I am lucky to know people who keep excellent email journals. Not blogs, but emails that essentially perform the same function as blogs. Somehow it feels a little more personal to get one of these in my inbox.
My cousin Natasha is in Kigali, Rwanda as a legal aide for an NGO:
I have been so taken with the city, that it seems almost surreal that the atrocities of 1994 could ever have occurred. During my first week, I was traveling in a taxi bus (35 passengers) and an old man got in and sat in our row – I was struck by his beauty and impish eyes. For the first time, I realized that he was the first “older” person I had seen. An overwhelming flood of understanding came over me - an entire generation is missing here. An ENTIRE generation!
Ryan went to Australia but on his way back spent a few days in Japan, a place he had already lived for several years. This time he decides to finally try Kobe beef:
The first thing we noticed about the Kobe beef was just how marbled it was. It had none of the dark redness that a steak has; the fat wasn't confined to a strip on the outside of the steak, it was everywhere.
The chef was very methodical in his cooking. First, he cut off the layer of fat from the top of the filet and cut the fat into thirds and put them on the grill. Next he cut the filet into thirds, and put one of the pieces on the grill, reserving the other two. When it was nearly done, he put it on a couple of strips of the fat, about a centimetre above the grill, for a few more seconds. I'm not sure why, but I'm sure there was some reason: he was very meticulous in everything. Even if one of the pieces of meat was a sixteenth of an inch thicker than another, it would stay on the grill just that much longer, so everything was perfect.
Now it was down to tasting. The beef was served with garlic, which the chef had cooked earlier; sea salt; freshly ground pepper and mustard. We were hungry, and the aroma of the grilling beef was so wonderful that we could hardly wait to try it. It was sublime. The taste filled me with elation. The texture was so tender it almost melted before I could chew it. To compare it to a steak is unfair: no matter how well-aged or tender a steak, there is always some toughness in it. There was no toughness at all in the Kobe beef.
Was it worth it? Well, it took me about 10 minutes to write the paragraph above, as I was daydreaming about every aspect of its preparation, colour, aroma and texture.
Matt is in Asia, about to join a cruise ship as a croupier in the casino. He writes:
So I'm wandering around the meat section [of a market] and there are a bunch of little old ladies selling pork parts. These piggies must be massive. The ears for sale were the size of dinner plates and the livers as large as serving platters. You don't usually see organ meat and offal in sale in Canada so I'm pointing at a piece of meat and they point to the corresponding part of the body. Heart, stomach, intestines, liver, kidney, spine, thyroid (?) And then we get to something that is kind of long and tubular and floppy, at its base is a sort of ball of gristle. I look embarrassed and point discretely to my crotch. At the same instant I do this she points at her tongue.
She loses it. She is down on the ground laughing her ass off. Her neighbour beside her is rolling on the ground as well. The two stalls behind me roar with the best of them. My guide is having fits. I turn every shade of red and hide my face in my hands. It gets worse. The little old lady eventually rights herself and at the top of her not inconsiderable lungs yells something to the rest of the other 100 vendors (who can all see me). They all lose it.
So I turn, I wave, I take a bow. And with as much dignity as I can, walk the gauntlet of laughter.
I think I prefer this when I'm getting updates from around the world. They're like instant postcards.