Graduation and More, Kyoto Style!

It seems like my husband, Barry, just started attending Spalding MFA’s Creative Writing Program, but this July, he graduated in Kyoto, Japan. That means there are two — yes, two — Spalding grads in the house!

What an honor and privilege to be there to cheer on all of his hard work, hear him do his graduation reading, see him receive his well-earned hood. Barry, I’m so proud of you. Much love!

A highlight of every Spalding trip is spending time with writing friends, old ones and new. (Please, no comments about my hair. Let’s all agree that it does not travel well and leave it at that.)

I’m passionate about architecture, and Japan’s was refreshingly different from that of most countries we’ve visited. We were staying about ten minutes from Toji Temple, so we took an early stroll one morning to view both the temple and its extensive grounds.

The group took a day trip to Hiroshima. It was, as you can imagine, a sobering experience. We heard a survivor talk and we visited the various monuments and museum.

There were more casual gatherings, like the night a group of us went out to karaoke. We gathered in a room, maybe a dozen of us, at a long table. Passing down drinks and mics, we ended up singing most of the songs together. Lady Gaga songs were a favorite, as well as songs by the Beatles. Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of the evening, but it was so much fun!

Here are miscellaneous shots of our hotel. I spent time writing in the lounge pictured. The hotel had kimonos and Samurai outfits for us to try on, so of course we did.

If I’m not mistaken, I’m the student/alum who has been on the most trips with Spalding. I was on the program’s second trip abroad, and have been on every trip since as a student or an alum. While Barry and I are welcome to go on any future trips we want, it will likely be a few years before we go again. (Which isn’t as sad as it sounds, because there are plenty of places in the U.S. we want to visit.)

I’ll close with random photos from the trip and try not to cry when I imagine not getting together with our Spalding family abroad soon. I’m sure we will go to homecoming in Louisville, though, most years. At Spalding, you’re always family.

Greece Is the Word…

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Barry and I have just returned from two weeks in Greece. What an historical time to be there, during the referendum! We saw some protesting in Athens, but we never felt concerned for our safety.

In Crete we were put up at the gorgeous (yet many staired) Fodele Beach Resort. From evening beach singalongs to iced coffees on the beach (a new obsession of mine…and I don’t even like coffee), the trip was regenerative mentally, physically, and spiritually.

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While Barry was in class, I spent time revising my manuscript on the beach, an iced drink at my side, slathered with sunscreen, wearing my fun new swimsuit. (It was much more fun wearing it and its interchangeable tops than it was finding it for sure.) Somehow I managed to make it through my whole manuscript, I am happy to report.

One of the things we treasure most is traveling with our Spalding MFA family. We were able to visit with current writer friends and make new ones. Sometimes I think we need to start a colony! Complete with daily journal readings, yes?  SPLove, that’s what we call our family feeling. 🙂

You knew I’d have to mention the food. I, an olive enthusiast any day, went mad for them in Greece. I’m pretty sure I had them every day. In Crete I did a taste test one day of several kinds. Ah! Souvlaki (shish kebabs to us) was familiar and inexpensive. Fresh pita bread, Greek salad every day (just tomatoes, cucumber and feta with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar, if desired). I bought some tomatoes and cucumbers today to make some tomorrow.

We had delicately baked lamb chops and perfectly roasted potatoes. I ate more than my share of baklava which, may I say, is so much better in Greece.

I discovered Greek honey and it was so good I thought I’d lose my mind. I wanted to bring some home and yet typically I do not eat honey and so I knew it would be too tempting. Sigh. But let me say I had croissants and honey aplenty while I was there!

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While in Greece I received the best massage I have ever had. The young woman who administered it (complete with warm olive oil, of course) didn’t speak much English and so I was spared having to talk when all I wanted to do was relax. She did something amazing with her lower arms across my aching back. I always try to get a massage when traveling, because traveling is hard on the body. And because massages are awesome. This one even more so!

Barry and I are both El Greco fans, and so we particularly enjoyed our hike to the Museum of El Greco. Well, we mostly enjoyed it — I’ll break that down into its own post later, I suppose. I’m writing a short story about El Greco based on our being situated in what is believed to be the town he was born in.

The Greeks were so welcoming, so jovial and lively. (Those of you who know my husband know this is his way, too, and I enjoy it.) Listening to their language is hearing music. I was glad I didn’t know what they were saying so I could enjoy listening.

It’s difficult to write one post about such a layered experience. I could write multiple posts on the beautiful, ever-changing Aegean Sea or swimming in the rocky Sea of Crete, of being seduced by the sound of the waves late at night, of stumbling across a tiny, blue and gold decorated chapel on an early morning walk.

I could also mention our stunning visit to Delphi or Cape Sounion (and the temple of Poseidon) at sunset where the poets read a poem by Byron right in front of where Byron carved his name into the temple’s block.

Then there were those fervid talks about Woolf, Vonnegut, and more over Greek cigarettes. Cocktails and more lit talk. Readings and more cocktails.

Intellectual stimulation, food for the stomach, heart, eyes and brain, nothing was lacking.

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Us at Cape Sounion

For that matter, I could probably just do a pictorial record. Live long and prosper, please prosper, dear Greece!

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Hadrian’s Gate

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The Parthenon

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The Byron reading                                                   An olive tree at the Acropolis

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The Aegean