Life Unemployed 2010: Boston, Peru, Kentucky, Europe

24 Oct

The Boston Stage
27-29 July 2010

Everybody knows that the best way to relax after a rough period at work is to rest your bones on an island… so the day after leaving the World Bank I was wandering on Georges Island — mmm the sun, the tiny islands around, the geese, the cannons, the jails, the bitter wind, the ghost… Yes, not quite a Caribbean island but it’s full of history and a stone-throw away from Boston – perfect for an afternoon excursion away from deadlines.

Do you want to hear about the ghost? It’s a lady in black with a lantern. I haven’t personally met her but she seems like someone you’d want to hang out with. She was a newly-wed in Georgia when her husband was called to war and ended up a prisoner on Georges Island. He wrote her letters about how he wanted to escape. What’s a heart-broken bride to do?

Well, she made her way to Boston, got a little boat and went around the island to study the guards’ routine day after day. When she was ready, she disguised herself as a soldier, climbed up the rocks, got the keys from a guard who thought she was the relief shift. She went from cell to cell with her lantern whistling their song. He recognized the song and called her but wouldn’t leave without the 11 other prisoners in his cell. The boat was too small for everyone so she suggested they take over the armory and overpower the guards.

I’ll spare you the details but this extremely smart plan didn’t quite work out (surprise!) and they were found out. The guards thought they had all 12 prisoners when suddenly a 13th “man” came out with a gun and was ready to shoot the commanding officer. Unafraid, he grabbed the gun from her hand. It went off and the groom was killed.

The woman was sentenced to death for her crimes and hung on the island. Her last wish was to die in woman’s clothing… not easy to find on a island fort, so they took black drapes and made a basic dress. Now she haunts the fort in her black clothing with the lantern. Somehow the guy who decided to complicate the perfect plan by wanting to free his mates doesn’t seem too haunted! Men…

We actually retraced her steps before the hanging, and went through the darkest of tunnels. I couldn’t see my friend who was an arm-length in front me. What was spooooky was when I realized that the guide who went in first ended up behind me when we came out of the tunnel — I was the last one of the group and did not feel his presence at all!! Creepy.

The next day we visited Concord to go further inland and down memory lane. We crossed the river (on a bridge, let’s not be crazy) that separated the British and American troops and where the very first shot was fired — which led to the US’s independence.

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world. [Emerson]

Oooh Aaah. Beautiful place, hills, trees and Emerson’s house, which Nathaniel Hawthorne also called home — some culture with the history. It’s also interesting to see the British flag where soldiers were buried, with a few lines about their mother:

Grave of British Soldiers
They came three thousand miles and died, to keep the past upon its throne:
Unheard, beyond the ocean tide, their English Mother made her moan. [Lowell]

I know I know last year my love of history took me to Mayan temples in Guatemala and Honduras; a fort and a bridge are a bit less impressive. I am just warming up before the piece de resistance: the Machu Picchu by the end of the week!

QUICK NOTE: Oh my George! Isn’t the new train in Dulles airport so beautiful! The whole place felt like a sci-fi movie and the ride was too short! I was gliding in the future instead of seeing my life pass by in the shuttles from the last century. Wo-ow!

BEWARE: Patriotic endnote
After a delicious lunch in an Ethiopian restaurant with a good friend and her family, I celebrated “le Premier Aout” on July 31st at the Swiss Embassy’s annual picnic. The VIP get invited on August 1st! But I am always happy with my “saucisse de veau” (the simplest of sausages that just can’t make it to this side of the ocean!) and my favorite dessert (no chocolate involved you’ll be shocked to read but hazelnut nest is a piece of heaven) — BUT oh disappointment no Rivella! If even the Ambassador can’t get this uniquely Swiss soda, who can?! What made that early celebration special though was the company: I hung out with a half Swiss family. A hint of Mexico, a pinch of Wales, raised in the US, educated at the German school: the next generation of Swiss is fierce… and so cute!

So, you ask, how did I celebrate the creation of the homeland on the real date? A movie [the US’s reponse to “Le diner de Cons” where they dare make fun of us with the most un-Swiss-looking actors] and brunch with friends. Well, two brunches because after a nice schnitzel (nostalgia from childhood!), we got caught in the rain and decided to go for the best hot chocolate in town at Le Pain Quotidien. Austria, Belgium — not very patriotic until I got home and had that piece of heaven I had kept overnight (so so hard!) with real chocolate 🙂

Next stage: Peru!!

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