Every night after a day full of teaching high schoolers English and early AM wakeups from the azan and roti roti vendor—along with horns, backfiring motorbikes, and the never ending village yet city-like sounds in my Indonesian home—I would land on my couch with a good book. Books from care packages, overpriced expat stores, and the few that made the cut on the weight-restricting journey from America. Cicaks fell from the ceiling onto my pages as I melted in the oppressively humid air while daily thunder earthquaked my stucco walls. I would read throughout the night, usually by headlamp, as my power and water just happened to peter out between 9 and 10 pm. I would only stop in between paragraphs to murder the intruding palmetto bug or hop on my bed and scream until a scorpion retreated underneath the cracks in my house’s foundation. It was those nights of Indo-pirated Glee episodes and imported Mac & Cheese and Jell-O that I met Stephanie Plum and Sookie Stackhouse. While I loved my time abroad, sometimes, I just needed a break. These bounty hunting, vampire-loving girls were my new friends–even though I had more than enough as the one bule in all of Depok.
Lonely Planet Indonesia offered more chances to escape and explore the 17,000-island country. Friends and I trekked through Indonesian rice paddies and forests unprepared in flip-flops in an attempt to see the famous flower that smelled like a dead body when in bloom. Our guide refused to show us the way out until we paid him. Not deterred, we continued on to taste kopi luwak, straight from the cat’s, well you know… LP is how we ended up searching for a specific restaurant carrying red bull mixed with snake blood. Hours later, turn the corner to a field with a folding table, banner with said “restaurant” name on a wall, and a moving canvas bag. You can only imagine what was still alive and slithering inside. But really you don’t have to when the owner decides to let them out and asks you to pick. Like a cat, we have many lives.
Books have always enhanced my life.
It’s when you find yourself searching for a statue in Granada, Nicaragua that you are supposed to rub for good luck, and you learn that it is now an ash tray outside of a hotel. This realization occurs after several exchanges in multiple languages that neither party speaks fluently paired with a few crazy looks and hand gestures. The hotel staff point at the ash tray/trashcan?! and watch like Italian grannies with curtained windows as you stick your hand out, committed. You rub. You rub because LP told you to do it, and you make a wish. And… your boyfriend at the time still decides to marry you.
This sensation is reading Bill Bryson before you go to England or for a walk in the woods, and beginning a new relationship with the help of Roald Dahl. Visit a chocolate factory; watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Heck, your Sicilian family owns half of the bakeries in all of Montelepre; you are a living Charlie. Then, read James and the Giant Peach and watch the play twice in two different states just to realize how dark your childhood favorites truly are.
It’s a Little Prince tattoo with the prince lying on a patch of grass staring at his rose and his fox. The tattoo artist tells you that only Smith girls come into his shop looking for nerdy book designs. To which you want to recite and hence crack out the book:
For me you are only a little boy just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you have no need of me, either. For you I’m only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me we’ll need each other. You’ll be the only boy in the world for me and I’ll be the only fox in the world for you…You see the wheat fields over there? I don’t eat bread. For me wheat is of no use whatever. Wheat fields say nothing to me. Which is sad. But you have hair the color of gold. So it will be wonderful, once you’ve tamed me! The wheat, which is golden, will remind me of you. And I’ll love the sound of the wind in the wheat. ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It’s the same quote you made reference to in your first Fulbright essay and are told to re-write the entire piece because it will not translate for its obscurity. Then, 6 years later, you find yourself working at a library snacking away in the break room with a staff member who never speaks to anyone. Yet, one day she learns of your Little Prince obsession and writes you a note with her favorite message from the story, adding a note about the original versus the translation. Of course, the original is better. Shocked and heart swelling, you just smile.
It’s the book character pumpkins you made every year with your Teen Library Council (TLC).
And reading the juvenile nonfiction book What Was Pompeii? (your favorite kids nonfic series) and deciding that you must find this dog:
Or reading and watching Under the Tuscan Sun before deliriously drinking Chianti in Chianti. Thank gosh the bus did not let us off in front of a villa with a vendesi sign.
Books connect us and change us. I was never sure what I wanted this blog to be about, but then I thought about how books and travel are a large part of my life. If I could do nothing else, I would read, eat, love, own many cats, wine and beer taste as much as possible, and travel at every opportunity. In effect, this blog is a combination of book reviews and travel journaling with a librarian-esque touch. Reading maps, read alikes, you know, references and such might sneak their way into posts.
As for me: I’m a librarian gone rogue, an educator, an urban nonprofit program manager, a MLIS student, a Smithie (Chapin House ’06), a Fulbrighter (Indo ’09-’10), a pilot’s wife, a literacy volunteer, and an active member of some professional library organizations hoping to live a fulfilled and spirited life with a few good books.