Friday, August 21, 2009

Our 1st Anniversary: August 12, 2009

I swam laps for an hour in the morning while Andre went to the gym. Starting out around noon, we had five hours to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We decided to go to Carmel-by-the-Sea, a 45-minute drive down the coast, since Andre had never been before.

Coastal Highway 1 is always scenic and relaxing. We stopped in Seaside for Mexican food (Andre's favorite other than Haitian food), then went onto Point Lobos, "The Greatest Meeting of Land and Water in the World," according to their California State Park website.

Many great photographers, such as Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, have been inspired by Point Lobos. We mostly took photos of each other and asked others to photograph us together, to commemorate our anniversary. We hiked up and down and admired the harbor seals -- the stubby cousins to the more elegant sea lions who hang out around the Santa Cruz municipal wharf and "Seal Rock" by our lighthouse.

We also visited the Carmel Mission, one of California's 21 missions built along "El Camino Real" in the late 1700s by Spanish padres. Supposedly, they're all a day's walk apart, starting in San Diego at the Mexican border and ending in Sonoma, just 20 miles north of San Francisco.

I showed Andre the cemetery, the Indian museum, the chapel, the gardens, and the gift shop. The Santa Cruz mission is one of the few that no longer exists. It was destroyed in the mid-1800s by a combination of neglect and natural disasters. The Holy Cross Church was built on the original site, while a half-size replica stands facing Mission Plaza, next to the Catholic school.

I hadn't been to Point Lobos or the Carmel Mission since Maya died. I remembered all our visits to those places and the beautiful photos of happy days together. I asked Andre to take a picture of me in the same spot where I'd held baby Maya for a photo 11 years earlier.

I would have liked to show Andre the cute little shops of Carmel, the art galleries, and the white-sandy beach, but we were out of time. At least we saved something to see next time.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A visit with cousin Dana and wife Huei-Lan

On Saturday, I was so excited to meet Huei Lan, the new Taiwanese wife of Dana, my 2nd-cousin-once-removed. For those who don't understand 1st, 2nd and 3rd cousins once and twice removed, here's how Dana and I are related: His mother Janet and my grandma Leslie were first cousins. So Dana and my mom were 2nd cousins. I'm one generation below, so he's my second cousin once-removed. Janet and I are first-cousins-twice-removed. But in reality, I'm actually quite close -- not so removed -- to her. Maya also appreciated her exuberant personality and the packages that arrived by mail for birthdays and hanukah.

Janet lives in New Jersey, just across the bridge from Manhattan and used to visit frequently until recent health problems. She especially liked to prepare a huge Passover feast in Dana's condo in Newark, CA, about an hour away from here. I've been to Dana's place many times, but he hadn't been to Santa Cruz for 10 years, not since Maya was a toddler.

He's been promising to bring Huei-Lan for a visit, ever since they met on an internet dating site 6 years ago. You might think internet relationships are bound to fail, but this one is a winner. Huei Lan has a PhD and is teaching journalism at the university in Tapei. Her English is excellent due in part to two years of graduate studies in England. She's traveled to about 10 countries already and is eager to see more. We really hit it off, as she admired my antique furnishings, even the old Wedgewood gas stove, and wondered about shipping one to her country. She asked Andre to take a picture of us in front of our house, which she fell in love with at first sight. She told Dana that if they live in the U.S. together, she would love a house like mine. Even though his mother in NJ doesn't like the idea, most likely Dana will accept a teaching job in Taiwan, at the university where Huei teaches.

I shared a video of old Bronstein home movies, with a small snippet of Dana's mother at a family reunion around 1959. My mom was a teenager then, his mother a bit older. We called Janet in NJ as a surprise, since she's always nagging Dana to come visit. We asked her about the family reunion and she guessed -- correctly -- that she was wearing a green dress. She knew because she didn't have many dresses in those days. That one must have been very special. Janet also loves antiques and family history. I was happy to tell her that Huei shares these interests.

It was a gorgeous day, so we walked down the wharf to watch the seals lounging around the piers and on a small dock. We enjoyed some ice cold drinks and clam chowder at a lively outdoor cafe, watching the sail boats drift by. Afterwards we made our way through a very crowded Boardwalk. The hot, sunny weekend brings half of San Jose "over the hill." Also, as Dana guessed, it could be the economy. People are staying closer to home and the Boardwalk is admission-free.

We walked back along the San Lorenzo River levee and then window-shopped and people-watched on Pacific Avenue, our main street. The street musicians and colorful Santa Cruz characters were out in full force. Huei kept commenting on what a perfect location I live in. She said that in Taiwan you have to be rich to live so close to the seaside.

Andre got to meet them briefly before he left for work at Safeway. By the time he got back last night, they had already left, but I was able to share their romantic wedding video with him. Even though Dana and Huei just registered their wedding in Taipei at city hall, they signed up for a package deal with a company that supplies wedding outfits, does the make-up, hair and a 1-hour photo session, then presents you with a beautiful slide-show on DVD, accompanied by the music of your choice. What a great idea!

I hope it won't be 10 more years before they come back to visit. Or maybe I'll be going to Taiwan to visit them.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

June 22-25: Our last few days in Haiti

Our last days in Haiti were lazy ones. We invited Andre's cousin Sherley and sister Beatrice to swim at the Villa Imperial Hotel with us. Sherley had fun using my laptop and wi-fi to upload the pictures I took of them to her website in Hi5. We called on the computer with Skype to a cousin in Montreal -- home to over 100,000 Haitian immigrants.

I read a couple of books while I was in Haiti, often by kerosene lamp at night. One was the autobiographical story, recommended by Oprah, of a survivor of the Rwandan holocaust called "Left to Die." The other was a great book called "Haiti in Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture."

We also ate a lot of mangoes because they were in season, very cheap, and very sweet.

We spent most of our time with Andre's family. Big brother Joel liked showing off his little sister.

One day I realized that all of Andre's immediate family was at home. I got out my camera, so we could take some group shots.

Left to right: Andre's mother Maude, grandmother Jesula, stepfather Mathieu, brother Johnny, sister Beatrice, nephew Joel on sister Marjorie's lap and me. Brother Reginald in front. Below, Andre with his brothers and stepfather.

Mathieu with his daughters Marjorie and Beatrice:

Me with Andre's cousin Joanne. I started tying my hair back because most of the Haitian women wear their hair that way.

I took a few more photos on the way to the airport.

We got a ride to the airport with a friend of Johnny's, whose car broke down right in front of the terminal. We tried to push-start it with him, with no luck, until he insisted we get on our way.

Our 300 pounds of baggage had mostly been given away. We'd hoped to return with some Haitian art, possibly to try our luck on eBay. But we hadn't found anything we liked. So we boarded the flight home with just two day packs and the clothes we were wearing.