(I thought I hit “post” after writing this on Dec. 31…it wold appear not 😉 )
When I was a teenager and would go out for New Years Eve (thing which usually consisted of walking around Baltimore Harbour killing time, thumbing through things in open-late shops until the fireworks went off at midnight–when I was 12 or 13 I went with a friend and my father actually let the two of us loose (surprising behaviour for my parents)– we took the ferry to the other side of the harbour, to a neighbourhood of dubious repute full of sketchy beerhalls. We found an open greasy spoon inside the market hall by the ferry docks and pooled our money to buy two huge, golden yellow piles of french fries, doused in salt and vinegar and ketchup. We were young and innocent and excitable. The taste of freedom, the taste of the forbidden, for me, will forever be linked with the taste of salt and grease licked off newly defrosted fingers. We jumped on the ferry to go back (now the price is higher on New Years Eve, but ten years ago it was lower) , and suddenly it veered out into the dead center of the harbour. We didn’t know quite what was happening until we realized it was 11:59. We watched the fireworks display from about as close up as you could go, inside a heated boat, for less than the price of two twelve-year-old girls’ Christmas money.
It was during those periods of killing time that we started playing the months game. For every month, what is the thing I most remember???
January- walking along the wreckage of the Champs-Elysées at dawn on New Year’s Day in Paris, after a night dancing at the Huchette .
February-My wonderful Balkans trip– seeing a zebra in the snow at the Zagreb zoo, tasting Bosnian coffee, blundering into the men’s section of a mosque in Albania (oops!), climbing with my Couchsurfing host up a concrete disco that should have been a mausoleum, getting to know the sheer weirdness of Albania.
March- meeting Frédéric, at the Communist bar in Nimes…
April- Seeing my first bullfight, in Arles with Rob. The 20-year-old girl alone in the arena with the bull, the dagger, and the crowd at her fingertips.
May-Spontaneous trip to Lausanne with Katherine, pedal boating and getting sunburned.
June- Seeing Tiken Jah Fakoly live in Neuchatel, seeing skinny pasty-white bourgeois Swiss teenagers that looked for all the world like ski brats, rocking back and forth and shouting “Ouvrez les frontières, ouvrez les frontières!” It warmed my heart.
July- Meeting my wonderful Burundian colleagues Bosco, Jean-Charles and Félicie…there was also the wonderful “moving on” party for me and Katherine at Simon’s house, and Claudine and Madame Aissatou were there. They are wonderful people.
August- So many Burundian memories! The sweetest would be going out dancing with Antoine and Pierre and Pierre’s cousins. A stranger tried to steal Antoine’s and my wallet simultaneously. Antoine, normally the calmest, steadiest guy imaginable, punched the guy in the jaw. So many other memories! The handover of the supplies, Averie’s spontaneous trip to Buja and the little reception we had, how happy everyone was…
September- Spending my birthday in the air, meeting my two wonderful roommates and exploring my beautiful city after 40 grueling hours of travel. My last days in Burundi were no less memorable…
October- Trip to flooded New York City with the team. Trekking 75 blocks in howling wind to meet with our equally intrepid colleagues at Associated Press. Meeting Pascal the web editor from Burundi– in Washington, and sharing several beautiful evenings with him and a colleague from Gabon! Meeting a Rwandan colleague– in Brooklyn! Finally sorting out a rough disagreement with Damien that began as a spat about money and then turned into a truly twisted row about personal honour, exacerbated by misunderstandings and Facebook. Needless to say, when we got it sorted out I slept soundly for the first time in weeks.
November- One day, after a long night at the radio studio working on a segment on the coffee industry where N-O-T-H-I-N-G seemed to go right, Frédéric called me and I picked up the phone and shouted at him. For the first time since I met him, he got sincerely angry. We’ve spoken maybe four times since then…it’s tough.
December- The looks on the faces of Gaston (our radio advisor) and my radio colleagues when I finished the segment on Didier’s project for Burundian street kids.