monthly pass to! Win!

While I do miss my pack, I'm so busy that I don't feel sad! Soon exhaustion will hit, but not tonight.

Update on the goal list:

Bread Loaf Goals

  • x Don't get sick(er). [I didn't get less sick, unfortunately. Sick the whole time!]
  • x Attempt a sober BL [Sober, save one drink after my reading, which I regretted]
  • Take more walks [fail, took zero walks]
  • x Swim in the lake [it was FREEZING]
  • x Get to know more folks on staff + at the conference
  • x Eat less of the industrial food / stay low-glycemic/carb [yes and no--]
  • x Try to sleep
  • x Make new writer friends (for life) [I hope!]
  • Don't get tired [Failed]

Iceland Goals

  • make at least 1:
    • tapestry
    • woven thing on a loom with more than 4 harnesses
    • machine knitted leggings and scarves
    • felted wall hangings / bucket/bowls
  • produce new version of manuscript
  • read more than 3 books of prose
  • take a walk or swim or pilates every day
  • ride a pony!
  • herd sheep and ponies
  • visit as many natural pools as possible
  • witness aurora borealis