Saturday, September 29, 2018

"Gotta grab some coffee!"

In the early years of cable TV in India, I would watch American sitcoms with people looking really busy and running around with coffee mugs. Decades later, on this trip, I watch people refill giant travel cups with coffee, mostly black. The cups sit in their holders in cars or on their desks, and they consume the beverage slowly, stone cold.

Coffee in my head is a beverage I associate with smart, busy people doing important things. Chai is about stopping work all the time. I want to be a coffee person, not a chai person.

My hotel rooms come with coffee-makers. There is a brand of fair-trade, organic coffee that I saw in a hotel last November and that is also supplied in this hotel. Last year, I thought it was good. This year, in two weeks of experimentation, it still doesn't taste right. So I bought some branded coffee "house blend." Still not so great.

So here is the truth. I love the fragrance of coffee brewing. For years. Gloria Jean at the entrance of every mall would draw me in with the fragrance and I would just dump the coffee within five minutes.

I now watch my American friends and colleagues talk about 'coffee' and grab their coffee and walk around with it, and it looks so buzzy and inviting... but I don't necessarily want to drink the stuff.

In the way that we seem to return to our early years, at this moment, I seem to be really a tea person. I am traveling with Dilmah tea-bags and have rediscovered Bigelow's Constant Comment tea. There is a particular thirst that just calls for tea. Coffee simply does not cut... not right now.

But if someone you know makes a coffee room freshener, or if Maroma begins making coffee incense again, do tell me!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The appeal of Farmers' Markets

True confession: In India, I hate shopping for vegetables. I know, I know, they are fresher, tastier, etc. But I am not enough of a gourmet to necessarily notice most of the time (and I hate any kitchen-related work), and the mess of our markets has always been a turn-off. I am looking at the ground, trying not to step on things, while dodging humans and cows and vehicles. And then to be expected to be interested in the vegetables and in haggling for them is too much. Give me the packed vegies at Nilgiris any day.

Even then, the bags, the purse and the damned dupatta... I always enter home muttering and cursing.

But in North America, where I still care less about the produce than the prettiness, Farmers' Markets are signs of late summer and early fall. Walking over to the Market in the Square in Urbana was a special pleasure. Seeing the prettily laid out stalls, walking around them, smelling the cinnamon and coffee in the cool morning air, are delightful memories.

In Leiden, the high point of the Farmers' Market is the stretch with flowers. And the nutman. Or the various nut-men with their large variety of dry fruit and nuts. The canal is a backdrop as we walk back and forth, and there is something special about choosing and bringing the unbelievably gorgeous flowers home.

Visiting the Okemos Farmers' Market the morning after my arrival was fun for these reasons. I bought fruit and tomatoes, but also cookies. And of course in mid-September, I had to have a taste of pear-apple cider. And yes, I bought flowers!



Everything is so neatly laid out and even at the end of a morning of people coming and going--fair enough, there is a great deal of space to spread out and the crowds are nothing compared to India--it never gets really dirty. How? How? Someone share this secret with us!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Roads, homes and the journey of life

There! I have given this blogpost a title to which it will never live up.

Detroit airport is far from the dumpy, slow and grey place it was when I last passed through in 2001. Everything is shiny and moves faster than I remember, and it seems as if ours is the only flight that arrived at the time it did, whereas I know that's peak arrival time.

The delay in our arrival means we are on the road at the same time as Friday flexitime commuters. We take a detour--a scenic detour--to escape traffic jams and I have the chance to remember things I had forgotten.

Like this is the time when everything is harvested. Talk stalks of corn lined the roads we drove on from Willard Airport to Philo, and I could see their silhouette as we drove. I had never lived near farmland before and the cycle of seasons in Indian schools is summer, monsoon and cool weather. I had never read the seasons in the land. Till Illinois.

 Larry Kanfer's Prairiescapes had been placed on my bed to entertain me. It showed me how to see these flat lands, so easily dismissed by those with a taste for the dramatic, as beautiful and subtly spectacular.

I had forgotten how green everything is. And that Michigan is hilly. I had forgotten how quiet these towns are, and how orderly.

I hard forgotten how chatty everyone is, and how easy it is for introverts to be chatty when it is not necessary to hold up one's guard against an endless barrage of personal questions. And advice.

I had forgotten that I have not once come back to the place that was home--these prairie states--in a time when everything else was changing. Fifteen years. And then this drive home on country roads.

The song asks "country roads" to take the singer to the place where he belongs. I don't belong here. That is the reason I left--to do the work that I wanted in the place to which I belong and which belongs to me without doubt. But I left behind friendships  and took back with me a heart full of memories of kindness and warmth, and a memory of myself that sometimes gets lost somewhere on the cluttered desk of my responsibilities.

In order to find your way, sometimes you have to go away and sometimes you have to come home. I have gone away and come home. In these large open spaces, live friends with large, open hearts, and I will find myself and my way, once again.

I can smell the greenery everywhere, and I remember that I like that smell.

It's so good to be here... to be home!