Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Slow Visiting

While lots of people like to do whirlwind trips, full of activity, we like to sink into the atmosphere of a place and learn it in depth. I guess this is in some ways like the life decisions we made to grow in place, which carries both challenges and benefits. There’s a lot that’s nice about long-term relationships with neighbors, friends, businesses, and colleagues. We chose the staying-in-place approach for a lot of reasons, though at least for me, the root reason was providing stability and security for our family--and me. Of course, while the up side is that people know and trust you, the down side is that people know you and your weaknesses, too. It’s hard to hide those over thirty or forty years knowing the same people.

We do a lot of what we think of as “spot” travel when we go places when I give talks. We stay for a weekend or a few days, hit some of the highlights and get the flavor of a place. More to our taste, though, is really stopping and getting to know the texture and rhythms of a place, as we do when we come here every year. And, of course, pretty much everywhere we go, especially non-US countries, we visit hardware and grocery stores. Lots of people visit museums, and we do that, too, but we never miss the chance to check out what the local hardware store--not a chain if possible--carries and is like. When we’re in the midst of a big project, we inevitably end up at a big chain for the variety and quantity, but for figuring out how people live, there’s nothing like the hardware stores and grocery stores. As you might guess, the hardware stores are Michael’s particular passion and an acquired taste on my part.

Both the hardware stores and grocery stores here have changed remarkably over the years. The mom-and-pop hardware stores are disappearing at a breathtaking rate, and the grocery stores carry more prepared foods now than would have been conceivable even five years ago. Two years ago, our main grocery store had ripped out a huge section of traditional foods and installed two or three huge rows of frozen food cases, something we thought we’d never see in a place where there have always been one specialty food chain (not hugely popular) for frozen food. And did we mention that the pharmacies here carry pet medicines and supplies as a matter of course?

As we prepare to wrap up our summer sojourn for the year, Michael is making one last hardware store run to do a few last fixes: window blinds, dehumidifier supplies, replacement locks for the doors that were broken into this year. I’m still struggling with the book and continuing to practice reading a little bit every day. We have some of the family favorites from years of yore here--most YA level books--and I’m trying to do some reading every day. I have no idea if this is how to retrain my brain, but it’s my current effort. Cannot hurt anything, I figure. We’re thinking of you all. Cheers.

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