Me and Megan: Partners in Colorful Crime
The Husband and Me
Just like Gustav Klimt’s THE KISS… except slightly stickier.
It’s hard to believe it, but the husband and I are already 17 months into our two-year tour in Suriname. That’s a fair chunk of time, but for all we’ve experienced here, one activity still stands out as the clear winner: Holi Phagwa.
As I wrote in my first post on Phagwa, this festival is an important Hindu holiday marking the defeat of evil and the triumph of light. Celebrations are held annually in the Palm Garden park, with musical groups playing, food and beer for purchase, and a tiny train for the wee ones to ride.
My favorite part, however, is the excuse the holiday presents for chunking things (i.e., brilliantly-hued powder) at colleagues, family, and friends. I mean, as adults, how many of these chances do we get (at least without being carted off by the Five-0)? Continue reading “Holi Phagwa 2018: Revenge of the Colors”
Anybody who’s ever lived far from home knows that receiving mail takes on a new–and rather enormous–significance. This was true when I left my beloved Texas for my mid-west college. And it’s even truer now that I live overseas. I’m not the only one to feel this way, either: If ever you want to see a group of adults in suits sprint, just holler “mail call” in an Embassy. Then get out of the way. Otherwise, a herd of diplomats will run you down.
Ready to raise the giddiness level even higher? Well, just let this gal rip open a mystery envelope to find a book containing this: Continue reading “Mail Call!”
Giant molten chocolate column.
There’s nothing like living overseas for a year-plus to make you appreciate being home for the holidays. This past month has been a whirlwind of visiting American friends and family as the husband and I have ranged from down south in Texas, all the way up to (what this Texas gal considers) the Far White North of Indiana. Although both of our overseas posts–China and Suriname–celebrated Christmas to some degree, the American Christmas experience is truly unique. In no other place that I’ve lived has the holiday been as sugary, extravagant, bustling, or glistening as I’ve found it to be in the States. Traveling home to share in all that chaotic cheer gives me an effervescent kind of happiness.
One of the moments on this trip that quintessentially captured American Christmas was a stop at Albanese candy store, AKA Santa’s Workshop. Some of our dear, Indiana-based friends took us to this massive–and I do mean massive–sweet shop in western Indiana. The instant we crossed the threshold, we ran into an almost palpable wall of warm, sugary scent. The sights were equally dazzling, with banks of home-made chocolates (maple truffles, malted milk balls, chocolate-covered animal crackers, turtles, haystacks, etc.) and endless bins of rainbow-colored gummy candies (did I mention that their gummy bears are home-made?! From scratch?!) Vintage-style candies lined the back of the store, and an extra wing of the shop boasted a glorious array of glittering Christmas baskets and speciality items. And as if that weren’t enough, a gigantic column coated with flowing molten chocolate stood sway in the midst of all the Christmas sparkle.
Considering all the temptation around, I was pretty proud of the fact that we walked away with only two packs of bubble gum cigarettes (a nostalgic favorite of my husband’s) and 1.5 pounds of chocolate candy (peanut butter meltaways, chocolate-covered cookie dough, and chocolate almond toffee). I’m also grateful that the Suriname to Indiana commute is long enough to prevent our being regulars at Albanese. Because my waist-line cannot take that abuse on a regular basis!
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My “Birds of Suriname” series. With some 700+ species in Suriname to choose from, I may be adding a few more fowl to this flock in the future.
A very tropical collection by Frankie Martodikromo (also a member of Suriname’s Ministry of Defense.)
A gala tickets: Cutest event name!
My first art exhibit! Hence my taking everything but the kitchen sink. You know: Just in case….
Our new addition: “let me feel,” by Doro Nuyken.
An atmospheric painting of a white lotus by Soeris Dipai.
Because no gala is complete without a few gorgeous floral arrangements.
For my artist’s placards, I prefer the term “handwritten chic” to “unprofessional” or “home-made.”
That red “sold” dot is ours! The artist generously dropped the price a wee bit… but it was still an expensive night for our household!
Beautiful portraiture by Jona Giovanni.
A macaw taking flight, again by Overdo Berghout.
Another work by Soeris Dipai.
The ornately carved pieces hewn from tropical timber and the rainforest-themed painting make this Suriname in a snapshot.
Gorgeous work by Overdo Berghout. The top painting is one of my favorites, as it captures so beautifully the gaiety and freedom of Surinamese celebrations like Owru Yari and Holi Pagwa.
A series by Doro Nuyken.
Close-up of one of my paintings: “Mallards at Dawn.”
Check it out–that’s my name! To SIS, I’d like to say: Thanks for having me!
My offerings: two originals and two prints.
On this blog, I’ve mentioned a time or two that I paint. But it’s purely for my own enjoyment (and the occasional gift-giving to family and friends). I make no claim to being a professional artist. Let’s be honest: trying to make it in the arts can be a heartbreaking business. Attempting to carve out a writing career is artistic excitement enough for me.
So I imagine how honored I felt when one of my dear friends in the Embassy community invited me to participate as an artist in the gala she was throwing to raise funds for one of Suriname’s international schools and a cause it supports: a local home for underprivileged children. Internally, I balked a little at being labelled one of “seven of local artists” (I’m not an artist! I just happen to have a few tubes of paint lying around my house!). But the idea of getting to showcase a few pieces was pretty exhilarating stuff. Continue reading “Art, Auctions, & Wine: Oh My!”
Here for purchase: all the colors of the rainbow.
A view of the site of our frivolity: the Palmentuin (or, Dutch for Palm Garden).
The Phagwa necessities: colored powder, water, squirt guns, and Heineken.
A view skyward, at the beautiful day we had for Phagwa.
I may have told the husband he looked like he’d been performing surgery on a Care Bear.
I’m an Oompa Loompa and he’s a grape–a match made in Heaven.
This Phagwa brought to you by Heineken. (About 2 seconds after this photo, my beer was turned leprechaun-green by a well-aimed shot of Phagwa powder.)
Proof we’re not the only multi-colored weirdos.
Exhibit A: Evidence that we did not skimp on the powder.
A successful sneak attack resulted in a rather rosey back.
When riding this ride, don’t forget your safety googles….
Because you’re going to need them if you want this chic reverse raccoon-eyes look!
My purse may never be the same.
A different type of “tan” line.
Hard to believe this T used to be pale blue….
A week later and some of this pink ink is still hangin’ ’round.
Being in the Foreign Service has meant living in and traveling to lots of unique spots. I’ve had the immense privilege of enjoying many adventures. Among these, some stand out as particularly cool: visiting an ice festival near China’s border with Siberia, holding a baby tiger, and tromping around the Great Wall definitely make top tier
Last Monday saw a new addition to that list: celebrating Holi Phagwa, Suriname-style. It might not have been quite so adventurous or once-in-a-life-timey as scaling ancient Chinese fortifications, but it was just so fun. Because what adult doesn’t enjoy an excuse to fling colored powder on friends and strangers alike, sans repercussions? Continue reading “Holi Phagwa 2017: Hilarity & Hues”
This gorgeous, peculiar thing is the pod that holds all that cacao goodness.
Chocolate tea & a chocolate cupcake. Hard for me to be a happier girl.
Those purple beans (aka nibs) are the fresh, natal version of what becomes chocolate.
Cacao tree flower–from which the pods apparently grow.
Our work table. Let the cacao-powder producing fun begin!
Cacao nibs, empty husks, and chocolate powder (post-nib-grinding accomplished via mortar & pestle).
Spices to adorn our cacao powder (from the spoon and moving clock-wise): cinnamon, ginger, anise, cayenne, cloves, nutmeg.
Our chocolate bar tasting score card–just like a wine tasting!
Half a cacao pod, looking kind of like a mangled space-ship. The flesh around the nibs is actually pretty tasty–a flavor akin to lychee.
Because what would a Dutch/Surinamese-run business be without a pair of wooden shoes?
Our baby cacao trees! (Note the nibs on the stem of the nearer plant.)
Our tree to bar chocolate treats.
Chocolate-crafting in action.
I may have mentioned this before, but my writer-self tends to make me a bit of a homebody. Left to my own devices, I burrow anti-socially into whatever authorial project I’m currently engaged with, avoiding distraction (i.e. people) at all costs. Upon taking a quiz to determine which of the six types of writers I am, I scored as 100% weird recluse (with only a 33% dash of Ray of Sunshine to cut the Yikes!). That kind of says it all, I think.
But these last few years, I’ve made an effort to try to prioritize people, experiences, and adventure, as well as my writing. So I’m always grateful when friends who are cooler than I am come up with un-pass-up-able activity ideas.
A few weeks ago, this meant a visit to Tan Bun Skrati, a chocolate-making operation run by Rutger (Dutch) and Ellen (Dutch-Surinamese), a husband-and-wife duo. Built upon traditional cacao-processing techniques bequeathed to Ellen via her Surinamese mother and grandmother, Tan Bun Skrati offers workshops as well as various cacao-oid products (teas, chocolate bars, wine, vinegar, etc.). This operation is run out of their home, a quaint dwelling set behind high flowering shrubs and heavily-leaved trees–so well hidden, we passed it twice before realizing where it was. Continue reading “Cocoa & Craftsmanship”
Christmas came a day early! On Friday, we were reunited with the books we sent to storage, pre-China move.
Husband and me, aboard Christmas Lights-viewing party bus.
I don’t have much time to be domestic these days. But I’m glad to have made a few hours to bake Christmas Even sugar cookies with husband. (Note the flour stains.)
This particular Christmas setup may become a year-round feature in my office. Nice inspiration for my Prohibition-era novel.
Full bookshelves at last!
Christmas wishes a la Surinamese lights.
You can take the girl outta Texas (and transplant her to Suriname). But you can’t take Texas outta the girl.
A penguin and buffalo-riding Santa make a temporary home of the bookshelf.
Giant Christmas Tree in Paramaribo’s Independence Square.
Some incongruous Christmas decor. Local Surinamese orchids, and exotic, cold-weather Christmas penguins.
It’s never easy being away from home during Christmas. My in-laws very graciously let me bawl my eyes out with no judgement the first time I spent the holiday with them in the Mid-West–my first Christmas outside of Texas. And bawl I did.
But being countries, rather than states, away can feel even stranger. I’m happy to report that Christmas is more of a thing in Suriname than it was in China. It’s more organically part of the culture, rather than a recent, Western addition. (China appears to have adopted Christmas in a mode similar to the way it’s adopted Starbucks). But no matter where you are, Christmas overseas has its side-effects, if you will. In the photos, you’ll notice the scrawny nature of our Christmas “tree.” (I’ve taken to calling it our Christmas shrub.) This sad little tannenbaum is a bi-product of my forgetting to order a tree from the States until it was too late, and there being no real ones locally available in Suriname. Similarly, I think my Indiana-born husband is having a tough time squaring 85°F with its being Christmas. (This is pretty typical for me, being a Gulf-Coast Texan.) There are lights in the house, eggnog in the fridge, presents and stockings wrapped up brightly… so why is he wearing shorts instead of sweaters? Continue reading “Christmas in Suriname”