Tag Archives: travel

On Grant Writing

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National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminars and Institutes for Teachers

Last year, I applied for and was accepted to participate in an NEH Summer Institute for Teachers.  This grant was to visit Oaxaca for four weeks to participate in an Institute on Mesoamerican Culture and the National Endowment for the Humanities paid $3300 towards the trip. That money covered the apartment rental, air fare, meals and various other expenses.  I had some money left over to buy some art and books – and I may have had some left over to pay for expenses for some of my family to visit…

I have spent some time trying to get the word out about the NEH seminars and institutes that are available this year.  I have encouraged my colleagues to apply.  There are two seminars that are going to be in France – one in Avignon and another in Paris, Lyon, and Normandy.  There appear to be many offerings for Spanish Speakers, with destinations such as Spain, Mexico, and New York City. Many of the seminars and institutes are in the United States, but there are others (besides the ones I mentioned) that will take you to Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Austria.

These seminars are open to teachers from K thru 12th grade.  All subjects are welcome – don’t assume that a trip to Mexico, for instance, is just for Spanish teachers.  In our Institute, which took place in Oaxaca, there were art teachers, Spanish teachers, social studies teachers, and even a media specialist and a science teacher.  Read the Dear Colleague letter and think to yourself about what you can bring to the table.  There is a new part of the program where graduate students may also apply (up to 3 positions can be filled with graduate student applicants).

In order to apply for a grant, you need to register online with the NEH.  An applicant can apply for up to two different seminars or programs, but can only attend one of the choices (if the applicant is offered a spot on both!).  Then, the application process is spelled out on the web pages of each of the participating universities.  Basically, it involves writing a 4 page essay on why you want/need/have to participate in that particular seminar.  I encourage you to have some concrete ideas or lesson plans or units that you envision completing during the seminar.  You will need to procure 2 to 3 sealed letters of reference from colleagues or administrators, and write up a curriculum vitae as well.

If you are planning on taking family or your spouse with you, I suggest that you contact the director of that program.  When I went to Oaxaca, my husband was able to accompany me there.  He could not participate in any of the classes or field trips, but he did go to the opening and closing receptions.  He also did all of the shopping and errands – it was good for his Spanish, I think.

The application deadline for an NEH Summer Seminar is March 1, 2011.  The application envelope has to be postmarked before March 1st.  I recommend that you use a delivery confirmation or something that will let you know it got to its destination.  I had a really great Director who was patient when I kept e-mailing to ask if my application had arrived (even though I had used delivery confirmation, there was a snafu in even THAT process!)  The participants are notified, I think, in April, and have a limited amount of time to accept or refuse the grant so that alternates can take their places.

Fund for Teachers Travel Grants

Four years ago, I was awarded $5000 from the Fund for Teachers to study Spanish in Morelia, Michoacan (Mexico) and to collect art and arts integration ideas from the region.  The grant was for five weeks and included air fare, apartment rental, one-on-one language classes and trips to Patzcuaro, Guadalajara, Guanajuato, and Puebla.  I also had money left over from my budget to buy art pieces to exhibit at my school.

Unfortunately for most teachers who live in Georgia, there are not many school systems that are eligible for Fund for Teachers Grants.  The organization is out of Houston, Texas and the year that I applied was the one and only year that Marietta City Schools employees were eligible to apply.  I believe that there must be some sort of auxiliary present in the system – a group of wealthy people, I mean – to raise part of the funds for their teachers.  That’s just a guess.  I think I’m right:  here is a page for Partners who provide funding.  But some Partners cover a lot of states.  You need to go to the Apply page and see if your school system is eligible.

When it comes to the application process, the Fund for Teachers Program is really the most user-friendly of the two.  The entire application is done online.  That means, of course, that you need to read over the instructions carefully and come up with your itinerary, project, and projected budget before you go online “live”.  There are all sorts of helpful resources – examples of successful essays, budget tips – really everything you need to get the process done right.  The added bonus is that you don’t have to worry about postmarking and mailing the application – and then worrying about when it gets there. I think that I remember that correctly, but it may have been necessary to apply online AND send in a written application.  Check the website.

Now, when you are awarded your trip, you are expected to keep up with all of your receipts and expenses, and make a detailed financial report when you return.  You are given a couple of months to gather your report materials, and to write an essay or make a scrapbook or do SOMETHING to record your experience.

One more note on the Fund for Teachers application process.  A couple of years ago, I was invited to participate in choosing the candidates for the Atlanta Program.  I believe that I received 3 to 4 applications ahead of time to read and evaluate. It was a lot of fun – we gathered at a nice restaurant and sat at round tables (about 7 to 8 to a table, I think).  After a presentation of the program and past participants, the people at my table got up and presented the application (or applications) that we thought merited a grant.  When we were done, we had ranked the applications in order of importance.  Then, the emcee went around to each table and chose grant recipients until there was no more grant money left!

It was amazing how passionate and defensive some of us got about our “pet” applicants.  We were truly disappointed when our pets did not make it.  On the other hand, it seemed easy to see those applicants who mixed up the name of the organization.  It’s not FUN for Teachers – although it can be.  I’m just saying that your application really does have to have some evidence that you will be sharing your experience with your students and colleagues.  Keep that in mind before you ask for that trip to Vegas to study “math”.

The application deadline for a Fund for Teachers Grant is January 28, 2011 @ 5:00 PM.  After that, the computer application center closes.  I know that’s short notice for this year, but, if your school system is eligible, consider it for next year.

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Getting a cell phone in Mexico…

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Yesterday, my husband and I got off to a slow start, exhausted from our travels.  Our priorities, after seeking breakfast – er, brunch – were:

  • find a Telcel cellphone retailer and buy SIM card chips to make our phones work less expensively in Mexico.
  • Go to a Soriana supermarket – which is the closest there is to a WalMart here in Oaxaca.  (Curiously, Sam’s Club – Yes; WalMart – No).
  • Get everything put away in our little kitchen and apartment.

After a lovely breakfast of chilaquiles and Diet Coke, we set off on foot to find the Telcel store recommended by Dr. Wood (my program chief).  It was located on 607 Porfirio Diaz, a street which is only one block over from our street, Garcia Vigil.  Or so we thought…

First, we did locate the local mercado (a street market, or hive of small business owners selling everything from blue jeans to saddles to meat to produce).  We took note of the location and plan to go there for stocking up on fresh foods.  Since it was on Porfirio Diaz, we kept going north.  The address numbers read 200, then 300, so we were pretty sure that 607 would come up soon.

After a while we were walking along a beautiful old aqueduct, and then we came upon a stretch of street where everything was broken up.  While we were trying to decide how to get around it, we noticed that the street numbers had far surpassed the 600s.  So, we tracked back, counting carefully as we retraced our steps.  No Telcel store.

We looked at the address again – it said 607 Calz. Porfirio Diaz.  Calz. stands for calzada.  Could there be two different Porfirio Diaz streets?  Well, coming from “Peachtree Street USA” – we figured it was possible.  The first person we asked – a young lady selling newspapers in candy from a booth on the sidewalk – had no idea what we were talking about.

We moved on to a hotel lobby with a gift shop, and that young lady led us to a big map they had posted on a wall in the shop.  Yes, Calzada Porfirio Diaz is different from Porfirio Diaz (calzada means road).  She then indulged me by showing me how to pronounce “Netzahualcoyotl” – the name of a street I espied and hoped I never had to use in giving directions.

As we were walking along Niños Héroes, a major thoroughfare, we espied an Office Depot.  My husband was so excited!  We could check on printer prices.  So, while I was temporarily distracted by the abundance of Distroller notebooks and backpacks, he went to the printer area and scoped things out.  We were able to buy a printer/scanner for about what you’d pay in the U.S. for a bottom of the line item of this sort.  We decided to return here after the Telcel store and buy one, taking a taxi home.

After we found the correct Porfirio Diaz, we started up the street.  Many businesses and residences do not have numbers, so we had to keep track whenever we espied one.  These blocks seemed MUCH longer than the ones on the previous street, and I didn’t know if I would make it to 607.  In the middle of the 200 block, I saw a 300 address – but it was just a cruel joke.  Finally, we took refuge in a paleta (ice cream popsicles) shop called Popeye.  I had a cajeta paleta and Wheat had a pineapple.

We agreed that it was going to take forever to get 4 more blocks under our beld, so we decided to ask at the Telcel store across the street.  There was a security guard there, and he had no idea where 607 was.  He was very friendly, though, and this was a large Telcel store, so we decided to settle on that one.  Recommendations be damned.

(My husband wanted me to include his joke – He requested “Dos tarjetas SIM por Carlos Slim” – the guy did laugh)

The process of replacing our chips was fairly straightforward, since my husband had obtained the unlock codes from AT&T before we left.  For about $15 each, we got a Oaxacan phone number and 50 pesos of talk time (about 20 local minutes).  After it was all said and done, the cashier handed over our paper work.  Guess where we were?  607 Calz. Porfirio Diaz.  Talk about an inscrutable address system!

We hailed a taxi, who took us to the Office Depot and waited while we got the printer and some paper (and a Distroller notebook for me).  Then, we went home.  Throughout the day, my pedometer told me we had walked 6.66 miles.  Whew!

Aqui estamos!

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The airport in the daytime.

This evening, we arrived at the Xocotlan Airport in Oaxaca.  There were quite a few of my colleagues on our flight, and we were met at the airport by Dr. Stephanie Wood and Yasmin Acosta-Myers.  We all climbed aboard a couple of collectivo taxis and made our way into town.  The airport is about a 20 minute drive from our part of town.  I can’t wait to see everything in the daylight.

Last time I was in Oaxaca, it was 2003 and I came with my father and my husband.  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express, and mostly stuck to the center of town – with one trip to Monte Alban.  I look forward to living here for a month as a resident!  Our apartment is very close to where most of my classes will be, and that is why I chose it. There are, I think, two other NEH fellows staying here, too.

It’s a nice apartment, but there are a few things we found out this evening when we got here:

  • There is no microwave – that’s okay, but it’s strange to see when most hotels these days (I know, in the U.S.) have them.  The stove is gas.
  • The first big bottle of water is free.  After that, we pay by the bottle.
  • Same thing for the toilet paper.
  • If a third person uses the futon in the living room for sleeping, it costs $10 per night outside of the $695 we have already paid.  (I actually found out about that before we came)
  • There are no screens on the window, and you should close them when you are gone to avoid “visits by the cat”.

Here is the floor plan – we have one of the one story apartments in the little complex of 6 apartments.  Isn’t it cute?  And that little closet looking thing between the bedroom and the kitchen?  It’s just a “hole” in the building where they put the water tank, I think.  I had thought it would be a pantry.

Tomorrow, my husband wants to go right out and find a way to get cell phone service here.  A lot of other people have done it, so it is possible and supposed to be not too expensive.  We also are going to the market to stock up on food and supplies like toilet paper and Diet Cokes.

Our opening reception is on Sunday evening, and apparently Dr. Wood (call her Stephanie) and Yasmin are doing a lot of cooking for it!  Can’t wait!  On Monday evening, my nephew from Louisiana is coming to stay with us for a week.  He’s been taking Spanish and has only been to Cozumel, so I really am happy to be able to welcome him here in Oaxaca!

My dog is the one on the right. But they will both miss me!

Oh, our dog is being cared for by my in-laws in Atlanta, who have a great back yard and two children who are excited about having a dog visit.  That is so great of them, and they were awesome to offer.  It really makes a difference, knowing that she’s in such good hands.

Preparing for Oaxaca

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In less than 6 weeks, my husband and I are leaving for Oaxaca, Mexico.  I will be attending an NEH Summer Institute for School Teachers entitled Mesoamerican Cultures and Their Histories.  I am really excited about it and have been reading all that I can about Oaxaca – and I still have reading to do for the course!

I have most of the foundations set for our trip.  I got a tremendous deal on airfare from Atlanta to Oaxaca offered by Continental Airlines.  I am really glad I jumped on that when I did, because airline tickets are running $200 to $250 over what we paid.  I am NOT counting the insanity that is the $900 – $1000 airline ticket prices that I have seen on Travelocity – right now, they are hovering in the $600 – $700 price range.

I had purchased an airline ticket using Travelocity for my Dad which was also a good deal.  That is, until the day before yesterday when I received an ominous e-mail from them with some gibberish about one of the legs of the flight being “no longer available”.  I hate it when that happens…

I immediately called the number given in the e-mail for “alternate routing” and was greeted by a lovely Indian woman – um, maybe in Bangalore?  I didn’t give her much time to use her scripted conversation – launching right into the reason why I was calling.  That made it a little uncomfortable for me when she answered back, “Okay.  And how are you doing today?”  Uh, NOT GOOD.

She explained that she would have to put me on hold while she contacted the airline (AeroMexico, maybe?) for my consolation itinerary.  I put my cell phone on speakerphone while I waited – surfing the net for possible alternatives myself.  My father’s original itinerary was as follows:  New Orleans to Mexico City, then Mexico City to Oaxaca, and the opposite upon return.  The plane arrived at Oaxaca at 10:15 at night, and we were going to have to get him to his return flight by 6:30 AM, but it was do-able.

Here was the counter offer:  New Orleans to Atlanta; Atlanta to Dallas; Dallas to Mexico City… where he would need to spend the night and take another flight from Mexico City to Oaxaca.  When she finished getting me clear on that little gift, I was not happy at all, but I went ahead and asked her what the return trip would be like…  I swear to you-know-who that she had to put me on hold to find that out.  Then she kept getting the order mixed up – not making it really clear how my dad was getting from Oaxaca to Mexico City.  If SHE couldn’t get it straight, then how is my 74-year-old father supposed to?  (of course, he’s sharp as a tack, but still…)

I ended up canceling the flight – I’d better see that refund on my credit card by the end of the month.  I then booked a flight on American Airlines – New Orleans to Houston; Houston to Mexico City then to Oaxaca.  It’s the same itinerary my sister ended up buying for my nephew, who will also be joining us – at a different time.  Whew.  After that, I needed tortilla chips, cheese dip, and a margarita.

I also urged my mother not to delay in her ticket buying.  She also lives in Atlanta, but the great deal I got with Continental was no longer available.  I think that she was finally able to use her Frequent Flier Miles with Delta to get to Mexico City, then she booked a separate Mexicana Airlines flight from D.F. to Oaxaca.

More about where we are staying later!

King Cake, anyone?

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roscas at the bakery

I am thinking about finding or making a king cake to bring to school on Wednesday.  It is Epiphany.  I remember well my different encounters with King Cake.  I am from Lafayette, Louisiana, so I have had all sorts of New Orleans style king cakes.  Being a gourmand, I have to admit that my favorite kind has always been one with as much cream cheese, fruit filling and icing as possible.

When I was living in France, I got turned on to the galette des rois, which is a puff pastry confection with frangipane inside.  Frangipane is a type of almond paste – coarser and more natural than marzipan.  I think it is also put in almond croissants.

When I came to Georgia, I had a great time sharing the king cake tradition with my students and friends.  I even would go all the way to New Orleans for Mardi Gras “just” to bring back kings cakes for my high school French students.  I know, the sacrifices we teachers have to make…  The most notable year was when I transported the aforementioned loaded cakes home and forgot to keep them horizontal.  Can I just say that we had a major collapse on our hands?

I used to have dinner parties in January, and I was so excited to find a bakery in Atlanta that made the frangipane filled cakes.  They were more expensive, so I was loathe to get those for my 6th graders that I taught at the time.  But I did buy a couple for one of my dinner parties.  My French friend clucked disapprovingly at my addition of a raspberry coulis, but I thought it went very well with the cake.

I only recently became familiar with the Mexican version of the king cake, called a rosca de reyes.  It is a relatively plain concoction – a yeast bread with fruit and maybe some nuts that is garnished with candied fruit.  I just happened to be driving home one January 6th when I passed a panaderia in Marietta.  They were making hundreds of roscas, and they were selling like, um, well – hotcakes.

I purchased a couple – one to share with my colleagues at school and a smaller one for my students.  I think they were pretty expensive:  $20 for the small one and $30 for the larger one.  Before I went home that night, for some reason I stopped by my favorite taqueria to have a couple of tacos de lengua.  I happened to mention to the proprietor that I had snagged these cakes on the other side of town, and she ended up buying one from me.

I was looking for recipes online and found this little group forum invitation.  You may go to the website, but here is the deal:

How to participate:
Please read and follow the instructions below. King Cake 2009

  • Bake or buy a King Cake, take pictures (if possible) and blog about the cake and your family tradition and don’t forget to mention who was the “crowned” king
  • Please link back to this announcement in your post, and eventually to the roundup.
  • Fill in the form below and your post will be listed in the roundup.
  • Last day of submission is January 8

If you click on the link to the right and look at last year’s contributors, you will see that there are all sorts of cake traditions for Epiphany.  I just read that even panettone – that Italian fruitcake that is on sale now everywhere – has been used for king’s cake as well.

Here are some more:  The Bolo Rei – from Portugal, the Tortell from Catalonia, Vasilopita from Greece, Banitsa from Bulgaria, etc.

Maybe I’ll make my old cheap stand-by.  One year, I purchased cans and cans of pop and serve cinnamon rolls.  It was easy:  I just opened up the cans, separated the rolls, and arranged them in circles or ovals – just like a real king’s cake.  I made some extra icing and either colored the icing green, purple, and yellow (Mardi Gras colors) or used sprinkles in those colors on white icing.  It was pretty good, too.  I just waited to hide the token or baby until after the cakes were done.

Hey, I just found a similar recipe from Sandra Lee of Semi-Homemade!   Here is another using crescent rolls and a filling…  I did NOT, however, find and “easy” rosca de reyes recipe.  Hmph.

We’re at the Yurt! Dinner in Sylva…

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We took it pretty easy coming up to North Carolina – left at around noon and got here at 3:40, after stopping for lunch on the way.  When we got to the business office of Sun Dog Places, Caleb, the manager, had us follow him to the pavilion on Bear Creek Lake.

He showed us how the yurt was set up and showed us around the pavilion, which is this huge outdoor living room with a fireplace on one end and a dining area on the other end.  On the buffet is a satellite television, and there is a fully stocked kitchen and two big bathrooms with all of the amenities.

Our yurt is the smaller one, and it has everything you would need – but you have to walk up a path to go to the bathroom.  We took the dog down to the lake, where there is a small peninsula out from our place – the water was clear and the place is crawling with ANTS!  I don’t know what the deal is – I have never seen so many ants in one place!

After we got settled in, we went in to Sylva, about a 3o minute drives, to get groceries.  We decided to eat out tonight and cook for the rest of the time or eat sandwiches.  We went to this little place called Guadalupe’s – it had high end fusion food with home made cheeses, etc.  I ordered the goat burger, which was great.  My husband had a little more difficult time because everything seemed to have gluten in it – the goat burgers had oatmeal.  Talk about putting the “oat” in goat!

Time for bed.  There’s A/C in the yurt, but I don’t think we will need that at night.  More later!

Cordel Art of Brazil

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I have recently gone on a Brazilian kick.  I almost bought a ticket to visit there, even.  On Travelocity.com last Friday, I was doing a random check on airfare and found out it was only $525 RT to Sao Paolo!  I have friends who have relatives there, and was waiting to find out if anyone would be home.  (Interestingly enough, that was more important than waiting for the “go ahead” signal from my hubby…).  Alas, by the time I got an answer, the airfare had shot up to $760.  Dang!  You snooze, you lose.

So I have had to satisfy my urges by visiting my local Brazilian grocery.  There, I bought two savory pastries, one called coxinha and the other was a Brazilian kibbeh concoction called quibe.  I loved the former – a lovely chicken croquette with crispy bread crumbs on the outside (Here is a recipe link).  The kibbeh was too salty.  I also bought a square of orange colored cake with a cocoa icing.  I gave that to my Brazilian co-worker because I am supposed to be on a diet.

The main cultural aspect of Brazil that I have been researching is called cordel literature, or literatura de cordel. (from Maria-Brazil.org): “Literatura de cordel” (string literature) are pamphlets or booklets that hang from a piece of string (cordel) in the places where they are sold. These are long, narrative poems with woodcut illustrations on the cover, often done by the poet himself. There are traditional themes (romances, fantastic stories, animal fables, religious traditions) and themes based on current events, famous people, life in the cities, etc.  Cordel literature can be hilarious and very racy, too.”

Links:
Here is an article on electronic cordel literature.

Here are photos of cordel displays in Brazil.

The poetry of d.s. levy, which follows the cordel form.

Article on literature de cordel on Tobetupi.com.

Another piece on cordel literature.

Brazilian Collection and information site on Cordel Literature (in Portuguese).
Acrobat file on native poetry forms of the Americas – first page is on cordel literature.
Arizona State University professor’s article on his cordel collection.

Lesson Plan:  Stories on a String from Saxarts.com

Article on a family day at a San Angelo Texas museum focusing on Brazilian culture.

Another Event: the Green Cordel Festival May 2009

Galleries with Brazilian Woodcuts:
Indigo Arts
A Hopeful Madness
Mariposa Arts
Tesoros Trading Company – You can even buy Cordel Literature by J. Borges

Books about Cordel Literature:
Lampion and his Bandits – English Version of Cordel literature legend, Lampion – a sort of Brazilian Robin Hood.
Stories on a String – by Candace Slater – very important resource.

Jorge Amado: New Critical Essays
Article in Callaloo Journal
The Cambridge History of Latin American Literature by Roberto González Echevarría, Enrique Pupo-Walker

That’s just the beginning.  One of the reasons I am going to the John C. Campbell School is to learn a bit about woodcut printing!

Trip to Houston

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What can I say?  I had a great Spring Break.  Friday night, my husband and I went to see Yacht Rock at a bar in Buckhead.  Do you know how long it has been since I have been out?  Especially in Buckhead: a major meat market for 20-somethings (and maybe 30-somethings). I cannot describe the crush when we were downstairs with the unwashed masses.  Finally, we made our way upstairs to a balcony overlooking the band.  That is where all of the other “old people” were… The band was great, though.

The next day, I left on an afternoon flight to Houston to visit a friend of mine.  She has the cutest little house in the Heights – the cutest little neighborhood in Houston.  We went out to eat – left planning to go one place and ended up at another.  We tried this trendy place called Max’s Wine Dive.  What a concept: expensive glasses of wine with upscaled “dive” food: Fried chicken, hamburgers, “meat loaf”, mac ‘n’ cheese.  God, I wish I had thought of it!

On Sunday, we went out to brunch with another friend – I had requested dim sum. Instead, a new South African restaurant was suggested for brunch.  It is called Out of Africa.  I have a friend who is spending the year in Johannesburg.  I would love to visit, but I’m afraid that the airfare would be a killer.  So I will have to take my South African experiences wherever I can.  It was pretty good – I really liked the bobotee.  The terrace was the perfect brunch spot – not too hot, not too cool.

As a surprise, my friend bought me a ticket to see Les Miserables at the Theatre Under The Stars.  It was particularly meaningful because Rob Evan was playing Jean Valjean.  I used to be friends with his mother when I was teaching in Monticello, GA.  I met him before he was “my son, Rob Evan – the actor/singer” (that’s what she called him).  He was also quite an event and hunter/jumper rider.  Okay, I am pretty sure I have seen Les Miz before, but did not remember anything at all about the plot.

I did a lot of sleeping late – while my friend was out walking in the morning, I hung with her two dogs, “the Fluffies”, teaching them bad habits, like jumping on the guest bed.  Monday, we went to International Boulevard to have Mexican food.  We ate at a little taqueria (Casa de Leon), where I had tacos de birria (goat, I think).  Afterward, we stopped at an ice cream place – appropriately called La Michoacana.  I had a coconut paleta.

Does it sound like we did a lot of eating?  I’m not done.  That night, we went to Anvil Bar and Refuge.  It’s a new bar run by four hard-core former bartenders.  Everything is homemade and prepared to exacting standards.  They specialize in old school cocktails, like “the sidecar” – I didn’t want that.  After looking at the daily specials, I decided upon a drink called a “Dark and Stormy“.  It was a combination of Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, Ginger Beer (they brew their own, adding a little Thai chili for spice…), and lime.  It arrived in a beautiful squat old-fashioned glass filled to the brim with uniformly crushed ice, with a slice of lime and a straw.

I took a sip of my drink, and pondered.  My friend took a sip, and also was quiet.  Finally, we discussed what it tasted like.  My guess was an incense shop.  My friend went with “inside of my grandmother’s purse”.  Bingo.  I joke – after a while, it kind of grew on me.  My second order was a caipirinha – the cachaca was smokey, and there were perfect little clear cubes of ice.  Beautiful.  These guys cure their own olives, macerate their own cherries (my friend had one on her Metropole), and toast their own hazelnuts, I guess.  Check it out when you are in Houston!

On my last day, I went shopping on 19th Street in the morning.  It’s a lot of fun.  I spent a lot of time at Casa Ramirez, and came out with some cool stuff.  The owner is really nice, and we had a good conversation.  He is somewhat of a local expert on Mexican culture and gives talks and tours of Mexico for Day of the Dead.  I also spent a lot of time at Grace Hart and Company – a flea market-like shop with lots and lots of stalls.  It was fun.

Before I went to the airport to catch my flight, we went to Oishii – a sushi restaurant – and to Berripop, one of those new-fangled yogurt places. It was all very good and light.  It was so much fun to get out of town – I forget how big a city Houston is!  Bigger than Atlanta!  One of the best parts was that, coming back on Tuesday night, I still had five more days of vacation left to spend at home.