Cuba told in pictures and prose (Part 3)

This is the third and final instalment on my Cuba series, covering a trip I took with my friend, Darcy. If you haven’t read from the beginning, feel free to hop over to Part 1 and Part 2 first.

I’ve already touched on many of Havana’s landmarks, so this post will focus on Cuba’s people, Ernest Hemingway, and conclude with some interesting Cuban facts.

What does it mean to be Cuban and what’s with those names?

Cuban culture and history are more eclectic than I realized. The majority of Cubans come from Spanish and African descent, also influenced by the slave trade. The white population is still the majority, followed by a large percentage who are mulatto (a blend of races), then blacks, and then a small Asian group.

Here we are with Mayrene, a beautiful woman who graced us with her friendship.

Yanetsis, Yanquiel, Hanoi … just some of the other exotic names of Cubans we met.

How were these names derived?

In pre-revolutionary Cuba, parents chose more traditional, Spanish-language names like Javier, Manuel, or Maria. Post revolution, the preference for unusual names came from a couple of sources.

  1. A departure from the country’s Spanish Roman Catholic heritage meant parents moved away from biblical names.
  2. Naming their children was one of the few creative freedoms Cubans had, a way to exert their power in a country where the state controlled everything else.

Interesting fact: In the 1970s, imaginations really went wild. That’s when the letter Y, rarely used in Spanish names, became a hit with parents. (It may have also been influenced by the Soviet Union and their names like Yevgeni and Yuri.). Even so-called normal names were hijacked. Janet became Yanet, and indeed, we met a woman named Yanet at our hotel!

Preparing for a milestone anniversary

In 2019, Havana will celebrate the 500th anniversary of its founding by Spanish settlers on November 16, 1519. In preparation for the big day, the city has been restoring more than 600 buildings, streets, and complexes in its historical district.

Small details such as this mailbox make the streets unique.

Cobbled, car-free Calle Mercaderes (Merchant’s Street) has been extensively restored.

This 300 square meter mural on Mercaderes Street depicts 67 outstanding figures from Cuban history and the arts.

Calle Mercaderes is also characterized by its restored shops, including one of its most famous — Habana 1791, a perfume shop where attendants help you design your own scent. Housed in a beautifully refurbished neoclassical building, Habana 1791 offers its perfumes in bottles handcrafted by Cuban artisans.

 

Ernest Hemingway in Havana

Hemingway first visited Cuba in 1928 while on a layover traveling to Spain. He arrived with his family from Key West, which was his home at the time. They stopped in Havana for three days awaiting their ship to sail and stayed at the Hotel Ambos Mundos.

Hemingway next visited Cuba again four years later.

Located close to Plaza de Armas in Old Havana, Hotel Ambos Mundos was built in 1924. A room on the top (5th) floor became Hemingway’s first home in Cuba when he returned in 1932.

The hotel lobby features walls framed with photographs dedicated to Hemingway.

We took an old-style elevator up five floors to Hemingway’s room.

Darcy checks out the directory of rooms on the fifth floor.

 Room 511 is now a museum with a nominal entry fee.

 

From 1932 to mid-1939, Hemingway rented the single room for $1.50 per night.

 

Hemingway started writing his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls here in March 1939.

The room is triangular with windows that look out onto the rooftops of Old Havana and the sea. I imagined Hemingway enjoyed the street sounds below and the smell of the ocean while typing away at his desk.
Something about being near his typewriter made me weepy.

 

More pictures and memorabilia can be found in the hallways on the fifth floor. Here is a leg from one of Hemingway’s writing desks.

 

Hemingway finally checked out of Hotel Ambos Mundos in 1939 after he purchased a more permanent residence at Finca Vigia. He lived at the 9-acre estate with his third wife, Martha Gellhorn for a time until their divorce. In 1945, he married his last wife, Mary Welsh and Finca Vigia became their winter residence for the next fifteen years.

 

Located ten miles east of Havana in the working-class hamlet of San Francisco de Paula, Finca Vigia means “Lookout Farm.” Hemingway purchased the home in 1940 for $12,500.
Cubans have always respected Hemingway’s choice to live in the modest town, amongst the people he fished with.
The library housed Hemingway’s desk, curved like a boomerang. He wrote in longhand here or standing up at his typewriter.

He wrote most of For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea while living here.

The house shows off Hemingway’s trophies from his hunting and fishing expeditions.

On the wall behind the door, Hemingway obsessively scribbled down his daily weight from 1955 to 1960 when his health was failing from diabetes, cirrhosis, and high blood pressure.

Over 9000 books filled every room of the house except the dining room.

Hemingway was an avid swimmer.

Despite his machismo, Hemingway had a soft spot for cats. Tombstones of four of his more than 25 cats are found across the pool.

Hemingway purchased the fishing boat Pilar in April 1934. “Pilar” was a nickname for Hemingway’s second wife Pauline and also the name of the female leader in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

Trellis-shaped patio at the front of the house.

The two-storey guest house is closed for renovations. Past guests included Spencer Tracy, Gary Cooper, and Ava Gardner.
 
My feelings on Hemingway: 

Both Darcy and I are writers, and our fascination to see everything Hemingway is because most writers are curious about other writers. How did he live? What made him great? What can we learn from him?

Sure, we can glean a lot from Hemingway through his work; we can even delve into his personal life, but there is something unexplainable about standing in a room where he used to sleep, brushing up against his desk, or staring out a window he once looked through.

It’s visceral.

There are several photos taken of me where I appeared teary-eyed while in his room at Ambos Mundos. I have not included them here and initially couldn’t understand the sadness.

Now I know.

It’s that sense of reverence for someone who has given so much despite suffering a great deal toward the end of his life. It’s that Hemingway’s incredible literary skills did not make him any less vulnerable and imperfect as a man. He had four wives and countless affairs. He drank heavily. He hunted. None of these traits is attractive to me, and yet, nothing would’ve stopped me from wanting to know him.

Like I said, it’s visceral.

Five facts you may not know about Cuba

It is mandatory for government vehicles to pick up hitchhikers. I mentioned this in my second post.

It started after the “Special Period” (the collapse of the Soviet Union), a time of economic hardship from 1989 until the late 1990s. A general breakdown in transportation meant once-reliable buses began to arrive several hours late, and then not at all. As a result, the Cuban government had to deal with deteriorating public transit. Nationalized hitchhiking was one solution and it continues today.

Only 5% of Cubans have access to the uncensored, open Internet. It is an expensive chunk of their monthly income, costing $2/hour where the monthly income is only $25. In many areas in Havana, we saw people huddled around “hot spots” to check their Internet.

Cuba is one of two countries where Coca-Cola cannot be bought or sold. The other is North Korea.

Blowing your nose in public is considered extremely rude. I learned this firsthand from our guide in Havana. I had a slight cold and was blowing my nose in his car when he told me. I was mortified! I had to excuse myself and find a private place to do it thereafter even though he gave me a pass.

Ernest Hemingway worked as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star (then known as the Toronto Daily Star) from 1920 – 1924. He would later incorporate some of his pieces into his fiction.

Cubans make for easy friends 

We loved our time in Cuba because of the people, and it’s a big reason for why we would return. There are many others not pictured here but thank you to everyone who made our stay so special!

Humberto took care of us on the beach.

 

Guzman filled up our brandy at Xanadu Mansion.

 

Big hugs to Luisito and Mayara for their smiles and kindness.

 

Until next time, Cuba. We miss you already.

~eden

 

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Cuba told in pictures and prose (Part 2)

This is part two of a three-part series on Cuba. If you missed the first one, you can read it here.

I’m currently back in the deep freeze of Toronto, but it wasn’t long ago that Darcy and I felt the heat of the sun on our cheeks. Here we were on the balcony of our room with the ocean behind us. Ahh … what a wonderful sound that was!

In part one, I covered three of the four plazas in Havana. The last one is Plaza Vieja.

This plaza was originally called Plaza Nueva (New Square). It emerged in 1559 as Havana’s third open space after Plaza de Armas and Plaza de San Francisco. Plaza Vieja was the site of executions, processions, bullfights, and fiestas, all witnessed by Havana’s wealthiest citizens, who looked on from their balconies.

The urban architecture of Plaza Vieja is represented by colonial buildings and has always been a residential rather than a military, religious or administrative space.

Early 20th-century art nouveau buildings are also part of Plaza Vieja.

A work called “Viaje Fantástico” by Roberto Fabelo is found in the centre of the square. The figure, made of bronze, was donated by the 2004 National Arts Award winner. Our guide, Blexie did not know the history behind the monument, but it appears it was placed in the square in 2012.

I loved the piece immediately. A naked woman wearing only heels sits atop a rooster. What’s not to like, really?

She is unashamed of her nakedness, and she seems quite happy riding a cock. That she carries a fork is perhaps a symbol of her voracious appetite.

This is just my interpretation, of course. 😉

What is yours?

Cuba’s unique car culture

Cuba is known for its vintage cars, and there is an estimated 60,000 American cars still driving through the streets. Since 1959, when Fidel Castro assumed power, the majority of Cubans were forbidden to import foreign cars and parts. So, for almost 60 years, Cubans have played the role of Dr. Frankenstein, pulling parts from old American cars and replacing them with custom parts to keep their vehicles on the road.

There are no “new car dealerships” in Cuba as we know it. Cars are resold privately or passed down from one family member to another.

Interesting fact: The shortage of cars and public transportation has made hitchhiking a must in Cuba. We saw many hitchhikers along the way when going to and coming back from Havana. It is expected that “non-taxi” vehicles must pick up people needing rides. Hitchhiking is considered a safe way to travel.

I know little about cars. For me, it’s a mode of transportation to go from point A to B. Still, I can appreciate the beauty of an American car that has lasted for more than 50 years.

On any given street, you can see a Skittles bag of shiny chrome and its proud owners standing nearby.

Red, pink, and purple? Why not?!

Darcy liked the red convertible!

This shiny green car was my favourite. We drove in it for a short trip before switching to the blue and white Ford in the background. I liked the car because I own a dress that very same colour. 😉

John Lennon in Havana and the Beatles Bar in Varadero

When Beatlemania swept the world, Cuba resisted. Fidel Castro banned Beatles music in 1964 in an attempt to stamp out decadent, capitalist influences. But in 2000, Castro unveiled a bronze statue of John Lennon on a park bench, while Lennon’s “All You Need Is Love” played in the background. The ceremony took place on the twentieth anniversary of Lennon’s death.

Castro’s change of tune resulted from re-imagining Lennon as a political dissident and revolutionary. The statue, which captures Lennon in his long-haired, anti-war activism years, sits on a bench in John Lennon Park. Its iconic circular-rimmed glasses have been stolen so often that a guard now stands nearby holding them, poised to place them on the statue’s face when visitors approach. (The guard did so for my picture, too!).

We also went into downtown Varadero where there is an entire club dedicated to the Beatles. We didn’t stay for a set but snapped a picture of the fab four. They all looked oddly disproportionate. Still, the best likeness was John.

Gran Teatro de La Habana

Across from Parque Central, the Tacón Theater was inaugurated in April, 1838. At the time, this was Havana’s most important theatre, known for its elegance, comfort, and exceptional technical abilities.

Years later, in 1914, the theatre and the buildings around it were purchased to build the Centro Gallego, which took up the entire block. Inside, the old Tacón Theater was remodeled, integrating it with the new elements.

The façades of the building are decorated with sculptures, stone adornments, marble and bronze works. The front features four groups of sculptures in white marble representing charity, education, music, and theatre.

Today, the theatre is home to the Cuban National Ballet, and on its main stage, to the International Ballet Festival of Havana.

Introducing Ernest Hemingway 

While in Havana, both Darcy and I wanted to experience as much of Hemingway as possible. It wasn’t easy for our guide to squeeze it all in. We had to sacrifice a traditional Cuban lunch to do so, but it was definitely worth it.

La Bodeguita del Medio is a restaurant-bar opened in 1942 and is famous for its celebrity clientele. Pablo Neruda, Salvador Allende, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are cited amongst its patrons. It also lays claim to being the birthplace of the Mojito.

We walked in and a live band was playing to a packed house. The place has both spirit and history, evidenced by the graffiti and memorabilia.

According to the founder of the bar, Ernest Hemingway was not a regular, but there is a framed inscription that reads “My mojito in La Bodeguita, My daiquiri in El Floridita” attributed to Hemingway.

El Floridita is a historic restaurant and cocktail bar, famous for its daiquiris and for being a favourite hangout for Hemingway.

Other famous customers included poet, Ezra Pound and British novelist, Graham Greene, author of Our Man in Havana (written the year before the Revolution).

The bar is located a short walk from the Hotel Ambos Mundos where Hemingway maintained a room. Today, El Floridita contains many memorabilia of the author, and in 2003, a life-size bronze statue by Cuban artist, José Villa Soberón was created of Hemingway slouched at the corner of the bar.

I hope you enjoyed this second part of Cuba told in pictures and prose. I will post the last instalment later this week, which will focus on Hemingway, some of Cuba’s people and customs, and things you may not have known about Cuba.

As always, thanks for reading. 

~eden

Update: 

The series is complete. You can now read Part 1 and Part 3.

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Guantanamera and Cuba told in pictures and prose (Part 1)

This week, I’m taking a break from my usual music blog where I showcase a song that influences my writing.

Instead, today’s music post highlights Cuba.

When the temperature dipped below -20C the first week of January, my good friend, Darcy and I desperately wanted to escape the cold. Within days of thinking about it, we booked a resort in Varadero, Cuba, best known for its white, sandy beaches. Only a three and a half hour flight away, and we’d be exchanging boots, hats, and scarves for bikinis!

Before the trip, we picked up a few things

I was in Cuba more than twenty-five years ago, and after speaking to a native Cuban, things had not changed much economically for the people living there. They are still in need of basic essentials like personal hygiene products, women’s stockings, children’s school supplies, and simple treats like chocolate. 

We bought ketchup for our guide in Havana because we knew he loved Heinz and it wasn’t available in Cuba!

Darcy and I packed lightly for ourselves and topped up our luggage with necessities to give away. The Cubans are a proud people (especially the men). They don’t need our charity, so it’s important to connect with someone before “gifting” anything. Our desire was to be helpful, not patronizing. Throughout the trip, we met wonderful people who opened up about themselves and their families. It allowed us to personalize what we gave away.

Day One and we were already in trouble 

Neither of us is much for following rules, so we skipped the resort “orientation” (I HATE those things) and decided to take a long walk our first day. Varadero Beach stretches 20km, but from our hotel, it is not a continuous path. At times, we had to weave in and out of other properties to find our way back down to the beach. It wasn’t a problem and actually allowed us to see different hotels along the way.

We walked for almost two hours before we decided to turn back.

That’s when we ran into a small problem, in the form of a Cuban security guard.

We had seen him earlier in the day when we passed him. We even commented on how odd it was that he was sitting under a little grass hut about 5 meters (15 feet) in from the main path. He seemed in the middle of nowhere.

What could he be guarding?

Well … we soon learned he was keeping an eye out for trespassers, and we were on a private boardwalk belonging to some exclusive resort nearby. When he approached us and said we could not walk the short distance to get back on the beach, we were dumbfounded.

We had taken that very path earlier, we told him.

He shook his head and said “No, you cannot go this way.”

“But … we want to get off your property,” I said. We explained we just wanted to go back the same way we came.

Our efforts to reason with him in our broken Spanish proved futile.

He refused to let us pass.

We were not happy that he re-directed us inland to find another route back. Also, I must confess I’m directionally challenged. I got lost almost immediately once we did a few twists and turns. Darcy fared better, but in the end, neither of us wanted to walk on dusty roads to return to our hotel. We came all the way from freezing Canada to walk on the beach, and damn it, that’s what we were going to do!

We explained our plight to an official of the resort that owned the “private boardwalk,” and he pointed us in the right direction.

Off we went again—toward the beach and that security guard.

Only this time, we were determined to get by him no matter what. We psyched each other up and jokingly said we could take him if we had to.

By the time we got on the path again, we hoped he might have changed shifts or was facing a different direction so he wouldn’t see us. We even tried sneaking by on the rocky surface behind him, ducking behind boulders, but … no luck.

He saw us and walked in our direction, wagging a finger and shaking his head. I felt like a child being reprimanded. He demanded we follow him back toward his grass hut.

We refused.

He stomped his foot and gave a curt gesture with his hand to follow him.

We did not budge.

He drew a walkie-talkie from his holster and spoke to someone, then commanded again that we follow him.

We defiantly stood our ground.

Exasperated, he turned and slowly walked back to his hut. We contemplated making a run for it.

The only thing that stopped us was thinking he might be armed. Neither of us remembered seeing if he carried a gun. As illogical as it sounded, we thought he might chase us and shoot us in the back. We just did not know.

Finally, the guard returned carrying a big notebook. Most of the pages were empty. He asked for our names and the particulars of where we were staying. Darcy even wrote down everything for him. He returned to his hut and replaced the book, spoke on his walkie talkie again, and then came back to us.

“Come,” he said, motioning again for us to follow him.

This time, we complied. We even thanked him for personally escorting us the 10 meters it took to get us off the property.

Freedom!

Later we learned the orientation (had we attended) would have informed us not to go on certain private properties, but hey … then I wouldn’t have this story to tell you!

Thankfully, this was the view from our room, and it’s not from inside a Cuban jail cell!

Xanadu Mansion

We were able to walk up to the top of the peninsula from our resort to Xanadu Mansion, an estate built in the 1930s. The home belonged to American millionaire, Irénée du Pont. Now, it’s a hotel with a beautiful old-style bar on the third floor.

The mansion was still undergoing renovation after Hurricane Irma hit in September 2017.

The view was spectacular, but all the windows of the bar had to be replaced and reinforced after Irma.

We sipped brandy at the bar. It was 11am, but I had a sore throat … really!

Exploring Havana in a vintage car

We booked a full-day tour of Havana, which is a two-hour drive from Varadero. I connected with Blexie (a Cuban professor turned tour guide) before we left Canada and set up a date.

Blexie’s English is impeccable as he was trained as a translator. He explained that workers in the tourist industry are among some of the best paid employees because they are able to earn tips. Government workers, lawyers/doctors paid by the state, even professors only earn an average of $25.00 CAD/month. Both he and his wife are University educated, and yet, they work in the service/tourism industry.

To put earnings in perspective, Cubans receive free healthcare and education, as well as minimally subsidized living expenses, but it is still a struggle to make ends meet. Many Cubans have jobs on the side, and many more have become self-employed. Although there are government restrictions on self-employed workers, the earnings potential is considerably more than state salaries.

With Blexie and his driver Lou.

Our car hid an Ontario, Canada license plate beneath the Cuban one!

Before arriving in Havana, we stopped at the Bridge of Bacunayagua, the tallest in Cuba standing at 110 meters. It was inaugurated in September 1959 and crosses the canyon. That’s it behind us on a windy start to our day.

Old Havana is where most of the tourists spend their time. It’s full of interesting architecture with many of the main attractions concentrated around four plazas. I will cover three of them here and the last one in a subsequent post.

The picturesque Plaza de San Francisco is directly across from the port.

Formerly a small inlet opening directly to the bay, the plaza was first laid out in 1575 when the land was drained. From the start it was a market where goods were unloaded, bought, and sold. That included the purchase and sale of slaves.

The spacious cobbled square, which was fully restored in the 1990s, takes its name from the Franciscan convent built there.

Orphans were placed inside the tiny doorway in the wall. Loosely translated, the sign says: My father and my mother put me here for pick up by divine charity.

In the late 17th century and 18th centuries, many wealthy nobles built their homes on the cobbled plaza. Eventually, the marketplace moved to Plaza Vieja after noise complaints from the residents and the convent’s monks.

Street scene around Plaza de San Francisco.

The oldest square in Old Havana and the site where the city was founded is Plaza de Armas. In colonial times, it was the site of military parades, musical concerts and formal evening promenades, and it maintained its political and administrative role until the mid-20th century.

In the center of the square is Parque Céspedes, pinned by a white marble statue of Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, initiator of the Cuban wars of independence and Father of the Homeland.

The square is lush with palm trees and other tropical plants, while the perimeter is lined with elegant Baroque buildings. Cuba’s national tree, the royal palm, is distinguished by its trunk which looks like it’s made of cement.

Nearby is the 18th-century baroque Palacio de los Capitanes Generales—the former governor’s palace, fronted by a street made from wooden tiles instead of cobblestones. The governor of the time found it too noisy! 

Today, the building houses the Museo de la Ciudad, dedicated to the city’s history.

The Castillo de la Real Fuerza is a fort on the western side of the harbour bordering the Plaza de Armas. It was originally built to defend against pirate attacks.

To the east of the square is El Templete, a 19th-century, Greek-style Neoclassical temple marking the legendary spot where Havana was founded in 1519. The monument was erected in 1828 and inside hangs three large canvases. They represent the first mass, the first town council, and the blessing of the site by aristocracy and high officials of the colonial government.

The works were created by French painter Jean Baptiste Vermay, whose remains and those of his wife are in the interior in a cenotaph.

Darcy swore one of the aristocrats in the centre canvas looked like John Lennon, and I’d have to agree!

Plaza de la Catedral showcases Cuban baroque architecture, including the Catedral de la Habana (also known as Cathedral of Havana San Cristobal).

It is the newest of the four squares in the Old Town, with its present layout dating back to the 18th century.

Inside the asymmetrical cathedral.

Ornate altar.

In and around Plaza de la Catedral.

In Spanish, “Guantanamera” is the feminine form of  from Guantánamo as in a woman from Guantánamo. It’s considered the definitive patriotic song of Cuba, especially when its lyrics are adapted from Cuban poet, José Julián Martí Pérez. Enjoy the song by Cuban musicians from around the world.

In the next post, I will explore the final plaza – Plaza Vieja. And of course, I haven’t even touched on Ernest Hemingway. Hope you’re having a great week so far.

~eden

Update: 

The series is complete. You can now read Part 2 and Part 3.

 

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Frozen Memories ~ My story for @RBwood’s FIRST #WordCountPodcast of 2018

2018 marks the beginning of the eighth season of R.B. Wood’s WordCount Podcast! I’m so grateful I connected with Richard and discovered his podcast, hard to believe my first story appeared on his show March, 2011. I’ve been a happy regular (or irregular, as Richard calls some of us) ever since. His forum has allowed me to pen more than sixty pieces, all of which you can find here.

For this episode, the picture of two lobster boats frozen in the Boston Harbour provided the prompt.

My story inspiration

I hate the cold. Snow, ice, and boats don’t normally figure into my stories. Still, I love a challenge and even an unromantic scene of frozen boats can tug at a reader’s heart under the right circumstances. “Frozen Memories” is my attempt to warm up this cold season, and I hope you like it.

You can also listen to me reading the story on episode 72 of R.B. Wood’s podcast.

NOTE: The written version of this story is slightly different from the audio. I added a few extra lines after I had already sent the recording to Richard. Because I was away when he publicized the show, I had some time to consider details which I believe improve the story.

* * * *

In less than 24 hours, another two feet of snow blanketed the city and the mercury plummeted, yet again.

Life in Boston came to a standstill. This was after the city had already suffered the worst storm in its history a week earlier. Snow removal crews had barely cleared the main roads before meteorologists were forecasting more snow. This would surely be a different kind of Big Dig for Boston, they said. Cleanup efforts seemed pointless.

My walk this morning was particularly difficult, as I knew it would be. I trudged through neighbourhoods, which had yet to be shovelled, opting to walk in the middle of the streets whenever possible. Only a few drivers braved the roads anyway, and unlike the majority of residents, I wasn’t heeding the mayor’s warning to stay indoors unless it was essential to go out.

For me, today was essential.

As I entered the public walkway along Boston’s waterfront, a childhood memory came flooding back. I was a young girl again walking with my dad. He had brought me here to show me the boats in the harbour. It had been cold and snowing that day as well, but unlike today, the bay had not frozen over.

“Pick me up,” I had said to him, my arms outstretched to the sky. The barrier that wrapped around the walkway and kept pedestrians from falling into the water blocked my view.

“Come here, sweetheart.” He swooped me up and sat me on the metal railing with my feet dangling over the water. “My little girl gets a front row seat to watch the boats with me,” he said proudly and wrapped his arms around me.

I swung my legs back and forth kicking snowflakes in the air even as I looked at the dark swells below. How easy it would’ve been to fall in and be swept away to sea. Mom would’ve berated Dad for being so careless with me, but Dad never lived his life in fear. In his presence, everything was possible because he made it so. That day, we stared at the boats in the Massachusetts Bay, and Dad hummed in my ear. I wasn’t sure if he hummed an actual song, or he just made it up as he went along. It didn’t matter though, what I remember was the comfort and security I felt at that moment while leaned back against his chest.

It was the best day of my life in the short time that I had with him.

Dad passed away later that year. I could not understand his sudden disappearance, nor fathom that I would never hear his voice again. How could someone be there one day and not be there the next? The concept of death was final but unintelligible to a six-year-old. My carefree childhood ended the moment I realized he was never coming back.

A vicious cloud of powdery snow stung my eyes and swirled around me like a tornado.

“Fuck!” I shouted at the sky.

Nothing like blinding snow to transport me back to the present. I spun around and walked backwards to protect my face from the biting current of air. With my scarf wrapped numerous times around my neck and piled high around my face, I found it difficult to catch my breath. When the wind changed direction, I turned to face forward again and ran along the boardwalk to my destination. Once at my spot, I pressed myself hard against the barrier and dug the cleats of my boots into the ice beneath the snow. The railing, which I had sat on as a child almost forty years ago no longer obstructed my view.

When the wind finally died down, I looked up to see a surreal scene of boats trapped in vast stretches of icy seawater. Like statues, they rose from the surface majestic and motionless.

Tears ran in rivulets down my face and froze on my cheeks. In all the years I had been coming to this same spot, I had never felt this cold. With my hands shoved deeply in my coat pockets, I looked toward the horizon. Everything was frozen—the water, the boats, even my recollection of the past was frozen in time.

Perhaps it was stupid for me to return here prompted by childhood memories, but that’s all I have of Dad. So on this anniversary of the best day of my life all those years ago, I cherish the memories and relive that special time when Dad and I stared out at the boats in the harbour.

As always, thank you for reading.

Feel free to leave a comment or question. Feedback, whether good or bad is always welcome.

~eden

**

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Station

“Station” sounds like a duet of two voices, but it isn’t.

The talented Låpsley, a 17-year-old English singer/songwriter produced this track by pitching her vocals differently.

(I could walk you)
(I could walk you)

Two for the taking
You can have it all at once if you make it sane
It’s gonna drive you
Back down the roads and the streets and pavements
Stamping your ground and the rules that shaped us
(That shaped us)

I chose this song to illustrate duality, something that can be present in human beings for all kinds of reasons—mental illness, deception, and in its extreme form, a symptom of a psychopathic mind.

As a writer who has studied psychology and continues to do so out of interest, the human mind never ceases to amaze me—especially when there are abnormalities.

Cause I could walk you back to the station
Talk about our own frustrations
Cause I could walk you back to the station

What is the station that is referred to in this song? Is it merely the place where a person stands along a route to catch a bus or train?

Or is it referring to something deeper—perhaps one’s station in life? It’s somewhat of a dated expression but an intriguing thought, nonetheless.

Consider if we are destined for a certain position based solely on where we are born or who our parents are, then how do we break out of the mould? What are the risks and sacrifices one must make for this to happen?

When my main character Kate realizes that her station in life may be pre-destined, she becomes increasingly desperate to dig up her past to find the answers. But at what cost?

It begs the question for many of us when faced with challenges in our lives, is it better to pursue the truth or is it better not to know?

I know what my preference is. 😉

Wishing you a week of mystery and intrigue,

~eden

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The Sound of Silence

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again

Very few people will not know this song from its opening lines. Written by Paul Simon in 1963, numerous artists have recorded “The Sound of Silence” over the years.

This haunting version by Nouela achieves added poignancy with dramatic film clips. Like the song’s lyrics, many of the snippets will look familiar.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening

I live many days in silence from the world. It’s a purposeful “shutting out” of noise, mainly speech. Since my mid-twenties, I estimate I’ve lived a year’s worth of days without saying a word, attained through silent meditation retreats and time on my own.

Silence is my way to decompress and reconnect to self, so it’s not surprising that it’s an ongoing theme in my stories.

I explore silence with the internal battles of my main character, Kate, and in her relationship with her father.

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

The proverb “Silence is golden” is used in situations when saying nothing is thought to be preferable to speaking. I don’t disagree with this. I’m much more of a listener than a talker anyway, but silence can also be toxic.

In the case of Kate, her resolve to keep quiet is one that causes her great angst. It’s been challenging and painful writing this chapter in her life.

And on that note , I’d like to wish you all a wonderful week, whether it’s quiet or boisterous. 😉

If everything has gone according to plan, I am currently out of the country with no access to Internet.

It will be the first time in over fifteen years that I’m leaving my laptop at home. It’s the kind of silence I really need right now.

I will definitely respond to comments when I return next week.

Sending hugs,

~eden

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EDEN BAYLEE BOOKS is no more

My website http://www.edenbayleebooks.com has closed its virtual doors. The domain name is one I purchased for a site that showcased my books. It was primarily a static website.

My main activity has always been on this WordPress blog, which I opened in November 2010.

And though Wordpress.Com and I have had a good relationship all these years, it’s time to move on.

I won’t go into the details of all the changes I’ve been making over the past weeks, but the impetus for them has to do with updating the look of my site and giving me more control over the content. After much research into the two platforms, I decided to move from the free WordPress.com to the self-hosted WordPress.org.

Though I could have given my log-in and password to WordPress Support to make the transfer for me, I elected to tackle the job myself after reading all the tutorials. It sounded straightforward.

The backend of this blog may look like a swamp of codes and links and tags, but I was used to it after seven years of  blogging.

How hard could it be?

So … let me tell you—five days of cursing and sleepless nights later, I moved over all the information!

I won’t say it was difficult, but easy—it was not! Nor was it intuitive. It’s never as simple as they make it out to be in the tutorials. This is what happens when you are a “do-it-yourself” type of person. The good thing is I learned a lot about the finicky process, so if you ever decide to embark on the same type of data migration, I’m more than happy to share my tips if you run into similar issues.

If you visit this blog regularly, please continue to do so. I will try to make the transition as seamless as possible. Most of the work involves archiving and amalgamating information on the backend. It should not affect how you access my blog or what you see on the frontend, however … where technology is concerned, things may go wonky. (Don’t you love my sophisticated tech speak?). 😉

If you notice something odd/missing/broken in the next couple of weeks, it’s probably due to something I’ve done. It should be fixed before my new site goes live.

Moving forward, please continue to find me at: edenbaylee.com which I have mapped to this blog while I’m building the new site.

When the new website is up, this blog will revert to its original name of http://www.edenbaylee.wordpress.com and eventually close.

As always, thank you for stopping by. It gives me great pleasure to know you’re reading my words. Hopefully, the new site will look even more inviting. I aim to have it up by early February.

 

 

 

 

eden 

 

 

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With or Without You

This is my favourite of U2’s songs, first released in 1987. Though many interpretations exist for the song’s lyrics, it was apparently inspired by Bono’s conflicting feelings about his duo life — as a rock star and as a regular man. I also love the Canadian connection of this song, co-produced by Daniel Lanois (with Brian Eno).

See the stone set in your eyes
See the thorn twist in your side
I’ll wait for you

Sleight of hand and twist of fate
On a bed of nails she makes me wait
And I wait without you

Oddly, I did not learn about this song at its peak. A few months following its release, I was in Hong Kong on a journey that would last almost two years through Asia and Europe. In Asia, western hit songs only typically grace the airwaves years after its popularity has waned, if at all. Though music was always important (I travelled with my Sony Walkman), I had resolved to listen only to the cassettes I brought with me and the music of the country where I visited.

Through the storm, we reach the shore
You give it all but I want more
And I’m waiting for you

With or without you
With or without you, 
I can’t live with or without you

The unique version of this song is an instrumental mashup featuring the trio, Simply Three, classically trained string musicians and the American Heritage Lyceum Philharmonic. They’ve combined “With or Without You” with “Montagues and Capulets,” a classical piece by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

Ill-fated lovers.

It’s a theme that is explored over and over again in my writing, and one for contemplation by my main character, Kate Hampton.

My hands are tied, my body bruised
She got me with nothing to win
And nothing left to lose

With or without you
With or without you, 
I can’t live with or without you

If you’ve read Stranger at Sunset, you will know Kate doesn’t get everything she wants. How this resolves as her story progresses is what I’m writing now.

Living “with or without you” is also reflected in her relationship with her father—two people related by blood, yet with so such animosity toward each other.

In A Fragile Truce, many of the questions surrounding her contentious relationship with her father will be answered.

I hope you enjoy this moving piece of music. Wishing you a wonderful week,

~eden

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Cigarettes After Sex

I’ve never been a smoker.

The one and only time I put a cigarette between my lips was more than forty years ago. My best friend’s father smoked, so we stole one of his cigarettes and stood over the kitchen sink to try it. I’m not sure why we decided to do it there.

In case we vomited?

Possibly.

To drop the ashes down the drain?

Well … we never got that far.

After one long, enthusiastic inhale, I knew smoking was not for me.

The burning in my throat.

The coughing.

The tears.

YUCK! Smoking never tempted me again.

But though cigarettes are no longer en vogue, I do love the visual metaphor of two people smoking in bed. It’s a familiar image we’ve seen represented in film. It speaks to lovemaking, romance, and eroticism. The cigarette seduces without subjecting the viewer to its harmful effects, which brings me to this week’s music choice.

Got the music in you baby
Tell me why
Got the music in you baby
Tell me why
You’ve been locked in here forever and you just can’t say goodbye

Cigarettes After Sex is a four-person band out of Brooklyn. With their minimalist black-and-white artwork, slow-paced melodies, and tender vocals, their songs make me want to crawl into bed and drift into a hazy daydream.

Your lips
My lips
Apocalypse
Your lips
My lips
Apocalypse

I chose Cigarettes After Sex’s song, “Apocalypse” for its sweet and sentimental lyrics. In Stranger at Sunset, protagonist Kate Hampton is missing someone she first met in Jamaica. As circumstances dictate their fate, there is much left unsaid between them. This sense of absence follows her to A Fragile Truce, the book I’m writing now.

Go and sneak us through the rivers flood is rising up on your knees
Oh please
Come out and haunt me
I know you want me
Come out and haunt me

To portray Kate’s feelings, I thought of choosing oldies like “Miss You” by the Rolling Stones or “Missing You” by John Waite. I love both these songs because they express the sentiment of missing someone, and yet, the lyrics were too familiar. They had lost their emotional impact for me.

Got the music in you baby
Tell me why
Got the music in you baby
Tell me why
You’ve been locked in here forever and you just can’t say goodbye
You’ve been locked in here forever and you just can’t say goodbye

The coda of “Apocalypse” captures the hardship of separation and loss beautifully, for as difficult as saying “goodbye” can be, not being able to say goodbye is … apocalyptic.

Oh
When you’re all alone
I will reach for you
When you’re feeling low
I will be there too

Wishing you a warm, inspired week. May none of us experience anything apocalyptic, unless it’s great sex of course. 😉

~eden

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Benediction

My first blog of the year begins with a prayer, but not a religious one.

Instead, it’s a song I’ve been meditating on for the past few weeks. 

I first heard “Benediction” at my yoga studio. It played toward the end of a 75-minute class with Farley, one of the many wonderful instructors at Union Yoga. By the time the song ended, we were ready for the final resting pose. 

As I lay on my back, tears streamed down my face. It was hot yoga; I was already wet and sweaty, so I didn’t care. 

I was as emotionally raw as the music.

As someone who is attuned to lyrics, I tried desperately to remember a short phrase from the song.

Is it war if you fight it?
Is it love when you don’t?
There is more when you let go
Of the fear that you can’t

I made a mental note to Google a line or two when I returned home to find the song title—three successive words would have likely accomplished it, but I couldn’t even retain that. The melody haunted me until I finally asked Farley about it at one of his classes. I relayed to him the quality of the singer’s voice and the gut-wrenching lyrics I could not remember.

Not much to go on, but we were optimistic the mystery would be solved by the end of his class … unfortunately not.

He must’ve changed the soundtrack that day.

As we burn in the fire
Slowly learning to breathe
Just keep calm in the falling
Always looking for an underneath

Just before the end of 2017, Farley kindly sent me his playlist as I had requested. Of the fourteen songs he provided, “Benediction” by Luke Sital-Singh was the last one I played, even though it was not the last one on the list.

Why?

Because all along, I was convinced it was a female voice I heard. I could not be more wrong.

It just goes to show the power of an intense yoga class to alter my senses!

This brings me to the new purpose for my music blogs this year. They will continue to showcase good tunes, but there will be an added objective—to highlight the connection of the song to my upcoming books, more specifically, to its main character Kate Hampton. I will also include passages of lyrics if they are meaningful to her story.

Imagine it’s a warning sign
I don’t wanna lose more time
Darling, don’t you close your eyes
Keep listening – are you listening?
I’m sorry we don’t have forever
Ooh… but come die with me

A Fragile Truce is book two in my trilogy which started with Stranger at Sunset. It’s the book I’ve been working on for some time.

Whether you’ve read Stranger at Sunset or not, you will acquire insight into Kate Hampton’s character by following my music blogs. Close friends and authors whom I trust know I’ve struggled with her story for various reasons. My song choices hint at her life because they bring me closer to her.

Some writers of fiction will relate to this strange relationship with their main characters. Though Kate is the product of my imagination, she lives inside my head and needs nurturing. She may embody the best qualities of a woman—sexy, intelligent, strong, and compassionate, but … she is also tragic, unpredictable, and duplicitous.

My Music Monday posts will focus on specific aspects of Kate, and you can find these clues in the lyrics, the song’s mood, or even by watching the video. They are all inspiring me to write her story.

I’ve already chosen the soundtrack for the entire year, so I hope you will join me in this writing journey.

In the meantime, close your eyes and listen to “Benediction.”

Perhaps you will shed a tear as well.

~eden

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Time to Say Goodbye

I decided to add one more post to my blog before the year ends.

2017 has seen its ups and downs for me.

On the up side, I have my health, definitely something to be thankful for.

The majority of the people I started the year with are still alive and well.

I’ve made wonderful new friendships and strengthened old ones.

On the down side, it’s been a difficult year worldwide. Because I’m a news junkie, I get pulled into the collective angst. From hurricanes to flooding, earthquakes to landslides, 2017 has seen some deadly natural disasters. I won’t even mention all the political disasters at home and abroad.

In my writing life, it’s been slow. It’s the first year I did not release a new book since I began writing full time. I’m disappointed, but I am far from defeated. I’m still working on the next two books that will complete the trilogy I started with Stranger at Sunset. Thank you to everyone who has inquired about my writing and offered words of encouragement.

In 2018, I will continue to feature music as a way to inspire my creativity, but I will do so differently than I have in the past.  The first blog for my newly-formatted Music Monday series will go live Jan. 8th.

As I’m taking New Year’s Day off tomorrow, I’m posting a song to end the year instead.

Most of you will remember this piece performed in Italian by Andrea Bocelli called “Con te partirò,” translated as “I Will Go With You.” It was hugely successful when it released in 1995. Bocelli later paired with English soprano, Sarah Brightman and retitled the song “Time to Say Goodbye.” The duet made it an even bigger hit, performing the tune with full orchestral arrangements.

I love the original version, but I discovered a less lively interpretation, which is in keeping with my contemplative mood this time of year.

That this musician’s name is Hope made it an even more serendipitous find.

As with most endings, there is a sense of closure, even sadness. Another year gone by and all that has happened is now history. But though time is finite, endings inevitably lead to new beginnings. And new beginnings hold countless, uncharted possibilities.

My hope is that you look ahead with optimism and an open heart.

The future is ours to create.

Until then, it’s time to say goodbye,

~eden

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Filed under Musical Mondays, Revelations & Humor

Renewal, Rest, and Re-awakening my Creative Self

This will be my final post of 2017. I don’t know about you, but the year flew by for me.

In previous year-end posts, I’ve tried my best to reflect on what I’ve learned and provide some inspiring thoughts.

This year I have nothing to offer.

Instead, I want to share a few words received from a friend this morning. It was his Christmas wish to me as we were not exchanging cards this year.

“… may I wish you joy and all things nice, as you (hopefully) rest and recover from your intellectual, physical and emotional exertions this year and, above all, I hope that you will find some sense of renewal….”

I hope he doesn’t mind my sharing his kind and wise words. Despite that we live in different parts of the world, we’ve connected over the years on topics ranging from politics to poetry. He is after all, an author whom I greatly respect, and his thoughts mean a lot to me. Thank you, John for your friendship. ❤

One word in John’s message resonated with me — renewal.

On a biological level, our bodies’ cells are dying and being replaced all the time. The renewal of these cells restores our strength, and yet, it’s been some time since I thought of my life as requiring renewal.

Christmas and year-end festivities only highlight the non-stop nature of our lives. If we are lucky, it’s time with family and friends but in a pressure-cooker environment. Once it’s over, we breathe a sigh of relief, and it’s on to the next thing … it doesn’t stop unless something forces us to make a change or we decide to shift old patterns.

I like the idea of renewal.

For me, it’s not about changes to diet and exercise, two things I already take seriously. It’s not even about renewing my spiritual self. It’s about something much more basic.

Rest and sleep.

I never take naps. I tend to stay up late and often sleep only 5-6 hours nightly. This pattern is catching up with me. Moving forward, I endeavour to rest/sleep more so I can accomplish tasks with greater energy and vitality.

By resting more often and sleeping better, I also hope to renew the relationship with my creative self. I’ve not been thinking clearly, certainly not clearly enough to write consistently. Mental fatigue has set in and in order to re-awaken my tired brain, I’ll be spending less time on social media, (something I’ve already cut back on significantly this past year).

It will be past midnight and Christmas Eve by the time this blog post is made public, so I’ll close now to go to sleep and renew myself. 😉

Wishing you and your families a wonderful Christmas and the best for the coming year.

~eden

xox

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Music Monday says I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing

It’s the holiday season, and whether you observe Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, or something else, I hope you’re able to make time to enjoy it.

I celebrate Christmas insofar as it’s a time for family and friends. Hosting a Christmas Eve get-together has become a tradition, but traditions change as people’s plans change over the years.

Initially, we hosted Christmas Eve as a drop-in. Everyone was invited to come by for music, drinks, and hors d’oeuvres. They could stay if they liked or use our home as a place to hang out until they had somewhere else to go. Parents with kids usually came early; the late crowd would drop by after midnight. The faces changed over the years, but it was our small way of taking care of any Christmas ‘orphans’ out there.

The year my father-in-law died, we changed the evening to a sit-down dinner for about a dozen people. He’s been gone since 2009. The other day I drank a Manhattan in his memory (his favourite drink).

This past year has seen a lot of personal changes for me, both in my writing life, and otherwise. I always see change as good, difficult as it may be at first. Old habits, old ways of thinking, even old traditions must change with the times.

I heard this Aerosmith song earlier this week. Sure, this is a love song, but the message is good.

Try not to miss a thing and enjoy every moment, for it will surely change,

eden

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Music Monday remembers John Lennon

This past week marked 37 years since John Lennon died Dec. 8, 1980. I often think about what more he could have done if he were still here.

It’s a sad thought, tempered only by the enormous contribution he left behind.

His bestselling and most popular solo song, “Imagine” is packed with simple but powerful lyrics. Its message is as relevant today as it ever was.

I hope you enjoy this timeless song,

~ eden

+++

“Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one …”

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Music Monday goes back to SCHOOL

I heard this song recently and remembered how much I like it—a tune from my youth by Supertramp on their hugely successful Crime of the Century album. “School” contains a catchy interlude and one of the most memorable extended solos of any song I know.

The tune also reminded me we should never stop learning, whether formally or informally. Tangential to that thought is the realization that “the older I get, the less I know.”

As a young girl, I felt differently though.

I thought I knew everything I needed to know by the time I was eighteen—the arrogance of youth.

Thankfully, age has tempered me. I hope I’m more tolerant and less judgmental of others, but more importantly, the only thing I know for certain is that I don’t know everything.

And where I used to think it was a weakness to not know, I now take it as an opportunity to learn something new.

Life is ever humbling, isn’t it?

Have a great week,

eden

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Music Monday plays “Jig of Joy” from Return to Jogja #mtagung

Further to my blog about Bali last week, you will know that Mount Agung has since erupted—several times. The latest series of eruptions yesterday sent ash 4,000 metres into the atmosphere.

Ngurah Rai International Airport, located in southern Bali has closed, stranding thousands of travellers. Authorities are considering if they will reopen the airport on Tuesday. Though it must be inconvenient, I cannot feel too much sympathy for the tourists. I was at that airport less than a month ago, and I can think of worse places to be stranded.

I do, however, feel extremely sad for the people of Bali, especially for those who have been displaced, many since the end of September. No doubt, the livelihoods of those who cater to the tourist industry are also in jeopardy. It’s an awful disaster for those who live there.

A dear friend turned me on to an album called Return to Jogja by Sha’aban Yahya. I’ve heard this track from the album before, and I wanted to share it. A “jig of joy” is what I truly feel like doing when I think about Bali and its beautiful people. I can only hope my sense of joy extends to those who are suffering there at this time.

~ eden

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Bali told in pictures and prose and Mount Agung finally erupts!

I just returned from Bali and had an amazing time. I wrote about my adventure last year, following a trip to the Indonesian island nearly three decades after I first set foot on it.

As good fortune would have it, I was able to go back this year and provide a recap of my journey below.

Before the trip, there was Mt. Agung

As was the case last October, the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival was the impetus for the trip. I booked my festival tickets in the summer to take advantage of an early bird price for the five-day event. I looked forward to leaving the cool summer of Toronto for warmer climes, but before I could even think of getting on that plane, a hiccup by the name of Mt. Agung emerged, more than a hiccup really. Mt. Agung is a volcano and also the highest point in Bali. It had shown signs of erupting around early September, a month before my trip. The last time it erupted was 1963, killing more than 1000 people. Back then, there was no forewarning. This time, however, the warnings ramped up fast and furious. On a scale of 1-4 severity, Mt. Agung was classified “4” and slapped with a twelve-kilometer exclusion zone around the mountain.

Getty Images

The governor issued a state of emergency at the end of September, and scientists speculated daily about when the volcano would blow.

Tourists were cancelling their trips.

There was a heightened sense of panic when another volcano (Mt. Sinabung) erupted in proximity to Mt. Agung, killing ten people.

Mt. Agung continued to spew smoke leading up to my trip, causing tremors in surrounding areas. It led to the evacuation of more than 180,000 people.

The Canadian government issued a travel advisory about Bali and the potential danger of Mt. Agung, but it did not outright say “DO NOT GO.”

I knew how much the Balinese depended on tourism, especially during the time I was going — their rainy and low season. After weighing my options, I decided the risk to me was small. I was staying outside the exclusion zone anyway, so worst case scenario would be if the volcano erupted as I was flying into Bali. The volcanic ash would disrupt air traffic and likely reroute my plane, but what were the chances of that happening?

Ultimately, I did not want to cancel my trip, so I rationalized it in my favour (With logic involved, of course!).

A farmer tends to his land at the base of Mt. Agung – Getty: Bay Ismoyo

It’s old news now, but Mt. Agung never did erupt while I was there. Not only that, a week after I arrived, authorities lowered the alert level from 4 to 3 due to a decrease in volcanic activity.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 21

Today, I just learned Mt. Agung has finally erupted. I started writing this post a few nights ago, so how things can change! The good news is the eruption is small. There are no new evacuations and the airport remains opened. I am relieved and will stay tuned.

A cloud of ash rising from Mt. Agung Nov 21st. (BNPB Indonesia)

Hopefully, the evacuees will be able to return to their homes soon, and no new eruptions will occur.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 26

Mt. Agung has erupted again and now the aviation warning in Bali is RED. The Lombok airport is now closed. This means a larger eruption is imminent or underway with significant emission of ash into the atmosphere. 😦

UPDATE NOVEMBER 27

Ngurah Rai, the international airport has closed in Bali and stranded thousands of travellers. The warning for Mt. Agung is back up to its highest level as more ash spews into the atmosphere. Once again, we are hearing of a major and imminent eruption.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 28

Bali’s international airport remains closed, and Mount Agung is showing increasing signs of a possible full-scale eruption.

Kuta for Green Tea and Poppies

My first stop in Bali was Kuta, a beach and resort area in southern Bali and one of its first tourist spots.

Kuta beach at dawn

Kuta was also the site of two terrorist bombings—one in October, 2002 and another in October, 2005. Over 225 people died as a result of the two attacks. Thankfully, it has not had another incident since.

Kuta remains best known for its party-centric atmosphere and unrivalled sunsets. With a long broad Indian Ocean beach-front, it is also a surfer’s paradise.

Kuta beach aka Sunset beach

I would not normally have made a stop in Kuta, but I was there on a mission—green tea!

If you recall, I fell in love with a particular green tea, Ohkuraen, which I am addicted to! I found it at a bakery near my hotel in Ubud last year and bought three bags to take home. When I returned to Toronto, I contacted the company and connected with their foreign shipper. She and I are now friends after I ordered a large supply of teas from their plant in Japan. It should have lasted me a couple of years. It did not even last me one!

Because they don’t sell their teas in Canada, I knew I had to make a trip to buy a large supply of it while in Bali, one of their main importers.

My friend in Japan connected me with Grand Lucky Supermarket in Kuta, and I messaged the store to ensure they would be fully stocked while I was there. The manager actually emailed me pictures to ensure we were talking about the right brand! Considering I was travelling nearly 16,000 km to buy the tea, I really appreciated his diligence and attention to detail! 

In the end, I didn’t quite empty their shelves of the tea, but I bought a lot. Hopefully they last me another year—at least. Many thanks to Kimie and Grand Lucky Supermarket for their wonderful help!

* * * *

Poppies Cottages is an institution in Kuta. It’s a reasonably priced hotel that has been around since 1973. Thatch-roofed cottages are nestled in gardens of hibiscus, jasmine, and frangipani. It’s an oasis away from the noisy, busy streets of Kuta and is charming as can be.

Poppies restaurant

One morning, I went for a walk along the beach and there were runners getting ready for a marathon. It wasn’t even 6AM yet. Below is a picture which shows the start of the race against the backdrop of the Bali bombing memorial. The memorial is made of stone, set with a large marble plaque and bears the names and nationalities of each of those killed. It is flanked by the national flags of the victims.

***

Click on any thumbnail to scroll the gallery (Takes a few seconds to load).

Tirta Gangga

After leaving Kuta and before heading to Ubud, I took a side trip to Tirta Gangga – a royal water palace in East Bali. At the time, there was concern about whether Mt. Agung might erupt. I was heading toward the volcano, not away from it for this trip.

Along with the gardens, there is a hotel and a restaurant on the grounds, and the complex is perched on the south-eastern slope of Mount Agung.

Tirta Gangga also saw a series of restorations following the destructive ash from the 1963 Mount Agung eruption.

A little background about Tirta Gangga, it was built in 1946 during the reign of the late raja of Karangasem, Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut Karangasem (1887 – 1966). The lavish water gardens owned by the royal Karangasem family feature 1.2 hectares of pools, ponds and fountains surrounded by neatly cut lawns adorned with stepping stones, ornate statues, koi, and tropical gardens.

While I was there, Mt. Agung loomed over the palace behind a ribbon of clouds. Though it appeared extremely close, it was at least 18-20 kilometres outside the exclusion zone.

Click on any thumbnail to scroll the gallery (Takes a few seconds to load).

Ubud Writers & Readers Festival

Beautiful Balinese greeters of the festival

Among the international authors at the festival were:

Simon Armitage, British poet, punker, and part-time Oxford Professor of Poetry.

Canadian Madeleine Thien, winner of the Giller Prize and Booker short-listed author for Do Not Say We Have Nothing. 

Simon Winchester, British author of non-fiction texts including: The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded.

Jung Chang, Chinese-born British author, best known for her family autobiography Wild Swans.

Ian Rankin, Scottish crime fiction author of the Inspector Rebus novels.

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I really enjoyed my time at the festival this year. Aside from the great line-up of authors, I had a sense of familiarity with the event, which made navigating the different venues an easier process.

At the start of each panel, an announcement was made for evacuation procedures should Mt. Agung erupt. Even with the prospect of a natural disaster, a sense of calm and joy pervaded the atmosphere. From festival organizers to authors to readers to volunteers, everyone seemed happy to be there.

Bravo to Janet DeNeefe, founder of the festival—in its 14th year and going strong!

A side trip to the Neka Art Museum one afternoon also made the list for me. You’ll see I shared the space with some loud, feathery creatures!

My outfit matched the signage!

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Click on any thumbnail to scroll the gallery (Takes a few seconds to load).

♥ Ubud 

All I can say is the weather this year in Ubud was fantastic. There was only a few hours of rain during the night while I slept, otherwise, it was sunny and hot the entire time. Amazing clear skies and warm, humid air lasted from dawn until late into the night.

For the sake of posting this blog in a timely fashion, I will end it here with a few more pictures. Ubud is an experience, and there is nothing that can convey it like actually being there. I’m addicted to the sights and sounds and smells, so much so, that I did not take many pictures. I didn’t want to spend time capturing the moment when I could be living it. I’m not much for selfies, and Instagram and I don’t quite get along.

Regardless, I am happy for a few photos of my trip to share with you and hope you’ve enjoyed taking this journey with me. 😀

Click on any thumbnail to scroll the gallery (Takes a few seconds to load).

 

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Music Monday rings with Hells Bells @acdc

This blog is dedicated to rhythm guitarist, Malcolm Young who passed away this past weekend.

Along with his brother Angus, Malcolm founded hard rock band AC/DC in 1973. The Young brothers were born in Glasgow, Scotland before the family emigrated to Sydney, Australia in the early sixties.

This 2009 footage from the River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires shows why AC/DC is the best-selling Australian act of all time.

Rest in peace, Malcolm Young.

~ eden

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RESTLESS EARTH set to release in #NEW series by @JohnDolanAuthor

To say I’m a fan of John Dolan’s writing would be a gross understatement. He hooked me with his debut novel, Everyone Burns from his Time, Blood and Karma series, and I’ve been happily under his spell ever since.

Now, Mr. Dolan is embarking on a new series called Karma’s Children, with Restless Earth launching November 24th.

This latest book also pulls in elements from his first series.

Am I surprised?

No.

If you’ve read any of John’s first four books, you will know how twisty they can be. He’s proven himself a master of deception with a flair for unpredictable plots. He moves his characters from book to book like a chess player moves pieces across a board—carefully, with an eye for impending danger.

He’s also been known to sacrifice a few characters along the way, but I digress … 😉

I had the great pleasure of chatting with the author recently. Find out what he had to say about his writing, women, and life in general.

* * * *

Welcome John, and congratulations on the upcoming release of Restless Earth! This book is the first in a series called Karma’s Children. Can you tell us how this new series relates to Time, Blood and Karma? 

Good question, Eden. My original concept for the Time, Blood and Karma series was that it would run to seven books. However, the end of Book 4 (Running on Emptiness) was a natural watershed, so I decided to split the work into two series, with the second series starting with Restless Earth. The series title, Karma’s Children, was meant to invoke the first series, HOWEVER, I have constructed Restless Earth in such a way that those readers who are new to my writing can start with it, while those hardy souls who have ploughed through all four books in the first series will see it as picking up where Running on Emptiness left off. I hope that makes sense. If it doesn’t, it’s too late now!

No, it makes perfect sense! It’s great that new readers can hop on board with Restless Earth even if they haven’t read your previous books. I am intrigued, however, by the blurb for the new book. It speaks of four different men but does not mention women at all. Are there any women in this book?

There decidedly are women in this book. In fact, it is the females – some of whom are ‘offstage’ – who are the main catalysts for much of what happens in the novel. As in my earlier books, there are a number of strong female characters in Restless Earth. The men absolutely do not get everything their own way. Quite the reverse. Just like in real life, eh? You ladies are really the ones in charge: we men are just stupid enough to believe our own propaganda.

Ha, I’m sure women are going to love this book then! I, for one, fell in love with David Braddock, your smart-talking, somewhat damaged detective from the Time, Blood and Karma novels. Can we expect another equally fascinating character in Restless Earth?

I’m flattered that you fell in love with Braddock, warts and all. He can be an irritating smarty-pants at times (much like his creator), but generally readers seem to root for him. However, to answer your question, Braddock himself returns – perhaps somewhat chastened by his earlier experiences – as do some of the characters from the earlier novels. But there are new characters too, of various nationalities, age and sex. As to how ‘fascinating’ they are, I will leave that to the readers to decide. You can, however, expect to encounter a certain amount of mystery, moral ambiguity and black humour in this book. If you are looking for a straightforward goodies vs. baddies story, you might struggle a bit. As it says in the publicity blurb for Restless Earth: “It’s not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. And sometimes, there are no good guys.” Real life is rarely black and white, in my experience, so if you want your fiction to reflect this aspect of reality, you need to mix up the black and white into shades of grey (though not fifty shades, perhaps!).

Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, John. Your books are definitely not 50 shades of grey! Personally, I prefer my fiction a bit “messy” and true to life. That you treat readers as intelligent people who can think for themselves is what I appreciate most about your writing. 

Readers, please continue on to learn more about Restless Earth and special offers from the author. 

* * * *

PRE-ORDER NOW to get Restless Earth delivered to your Kindle November 24th! 

Available on Amazon Worldwide

“It’s not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. And sometimes, there are no good guys.”

Four men scattered across the globe. . .
One seeks pleasure
One seeks purpose
One seeks redemption
And one seeks revenge.

A wind is howling around the skyscrapers of New York, through the battlefields of Iraq, and into the bustling streets of Bangkok. It carries with it the fates of these four men: men bound together by chance and history.
Which of them – if any – will survive the tempest?

The “Karma’s Children” series will appeal to lovers of the following book categories: mystery, thriller, crime, Thailand fiction, private investigators, British detectives, and amateur sleuths.

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Special Offers from the Author

To celebrate the launch of Restless Earth Nov. 24th, John is offering several deals for readers. Unfortunately, none of them are pictures of his abnormally large penis … his words, not mine, heh (Liberally taken out of context from an interview John did with author Eric J. Gates). 😀

Of course, I’m only kidding, as John’s deals are all fabulous book-related items. Take a look!

From November 24-28, Mr. Dolan is offering:

  1. A Poison Tree Kindle e-book FREE
  2. Everyone Burns Kindle e-book at the reduced price of 99 cents (99p in the UK)
  3. Jim Fosse’s Expense Claim (a Kindle e-book short story) remains FREE

As if this is not enough, John is also giving away 3 paperback copies of Restless Earth (US and UK only) on Goodreads. Hit the link below from Nov. 21-Dec. 31 to enter the giveaway! 

From Nov. 21- Dec. 31

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Restless Earth by John Dolan

Restless Earth

by John Dolan

Giveaway ends December 31, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

From Nov. 24-28

FREE on: Amazon

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Reduced price on: Amazon

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FREE on: Amazon

* * * *

Thanks again for sharing of yourself, John, and for all the wonderful offers of your books. I wish you huge success with the new series, and I can’t wait to read Restless Earth!

Readers, be sure to connect to John at all his virtual homes. He’s a lovely man … really. Don’t let the hat fool you. 😉

Find all John’s books on:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

Website

Twitter @JohnDolanAuthor

Goodreads  | Facebook | Blog

“Makes a living by travelling, talking a lot and sometimes writing stuff down. Galericulate author, polymath and occasional smarty-pants.”

John Dolan hails from a small town in the North-East of England. Before turning to writing, his career encompassed law and finance. He has run businesses in Europe, South and Central America, Africa and Asia. He and his wife Fiona currently divide their time between the UK and Thailand.

His mystery novel ‘Everyone Burns’ is the first book in the ‘Time, Blood and Karma’ series.

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Filed under Author & Artist Interviews, Author Promotions

Music Monday asks “Are You the One That I’ve Been Waiting For?” @nickcave

Nick Cave is an Australian singer/songwriter, author, and patron of the arts. I was pleased to see his support of the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival, from which I recently returned.

“Are You the One That I’ve Been Waiting For?” is a song that reflects on one of life’s biggest questions. The lyrics are bittersweet, the video equally so, marking a journey that is often the case when searching for that special someone.

For Nick Cave, this song was rumoured to have been about singer, P.J. Harvey.

If you’re still waiting, I hope you find “the one” very soon. 🙂

Have a super week,

~ eden

+++

I’ve felt you coming girl, as you drew near
I knew you’d find me, cause I longed you here
Are you my desitiny? Is this how you’ll appear?
Wrapped in a coat with tears in your eyes?
Well take that coat babe, and throw it on the floor
Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?

As you’ve been moving surely toward me
My soul has comforted and assured me
That in time my heart it will reward me
And that all will be revealed
So I’ve sat and I’ve watched an ice-age thaw
Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?

Out of sorrow entire worlds have been built
Out of longing great wonders have been willed
They’re only little tears, darling, let them spill
And lay your head upon my shoulder
Outside my window the world has gone to war
Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?

O we will know, won’t we?
The stars will explode in the sky
O but they don’t, do they?
Stars have their moment and then they die

There’s a man who spoke wonders though I’ve never met him
He said, “He who seeks finds and who knocks will be let in”
I think of you in motion and just how close you are getting
And how every little thing anticipates you
All down my veins my heart-strings call
Are you the one that I’ve been waiting for?

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Filed under Musical Mondays