As we mentioned before, we had to cross a lot of rivers in Costa Rica. Thankfully, we had a large SUV, and it was the start of dry season, so we were able to make most of the crossings pretty easily.
Until the Bongo.
The Rio Bongo is a seemingly benign river. On the map, it didn’t look too wide. And we had started to get more confident in our river crossing skills at that point, having already passed through three. David had the system down. The locals had said to always walk the river first, to make sure it wasn’t too deep and to find the shallowest route. Their rule of thumb was “if the water doesn’t go above your knees when you walk it, you’re good.” So we had adopted this rule. It had worked well so far.
When we reached the Bongo, though, it was much wider and deeper seeming than what had appeared on the map. But we were more secure in our abilities to cross rivers. So David got out and did the standard walk. At first it seemed ok, but then the water went up to the tops of his knees. It seemed pretty deep. But since the water didn’t cross his knees, we figured we were ok. So into the river we went.
As you can see from the video, it all started out ok. Until we got stuck in a hole. And couldn’t move. It was then that it dawned on us that the locals telling David the top of the knee rule were 5’4”. David is 6’3”. Slightly different standards for knee height.
David decided to open the car door, to see just how high the water was, but when water began to gush into the car, he quickly slammed it shut. There was no way we could get out and push. But the car was still running, so David used an old snow driving technique to rock us out of the hole.
Our relief when we made it out and onto the shore was exhilarating. As were the cheers of “muy bien!” from the locals watching on the shore.
We approached each river after that with a deeper sense of reverence. And adjusted the knee rule to mid calf.
This past weekend while in San Francisco, I came across Omnivore, a delightful little bookshop specializing in food books. I thought of my brother instantly, since he’s a chef and a big devourer of food books, but I also had to restrain myself for opening the wallet and purchasing a vast quantity of food books.
Food writing is a special breed of literature. It’s both scientific and artistic, straightforward and poetic. I’ve read several fantastic books about food, and I’m itching to read more, particularly as my brother grows his pop-up restaurant.
One book that caught my eye at Omnivore was The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart. This book focuses on the influence various plants have had on our drinking culture, combining history, botany and mixology in one. If I end up picking it up, I’ll let you all know how it is.
I finished Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (by Dai Sijie) last night, after a down-and-dirty reading session on a flight to San Fran for work, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t like the book.
It was one of those situations where you’re sort of surprised at your not liking it, once you come to the end, because reading the book itself wasn’t a struggle. The ending was just beyond anticlimactic, and while that may have been a deliberate choice, to mimic some of the French authors referenced in the novel itself, the entire story really lacked some punch.
The premise is interesting, inherently: two young men in China are sent to the rural mountain villages in the throes of the People’s Revolution, to be ‘re-educated.’ I learned a great deal about this period in China, and the injustices so many experienced as a result of their being labeled the ‘bourgeois class.’ So that element of the novel definitely adds an interesting layer. But not enough to mask the underwhelming love triangle storyline.
The best thing about this book is that it has inspired me to want to read some of the French classics: Balzac, of course, and Rolland and Camus. So perhaps the Provence-inspired Francophile binge will continue into the French literary greats…
Typewriters of Famous Authors
I want to move to the South of France.
Ok, not really. But the romantic, dying-to-frolic-through-fields-of-lavender part of me does. And the part that wants to eat a lot of cheese.
But, in all seriousness, Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, is the exact type of book that inspires you to want to move to a lovely 200-year-old stone farm house in the South of France, or at least vacation in one for a two-week window.
Utterly charming, beautifully written, (Mayle was an advertising copywriter for 15 years before moving to France to pursue book writing), and full of captivating, vivid descriptions of hearth-side meals, vineyards lush with grapes warming in the sun and hearty, smiling, weather-worn French faces and bottles of deep red wine, A Year in Provence is, indeed, one of those books that transports you.
It was so good, I’m reading the ‘sequel:’ Encore Provence. Will let you know how that goes…
I am so proud of my brother. He’s a budding chef, and he’ll be doing a pop-up restaurant two nights a week in Atlanta, Georgia. I’m bummed to be missing it.