Marrakech

Blue walls, cacti gardens, sweet mint tea, simmering tagines, clanging karkabas — if that’s all I told you about Morocco, you’d be left with the pleasant image of an exotic place of sensory excess. An intricately tiled doorway into a world of wonder. A beautiful adventure.

Marrakech is pretty as a picture, yes. But only if you frame it very, very carefully. And only if you ignore how your presence as a photographer fundamentally changes the posture of your subject.

I thought I was “prepared” for our two weeks in Morocco. I scrolled through Instagram hashtags. I jotted down a short list of high-priority attractions to visit. I bought ankle-length outfits. I left space in my liquids bag for plenty of argan-oil acquisitions.

I had no goddamn idea what we were getting into. Read More »

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Our Vienna Homecoming

We didn’t learn as much German as we should have while living in Vienna, but I did manage to pick up one lesson: The art of the German language is definitely not in the sound of the words themselves, but instead in the elegance of the ideas and images those words can evoke when they’re smooshed together into little linguistic Schichtkuchen (layer cakes). 

Take the word Sehnsucht, for example. Google translates it to “nostalgia,” but this seemingly simple thing is actually much more complicated — just like everything else in Austria. Break the compound word apart and the little words mean “to see,” “to investigate.” Put them back together, and you get something like “life longing,” or “a sense of separation from the imaginative experience we crave,” a translation I particularly like and picked up here.

Anyway, this nuanced sort of longing — not for the reality of an experience but for the imagined perfection of it — is something that speaks deeply to how I felt about being back in Vienna for three weeks after almost a year away. This city never became home for us, not really, but our visit made us feel like maybe in fact Vienna had been, if only for just awhile.Read More »

A timely visit to Prague

“The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!” 

I don’t usually have an excuse to quote Nietzsche on this blog, but no one sums up the repetition of experience over time quite like him. Our 2018 summer trip was all about time folding back in on itself; it was our second time in central Europe in two years, and we got to spend time with some of our favorite people from very different eras of our lives. During our six weeks abroad, we both felt time speed up in certain places and then slow back down in others. We saw how much can change in a year, as well as how little. But mostly, we felt how interconnected we are with other people and places, across timespans both long and short.Read More »

Spring Break in Tulum

Spring break isn’t just for students! After surviving a busy first semester at the University of Alabama, Matt was itching for some downtime on a beach. And, after some debate and cries of horror at the prices for the Caribbean this time of year, we chose Tulum, a small, arty town a couple of hours from the Cancun chaos.

Matt visited Tulum as a kid and again as a backpacker, but this trip was my first time to the Yucatán. Matt was struck by how much the town had changed in the last decade, and I was struck by how different it was from the Pacific coast of Mexico, where we traveled together in 2012.

Tulum is a quirky mix of New-Age wellness, Mayan revivalism, Mexican-American fusion, and … Canadians. It’s not your “typical” anything, but it is a very special place.Read More »

New Orleans Voodoo

Fall in Alabama is different than it is the Midwest. There’s no apple picking, cornfield mazes, leafing, or heavy wool sweaters here. The air is crisp and pleasant, though the roaches that sneak inside for warmth and water are less so. It’s a season that might slip by unnoticed, except for one thing: college football.

After a few weekends of battling crowds and traffic in Tuscaloosa, we decided to escape to New Orleans during Matt’s fall break from the university. We timed the trip for the weekend before Halloween, because what city anywhere in the world is better at being spooky?Read More »

Birmingham’s Avondale Neighborhood

“We picked a house close to the highway to Birmingham.”
“The real fine dining around here is in Birmingham.”
“I bought this blouse in Birmingham.”
“Whole Foods is in Birmingham.”
Lots of faculty commute from Birmingham.”

Birmingham, Birmingham, Birmingham. In my first three weeks in Tuscaloosa, I’ve already heard a ton about Birmingham — as if the “Magic City” is a Promised Land of sorts for yuppie thirty-somethings who end up in northern Alabama. So this weekend, we decided to check it out and see what all the fuss is about.Read More »