I'm fortunate that I'll be on sabbatical in the fall. As a result, I've taken two drastic actions.

1) I died my hair blue. Well, technically, just a swath of my hair is blue, but it was still something I probably wouldn't do during the regular school year.

Kathee with Blue Hair
Kathee with Sabbatical Hair

2) I've moved back to Oslo. I'll be here on and off for a few months, escaping the heat, enjoying an urban environment, reconnecting with friends, studying Norwegian, and working on my project with very few distractions.

Although I've been back in Norway several times since living here, it feels different this time around. I suppose one of the differences is that most of my friends are on holiday for the month of July which means that I've been left to my own devices, to some extent. I've been reading a lot and started creating my sabbatical website today (I'll be working on a digital humanities project)--but every day, I make sure to take long walks, exploring both the immediate neighborhood and other parts of the city.

Today, my walk was incredible. I worked most of the day, so this evening, I decided to retrace my favorite walk from when I lived here: down Drammensveien and then along the fjord. However, when I got to the part of my walk where I usually turn back towards Aker Brygge, I decided instead to keep walking on Bygdøy peninsula, taking a path along the shore, then venturing into the more rural landscape complete with cow pastures. It was incredibly beautiful and I felt some regret that I hadn't taken these paths before.

Drammensveien and Bygdøy
Drammensveien and Bygdøy


A couple of weekends ago, my neighbor Lori and I decided to go to the coast for the day. We chose Big Sur as our destination. We drove (a lot), hiked to see McWay Falls in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, sat on a bench and philosophized about life as we looked at the striking scenery, and took a lot of photographs of the gorgeous, gorgeous ocean.


Recently, I went to Guadalajara and Oaxaca and discovered dishes I'd never seen in Mexican restaurants in the U.S. Who decided that a taco was worthy of an American diner but entomatadas weren't????? Mexican cuisine is so varied, so interesting, so delicious. It really is a shame that restaurants here in the U.S. reduce Mexican food to tacos, burritos, and enchiladas.

While I was in Mexico, I tried the following:

Chilaquiles (tortilla chips cooked in tomato sauce served as breakfast):

Tlayuda (a crisp tortilla--think tostada--covered with beans, lettuce, tomato, avocado and topped with cecina, cured pork):

Sopa Xochitl (soup with squash, sweet corn, and squash flowers):

Sopa de guia con chochoyotes (soup made with chayote squash leaves):

Entomatadas (think enchiladas prepared with a tomato sauce rather than a sauce with chile):

Sopa de nopal (soup made with prickly pear cactus):

Chile en nogada (this dish at Azucena Zapoteca in San Martin Tilcajete was a stand out: poblano chile stuffed with picadillo and raisins, topped with a walnut cream sauce and pomegranate seeds):

Sopa de Azteca: (thick broth with tortilla chips and chunks of cheese and avocado):

Guajolote con Mole Manchamanteles (turkey served with a mole sauce made of chile and fruit, banana stuffed dumplings and corn fritters eaten at the wonderful Los Danzantes):

I loved each one of these dishes and wish that I could find them here in Fresno. Yes, I bought a cookbook. Yes, I already own a cookbook by Rick Bayless. Yes, I know about Susanna Trilling. I guess I'm going to have to start cooking . . . as soon as I lose the pounds I gained eating this delicious food in the state of Jalisco, Mexico.

Restaurante Azucena Zapoteca
Highway 175 to Puerto Angel (Km 23.5)
San Martin Tilcajete
Oaxaca, Mexico
(951) 510 7844

Los Danzantes
Macedonio Alcalá 403-4
Centro Historico, C.P. 68000
Oaxaca, Mexico
(951) 501-1184

I arrived in Lisbon last night after a long hiatus. Over the years, I'd read about Lisbon's makeover for the World's Fair in 1998, and I also wondered how being part of the E.U. might have changed the country. I settled into my hotel, walked down to Rossio to eat my form of a madeleine (a pastel de bacalhau--a codfish/potato/parsley croquette), and wandered down to the the Praça de Comercio at the edge of the Rio Tejo. And this morning, I wandered all over the city--from one bairro/neighbhorhood to the next.

There's a lot here that seems very much the same. I've seen evidence of poor medical care and poverty. I've seen a city that can look old and dirty, if one prefers the pristine. And, yes, I saw a man urinating on the street this morning.

Even so, the Portuguese have such charm. I loved watching some women get a sidewalk cafe set up this morning, dragging out tents and laughing at someone's story even while they were doing quite physical labor. When the Portuguese work, they work hard, whether it's women scrubbing their front steps or men serving lunch in a hectic cafe. The waiter scurrying back and forth, on his tiptoes as he quickly grabs plates and turns to bring them to their tables. Yet still, they gab, they laugh, and their movements are so centered, so balanced, as if plates never drop and bodies never ache at the end of their day. We Americans (and by "we" I mean me) can be self-conscious to the point of awkwardness.

And this city, oh, this sun drenched, busy, lively city. The winding streets of Bairro Alto--I don't think I could intentionally find my way back to anywhere I went in that neighborhood today. The cobblestone sidewalks arranged with such attention to the decorative. The breathtaking views from the tops of Lisbon's seven hills. And the tile . . . everywhere the blue, the white, the yellow. Narrow slabs of buildings covered with tile, sometimes missing sections or fading from the sun, but still so beautiful.

I don't know yet how Portugal has changed in the last two decades. I don't even know if I love this city (after all, I didn't live in Lisbon . . . I actually lived mostly south of here in much smaller cities). But I do love being here: drinking in the sunlight, trying to speak my very rusty Portuguese, eating Portuguese food (soup with veggies and macaroni, bread, pork, french fried potatoes that looked like homemade potato chips, and pineapple--needless to say, Portugal didn't get the memo on the Atkins diet), and just being who I am and where I am right now.

So I end with a picture of where I had breakfast this morning. I bought a pastel de bacalhau and a pastry--and sat in a square close to my hotel. The Praça de Alegria. The square of happiness.


Clearly, I've stolen my title from the Elizabeth Bishop poem, a poem I love. I think of this poem when I travel, especially the last two stanzas which read:

"Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one's room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?"

The questions that Bishop poses here resonate with me. I love to travel, but I sometimes wonder, especially right now, about the tensions that my travel decisions involve. Those tensions often lead to feelings of dislocation, wherever I am. I think there are times when I actually find comfort in feeling dislocated. It's so much a part of my life.