Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Meeting your spiritual kneeds since 1917

Image from www.portugalvirtual.pt. Because I forgot my friggin' camera.

We started our most recent trip to the Iberian Peninsula in Lisbon, partially because none of our party (Amynah and I, her mother and brother) had been before. Also, Amynah’s Mom wanted to visit the town of Fatima*, site of a miraculous apparition by the Virgin Mary in 1917.

Fatima’s a few hours north of Lisbon, so we rented a car and headed for the hills. It was clear day, if a little chilly in the highlands. On arriving at the basilica, I was surprised to discover that there was no parking to be had anywhere – all of the many capacious parking lots were packed, with cars spilling over onto sidewalks and grassy medians.

It wasn’t until after we parked and started making our way to the church that I realized that my parking-related curses, even if under my breath, were particularly blasphemous: it was a Sunday, and all of the other cars blocking my way were actually bearing the faithful.

Anyway, this is how I ended up attending my first mass** – barring weddings and funerals – in approximately twenty years. As luck would have it, we arrived at the giant outdoor mass just as they were passing around the host (we all declined a bite).

After the show ended, we wandered around the space, checking out the statue of Mary that bears a crown in the centre of which is the bullet removed from Pope John Paul II in 1980. I didn’t get a look at that, but I did see a number of pilgrims doing the rounds of the enormous facility on their knees.

Now, call me a purist, but I’d always thought the whole point of such stunts was to suffer, thus proving your devotion. So it’s stuck me as a bit of a cheat when I noticed that all of the self-abuse was ameliorated by… kneepads.

What’s next? Velcro crucifixions?

*At the risk of some understatement, as most of my readers know, Amynah’s Mom is not Catholic. However, a holy place is a holy place in her book and, as she put it, whether you’re using Canada Post or FedEx the message will get there in the end.

** Though far from my first pilgrimage, as I’ve noted before.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spring has sprung...

... and dumped a freezing load of karma on my head. We haven't seen a hint of snow all winter here, and now that it's officially spring it's all they're forecasting for the entire week. This is what I get for bragging, in every postcard, about the twenty plus degree weather we had while in Spain.

I'm sure my Canadian readers are choking with sympathy right now.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


We'd done this same trip just nine months ago, and driving in Spain's narrow old streets, tires scraping the curbs on both sides, is never fun. However, seeing Amynah's Mom wander around this place - the oldest building in Spain and formerly the largest mosque in the world - fulfilling a lifelong dream in the process, made it well worth it.

Back from Spain and Lisbon. I might get around to posting details, but as we're still hosting Amynah's Mom and Brother, time is tight. Plus, I forgot to bring my camera, like an idiot - the picture above is of 2007 vintage.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Coming up for air.

This is a cake Amynah made several weeks ago. It was delicious. This is precisely the kind of thing I should write about more often

You know, after my last post, Amynah complained that I was making our lives here seem too exciting, giving people the impression that our lives in France were nothing a series of glamorous Euro-travels and hiking.

I therefore resolved to write a post about our quotidian existence here is Strasbourg – the illicit thrill of watching old Bollywood movies and pirated TV, compulsively surfing the Internet, tasting some new fangled cake Amynah’s taken it into her head to bake, grocery shopping….

Ironically enough, I was never able to write about how boring our lives actually are because during that time I have not been drowning in a flash flood of social obligations, I have been working like a madman, trying to complete several hefty magazine assignments on particle physics, astrophysics, and catalysis chemistry, as well as scrambling to complete some work for my former employers in Canada.

This means I’ve been on the phone almost constantly, with people from Philadelphia to Berlin to Tokyo, attempting to sift serviceable quotes from a series of heavily accented, jargon-strewn verbosity that might as well be Elvish incantations to summon Sauron as any human language.*

The deadlines for all of this have coincided with a visit from my mother- and brother-in-law. Tomorrow, we go to Portugal, to visit Our Lady Of Fatima (with whom Amynah’s mom has business) and then the old Moorish sites my belle mere missed last year because of illness. If any of my editors are reading this, I intend to be working the whole time.

So yeah. Life’s dull, but the blog silence will have to continue for a while yet.

* That does not include my interview with this guy, who was, as usual, both clear and wickedly funny.