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Speaker Introduction. Thank you, thank you very much World Affairs Council. I think I should have a new nuclear treaty with Iran or something to be here, but just have instead a kind of world love affair with travel. I've been on a book tour for this new book and have really been enjoying hearing so many other people's travel stories. I was just talking to Carrie about India and I could barely even come out here cause I wanted to so much more about India, which is the next place on my list. Thank you so much for inviting me here. It's a wonderful place to come in the middle of the city and have a literary event or a treaty with Iran or whatever. This book, A Year in the World, is about twelve different countries that I love. They are places that I have always fanaticized about living in. And the book came to me on the train between Cortona, where I live, and Florence, where I was going for the day. It was one of those kind of delicious times where I'm through with one project but had not yet started with another. And in those times you feel very open to things and I was kind of wondering what am I going to do next and had my little notebook out and was writing down colors and Italian words and that sort of thing and the beautiful Tuscan landscape was flashing by the window. And I was looking out and I saw some chickens pecking at an olive grove and a little sheep, fold of sheep and the acclivity of a hill, a hill town silhouetted against the sky and five nuns packed into a Fiat and I was looking out the window thinking how much at home I felt. I love the Tuscan landscape, its always new to me, after all the years I've been in Tuscany the whole place is actually still new. You need ten lifetimes to explore Italy, it just is a place with so many levels in time and so many layers of art, culture, everything that it always seems absolutely new. I started going there regularly in 1990 when I bought this ruined house that had been abandoned for so many years, and restored it. And I bought the place thinking it would be a great place to write, it would be an escape, that it would be a wonderful place for my family and friends to come visit, it would be a wonderful place to cook and just a retreat but what I did not anticipate at all was that over the years, it became home to me. I always thought if real home in way south in Georgia, where I grew up. But over the years in Tuscany it has become home. So I was looking out at the landscape thinking how deeply familiar it seemed. And at the same time that it seemed like some place I would want to be forever, I suddenly found myself writing in my notebook Spain, Egypt, Portugal and I said out loud "Portugal" and I had this sudden image of a blue and white fountain, had a little whiff of Arabic spices and could almost hear that cry of the ---- in the distance. So this thing surfaced in me that has been a motif of my life which has been intense domesticity, love of home, passion for the garden, passion for the kitchen and then on the other side the desire to G-O, to close the door, to slam the door, and go out. That immense desire to travel is kinda an unusual sensation, I think. Its, it doesn't have a word, really, in English for it. You think of wanderlust but that's a real imported German word and when I hear wanderlust I think of somebody with a little alpine hat and a stick heading off into the Alps or something. But there is that morning when the big turtles set out from Africa to Brazil, there's that morning when the monarch butterflies start heading out toward Mexico and when a little bird in the nest decides to catch that first air current heading south towards Florida. I think that is the kinda word, that kinda X word, that missing word that I would love to have is the word for that kind of passionate, migratory instinct, but um that word doesn't really exist. I first felt the kind of the roots of that word, when I was growing up. In this little town, we didn't go anywhere except to the coast of Georgia or sometimes to Atlanta, which we considered heaven, like equivalent to going to heaven. But, because in this little town there wasn't a whole lot to do I was a big reader. I spent most of my time in the little brick library. And the first books I remember reading there were from this shelf long series of orange back books called The Finish Twins, The Mexico Twins, The Eskimo Twins and from those books I got a kind of glimmer of all these places in the world that I knew absolutely nothing about. So its interesting to think back in your dim past how certain things, where you see the roots of certain things. The first book I remember buying was called Sally Goes Traveling Alone, and it was about a little girl like me who took the train to visit grandmother and it must have been a counting book of some kind cause she had five possessions and she was kind of maniacally counting these possessions over and over- one, two, three, four, five but I thought the little picture of Sally, sitting on the train with the window right beside her I thought, what a girl, she's off on the train by herself. So those roots are fun to trace back. On the train I was staring at my notebook having this kind of primitive, primitive urge and I thought at the time, it would be great to write a book about traveling and to write it as I go. The book is in the present tense because of that and I decided that if I set off with my books, my boxes of books, my little voice recorder, my notebook that it would be like some kind of mythological quest. It would be the goddess setting off with the quiver and bow. So you get these kind of grandiose schemes now and then as a writer. My husband always says "have you had caffeine?", cause caffeine gives me illusions of grandeur and sometimes I get them even without caffeine. A little bit later than the train ride, I was walking on the beach with Ed, my husband, in Sardinia, and I suddenly said to him. What if we didn't go home, what if we just kept traveling, what would happen? And I think those kinds of questions that come out of nowhere usually come from some very deep instinct and they can be kind of fatal emotions that they reveal. This little question ultimately resulted in both Ed and me quitting our university jobs in the Bay area and striking out for the territories. All our friends here said, are you nuts? Two tenured jobs in the Bay area? But we just didn't look back because I think there is no finer sensation to me than a new place. All your molecules awaken and your seventh and eighth senses come alive along your spine. Those are the sense that can detect how different the world can be. I guess at the World Affairs Council, they might sometimes talk about the global village and the global economy, but I do not believe in those two concepts at all. I love to travel to see differences and to seek out differences, not to look for what I already know or not necessarily to make my self comfortable. But I think that kind of travel, if your open to it, you realize still how totally different places are and how powerfully they shape the people that are there. I think it was Lawrence Durrell who said, "If the Visigoths wiped out France and settled there, in three generations they'd be French." And I believe that. I believe that the place itself intertwines so much with character that a place is shaping force. And when I travel I love to look for those forces that have shaped the people who are there. When you are writing about a place, writing about the bend in the river Seville or that prayer hum in Fez or about that amphora at the bottom of the sea, you try to recreate the experience in words and to me that is the big pleasure of being a writer an it's the pleasure of creating images. A Chinese poet, an ancient Chinese poet said, "to create an image is to be alive twice" and I've always felt that about writing. If you can, and you can't always, but if you can create that image you have doubled your possibilities with living because you have your experience and then you recreate it in words and it gives it a different kind of dimension so you get to, you get to live twice, and then of course there's the possibility that you connect with other people as well. So on the train I remembered that quote from Rilca, and I used to say it to my students who might have entered the program, creative writing program, not as good writers but with a very strong instinct that they wanted to write, and I would say to them this quote from Rilca, "The future enters us in order to transform us long before it happens", and its very intriguing to me to think of those moments when you feel the future enter you and you begin this process of transformation in order to do whatever it is that the future is calling out for you to do. The journeys in this book and I guess all my journeys have a similar art. There's that time of preparation and anticipation, its delicious, your gathering the books and your talking to the people about where you're going and spending long hours on the internet looking up obscure facts and just imagining that's the main pleasure, imagining what its going to be like and then you get there and who could imagine the adventures that your going to have those days of freedom are charged exactly like the days of an early romance for me. Some of the things that I could not have imagined that I would do would be snorkeling over sunken Byzantine ruins, drinking wine and floating down the Yon river in a row boat, finding myself in a magic potent shop in Madrid, cooking with a chef in Lisbon, falling under the spell of a Turkish rug dealer and walking out with nine rugs. Meeting the family who discovered the lost roots stock from Roman times and started a vineyard. Waking up in a Garden of Eden sunrise on Tara mina, seeing baby Constantine lifted from the baptismal font full of olive oil deep in the Peloponnese, being stranded in a Greek mountain village and hiking in 110 degree heat for miles, sleeping to the sound of a Moorish fountain in Seville, and the down things of course happened too, I'll never forget the horror of looking down from our ship that we were on and seeing people floating in the water, they had been dumped by someone who was supposed to be saving them from Albania, so these people were fished on to this ship, and just these kinds of reminders come to you in travel of the complexity of peoples lives while your maybe just kind of sailing by. The arrivals in these places are always very intense. I tried to stay a month in most place, I didn't with all places, but the month seems to me to give you that sense of home easily so. I found all the departures quite wrenching because each of these trips was so special for us. Then the third part of the arc of travel is when it curves downward and you find yourself back home. This is the transforming time, this is where you come back, you lay down your quiver and bow on the hearth and you begin to see how you have been changed by this trip and you begin to appreciate how much you have learned, cause that is to me the primo thing about travel is that wonderful learning curve of the whole experience. The last chapter of my book is my attempt to say metaphorically, what I mean by transformation and how travel is transformative. I would like to read some form my chapter called "Fez inside the color spectrum". I decided to write about Fez because most people, when they go to Morocco they go mainly to Marrakesh, sometimes to Casablanca or along the coast. But not so many people go to Fez. When I got there I found out why. But it turned out to be one of the, one of the top travel experiences I have had and I'd like to read some sections from this chapter. We had flown from Rome to Casablanca on a huge plane that had four other people on it and we landed in Casablanca and we had hired a car to take us to Fez which was supposed to be three hours away, but the car we had hired turned out to be a thirty-year old Mercedes that was held together by Scotch tape and the driver. I think he knew it had a problem. It was 104 degrees and I said, "could you please turn up the air conditioner" and he looked very uncertain and we got on the road and it immediately started overheating. So he would get out and flag down people and they would give him bottles of water to pour into the radiator. And then they didn't stop after a while, it kept overheating, he was so optimistic though, each time he poured in a bottle of water he thought the problem was solved, and Ed kept saying to him "thermostat", but finally he scrambled down into a gully and got some muddied water and poured it into the radiator and that just about did it. So we had to call a taxi from Fez. So we are let out right at the gate to the Fez Medina, which is vast, I thought it would be a small area like a market or something, but the Medina is the old city of Fez and it is immense. So we are met by Hafid, the manager of the house where we're staying. Because we're examining the concept of home in all these places and what it would be like to be at home, we tried to rent houses and apartments and settle into the place insofar as that is possible, instead of staying in hotels. We tried to have some kind of quest in each place like searching out Flamenco roots and the meaning of Flamenco and the culture or in England it was gardens and the English, kind of relationship with gardens. Each place had its own focus, but for all of them it was the concept of home that I was interested in. who are these mysterious people? Who are at home in this place and how could I be at home here? What does home mean? So we were staying in this wonderful little place right in Medina, we never could find our way, it a true labyrinth, but Hafid, the manager of the house, and he came to meet us, now he loads our bags into the hand cart pushed by a boy, immediately I see that when we walk through this blue gate we will enter into a different world. Laden donkeys with muzzles made from plastic water bottles stand passively under loads of barrels and stuffed sacks. The acrid odor of live wool burns the air. A few red, petite taxis dart in and out of the square in random patterns weaving among men and "jalobas" and pointy, opened back, yellow shoes. In Italy, donkeys are gone, here the donkey reigns. Hafid is handsome with large eyes straight from a Byzantine painting, eyes the same true black as his hair. He's dressed in jeans moving agily through the gate and into the jammed lanes of the Medina. Cars would be impossible, not only are the streets narrow, the minute kiosk shops have goods piled outside their doors. People crouch along the edges selling CD's, socks, potatoes, tissues, lighters. Ed points out that among the things for sale are squares of chocolate from a candy bar, single disposable diapers, and singles cigarettes. Ever few feet holes deeper than graves in the cobble street impede progress. Men with picks chop around ancient water pipes in search of a leak or blockage odors dating back to the Romans, rise from the depths. Dirt mounds around the holes must be climbed over, no one seems to have the concept of waiting to pass. Everyone plunges onward from both directions, a chaotic traffic jam of people and donkeys a melting pot with everyone melting. Somehow no one falls in. Hafid and the boy carry the hand cart over their heads. Every few minutes someone calls out "balak" which I quickly translate, learn to translate as, donkey about to thunder by. We would need -- thread through the labyrinths to find our way out of the Medina. Hafid darts and branches down dozens of streets often it seems, doubling back. I would like to see a map. The streets, I say to Ed, are like those rubber insides of golf balls. More like the intestinal tract of Mohammed, its visceral. Time made a detour around Fez. Yes, cross through that gate and you've stepped into the twilight zone. Balak, balack. I've always loved Morrocan food, its one of my favorites of all the cuisines. I love that book by Paula Wolfert, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco. I always have those good, little preserved lemons in my fridge, so I couldn't wait to go there and try all the wonderful things that I have never attempted to make. And Hafid knew that we were very interested in food so he brought over his cousin, a young woman named Fatima, to show us how to make the real Moroccan tejine. And she arrived and set up this little hibachi type of thing, only it was made of clay on the roof of the house. And she unpacked her bags and she just set up this little kitchen and started cooking. And I'm shocked when Fatima peels off her --- and continues to cook in her long cotton undergarment, it was really hot, but she was totally covered and I was very shocked when she striped down. Under that I see that she has another layer of something. I'm warm in a short sleeve linen shirt. The fire burns slowly now and the tejine cooks on gentle heat for another hour. We drink mineral water and look out over the Medina at sunset. Ed asks, "are you going to get on the plane carrying one of those tejines on your lap?" Yes. Why does it have that carnival type hat? While steam collects on the inside of the cone and drips down on the meat and vegetables a self basting process. I make that up but it might be true. Fatima's tejine looks like beef stew only layered. Basically yes, but with a liberal use of spices. Ah he says a stew with attitude, we had some wine. If we were in the Median would lightening strike us or a donkey mow us down? Fatima pulls some jars out of her bag and serves some eggplant spread and a tomato and cucumber salad with small round loaves of bread. All over the Medina, I've seen children running with boards covered with cloth. Rashid our guide says, "everyone still makes their own bread dough then they send it to the bakery" Peering inside one I saw the children's boards on tables stacked on warm loaves of bread ready to be picked up. Every tiny quarter of the vast Medina has its own bread ovens. The flat, face-sized loaves are perfect for the salads, spreads and juices of the tejines, We dined under the moon. The tejine retains the separate taste of each vegetable and the meat is tender. We dip all the bread into the bottom, soaking up every drop of the sauce. The medina turns oddly quite at nite. Considering the density I find it odd that no t.v. blares, that no one on an adjacent roof plays rap music and no voices shout out, sing or squabble. The people fold themselves into their houses the way they fold themselves away in their clothing. Fatima dismantles her makeshift kitchen, dawns her -- again and gives me, not Ed, a big hug. She solemnly shakes Ed's hand, not looking at him, and goes home to her family. Three hours later Ed becomes violently ill. I am alarmed at his fever and clammy skin. He spends the night in the bathroom throwing up. His stomach feels ripped and turned inside out. After six hours of this he calms but still feels on fire with pain. He's vacant, his eyes swim, he's so weak he can't lift his arm. I'm on the phone calling our doctor in Italy, who says this is probably simply food poisoning not salmonella since the heaving has stopped after only a few hours. I write names of medicines he recommends, hoping Hafid can help at the pharmacy. I remember the rag Fatima rung out in the bucket. I remember the ground meat at lunch. But I feel fine, in fact unusually energetic. Did you brush your teeth with faucet water, I ask. He doesn't answer. Hafid arrives and says Ed ate too much, it often happens when guests come to Fez because the food is so good, maybe. By mid morning, Hafid has found various pharmaceuticals and Ed is sleeping as if in a coma. I try not to think of the man that dies in Paul Bowles novel, The Sheltering Sky, leaving his neurotic wife to become a harem prisoner. The lure of the exotic for innocence or rootless people always seems to end badly so the gods have conspired on this trip. For the next three days, Ed does not emerge from the ---. I go out for the day with Rashid and we bring him food he does not eat and bottle after bottle of water which he forces himself to drink. His state seems beyond illness, as though he has fallen into a trance. Without Ed, I find a different dynamic with the place and with Rashid I follow behind him and am distracted with a pile of hoofs or iron lanterns for sale. I often miss his turns and suddenly stand in a swarm of people where streets meet having no idea where he is. But he comes back, I wonder how odd this must be for him, out all day with an infidel woman who constantly pauses to see the man who sells forks fashioned from horn, his tin items spread on a table the size of a platter. And the real estate agent in his cubicle with twenty iron keys to his listings hanging on nails behind him. And the tomb carvers chiseling epithets on marble headstones. "Anyone has to taste death", they write. Rashid says, "a good Muslim visits his dead every Friday." Brilliantly tiled public fountains for water are everywhere. Surely someone has published a book of photographs of these long basins surrounded by sliding patterns and colors, some of which date from medieval times. They still draw women with buckets and children holding out plastic bottles. Rashid says they have water at home but this saves them from paying. I tease Rashid, "do you want a second wife?", I ask. I know men are still allowed to have four. One is enough and who can afford two women? "Why", is say, "would any woman put up with her husband bringing another wife into the house", this is the first edged question I have asked him. He answers smartly, "maybe the first wife might have children" There is a law he says proudly, that you can not just throw away the wife. What if I wanted two husbands, or four? He smiles in Arabic. He explains the difference of a --- no hood and a -- with a handy hood for protection against rain or dust or heat. I had always thought women, being covered up they way they are, is just something horrible and inconceivable. And this is just a small instance of how when you travel often your stereotypes that you have, and everyone carries stereotypes, how they can be knocked open. The clothing begins to make sense. At first I thought it seemed as if everyone was in their bath robes. Quickly, when my dust allergy awakened and the wind felt like a hairdryer aimed at my face, I begin to wish for one of those mysterious veils. The sun and dust are formidable. The loose and light robes look elegant. Certainly comfortable while protecting the wear of the elements. I follow Rashid's --- and almost imagine that I am wearing one myself. The women in the narrow streets flow, a river of color saffron, burgundy, sage, pistachio, peacock blue threading the crowds, Nile greens and mustard parting, rust, magenta, emerald merging, tomato read, ochre and all the earth colors. The occasional white worn by a woman in mourning. Some are secluded, occluded behind black veils. Some wear modest scarves and some neither. The concatenation of colors repeats and rings in the food stalls. Mulberries, figs, dusty capers, leafy coriander, mint, burlap sacks of gold and turmeric, dates, bloody haunches of camel, and stacks of sheep's and goat's heads. Rashid says, "everyone loves the goats heads. First you singe off the hair, then thoroughly clean out the maggots. Cumin and hot pepper, very good for breakfast when its hot and spicy." I will be skipping that cooking tip. The whole pale pallet of lentils, couscous, dried fava beans, semolina, chickpeas and sesame recall the colors of the dessert. The food stalls reflect the abundance of the table. The love of bold tastes. The agricultural richness of the slopes of the atlas mountains. A donkey lumbers by carrying a load of spiny artichokes the size of dates. I stop to photograph the goat cheeses on palm leaves. Rashid says everyone eats camel meat once or twice a week. We stop into an herb store. Rashid says the owner is a special person you will see. --- Khalid, a pale man with a slight hunch, introduces himself and shows me his oils and hennas and barks. He holds up to my nose something that looks like yellow erasers. The musk gland of the gazelle. The animal rubs against a tree and we then gather the glad, he tells me, it will scent your drawer for two years. He has drawers of colored rocks on a high shelf and explains that they ward off the evil eye. I pick off a packet of the forty spice seasoning called --- which translates as heat of the shop. "How do you feel madam?", he asked me. "Very good" "People come to me if they have problems, I have things to make the baby, I have argon oil against arthritis, I have things also for the cooking. Here give me your hand." He rubs my hand between his, then holds his hands an inch away from mine, above and below. I feel a definite warmth emanating from his hands. He is staring into my eyes. Oh no, the lure of the exotic. The odd thing is when he moves his hands away I feel a sudden shiver. "Now how do you feel?", he asks. "Wonderful", I say. And I do. A fresh push of strength forces down my back, through my legs like an adrenaline rush. All afternoon I experience an euphoria, a feeling of bodily force I knew in childhood. All the place I had mentioned earlier were places I had dreamed of living in at some time in my life. And I think that my dreams about Morocco were probably the oldest concept of home being kind of mysteriously intriguing from this time in my past that ends this chapter in Morocco. We were going back to Casablanca to catch the plane to Rome and we were whisked to Casablanca where we see nothing but a fringe of harbor, palm trees and the hotel which we reach in the dark. In bed, Ed recounts the whole movie Casablanca to me. When he sleeps, I think of my sister Nancy, when she married, her husband had just graduated from the University of Georgia and had become a --- in the Navy. They were assigned to a base near Rabat in Morocco. From way south in Georgia, in that time, our family was stunned by this posting. We took out the atlas to see exactly where that remote outpost on the globe might be. She sailed away knowing that our sick father would die while she was gone. Soon the letters arrived with descriptions of bur burs and hot springs in the dessert and the bleak navy base. Her son was born there. I was fourteen. I devoured the letters. My sister and her husband were allowed to travel around the Mediterranean Sea on a Navy ship that call for several days in Marseilles, Naples, Athens, Cyprus a list of over the rainbow names. I followed the trip through the rose aqua and yellow colors on the map. My mother cried when pictures of Boo the baby arrived. He was held by a dark woman with sparkling eyes. Jewelry on her arms and ankles and henna tattoos on her hands. Now, late at night in Casablanca, so many eons later, I can follow my sister and her husband around a -- see them young again, intent on buying a leather hasik. They drive off in their minute -- across a plane that looks like an enormous loaf of bread. And then through sesame fields, mint fields, the forest of -- oak, back to that dot on the map where they started their life together. This afternoon we must have passed the left turn they took. The loops, the stops, the intersections, the unrolling, the catching up, the intertwining, the following the leading in a life all more mysterious than the rotations of stars. And my mother, whose radius of travel was short, tied the letters with ribbon and kept them in her desk. "When you get the chance" she said to me, "go". Thank you.