Pawing through a suitcase…curling cramped in an airplane seat…feeling stark pop-eye awake in the middle of the night…feeling draggy deadish in the middle of the day…making a living through traveling and speaking has its agonizing side. Once I had just returned from Ethiopia and was sitting with my three-year-old granddaughter on the couch while her parents ran out to do a quick errand, and she wanted a piece of mango. I couldn’t even dream of getting up and walking over to the sink and doing something as complicated as peeling skin off that complicated fruit, so I told her, “The mango isn’t open.”
The next morning, she woke up, leaned over the side of her bed and earnestly said, “Grandma, the mango isn’t OPEN.”
I was pretty impressed with myself for impressing her even in my groggy jet-lagged state.
But as I’ve written before in this blog, travel has its delights…jolting us awake and alert, carving us open to the world around and the world within, making life feel anything but ordinary.
In Abu Dhabi, we took a tour of a sumptuous palace where dignitaries hold their meetings and people can sink into luxury. (There’s a vending machine that dispenses gold.) One of the other people on the tour was from Kuwait, and she loved having the tour guide take pictures of her at every stop. I liked taking pictures of the picture-taking. Words…images…somehow help our jumbled, jangled cells make sense of all the new stuff.
I’ve had the chance to do presentations about my books or about Ethiopia Reads in some pretty cool spaces, too.
One was a planatarium, under the dome of the sky.
This weekend, a volunteer organized an Ethiopia Reads event at the Birmingham zoo. During my author visits in Birmingham this week, I heard about the man who had turned the zoo around–turns out he spent time in Rwanda with Dian Fossey and her gorilla work, and he’s bringing Africa to Birmingham.
I loved the animal show. I loved seeing my grandkids helping hold the Burmese python.
(We heard there’s such horror of snakes in this area that if one of the local news organizations prints or runs an image of one of the zoo snakes, subscriptions fall off by the hundreds.)
I shared the story of Lanie, my little science lover of a character who longs to do something exciting for animals–the kinds of things Dian Fossey has spent a lifetime doing–and discovers she can make a difference with birds and monarch caterpillars. My daughter-in-law jumped in and handled the book sales. My grandkids helped with the orangutan experience.