The Truth About Tagliatelle

Lilly appraised me the first morning over coffee. I was holding a book. “I’m relieved to see that you read,” she said. I had already struck down one of her stereotypes: Americans are dumb, and don’t read

Meeting your partner’s Italian mother is intimidating enough—and Lilly wasn’t particularly fond of Americans. “I will never set foot in your country,” she declared. When she was young, she loved America. But the political events of the past decade have left her feeling spurned. I love Italians, but am easily undone by their sometimes-blunt declarations.

Fitting into Andy’s Italian family wasn’t going to be easy. Even if I learned to speak the language, certain subtleties would always elude me: the micro-mannerisms and nuanced intonations, the place-marinated references and provincial worldviews. Mixing disparate families is like grafting a cabernet rootstock onto a merlot; all you can do is plant it in the soil, and hope it’ll take.

Despite our differences, by late afternoon Lilly and I had found common ground: We both loved to cook. Soon we were making dinner.

“I can teach you how to make tagliatelle.” Lilly said in her rich Italian accent. “BUT,” she qualified sternly, “you’ll need 20 to 30 years to get it right,” She rapped an egg on the edge of the bowl and let the yoke drool onto the flour. I watched carefully and wondered:

How could a recipe with only two ingredients take 30 years to learn?

She forked the egg into the flour with one hand and twirled the bowl with the other. Her short, quick strokes were like her personality: effective, fiery, sure.

“Actually, you will never get it right,” she said, changing her mind as quickly as the mixture turned to paste. She added more flour. “You must be born in Bologna to get it right. Even I was born too far south. In Puglia.”

Tagliatelle comes from the town of Bologna. The Chamber of Commerce has a glass display case which features a strand of tagliatelle rendered of solid gold, and cut to the official dimensions: one millimeter by six millimeters.

Not only must it be cut to spec, but it must be made with a specific kind of flour. In Italy, flour is classified as either 1, 0, or 00, depending on its texture. Tagliatelle should be made with Doppio zero flour, which is the finest grind and talcum powder soft.

These details seemed over-particular to me—until I remembered my favorite bread back home in Talent, Oregon. New Sammy’s Cowboy Bread consists of three ingredients—flour, water, and salt—and is kneaded and baked in the simple kitchen of a small local café. For 15 years, I toasted this bread for breakfast. But one morning, a few years back, it tasted slightly different—slightly denser, somehow chewier. The next loaf I bought was the same. With just three ingredients, what could have gone wrong?

I mentioned this to the baker. He told me they had recently remodeled the café, and were now making the bread in a different room—one with a slightly higher humidity.

“Different room, different bread,” he explained.

But back to the tagliatelle. Lilly was upset now. She punched more flour into the dough, then kneaded it again. She dumped it onto the table. “It’s too damp,” she sighed. Normally, the dough would be rolled it into a perfectly formed circle, called a sfoglia, on a wooden board with a wooden rolling pin made of a specific kind of wood. “And when it is ready, you’d blow underneath,” she bent down and mimicked the test, “and it would float up like a silk bedsheet.”

Instead, she produced a pasta-making machine. She affixed it to the counter and tightened the vice on the hand crank machine and began to run the dough through it. It went in as shapeless lumps and came out in smooth sheets. With each pass it became softer, thinner, more diaphanous. “It’s a bit too smooth,” she lamented. “Better if it’s a bit rougher. You have to have a Bolognese grandmother to do it right. I didn’t.”

Alora, we need to dry the dough a bit.” Lilly opened the doors of a low cabinet by the window, and balanced a mop across them. One by one she draped the sheets of dough on the mop handle. They hung in front of the breezy window like luminous animal hides.

Alora: You have to keep watch,” she instructed, folding the last one across the wooden handle. “They can’t get too dry.”

Our next step was to cut the pasta sheets into the stipulated 6mm strips.
When dinnertime arrived, we were instructed to be poised and ready in front of our plates. “Tagliatelle must be eaten straight out of the water,” she said, adding a bit of prosciutto and a dab of butter.

It was a meal of simple genius. Missing were the charades of spice that would have disguised a less careful cook. In a meal of so few ingredients, the critical variable is the maker’s hand. Beyond the mechanics of egg, flour and fork were the additions that couldn’t be measured in cups or tablespoons: the childhood imprints of watching Mom and Mom’s Mom at work, and of developing “the feel” for when it is not too wet or too dry, too smooth or too rough, too wide or too narrow. A feel for when it is just right.

“It’s really great,” I said.

Lilly looked at me askance. What did my American taste buds know? For after the first few bites, her brow furrowed. She had detected a problem. “I’m not quite from Bologna,” she shrugged.

Juan’s Jukebox

I landed my glider on the beach, turned to the bar, and gave Juan the signal: forearms pressed together and hands split into Y-shape of a cocktail glass. This was the cue for Juan to start making our margaritas. He knew the details: Allison’s without salt; mine with.  Both on-the-rocks.

A rumor circulated the Mexican village that Juan washed the cocktail glasses in the dirty lagoon behind his restaurant. We didn’t care. His bar was closest to the landing zone and after the steep climb to launch and our flights, we were too lazy to shoulder our gliders another step. So what if just a few trudges away, crisp-shirted waiters served up meals in pretty carved out pineapples.

Like most pilots on a flying vacation, we had a routine. The top launch was good at noon, and the sock straightened out on mid-launch around 2:00. We’d take a couple flights, then wash the adrenaline down with a margarita. Sometimes two.

I shook the sand out of my wing, packed it up, and slogged over to a beach chair. Juan flip-flopped toward me in his dirty apron and our two margaritas balanced on a tray. He set the glasses down side by side.

“Gracias!”  I said, lifting my glass. I took a sip. The rock salt abraded my lips slightly. Juan’s margaritas were the best in the world–cold, salty, gritty, like the sea embodied in a cocktail glass. Allison trudged over, dropped her glider, and stretched out on the chair next to me. Out in the bay, fisherman threw nets from their boats and a flock of birds fluttered over us like a fresh white sheet. I’d never felt a more uncomplicated happiness in my life.

We drained our margaritas and I took the empty glasses back to the bar. I fished a 500-peso note from my wallet—the smallest bill I had. Juan slammed the cash box down and glared at me.

“No change!” He went on to berate me in fast Spanish.

My mood dropped like a shot pheasant.

“Fu-fuu …Forget this place!” I yelled.

While most days Juan was pleasant, one out of ten times he would mysteriously erupt like this. At first I was bewildered, then angry.

It felt unfair. We were his best customers, dropping 80 pesos a day for a month straight. We put up with his grimy bathroom facilities—the seatless toilet and the lock-less door, the scummy hand-washing barrel. We endured the love-sick ranchera riffs that wept nonstop from his jukebox. Other pilots gave up on his place long ago, swapping their flight stories next door at Domingo’s instead.

“We’re never coming back!” I yelled.

“Adios!” he said waving me off. Juan pandered to no one.

This wouldn’t be the first time we tried to boycott Juan’s bar. Usually, by day four of the boycott, our laziness would exceed our anger and we’d end up in his beach chairs again, enduring the ranchera music and quaffing down his fantastic margaritas. Juan would pretend nothing happened.

“Margaritas senoritas,” he’d say placing our glasses on the table. In a matter of days he’d blow up at us again and the cycle would continue.

We didn’t know much about Juan, but he seemed to have a soft side. Like a crusty-version of St. Francis of Assisi, he tended a variety of animals—a stubborn mule, a brood of chickens, a few caged parrots, a dog that fetched rocks, and a cat with a freakish nervous tic. He’d even endeared himself to a wild pigeon by pouring a small pile of seed on the end of his bar each day.

Unlike the other bar owners, who closed up and went home for the night, Juan lived with his two teenagers and wife in a large canvass tent behind his bar. The local villagers patronized his placed in the evenings, often staying into the night playing cards and plunking pesos in the jukebox.

Sometimes, when standing at his bar, Juan would pull the canvass door aside and we’d glimpse his private world. Inside, an old television crackled on an upturned crate. His wife would be in there watching Mexican soap operas. She never spoke. She never came outside.

This second season, I began to joke with Juan about his moods, ordering “Dos margaritas simpaticas!” or “Two friendly margaritas”—as opposed to the mean ones. He’d laugh and play along. I began to like a few of the ranchera tunes that played from his jukebox. One evening a lover and I spun around sun-drunk to the Vicente Fernandez song Estos Celos—what pain, what love

I remember Juan sitting in a chair, his head tilted back slightly and watching. He seemed almost wistful.

“Los Jovenes,” Juan said. The young ones…

It wasn’t until our third flying season that we learned that all this time Juan’s wife had cancer. Behind that heavy canvass door, between mixing our margaritas, he’d been tending to her illness.  He’d sometimes close the bar altogether, and take the water taxi ride to hospital in Puerto Vallarta where his wife was receiving treatment.

His temper still flared, but we were more patient. Now we understood he had bills to pay. His jukebox was gone that year, replaced by a small handheld stereo.  The owners of the nearby bars were complaining that the loud ranchera was putting off the tourists. Juan’s expression grew hard and serious.

He seemed to emigrate between two worlds that season—the one outside his door where we laid in the sun drinking margaritas, and the dark dank insides of his canvass hut, which may as well been a different country. The geography of our paradise—the palm trees, the macaws, the cocktails–was the geography of real life for him. Our vacation was not his vacation.

We returned for a fourth season. Juan was there as usual, tending his brood of chickens, the tame pigeon, the caged parrots, the stubborn pack mule, the stone-fetching dog, and the nervous cat. But something had changed. Weeks went by and he didn’t yell. We didn’t boycott.

We found out that his wife had passed away that winter. Though he’d cared for her with great love and fidelity, it was obvious that his burden had grown less. He was laughing with his patrons, drinking Pacificos, and playing rowdy card games into the night. I suddenly got it: all this time, Juan wasn’t jerk. He was just a person under huge duress.

“How could we not have known his wife was so ill?” I asked Allison hurling a stone into the surf for Juan’s dog to fetch.

With the Godlike views afforded by our wings, it sometimes felt like we knew everything about that place. We knew how thermals formed over the first-blooming Primaveras in March, how wind spilled over certain ridges at noon, and how to decipher wind lines on the ocean. We could see straight down into the village and all the way across to the Marietta Islands.

But our big view wasn’t always the best view. Details got lost.

It was good to arrive last season and see Juan happy. We landed our gliders and gave him the cue. He disappeared into the darkness of his hut and came out with a handful of shiny green limes to make the best margaritas in the world.

“Dos Margaritas Simpaticas!”  he laughed, setting our glasses down. And they truly were.

*originally published in the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Magazine

Of Mice and Mold

There have been times when I’ve wondered where the line lies between long-term travel and homeless. The borderlands between the two lifestyles can be thin, and sometimes I’ve wondered if there is a type of homeless person who doesn’t think of himself as homeless at all, but rather on a very long camping trip.

I don’t have a home-per-say—just a 10×10 storage unit. But I don’t consider myself homeless. Even as we drift from place to place on-the-cheap and rootless, I tend to think of myself as on a Grand Adventure. But occasionally I’m shocked into a different perspective: I’m walking with my backpack down a dumpster-lined alley enroute to a cyber-café, and someone directs me to free breakfast at the church; Or I wake in our truck, look around, and realize we’ve been living with a rat for two months. The glue traps are overturned and stuck to the rug, the spring-loaded snappers are licked clean of their bait, and the live trap sits untriggered with a half-nibbled crouton. I get out of bed, pull on a shirt, and flinch at a newly chewed hole in the shoulder. Is this my life?

This sensation came up most recently when planning a trip to meet friends in Oludeniz, a resort town on southern Turkey’s Mediterranean. We were happy to pay the cheap airfare, but after living in a van, are unused to paying for habitation; Andy perused dozens of hotel listings and quickly entered the seven stages of grief; the costs were uniformly high. Then, suddenly, he perked up.

“Check this out,” he said, turning his laptop toward me.  “This place is only ten bucks a night.”

I squinted. The screen flashed with photos of rose petal-scattered bedspreads, flutes of champagne. The Magic Tulip Hotel.

 “Impossible.” The shoddiest place I’d found in Oludeniz was three times as much.

“There’s gotta be a catch,” I said.

Andy Skyped the agency and the price was confirmed. He was frothing to book; I was fretting.

 We paid The Magic Tulip in advance–$160 for 16 days. Weeks passed and our minds turned to other things: work, packing, coordinating meet-ups with friends. Then in preparation for departure, I pulled up some TripAdvisor reviews on the Magic Tulip. The list of horrors was unending:

Hotel from Hell, one read.

The rooms were comfortable … except for the beds, said another.

Pillows made of crushed concrete

 Vile food.

 Black mold.

 Broken water tap.


 Four cockroaches.

 Blood on the sheets.

 A death trap.

 I spent 4 days in hospital – I’m convinced this hotel played a part in the stress we had to endure as my health previous had been exemplary.

And finally:

 I would honestly say you would be stark raving mad to choose this hotel!!

Had our standards really sunk this low?

I blamed Andy who always gets suckered by the thrall of false economies. I remembered the cheap flight he once found us that arrived at 3 a.m.–after the public transport had shut down. We ended up paying $60 for a taxi. And then there was the outdated GPS he bought “for a song” which directed our truck right into the ruts of The Oregon Trail.

He directed my gaze to the photos of pedal-covered beds, and champagne. “It’ll be great.”

We arrived at the airport near Oludeniz the next morning. I sulked at the baggage claim while Andy sang Madonna’s “Holiday.” We grabbed our gliders from the conveyer belt and exited the airport where we’d catch a van into Oludeniz.

“My name!”  Andy pointed.

There, in the median, our van-driver was holding up a sign:

A.   Pagnacco

Magic Tulip Hotel

“I’ve never had a sign with my name on it,” he gushed.

We heaved our bags in the van and were off, traveling the windy mountain road curves to Oludeniz. Andy smiled wildly while my eyes teared at the prospect of 16 days of cockroaches crawling across my face in the night, 16 days of mice and mold and 16 days in paradise without the paradise. He would want to stay. I would want to move. We would fight.

By the time the van was speeding down the final stretch of highway toward the Roach Motel, my life had arrived at a crossroads: I was ready to get a real job and make real money–to start going on proper vacations. But who would hire me now that I’ve spent my “earning years” squatting in truck stops and borrowed houses?

The van pulled up to the motel and my mood lifted incrementally. Its wrought iron balconies were aesthetic. A ripe lemon tree grew near the door. We shouldered our bags and entered the lobby.”

“Welcome,” said the receptionist.

While he leafed through my passport I looked at a framed certificate on the wall:

Gold Award

Magic Tulip

Best Summer Stay

By Portland Direct

I exhaled. A gold rating? From Portland?! My (almost) home town? I pulled the reins on my encroaching optimism. The certificate was dated 1998.

The receptionist handed us the key

We ascended the steps found room 309, unlocked it, and opened the door.

And it was …


Granted it wasn’t like the photos: there was no champagne, no rose-petal covered bed. But there was also no mold blackening the walls, no evidence of rats, soiled sheets, or cockroaches. Clean towels hung from the bathroom rack, and the toilet paper holder was loaded with a brand new roll.

I hugged Andy.

But what was with the hostile Trip Adviser reviews? It was a mystery. Either the motel had pulled its act together since they were written, or someone had a serious vendetta against The Magic Tulip.  Either way, it definitely illustrated some of the problems with TripAdvisor. But that’s a whole different blog.

After a brief bask in the glow of Being Right, Andy—who gets anxious at settling anyplace without wheels—did something unprecedented: unloaded his back pack into a dresser drawer.

Let there be no doubt: For $10 per night, we were home.

Medina Buzz: Moroccan spiced coffee

It would be easy to pass over Youssef Bouhlal’s tiny shop in the Fez Medina. Its modest offerings of dried lentils, white beans, garbanzos, oil, and milk are unremarkable among the competing sights of souk. But like the plain facades that cloak the ornate interiors of the Medina’s mosques and medrassas, the splendor of Bouhlal’s shop is hidden. I wouldn’t have known about it without my expat friend, Sandy McCutcheon, who introduced me to Bouhlal’s shop on one of our Medina strolls.

“This is the best place to buy coffee in the Medina,” he said, placing his order for a half-kilo.

Boudlal, 37, upended a bag of Arabica coffee beans into a grinder and then sprinkled on an array of simple, but unexpected, spices: a pinch of sesame seeds, a whole nutmeg, a few peppercorn…

When the grinder switched off, Bouhlal held out a scoop of the coffee for us to smell. Inhaling the rich aromatic spices invoked cozy memories winter mornings, Indian chai, and holiday treats.

Although Fez is full of sidewalk cafes serving espresso drinks, spiced coffee is rarely on the menu. Moroccans mostly prepare it in the home. You can buy bags at several places in the Medina, but Bouhlal’s blend stands out both for its well-balanced flavor and its low price: just six Euros will buy you a kilo. And while blending your order, Boudlal also can converse about English literature.  He’s studied the works of James Joyce, Joseph Conrad, and Herman Melville.

His coffee is as well-traveled as his mind. Guests to Bouhlal’s shop invariably buy a stash to take home. “My coffee has traveled all over the world,” Bouhlal said, twirling a bag of sesame seeds closed.

I wondered: Perhaps there is an international market for Bouhlal’s unique blend? “This could be the headquarters,” I declared, eyeing his small stall with big visions. “But we would need a larger grinder.”

Insha’Allah,” he laughed.

Bouhlal’s small shop is located in the R’Cif souk in the Fez Medina. If you can’t make it all the way to Fez, you can experiment with your own blend at home. Bouhlal does not measure by instruments, but by intuition. Here is what I saw him add:

Seasame seeds

Black Pepper

Whole nutmeg


Anise Seed


Combine these spices with quality coffee beans and grind. Brew in a stovetop espresso maker or percolator of your choice. Cream and sugar transform this spicy delight into a dessert. Prepare to be addicted.





In Tarifa without a kiteboard ….

Rounding the bend into Tarifa, I had to revise my expectations. I’d presumed the beach town, located at the southernmost point of Spain, was a winter-escape from northern Europe. My bikini and SPF waited at the top of my bag, and I was ready to toast the sunshine with a mojito.

But as a gale force wind tried to shove my camper off the road, it was clear: this town was no simple-minded Margaritaville …

For the rest of the story, go to: The Oregonian Travel Section

Over-priced Carpets and Priceless Wisdom

Abdul gestured to heaven.

I used to work for money. Now I work for Allah. We are sitting outside his ceramic shop in one of those rare beams of sun that filter into the Fez medina at midday. Just a moment ago, he was laying on a heavy sales pitch for a tagine; now he was praising Allah.

This was not like shopping in America. The sales clerks at Victoria’s Secret or The Gap are more interested in pushing a three-for-the-price-of-two panties, –or selling their credit line–than sitting in a ray of sun talking God.

But to be clear: Abdul did have a keen interest in selling his wares. Anyone who has spent a split second in the medina knows that the shopkeepers are relentless. They call out to you everywhere you walk, and sometimes trailing you down the street.

But what is redeeming about medina is that although overpriced gadgets may be plentiful, so are spiritual truths. The salesmen of the medina are shape-shifters. One minute Yousef-Carpet Salesman is tricking you into his shop and the next, he is waxing on like Khalil Gibran.

“One day sunny, one day raining. One day good, the next day bad.” Si Mohamud was standing amidst the antique vases of his furniture shop. “That your heart is beating, this is important.” He placed his hand on his chest. “Health. It is the only thing that matters.”

Somehow the shopkeepers of the Fez medina aren’t aware of the dirty secret of all thriving capitalist societies: that happy people don’t buy things. Dissatisfaction–not gratitude—is what fuels consumerism. Tell them they are not thin enough, blonde enough, or young enough and their wallets will turn inside out. And lose the Insha-Allah, that laissez-faire sentiment that turns our fate over to the Higher Power. Tell them that with the right pair of skinny jeans, they can be the master of the universe

“Enjoy every second. For you do not know when and where you will die,” Rashid counseled as I leaned toward the mirror to inspect a pair of silver earrings and formulated my bid. My heart leapt. He’s right! I plucked the earrings from my lobes. What am I doing spending money in this dark shop I should be out on the sunny rooftop, watching migrating storks and the springtime hills.

 It’s not just wise words that you find in the medina, but also wise postures. Old men in djallaba lean all day against weather-stained walls, content as horses turned out to pasture. They occupy sidewalk tables, taking in the scene over cups of mint tea that never seem to empty. On my way home each day, I pass the same plumber taking the same seat of repose in the same chair. Such postures don’t exist in America. There, time is money, and everyone must fiddle with their cell phones, be eating, or be on their way somewhere. In the contented body-language of the Fassi lies a sort of somatic advertisement for Simply Being.

No shopping trip is perfunctory in the labyrinthine byways of the medina.  The sacred and the profane mix like intimate aromas and aggressive sales pitches are in no way at odds with spiritual pursuits. False guides bamboozle you into tannery tours en-route to the mosque. Carpet sellers sing Hamdulla! and then rob you blind. The wisdom of the ages echo off walls hung with overpriced kitsch. You set off scouting for a roll of toilet paper, and suddenly find yourself standing in the center Si-Mohammed’s antique shop, spellbound by his wisdom, and giving thanks for the very beating of your heart.

For more stories from Fez, visit The View from Fez


I’d been in Fez two days when Uri, a gal from my hostel, unfolded a map on the breakfast table and invited me to join her tour group for the day. I balked.

I don’t like formal tours—the sight-seeing, tight schedules, and gift shops leave me feeling flat. Plus, I had my stereotypes: Uri was from Thailand and her friends were from Indonesia and Korea. In my experience, Asian tour groups spend a lot of time taking snaps. And they probably had jobs in tech and would want to talk computers.

But by the time we finished our eggs and coffee, I was convinced. If we pooled our money, the tour would be cheap. Plus, the last couple days in the medina left me feeling like a walking wallet. Grouping up afforded protection from the aggressive street touts in the way that schooling protects fish from sharks. It’d be easier to get around.

 Our first stop was a museum. Uri and I walked down a freezing cold hallway lined with glass-encased heirlooms: an old sundial, some rusty earrings, tattered rugs. But both of us were more interested in the living than the dead inert objects of the past. We found our way outside again.

We strolled between rows of mint and orange trees, and talked about Thailand. I was there last year. My recollections were largely culinary: the crunchy streetcart Tom Sum, the ubiquitous phad Thai, the milky-sweet iced-teas that were my afternoon ritual. And, of course, it’s impossible to not remember the prostitution–the absurd upside-down universe where old-pot-bellied “Sexpats” strolled the streets with young tottering Thai women.

What’s the deal? I asked her. Is this really just “part of the culture” as I’d always heard (often from the Sex-pats themselves)

She flinched. Started to speak and stopped. A flash of adrenaline stuck her for words. The issue seemed close to the surface, and I felt bad for bringing it up.

”This is just the tiniest portion of the population,” she seethed, “but everyone thinks that all Thai women are easy sex.” Once, a guy sitting next to her at a conference turned to her and declared they would be having sex. And she is wary of English teachers in Thailand, unsure if they are viewing her in sexual terms.

There are many versions of Thailand, but in her version, prostitution is frowned upon and getting together with a foreign guy is questioned. But she added a caveat: sometimes real love blooms, and isn’t given proper credibility. A friend of hers is in a legitimate relationship with an American and struggles with the disrespectful assumptions people make about their relationship. Everyone is sure she is just after his money.

“Is this really what outsiders think of us–that we are just sex?”  she asked.

I had to admit that sometimes it seemed that way. Not a week went by on Facebook without someone announcing they were going to Thailand followed by a chorus of comments: “Don’t forget the condoms!” or “Have fun. Wink-wink.” And, even my own travels there left a strong impression: I’ll never forget the Twilight Zone that was Pattaya: an entire boardwalk lined with girls and old men—some even shuffling walkers—trolling for evening company. Admittedly, this was a huge tourist area.

“But people think of a lot of other things too,” I countered.  “Great beaches, kind people, gilded temples.”

After the museum, our group moved on to a café. As we sipped our mint tea, our discussion of stereotypes broadened to include the rest of our group: two were Muslims from Indonesia, and the other from South Korea. I mentioned that I’d just finished reading Ayann Hiri Ali’s book, Nomad, which although reflective of Ali’s own experience, seemed to fan many of the West’s greatest fears about Muslims: the oppression of women, forced marriages, genital mutilation, extremism.

Bowo shook is head. These stereotypes did not fit the Muslims he knew in Indonesia.

Noka was also Indonesian and had studied in The States—in a small Pennsylvania town. He said that sometimes people asked him if he had a television. Or, worse, if he lived in trees. One person asked if he drove to the U.S. from Indonesia.

“What is the stereotype of Americans?” I asked.

“Ignorant,” he said.  We all laughed. Though the stories about American naiveté often seemed exaggerated, it might have been the truest stereotype at all.

Afterall, I just had to consider the stereotypes I’d started the morning with: that we would spend the dull day posing for photos and talking about computer programming. Instead, we experienced what travel does best, which is rattle the rust off our world view that accumulates when we stay in one place for too long. That morning we’d left the hotel as a Thai Prostitute, a Suicide Bomber, a Primitive, a Techie, and a Moneyed Ignoramus, and returned as real people with real names: Uri, Noka, Bowo, Hyo and Christina.