One of my dearest friends in the world is Maggi, an 86-year old woman I met back in 1976 in my Freshman English class at college. A housewife and mother of two, Maggi was born in Belfast. Northern Island and moved to Massachusetts when she married an American in the 1950s. Maggi is a rather famous storyteller who shares traditional folk tales, sentimental and thought-provoking reminiscences of her childhood in Belfast, and traditional folk songs and rhymes. She has performed all across the U.S. and in Britain, has won many prestigious awards in the folk world and recently published a book of her stories, Belfast Girl.
My first visit to Scotland had been a brief trip with my dear friend Carol in 1986 during which we drove up from London to see Yorkshire and the Lake District of northern England, and then crossed Hadrian’s Wall to see a bit of southern Scotland. Though brief, that trip held memories of rolling green hills, rainbows, more sheep than you could shake a stick at, afternoon teas and a hospitable people with a wonderful sense of humor and irony.
For years I’ve wanted to visit the French island of Corsica, intrigued by stories of its incredible natural beauty. I’ve been to 10 of the Greek islands and to Sicily and Sardinia in Italy, and have loved the scenery and amazing beaches to be found on all of them, but people assured me that Corsica trumps them all. Corsican culture is a mixture of Italian and French influences and so I assumed that I would feel right at home there, so I was eagerly anticipating my 5 day visit to this Mediterranean paradise.
As I do almost year, as soon as my semester is over and I am free for the summer, I head for Europe and while I frequently visit other countries, my main target is Italy. This year, after a few days on the Greek island of Mykonos, I flew into Venice, picked up a rental car, and began a three week visit to my adopted home.
Every year, within hours of the final graduation ceremony at my university, I’m usually Europe-bound, sometimes with a group of students for a study abroad trip, sometimes solo. I always try to leave before May 15, because after that magical date, air prices increase by $700 or so. This year I used frequent flier miles for the trip, and because I booked in December, I could leave any damn day I chose to! I opted to have a week at home after school ended and it was really a nice change, as I felt a lot more together by the time I was ready to leave on the 22nd. I’d made dozens of plane, hotel, car rental and airport shuttle reservations over the last months, and everything was perfectly planned. Or so I thought…
I’d put off a visit to Hawaii for many years, thinking that all it had to offer was the crowded beaches of Waikiki or corny lounge singers performing “Tiny Bubbles”. I could not have been more wrong, and I’ll always be grateful for the day when I finally discovered the Hawaiian Islands and for the fact that I’ve been able to return to them many times since.
The flight to Israel from Amman, Jordan to Tel Aviv was just a 45 minute hop, and I arrived at 5:00 on a Friday afternoon, the start of the Jewish Shabbat or sabbath. From sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, Israeli public transit, stores, and many restaurants and services close down. The airport was like a ghost town, and the heavy security screenings I’d anticipated did not happen at all.