Friday, December 30, 2011


This spiky, green, sweet and sour fruit grows in abundance in central America, Mexico, and Jamaica. It's family member, the cherimoya is one of my most favorite California fruits. The fruit has a creamy texture, reminiscent of bananas and coconut, and the flavor of tangy strawberry and pineapple. This has easily become one of my favorite ingredients, and meal accompaniments of Jamaica.

So the chef taught me how to make Soursop juice yesterday. 

Whole, ripe soursop is roughly peeled with a knife and placed in a bowl with a dash (1/4 cup or so) of water. Squeeze and massage the fruit with hands for a couple minutes.

Strain the fruit juice from the flesh and seeds into a seperate bowl. 
Grate fresh nutmeg into the fruit juice and whisk in 2 T sweet and condensed milk.

Soursop juice is a meal in it self. Thick and creamy, sweet and refreshing with that slight hint of nutmeg on the end.

I also have a scotch bonnet infused white rum sitting around on the shelf for the last week here, and the two of these together with a twist of lime make one hell of a fiery cocktail!

We will be serving them here for New Years while listening to this band playing live on the beach to bring in 2012 the Jamaican way.

Happy New Year!

x -A

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Nutmeg Sins

Tales of a carnivorous yogi.....

I was told to leave my belongings tucked under the seat of the car before leaving.
"Girl! This is doooowntown Kingston! You can't be walking round this market as a whitey with a bag full of money. Even if it ain't full of money! People only think one thing when they see you, round here. Ya hear?"

I heard. And left my things in the car while the chef and I shopped for food.

The market of Kingston is not unlike other markets in rural parts of the world, that I have been to. Tattered blue tarps strung up to block out the hot sun. Piles of empty coconut shells in every corner. The smell of urine and fermenting fruit rising up from the dirt path. Dogs, kids, and piles of colorful fruits and vegetables on display.
 I find myself quite content in these markets. If it wasn't for the noticeably big, black, bra-less women in neon colored dresses, aprons tied snug under their bosoms, yelling at one another from across the aisles, then I could be anywhere in the world really- Cambodia, India, Greenland, or Morocco. It's all the same- people just doing what they need to do, with bare necessity, to sell goods and provide food to their community.

From the bright red hibiscus flowers (known as sorrel here in Jamaica), to whole Carribean nutmegs with their orange mace skin still dramatically wrapped around, and the constant smell of grilled chicken in the air, were all that reminded me that I am, in fact, in Jamaica.

A rasta'd man pushing a shopping cart full of garbage and goods stopped near me. I had been wandering down the aisles, while keeping close enough for the chef to keep his gaze on me.
"Where ya from, mon?"
He asked me with a large, stretched out smile. His rastas had been here awhile, I noticed, as they had begun to fuze and mat back together at the ends, while half of his hair was tucked up under a red, green and yellow stripped beanie on his head.
"Is it your first time in Jamaica, mon!?"
He un-tied a bright colored string bracelet from his cart.
"I will give you this for 100 jamaican dollars, mon." ($1.25US)
When I informed him of my not having money, he gave me the bracelet anyway.
"The green is for the jungle of Jamaica, the yellow for the sun, the red for the blood shed, and the black is for the skin of the people. Now you will never forget Jamaica, mon. Peace and love, sister."
Hit re-lit his joint and walked away. I felt as if I had just been given a blessing.

Our van was now full of our next week's worth of produce, all packed in their own cheap, black, plastic bags.
At the end of the day, having acquired much of our holiday provisions, we began our 3 hour journey home to the other side of the island. It was dusk, and the roads were busy with Friday night traffic. It was still hot and muggy in the car, so we stopped to get some cold Red Stripes beers for the journey home. The winding roads, framed by tropical jungle become increasingly narrow. The chef leans back to ask if I mind him lighting a joint -Welcome to Jamaica.
As it gets darker and darker, the locals begin to come out into the cool night along the roadside. Families play loud music outside their front doors, with full gangsta-style speaker setups, and fire up grills for throwing down some evening jerk chicken for hungry travelers in their cars. Smells of wood fire, cinnamon, scotch bonnet chilies, and that blessed nutmeg fill the night air. I hang my head out the window for a closer relationship with the cooking chicken legs and breasts....
Enough is enough!
We pull over at a jerk shack.

A quarter of jerk chicken, rice and peas (black eye peas) and festival (basically... a savory doughnut). I order without hesitation and wait my turn at the pickup window. A styrofoam container is filled to the brim with warm, spicy chicken, rice and festival. I sip a spicy Jamaican ginger beer from a plastic bottle while I wait.

As I dive quickly into this blissful aroma and tasty bits of tender chicken muscle, wrapped in spicy flavors only known to Jamaica, I am beyond happy. My plastic fork and knife are of the lowest grade of plastic, for a utencil sake, as they do more bending than piercing. Bits of rice fling off my plate and onto the laps of those around me, as I attempt to navigate my way in the dark, around this hot chicken leg. I quickly dispose of my not-so-handy utensils in the nearest overflowing bin, and move straight in with my hands. It's good. REAL GOOD!
I wipe the side of my mouth with the back of my hand and continue eating as if I have never eaten before. Drips of jerk spice splash onto my white tank top, and my sandals are glittered with rice. I stop for a moment and drop into where I am.

After waking up at 4:30 am this morning to practice yoga before the sun rises, reaffirming connection with myself and with the planet. I somehow end the day now by disregarding all consciousness towards my food sourcing, AND towards disposable waste management! Two things that I take pride in my everyday life as a yogi-chef.
So what is it that makes us switch off the bars of conscious consumption, and delicate ways towards the environment so quickly? Yes, I admit that my appetite is a force to be reckoned with, as I will do almost anything to feed the beast inside me that craves delicious food. And the "when in...!" mentality of traveling in new countries and wanting to integrate seamlessly with locals and their cuisine, is something that I believe strongly in. But regardless, I couldn't help but feeling at that moment, very satisfied and at the same time, very disappointed in myself.

So where is the line drawn for being a carnivorous yogi? I still don't know. But I woke up this morning with a gnarly chicken hangover. Sticking to juice and papaya today.... but I'll be back you beautiful jerk chicken, you.
I'll even succumb to humoring the locals as the white girl who shows up to a roadside chicken shack with her own set of bamboo fork and knife.

Merry Christmas from Jamaica....Yeh-mon!

Friday, December 9, 2011


Porto, Portugal

I boarded my 3 pm flight from Marrakech to Porto and said goodbye to the red soil of Morocco as I flew away to begin another journey.
A gypsy-soulmate-yogi that I met in India was galavanting around Portugal in his van. We decided to meet up.

I departed the plane and flew through Portuguese customs. It was raining. I was wearing Rainbow sandals (my favorite travel companion), jeans, a white tee shirt, Moroccan cashmere shawl, and a henna hand tattoo. My friend and I had not seen each other since India, last February, after we spent a 5-week intensive, teacher-training course together. A car horn sounded as a white and red van pulled up alongside the curb where I stood. Inside, a recognizable head of blonde rastas sat in the British driver's seat. It always amazes me how much a familiar hug can instantly make you feel at home again.

I boarded my new home for the week and we drove into the city. Being the true gypsy he is (much longer than I have been), his van is his home when it needs to be - a toothbrush surrounded by pencils and pens in the cup holder, a peacock feather and sexwax on the sill, stickers of Shiva and Ganesha on either window, a Tibetan Love & Kindness mantra taped to the dashboard (the one we were both given in our training. Mine is in my bag.) 
We found a parking spot next to the river in the Historical District of Porto. And stayed for 4 days....

India- February

 Flashback February 2011: I had been sleeping in a tiny hut in Gokarna for 2 weeks by myself before traveling north to Goa for my awaited 5 week training. I entered the retreat center, my linen pants glued to my legs with sweat from 10 hours on Indian public transit. Walking to my room, I passed the pool, and standing at the edge of the pool was a merman. We became instant friends and sidekicks. Pulling out meditation cushions from beneath one another during 5 am pranayama class, just to lighten up the mood. Pouring hot candle wax on each others feet during late night kirtan. Or just organizing heavily competitive synchronized swimming routines in-between asana classes. Anything to keep each other laughing and playing while climbing high on a spiritual journey. Mint tea each night while we chatted about what "enlightenment" tastes like..... and recounting all the longing flavors of a cold beer and juicy grilled red meat that we were very much missing.
We knew then that we are in fact soul mates. Not the "we are gonna run off and get married and live on an island, making beautiful yogi-babies" kinda soul mates. We are, in fact, the kind of soul mates that can and will make amazing things happen around us. And a pair of soul-full, soul mates that can understand one another, and only when necessary, use words.

Our reunion in Porto was a bit of a spiritual and alcohol bender, in fact. We did practice yoga alongside one another once again, in lonely Portuguese parks and beaches, bundled up from the winter winds - our breath count completely in-sync. As it was in India. The nights of Portugal were spent with hands wrapped around a glass of port wine, and grilled sardines to cure hangovers still lingering from the night before. We chatted about life, love and the pursuit of happiness. What it really means to live yogically, and "should we switch over to cava now? Or hit up a late night regae bar?..... one more round of sardines, please. Obrigado." By day four of sleeping in a van, down by the river, not showering and aching kidneys, I decided enough was enough.... so we drove away from our headaches and into the mountains.

Up in a tiny village near Guara, Portugal. Not far from the boarder of EspaƱa. We were guided by his teacher for 2 hours each day in a led asana and meditation, created by her, and derived from Sufi poems. Collecting chestnuts on their quinta property during the day, and making soups each night with potatoes and kale from the neighbors garden. With the hangovers far behind me now, I was now filled with inspiration for the power of soul and practice.

I left Portugal, my gypsy-man-friend, and my latest movable home for Spain on the 7th day.

Elephant rock above the quinta. Sign of wealth and luck. 

Weeks later and I am still brushing out the rastas that formed in my hair. The thought of port wine brings a smile to my face..... and an instant headache. And my practice each morning is re-vamped in a reminder to connect with the soul, through asana, and through memories of Portugal.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


A much loved fig and olive tepenade transformed itself into something new this year in Morocco.

Well..... because of the Eid holiday, markets were closed and we couldn't get our dried Moroccan figs for the Spanish/Moroccan cooking class that day. Never a shortage of dates here in the Palmeraie of Marrakech.
A new tepenade is born!

-Moroccan Date and Walnut Tepenade-

1 c Chopped dates, chopped
1/2 c pitted oil-cured black olives, chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1 T drained and rinsed capers, chopped
1 1/2 t Fresh thyme, chopped
1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 c toasted walnuts, chopped

Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl. Season to taste with pepper. 
Note: The olives and capers should be enough for the salt. But add if you feel that is where the balance is found.

This is great with soft goat cheese, sheeps milk cheeses such as Manchego, or alongside braised chicken thighs, or your tagine of choice.

Bon Appetite! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I say it over and over again, but it never losses it's essence to me. Morocco is magic.

Even in black and white, that magic of Morocco seaps it's way through every pore. I'm still very happy to be under your spell, Morocco.

Just finished another successful 10 day PMCA tour through Marrakech, Imlil and Essaouira. This group in particular was very special to work with. 7 attended yoga each day on various rooftops, to breathe in the prana and mediation while listening to herds of goats pass and calls to prayer in the distance. We read poetry at the table and made wishes in the walnut forest. All between working with our hearts and hands to dive head first into the cuisine of Morocco and it's people. A beautiful trip. Planting my footprint deeper and deeper there, and always hard to leave.

Till March, Morocco. Inshallah. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A New View

-A Grand Entrance And A Green Market-

The fog parted at 8:00 am, and a familiar skyline appeared on the horizon. We had been traveling all night from Newport, RI. Breakfast was in the works, and I was bringing a cup of coffee up to the NY pilot aboard to help guide us in. There it was... a View I have seen a thousand times in movies and from an airplane or car, but this was different. An excitement rushed through all of us as we settled our gaze from the bridge of a boat to the Big Apple.

Arriving to New York by boat was really quite dreamy.  My beautiful grandmother (Nonie, as I call her) loves to tell me the story about her mother, a 29 year old from Giswil Switzerland. Who explained to her own parents that she was leaving for America to start a new life. She did, arriving by boat to start that life, and settling down on a dairy farm in Southern California. Nonie fondly reminds me often that I must have some of her mother in me... with all this crazy galavanting across the world in new territory and stuff. I do hope so.

Incredible fresh chilies, lemon verbena, potatoes of every shape and color, crisp apples along side apple cider doughnuts, and everything else the Union Square Market could tempt you with in autumn. I got to roam and cook an epic meal on the boat with a brilliant and much missed chef-friend-soulsister-inspiration, Carrie. We rolled across familiar streets and jotted menu ideas down on tiny pieces of paper in the back of yellow cabs, and over iced coffees or Brooklyn lager. A whirlwind of a time in the Big Apple, but a tasty one as always.

Final meal at the Breslin before flying on a 10:00 pm flight from JFK to Marrakech..... let the magic continue to unfold.

x- Ash

Sunday, November 6, 2011

What You Desire

4:15 pm on Thursday.

The Osso Bucco had been braising for almost an hour now, and I was letting it go till 7:00 pm. Desirable anticipations of the sweet veal meat melting away from itself, in a pool of saffron risotto, set around an exquisite steeple of bone marrow. It will be beautiful. I mean, come on, what more could a party of 12 want tonight after a foggy Boston day!?

Wait, what do you mean you desire, lobster?

This is, in fact, exactly why I am here and offering up myself and my craft to do what I do best-- To cook what someone wants to eat. I honor that. So in that moment, standing in a large galley kitchen with swirling caramelized veal aroma around me, I did what any private chef would do. Traded kitchen clogs for running shoes, and apron for a purse, and down the dock I ran towards the main street of awaiting taxis.
I had been up making the perfect sofritto for my osso bucco since 9 am, and even my hair wreaked of simmering olive oil and sprigs of sage leaves. But I had just entered a whole new realm of chefing- the ultimate search and retrieve. Fresh local lobster is my mission, and I will succeed.

I quickly transformed into an aggressive machine that would do anything, and blow down anyone that stood in my way of getting my hands on a dozen Massachusetts lobsters. In mid-stride out of the yacht marina, my arm flew into the air and my gaze met that of a taxi driver. I was in.

"Boston Fish Pier, please" -I demand with an edge of girlish charm.
"Alright.... How you doin' today?' -my driver says to me as his eyes smile through the rearview mirror.
"I'm doing ok, my friend. But I am in an urgent and desperate need for 12 fresh lobsters, and I need your help. I need them fast, and I will pay you to keep the meter running while I get them"- I respond to my new partner in crime for Lobster mission 2011.
He picks up on my sense of urgency on the matter, and most likely smells the braised veal cologne I'm rockin'. He speeds up, and I fasten my seatbelt while digging out my phone from my back pocket.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gone Gypsyn'

When she calls my phone, an image of her standing in front of a busy Florentine street appears. With hands over heart, eyes closed, and a blissful expression upon her face.
While waiting for a cab outside of Piazza del Santa Crocce, on our way up to hear the Gregorian chants in Santa Michelangelo, I asked her a question- "Kim, how does Florence make you feel?" When she turned around to answer me, I captured her on my camera. That was 4 years ago, and I still have that photo on my phone.

I left Santa Barbara just days ago. I procrastinated till the final moments of my last morning to pack up my bag. The grey duffle bag (which doubles as my home most of the time) looks more like a black hole of doom to me now. In fact, at that moment of packing, I loathed that bag and all of it's tiny little zipper pockets and cobblestone proof wheels! It was all just too soon to leave.

Kim, my mentor and friend for the past 7 years, threw me... yet another..., going away party just hours before my flight. We drank California chardonnay under my final California pink sunset. Fresh bread with whipped peppers, feta and allepo chilies. Her handmade goat cheese alongside fresh strawberries. Lamb meatballs roasted in the wood fire oven, on warm corn salsa with aioli. She knows me well. Poetry was shared till the wine bottles had finished, and 6 pm came too quickly.

Arriving in Boston and settling into the work groove yet again. (note: provisioning a kitchen in your own country [ie: Trader Joes and Whole Foods!] is far more inspiring than the super markets of Nuuk, Greenland.)  My first night spent with friends, dinner at The Butcher Shop, an apple cider rum martini (or two) at The Beehive, and hours spent shopping in South End Fromaggio (which sells Stumptown coffee!). The next day I received a poem from Kim-

Light Will someday split you wide open Even if your life is now a cage,
For a divine seed , the crown of destiny, Is hidden and sown on an ancient, fertile plain You hold the title to.
Love will surely bust you wide open Into an unfettered, blooming new galaxy
Even if your mind is now A spoiled mule.
A life-giving radiance will come, The Friend’s gratuity will come--
O look again within yourself, For I know you were once the elegant host To all the marvels in creation.
From a sacred crevice in your body A bow rises each night And shoots your soul into God.
Behold the Beautiful Drunk Singing One From the lunar vantage point of love.He is conducting the affairs Of the whole universe
While throwing wild parties In a tree house-- on a limb In your heart.

Thank you Kim, for being my teacher of food and of love for the moment. Oh, and for throwing endless amounts of wild parties... from treehouse, to villa, to heart. I love you, and I will see you soon in Morocco! -Ash

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish

"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."  -Steve Jobs, 2005

Steve Jobs, a visionary of our lifetime, who's life was cut short at the age of 56 by cancer.
But his approach to life has been an inspiration. Thank you, Steve Jobs for taking us outside of the box, then shrinking the box down and putting a touch screen on it.

"If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do?"

Living each day as if it was your last- This is why I embrace my life as a gypsy chef.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Choice & Eggs

My ticket is purchased, and I am already touching the surface of goodbyes with my friends and family. My father finds new ways to ask me eachday how sure I am of needing to leave so soon. My mother wont even talk about the actual date that I depart, and friends have tried to cease every spare moment to cook or hike just one last time.
Santa Barbara has a way of putting on a damn good show that keeps you wanting more and more, but I know that it is time to go.

I found this write up in my journal from when I was living in Florence this summer. Even with the perfect vegetables, pink sunsets, and favorite faces that California has on display to keep me wanting more, I know very well that it is time for me to leave.

And this explains why....
x - Ash

-Written on July 12, 2011 in Florence Italy-

What is it about traveling?

This question posed in an email to me this morning from an old friend in Seattle. Quitting his desirable job to answer an urge, a calling, a gut feeling to travel again. One which comes from a place deep inside, that after awhile we can't shut off, as it keeps on yelling to be acknowledged. Is it the people, the places, the food? (Yes, my appetite is most definitely a key deciding factor in why I do almost anything.) But it's more than that, and it got me thinking today about, what is it about traveling?

I sat at my table, high in the sky of my Florentine apartment and pondered this question. My perfectly cooked soft-boiled eggs, toast and coffee there to segway me into the day. This. This is why I travel, I thought for a moment. Eggs is why I travel? No. But this moment is why I travel. I have no concept of what time it is right now. I have nowhere to be. And I want eggs for breakfast.

Challenge, change, desire, freedom- all come to mind when I think about my choice in lifestyle. But I know that it is bigger than that. While on skype the other day, my cousin from New York asked me what I was speaking, "Is that Australian?... or is that British?", he said. (Dear God, neither, I hope) ... but yes, my speech patterns, cadence, and even the choice of words have changed a bit. And all because, well, because they can. When I am out here, alone in the world, I can be whomever I want to be. I don't have to sound American if I don't want to, and I think subconsciously I have changed my speech patterns to fall somewhere in the middle of it all. Leaving people to question is she ...South African? Spanish? Welsh? Well, maybe.

It's the undefined existence, and the freedom to be, go, say and eat whatever you want, whenever you want. All in a way that is not selfish really. In fact, it is the sense of knowing what and when to do things in life that will make you a better friend, acquaintance, lover, sister, daughter, etc. Knowing how much of your authentic self you can deliver is an answer found within the self.

I travel because I know that I am supposed to. That I will have a veil lifted, a clarity and a sensitivity on the world that I will acquire no other way. Even at the expense of being a neutral being, unidentifiable by geography or accent. Regardless of how people will view my lifestyle or selfish choices to live my way, when I look in the mirror, I know who I'm looking at. And when I look at perfectly cooked soft-boiled eggs from the farmer at Saint Ambrogia market, which lie upon the crimson blue plate found in a Moroccan souk, and smell fresh brewed coffee laced with burning Indian incense from the living room..... This is exactly "What It Is About Travel."

Saturday, September 24, 2011


The three of us made a decision to take an adventure.
A decision induced by Anejo Tequila margaritas, hamburger- comas from Fathers Office, and the vibrational sounds of Icelandic techno music on my ipod. Decision made.
We shall go to Joshua Tree.

What to pack for an impromptu trip to Joshua Tree:
-Sleeping bags
-Red Stripe Jamaican Lager
-Fancy yogurt and granola for the morning after
-Shoes for romping
-Yoga mat
-Nikon, Leica, and Rolleiflex cameras
-Stumptown coffee and coffee-making accessories
-R Kelly Playlist on iphone

 At 2:30 am the three of us woke up while sleeping at the top of a large rock above our campsite (a better view for sunrise, naturally.) It was the full moon that woke us up, as it screamed our eyelids open like a disco spotlight. Roaring thunder and streaks of pink and purple lightning drew our attention over the mountain to our right. Thick clouds covered the large, neon nightlight above, and drops of water began to fall. In agreement that this may not be the smartest place to rest our heads, we headed down to the camp site.

By 4:30 am after 2 hours of falling slave to the chinese water tourture of sparatic rain drops on my exposed face. I finally rejected the urged to find stillness and sleep. I wrapped my sleeping bag around my shoulders, chose a nice rock to lean up against, and sat up to watch the magical light show above.

By 5 am, we had all decided that enough was enough, and although we had neglected to pack a trusty tent (minor detail) we did in fact pack some incredible coffee. With headlamps on, we boiled water, ground beans, set up the single-drip cone, and let the chestnut-colored liquid fill our cups. The perfect cup of smooth, tight, and rich black coffee slipped into our sleepless bodies. The desert continued to put on a great show for us as the sun slowly started to show her face.

We packed up and drove out of the grey clouds, a sea of Joshua trees behind us now.

Priorities- Coffee or Tents? ............ coffee wins every time.
Thanks for the magic, J-Tree.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

The West Side of Things

I've broken down some layers. Peeled away the skins of the onion, if you will.
I agreed to go cook on a boat in the Arctic Circle for 6 weeks of my life. At the end of a very long and diverse year out in the world, It turns out that I am not plenty of things, a sailor being one of them. Plus, cooking food in a moving kitchen is far from simple...easy... or enjoyable really (note: eating curry before sea sick- painful. Eating bananas- tolerable)
 Encouraging my body and mind to work just as a chef- learning the nautical ways, cleaning fish at all times of the night and day, and wearing a life vest to shop for food. My right shoulder is twice the size it was a month ago (really need to start learning how to be ambidextrous in the kitchen...) My knees ache (really need to stop cooking barefoot!)  And the grey color of my skin has finally started to find it's pink again. 16 and sometimes 19 hour days were spent in that galley. A 20 minute break here and there was found to sit on a freezing cold bridge deck and close my eyes in silence, shake my head in confusion, or throw a few punches at the side of the vessel.

But alas, I am home.

16 hours and 5 flights it took Zoe and I to find our way back to the sunshine state. Boarding a prop-job plane in the middle of Arctic-nowhere, Canada. We drug our belongings down a dirt path from the tender to the tiny airport. The town of 25 souls looks as if they are still sleeping at 9 am, and the layer of fog is thick. My bag, being the bigger of the two, as it is filled with a year's worth of goods and weather changing-options, is quickly cutting off the circulation to my hands.
An Inuit woman in her 60's appeared alongside me and offered to take my bag the extra 200 ft to the airport on the back of her quad (that's right... a quad). I took her shuttle service offer of Canadian hospitality.
We enter the airport trailer, and find ourselves face to face with the one and only airport representative. She took our passports, called another airport employee on the phone, and stared blankly into the computer screen which separated us.

"well...ah....I don't ah know..." She says with a strongly confused look.
"yeah... but ah there are just so many numbers on here" (referring to my passport.) This seems to be her first international passport processing ever.
She types a few lines on the computer.
I scan the room- instant coffee jar without a lid, powdered milk creamer spilt on the floor, 1 dirty mug, a filing cabinet, and a hand-written prayer to Jesus Christ taped to the wall next to the door.

30 minutes pass and my ticket finally prints out. The printer is now too hot and won't print Zoe's ticket. Fear that one of us may not make it out of the hell-hole settles in. I help fix the printer and a light at the end of the tunnel reappears. A pickup truck drives our bags the 400 ft to the plane. (in fact, I think it was driven by the same Inuit woman in her 60's...)

 Zoe and I have seats 5A and 5B- the last row in the plane. 3 other passengers join us on the 12-seater plane to Pangnirtung, Canada. The captain eases our fears during turbulance by directing our attention to the mountain range to the right which is famous from the 007 James Bond movie.
Yeah, whatever..... now back to acknowledging my final moments of life, as my imagination plots how to survive a plane crash in the Arctic....hhhmmm...

4 more flights like this later, and we arrive in a familiar place- LAX. It even smells good! I wore a pair of Italian leather sandals for my whole traveling day with the knowledge that the west coast life was closer and closer. I landed, hugged my mama for the first time in a year, watched LA taco stands feed lines of hungry Californians, felt my body thaw, and went to sleep without any plans of breakfast to be made in the morning.

My American battery will be recharging for 6 weeks or so before repacking that dang bag and returning to the endless queues of mass public transportation. Once again living in the open question and feeling alive in the unknown. But it is true that nothing and nowhere can make a Californian feel this good than to truly be on the West side of things, and to finally be "home."

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

3 Hours Off

The guests had all left for the day in large SUV's with packed lunches from my galley. I had a nap, fed the crew, and was driven to shore for some necessary reconnection with Mother Earth.

Our small tender pulled up to the tiny harbor of a tiny sea-side village in the middle of, who knows where, North Iceland. The fisherman were busy, at 10:30 pm, on the last of the days catch. I agreed with one fisherman to buy 25 pieces of the brilliant green and purple translucent scaled fish, still stiff with rigor mortis.

 A giant glacier sat atop the large mountain in the foregrounds, and a few colorful houses splashed the seaside landscape. 1 road. 1 restaurant. 1 gas station with only 2 gas pumps. It's 11 pm, the sun is still searching for a place to set. I go for a walk.

Wild cotton, purple volcanic rock, soft green moss, fresh water springs. A quiet moment to myself on top of a hill, gazing down at the rough ocean bellow. Gratitude.
 A brisk jog back towards the fishing dock, moving my legs in a way that is far from natural to me now.

After picking up my Mackerel from the boat dock, the fisherman offering his gift and declining my Krona payment, and heading back to the boat. 12:30 pm now and the guests are heading to bed. Squatting on the back deck of the boat, Jess and I cleaned and filleted 25 fish in the middle of the night. We threw the heads and spines back into the sea of which they came from. Our work space lit just by the hint of remaining sunlight and the lower boat lights which shine into the blue water bellow us. Barefoot with our pants rolled up and knives working away, we chat about the endless possibilities of mackerel in our near future.... broiled with maple and soy atop udon noodles with avocado and cilantro. Smoked with french-style potato salad. Lets just keep a few whole to grill with lemon and olives.

I still can't remember how to spell or pronounce the name of that sweet sea-side town in north Iceland. But it was the best day off I've had in a very long time.