Tuesday we broke away from the conference grounds and made it to Starbucks. We went with a group of people also attending the conference, since I’ve always found that caffeine bonds people. It was a small café, so we crowded round a tiny table with every free chair in the place and had a great time. Best of all, we had decent coffee for the first time since Friday morning in the Casa airport, and we bought a little cafetiere (travel size) and some coffee, so we can make our own now. I ground the imitation coffee called Maxwell House beneath my heel in contempt! Ha! We’re still stuck with the styrofoam though. Then, as if that richness wasn’t enough, that evening we broke out again and went to a Barnes and Noble that is—be still my heart—going OUT OF BUSINESS and having a 20% off everythingintheentirestore sale. Wow. I was incredibly good; Donn was impressed. I only bought one book, to read on the plane, since we’ve going back to pack our house up anyway so it’s not really the time to be buying loads of books. (sadly) I also did very well at being suddenly confronted with millions of books for the first time since last summer—I did wander about in a daze, but I think I disguised it as simply browsing. (The book is called “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter.” Anyone heard of it or read it? It looks good, but I’m saving it for traveling.)

Most of our days are filled with meetings. We are really enjoying the conference grounds though. It’s a really beautiful spot. I find myself sitting through seminars with my eyes fixed on the windows, watching a gentle rain, the trees tossing in the breeze, birds flying by. On our walks between buildings, over bridges that cross rain-swollen streams flowing from small placid lakes, we’ve seen turtles and huge frogs watching silently and suspiciously with bulging eyes. Snakes slither by (fortunately for the eardrums of my companions, I haven’t seen any myself) and of course there are lots of fluffy-tailed squirrels and chipmunks and butterflies and irises.


Yesterday evening, a group of us went to try a local specialty—water ice. That is not a typo, and no, they don’t mean ice-water. Water ice. This is obviously a name from before marketing really became a concept. What is it? Sort of like Hawaiian Shave Ice, but not nearly as good. The ice is more finely shaved; in fact, more like water ice, if those two words had meaning together. I had Bordeaux cherry, which had chunks of cherry in it, and that was the best. Then we went on to Starbucks, for a grande decaf cappuccino, dry, for here. Those are some words that, when strung together, simply sing. Last night a group of us played boules, or pétanque. This game is popular in France, and we sometimes play it in Mauritania on the beach. This time we played it on a baseball field, and it was like a totally different game. Those metal balls can get a bounce in them from a tiny hillock, for example, and on the packed dirt or whatever it was round the bases, they’d really roll. Once we got the hang of it, we had a lot of fun.So we’re enjoying ourselves, keeping busy, and counting the days till we see our kids again.