End of Summer

Hints of the arrival of Fall are beginning to appear. There are fresh grapes in the stores and sheltered in stunted, half abandoned vines in neglected fields (my family’s vines failed this year because of poor weather). Blackberries and figs have ripened in roadside bushes, and we can eat them as we walk. The big pile of sectioned wood has been halved and stored for the winter. The trees are starting to show a touch of brown and orange. My host mom dug up all the uneaten onions and stored them in a box for the winter, and some families have started making a sauce from the remaining peppers, now beginning to turn red and adorn the houses in long strings. We’re two weeks into school, and I’m starting to get my bearings a little. We’ve got two kittens now. And I need to practice my Albanian more and learn to operate the kitchen still. The genders are somewhat segregated, and while the men go out and cut wood, ride horses, or sit on the street, the women cook, drink coffee, and talk. I can’t imagine what they talk about, but I’d better figure it out at some point. One of the teachers has agreed to tutor me when he doesn’t have classes.

I’ve spent a lot of time on the balcony reading. Recently I read Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes (Tamim Ansary, 2009) and You (Austin Grossman, 2013). While the author is a historian, the aim of Destiny Disrupted is more to convey the narrative of world history as it’s told in the Islamic world than to present an accurate or balanced account of historical facts. It’s a good read, and I would recommend it. I especially liked his account of the first four khalifas, and the compilation of stories and laws that eventually became Hadith and Sharia, and of the dissonance between the belief that winning battles proved God’s favor with the terrible losses to the Monghols, and long later to the European powers.

You is a likable novel of geekery memory, and growing up as video game technology matured. I really enjoyed reading it, though I’m not sure what I’m left with it a few days after finishing it. Mostly an image of a black virtual sword and a sense of nostalgia — the main character is my age, and I’m not sure either of us has earned the right to be nostalgic yet.

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