Have An Expressive Holiday

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Crying, laughing, talking with voices, hands and faces.

Buon Natale! Buone Feste!  During this magical time of year, all of our senses will be zanily energized. Normally, Italians are incredibly expressive people.  Our hands, faces, and bodies, all become one with our voices to help us relay our feelings and tales.  Now, communications will be foisted into high holiday gear. From the moment families kiss each other hello, laughter will burst out of homes. The volume will go up a notch as we engage in fuel enhanced political rants, chase the giggling wee ones around rooms and swear that our calcio team is the best.  We will be expressive until the moment the last digestivo is sipped and goodbye hugs are given at the door.

Or, da, da, da da – BOOM –

Has everyone become a cell phone zombie????

I am frightened!  Scared of the cell phone phenomena that has reached into the very essence of people and turned them into automatons – robots fixed on mini screens. Faces blank, lips held together, eyes vacant – ZOMBIES!!!!  STOP THE MADNESS BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE!

My dear expressive countrymen, while you are with family and friends this holiday season leave your telefonini in the car.   Also, turn the bloody thing off while you drive, walk around the piazza, go out to dinner, visit the sea… I get apoplectic when I’m on the autostrada and see a truck driver holding his phone in one hand and gesturing with the other hand. Just what body part are they steering the truck with? You jerks driving on A14 toward Milano who almost crushed us know who you are.

Blank stare zombie texting is even worse than talking. Especially if you are the driver of the yellow fiat who was aiming for me on the curvy narrow road out side of Morcone!  I honked – the male driver looked up – note I said looked up – his eyes were filled with texting madness and his hands – WEREN’T ON THE STEERING WHEEL.  I am sure that drivers do this all over the world, however, on skinny, scary mountain roads it is totally inappropriate.  The cretins could kill me!  I wanted to block the bloke’s path down the hill and stomp on his phone.  I didn’t.  Instead, I bellowed a very American explative out the widow.

Imagine a world of scantily clad people milling through waist high water eyes staring blankly ahead clutching something to their ears.  The cast of the latest horror apocalyptic film – or worse PHONE ZOMBIES AT SEA?  Blah, blah, blah – why the hell does anyone have to actually walk in the Adriatic Sea blah, blah, blahhing on their phones? No one who is actually enjoying the sea wants to hear a phone zombie bellow in a variety of languages Can you hear me now?

However, the cultural phenomena that really bothers me is one that may dampen my holiday spirits. Whole families – mom, dad and 2.5 kids – sitting in a restaurant ignoring each other and scrolling through their phones. Jack and I may not have riotous conversation every time we dine out but we do acknowledge there is another person at the table. I want to scream at families, Watch the pizza bubbling in the wood burning oven. Or, sit back and smell the scents of great dishes being brought to other tables.  Stop looking at your fahkackata phones.

What ever happened to conversation?  Where are the frantic hand gestures and facial dances that make us unique?  I see more and more families sitting silently. That silence is not communal – all are in their own little FaceBook bleary eyed world.  I’ll take little tykes running around restaurants any day to a total lack of personal interaction. If I were the communications czar, cell phones would be left in purses and pockets at the dinner, lunch and breakfast tables.

May Auntie Midge gently suggest a phone moratorium until February? Let us not loose the spirit of communications that makes us who we are.  Defeat the telephone zombie invasion. Think of it as La Befana’s holiday gift to you and yours.

Sorry for the phone rant, but we just got off a train and were surrounded by business people sharing work related information that I should have recorded and sold.  I have to vent somewhere.  Thanks for listening.

Ci vediamo.

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It Takes A Village to Learn Italian!

Valerio Ponte

Intermediate and advanced students of Italian, here is your chance to burst your ability to speak up a notch.  How?  Through crowdteaching in Pontelandolfo this spring!  WHAT???? Here is the back story –

Gli dico ma.. I was in Pontelandolfo’s library having a conversation with some of my wee English students when like a flash-choir three of them blurted out, “Direi – usa condizionale.”  Huh, I replied to the ten year olds who corrected my Italian.  One tyke rolled his eyes and shrugged his shoulders.  Glielo direi ma, I corrected my sentence – (I was trying to say “I would tell him but…” but had said “I tell him but.”)

Jack and I have been staying longer and longer in Pontelandolfo.  When we first visited my Italian was barely there.  I was great with gestures, acting out what we needed and generally making everyone from shop keepers to small children in the piazza giggle at my attempt to speak la bella lingua. Over the years my Italian improved and just recently I figured out why – CROWDTEACHING.  Hey, if one can have crowdsourcing or crowdfunding – why not crowdteaching? As we became fixtures in the community, more and more people corrected my Italian.  Marilina, in Bar Elimar, made me repeat Caffè shakerato a pazillion times this summer.  If I wanted a decaf espresso shaken over ice and lusciously turned into a summer drink, I had to stop saying decaffeinato shakerooooo or shakirito or shaken not stirred.

Crowdteaching.  Hmmm.  Why not share this concept with other students of Italian and combine it with life in a Southern Italian village?  That thought has turned into Leap into Language Immersion in Pontelandolfo.

Students of Italian who are currently at the intermediate or advanced level, have the opportunity to experience the language in its natural setting, take formal classes and be corrected everywhere and by lots of people.

You will eat lunch in private homes, play cards with the guys in the bar, roll cheese with the Ruzzola Team and improve your conversational skills. Every home that you visit and every social or cultural activity that you attend will include native speakers correcting your speech.  Imagine an extended family of native speakers helping you improve your language skills.  There will be laughter, friendships will be built and you will leave with an increased capacity for conversation.

Included Highlights:

  • Transportation from the Benevento train station.
  • 7 nights, single or double room, with television, refrigerator and breakfast. Five rooms in this cute B&B have private baths.  A two-room suite shares a bath.  Unless it is requested, the last 2 people to register will share a room.  The shared room will be very large. Il Castello
  • 8.5 hours of formal classes and 7 full days of immersion.
  • Welcoming apertivo and snacks.
  • Pranzo at an agriturismo. Tour the property, play with the animals and perhaps hear a tall tale or two.
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  • Four (4) meals in local homes. Eat, drink and swap stories with a family in their natural environment.  They will want to know all about you and you will want to know all about them.  Conversation will swirl.  Two participants will be dining in each household.
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  • Wine and artesian food tasting at a local vintner.
  • Pontelandolfo Day – open air market, tasting of locally produced products, and other activities.
  • Explore the Sannio hills with Mario! He has walked the mountain hunting truffles, asparagus, mushrooms and more.  This is a unique opportunity.
  • After a morning of exploring the mountain, pizza pranzo at B&B Calvello.
  • Learn the ancient sport of cheese rolling – La Ruzzula!

Thank You Zorrotropa For Their YouTube Video Ruzzola del Formaggio.

  • Drink beer and chat with the men who sit in front of the bar daily, play cards and hand games like a native.
  • Lecture and tour of the historic church, San Salvatore.
  • Italian movie night and discussion.
  • Lecture “I Gesti.” Before you leap into the local fray, learn the sign language.
  • Learn the traditional folk dances of the town from dance company Ri Ualanegli.
  • Excursion to Altilia Roman Ruins.
  • Lecture on the history of Pontelandolfo.

Date: Friday, April 20  through Friday, April 27 2018

This cultural adventure is limited to 8 people.  For more information e-mail us at info@nonnasmulberrytree.com

Crowd-learning – who knew that it would take a village to teach me Italian!

Ci vediamo!

 

 

 

 

 

Time travel through your taste buds


You’ve seen lots of folks “cry in their beer.”  But, I’m willing to bet that I’m the only person on the planet seen crying over cooked pig’s feet.  As I slurped the meat and fat off the bones cooked to perfection in parrozz, I could feel my nonna hugging me and hear the squabbling of my Italo-Americano family fill the Flagtown farmhouse kitchen. Parrozz- what the heck is parrozz? Thank you Angelamaria Addona of B&B Calvello for whisking me – and our group of Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo September 2017 cooks – back in time.  To the time when subsistence farming, foraging and eating every single bit of the animal you raised was the norm.

Kathy, one of my best foodie buds, couldn’t believe it when I called her about this dish. I literally had started crying when I ate it and when I talked about it. Crying for my Nonna Rosa, Zia Caterina and all the elders of my family who not only had made this dish after foraging for dandelions and wild fennel but passed me the mapeen so I could wipe my hands on the communal towel after sucking the meat off every bone in my bowl.  Pig parts and weeds, I said to Kathy. Pig parts and weeds – so delicious that I could have stayed at B&B Calvello long after the van came to pick up the American cooks and kept on eating. Kathy suggested that I stop calling the dish “pig parts and weeds”. In dialect it is called Parrozz con Cacchiarella!

In her turn of the 20th century kitchen, Angela made parrozz  – vegetable and meat soup/stew – and cacchiarella – unleavened corn bread. Parrozz con cacchiarella is a dish that dates back to the time my ancestors scampered over our Sannio hills searching for what today’s foodies call edibles.

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If you are not afraid to forage, here is how you make it. Go out in the field and pick what ever vegetable green is in season. Verdure di compagnia– greens from the countryside. She used the white part of bietola, which is in the rhubarb family.  Cicoria, chicory, was raising its green head on the countryside so that was the second veggie. She washed the veggies and cut them in big chunks. They were tossed in a pot and covered with water with a dash of salt. When the water came to a boil the veggies simmered for half an hour.

Angela cooked some local cabbage leaves while pig parts were cooking away in yet another pot.  These are the parts of the pig I LOVE  – pig’s ear, feet, cheeks etc. Boiling softens them and lets some of the grease out. After the pork had cooked, she tossed out most of the water and layered the cooked vegetables on top of the pork pieces. Chunks of garlic were tossed into the fray. Do not mix it up! Top it with the pre-cooked cabbage. Think of this as a green lid. Toss a wee bit of salt on top and a tiny bit of olive oil. Not a lot since the pig parts are full of fat. Cover the pot and cook it very slowly on a low heat. It is great with wild fennel – but they weren’t in season now – so Angela added fennel seeds.

A wee bit later, Angela took the lid off the parrozz to let the extra water evaporate. She lowered the flame even more and pushed the cabbage down on in the pot. Do not turn the pot! The pig parts stay on the bottom and the vegetables stay on the top! The minestra will be bubbling, you will smell the pork and veggies and keep on wanting to stir it up.  DON’T!  Leave the pot alone and let it simmer along until the weeds – oops – I mean greens are cooked and the scent of pork wafts through the kitchen.

When the liquid comes to the top and the veggies sink. Turn it off!!! It is finished. But what about the cornbread called Cacchiarella?  You would have been working on it while the soup/stew was bubbling away.

The first step to making the cacchiarella made no sense to me – until my ah ha moment later. Take giant cabbage leaves and cut off the bottoms and slit the core a wee bit. Wet them and put them in the sun so that they will wilt and get flat. Then go out to the fields and cut some sambuca tree branches to make a broom. Why? You will of course be using a wood burning oven and need the broom to push the coals back to the side while maintaining the temperature of the oven. Wet a second broom to really clean the base of the oven. Oops, guess I forgot to mention that Angela’s kitchen has a wood burning oven and stove!

Back to the corn bread. Make a flat circle out of four or five flattened cabbage leaves. Flatten them further. They are now the tray or parchment paper for the corn bread. The corn bread she made with our Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo cooks included 600 ML of water, 1 kilogram of corn meal, 4 spoons of salt – well they were spoons, a hand full of wild fennel seeds and 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Knead it up!  Take your aggressions out on the dough! Meanwhile, for a few hours your wood burning oven has been filling the air with the scent of days gone bye. Oh, only use olive tree wood in the oven and when the bricks turn white sweep the coals over to one side with a broom made with sambuca leaves.  Then take the dough and spread it out on the cabbage leaves and with your handy pizza peel slide it into the prepared wood burning oven.  Wheeeooo, this is a lot of work.  Watch it rise and fall and turn a golden brown.   Then pull it out and remove the cabbage leaves – let it cool a second or more first.  Rip up the corn bread and add it to the top of the soup/stew pot.  Serve it immediately and watch me salivate. Watch the tape and enjoy.

 

You too can learn traditional Southern Italian cooking.  Join us.

Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo May 19 -26 and September 8-15, 2018

For more information, send an email to info@nonnasmulberrytree.com.

Folk Festival to Stream Live!

Ri Ualanegli knows how to produce a Folk Dance Festival!  If you can’t get to Pontelandolfo – and I encourage you to get here – you can see the festival streamed live on Pontelandolfonews.com and on FaceBook Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo.  Save those links!  Save the dates – July 31, August 1 & 2. At the end of the blog there is a complete schedule of events – don’t forget the time difference if you want to catch the live stream.  The commercial will wet your appetite for folk dance and if that doesn’t work, read on about the two other Italian companies that will be in the festival – Urbanitas and La Pacchianella.

Associazione Culturale & Folcloristica Urbanitas

Based in the town of Apiro, Urbanitas, formed in 1933, shares the rural traditions and culture of the 19th-century Marches.  This was a period of abject poverty.  There were rare occasions for festivals.  Because they were rare, the festivals were incredibly unique and intense.  The peasants of the Marches, accompanied by sprightly music enjoyed themselves dancing that bordered on the phrenetic.

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The company was included in the filming of Dino Risi’s Straziami ma di Baci Saziami, starring Nino Manfredi.  They have also been seen on both regional and national television.

Since the 1970s, Urbanitas has collaborated with the town of Apiro and produced an annual international folkloric festival, Terranostra Apiro.

La Pacchianella

This folk group claims to be one of the oldest – founded in 1923 – and most famous Italian group.  They come from  Monte Sant’Angelo in Foggia – noted for the white line of terraced houses and in the Christian world for its ancient rocky shrine where in 490 The Archangel Michael appeared.  I thought it was interesting that their costumes hint of Spain and reflect the Spanish rule of the area.  Lots of color, tons of gold – bling personified – is fun to watch and adds panache to the dances.  They have toured the world and made a number of films including one by Disney on folk lore.  This video has them dancing in front of the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower!

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See Polish Folk Dancers in Pontelandolfo!

 

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Thank you Associazione Culturale Ri Ualanegli Pontelandolfo for bringing an international Folk Dance Festival to Pontelandolfo!  Timing in life is everything, and I am incredibly lucky to be here this summer.  Ri Ualanegli is bringing some of the best folk dance companies in the world to our corner of the universe on August 31, July 1 and July 2.  Since, Ruth St. Denis invaded my body (mother of modern dance in America) 40 years ago, I have been a dance junky.  As such, I couldn’t just write about the festival – I had to – needed to – felt compelled to write about each of the companies that will be performing.  No matter what your heritage, you will appreciate feeling the music, spirit and passion of these companies.

Polonia folk

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The Polish Folk Dance Group Przygoda was created in 1972 and has been on the road ever since.  Their home is Rybnik city in the Upper Silesia. Like many folkloric companies, they strive to encourage not only youth but the world at large to understand and appreciate the traditions and culture of Poland.  One might think pierogis seem a lot like ravioli but they are as unique in their flavor as this company is to the Italian folk companies that will be performing.  The Polish dance company has shared its heritage in places like Canada, Denmark, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, South Africa and now Pontelandolfo!

Przygoda performs the dances and the folklore of Poland’s different regions.  As is important to the Polish tradition, the company sings and dances, maintaining a balance between the two.  The musicians play violins, violas, flutes, clarinets, bass and of course – the accordion. To enhance the regionalisms and make sure the dancers fully understand their heritage,  all participate in making the costumes. The costumes are all handmade -including the embroidery.  Natural materials, appropriate to the given region, are a must.

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Just because they have been winning international awards from Chile to Romania, isn’t the only reason you should come to Pontelandolfo to see Przygoda perform.  You should come, because the opportunity to see companies of this caliber performing in the same festival is something that doesn’t happen often.  You should also come because this dance junky wants to see a huge audience for this festival!  Be there – I’m taking attendance.

Ci Vediamo – July 31, August 1 and August 2 in Piazzo Roma, Pontelandolfo (BN).

Festa Della Trebbiatura 2016

This past Sunday, I had a perfect day.  Jack and I went to an event that I not only loved – but drew me back to my childhood.  Growing up in Somerset County, New Jersey when it was still pretty rural agrarian, I experienced lots of farm life.  4-H introduced me to kids who grew or raised just about anything America ate.  Sunday, I thought of my childhood, how much growing up in a farming community shaped me and the work my grandmother did on her subsistence farm.  Festa Della Trebbiatura in the Contrada Montagna in Morcone harkened back to farm days of old and celebrated the contadini – farmers – of the Matese Mountains.  The type of people my ancestors were.

Did I mention mountains?  Those of you that know me, know I clutch the death grip in our Fiat whenever the wicked Jack drives like an Italian around the S curves sans safety rails on mountain roads.  This trip around those curves was worth it.  The views were incredible.

I need to take a moment to praise my Jack a wee bit.  From the town center of Morcone – which is literally clinging to a mountain – we made a left at the Auto School and drove up.  We didn’t know which way to go when the road split.  We opted for the one that looked steeper on the left.  It was really su, su, up, up.  Shit, I screamed as Jack hit the breaks.  The cobblestone street narrow to begin with had cars parked on both sides and didn’t go anywhere.  Jack backed our large car down the hill and didn’t take the mirror off one single parked car. Hugs to him.

Back to the Festa.  We found out about it from Antonella Lombardi, owner of Bar Mix Fantasy, and a member of the Lombardi family that produced the event.  Thank you Antonella for making sure that I knew about what turned out to be a wonderful day.  When we got to the farm and I saw the rows of seats under the trees and the Priest ready to start mass, I smiled and sat down.  Hearing this great speaker do the mass surrounded by mountains, fields of grain, a clear blue sky and floating cotton clouds started the day beautifully.  After mass children went for “hay” rides on the farm wagon festooned with shafts of wheat.  We walked through the exhibition set up by the Museo del Contadino and I kept pointing at stuff that had been in my grandfather’s barn.  Since we sold the family property and all the relics two years ago, it got a little painful to see  the artifacts.

During the day, people could wander through the World Wildlife Federation Preserve in the mountain, watch demonstrations and eat country fare. One of the featured foods was pecora interrata.  Interrata means underground.  Of course that is what I had!  In the evening there was music and dancing.  Since the zanzare, mosquitoes, and I have a love/hate relationship, they love to eat me and I hate them.  We left before it got dark.

The word trebbiatura  means threshing the grain.  There were glorious fields of wheat in this part of the mountain.  We were celebrating the harvest and the people that make sure we have bread and pasta on the table – the farmers.  The first threshing methods involved beating grain by hand with a flail, or trampling it by animal hooves.  The demonstrations included women doing this.  Women were doing lots of the heavy work – this is still not unusual in our little village of subsistence farms.  What was even more fun to watch was the early threshing machine!

(Uggggg – Jack just told me I have a typo in a caption in the video.  Sorry.)

Ci vediamo!

Midge

How I Spent My Summer Vacation by Ragazzi Iacovella

The days are getting shorter, the wind is whistling in the mountains – summer is over.  Annalaura, Gabriele and Alessio Iacovella looked at each other and said – what did we do this summer?

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A Rainy September Day – Let’s Talk About the Summer!

After a warm your chilly bones lunch of tortellini soup, roasted chicken, home made french fries, local mushrooms and more at Carmela’s kitchen, her grandchildren eleven year old Gabriele, 12 year old Annalaura and 8 year old Alessio sat me down and told me their summer story –

During the day we stayed with Nonna Carmela – she is a great cook!  At night we went to Casalduni.  Casalduni has – Parco Giochi.  (Their dad, Pasquale,  is Casalduni’s Sindaco – mayor.  The kids burst with pride about that.)

Casalduni

Parco Giochi has a garden, lake with fish, scivolo – slide,  gonfiabili – inflatable houses to jump in,  and campo per pallavolo – volleyball, bocce, small paddle boats –  we know lots of kids in Casalduni.  We had fun every night.

Allessio – a real charmer chimed in – Mi piace mar in Puglia!  I took a long trip to Puglia with my family. In the car we looked at the paesaggio – panorama –  and we saw the flowers, albero d’olvio – olive trees e gira sole – sun flowers .

Gabriele – I was a little bored in the car – the trip was long.

AnnaLaura – No it was short to Puglia – per andare in Calabria il viaggio è lungo.

GabrielePer me è lungo

Annalaura – We stayed at the Orchidea Blu Hotel. (http://www.orchideavillage.it/ – San Menaio, Vico del Gargano (Foggia) Puglia)

Orchieda Blue Hotel

We went to the pool every afternoon!

It had a pool, un animazione – clown – a person to play with us kids. On a typical day – we went to the beach in the morning and in the afternoon to the pool.  That way my mother didn’t have to worry about us so much.

What did you like the best?

GabrieleDolce- dolce ogni giorno.  We ate in the same restaurant in the hotel every day and I ate tanti dolci.

Besides eating dessert what did you do –

Gabriele – I went to the pool to swim.  With the animazione – played darts, calcio in the streets, pallanuoto – water polo and ping pong.  OK, OK giocare con l’animazione è più divertente di mangiare dolci.

Alessio – Ho giocato con i miei nuovi amici nel mare.

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Those are old people in that picture.  I played with my new friends Samuele, Fabrizio, Giusseppe, Niccolo e Raffele.  We built castles in the sand, swam, giocare a pallone – calcio and ….

Gabriele – Rodi Garganico – one night we went there too.  It was like Pontelandolfo with an ocean.

Rodi - city in Puglio

View from a piazza in Rodi Garganico

AnnalauraTanti negozi e bancharelle – shops and stands.  The ancient buildings – beautiful.  We were sad to leave Puglia.

Alessio – But wait till we tell you about our other trip to Calabria –

It is September – how did you spend your summer vacation?

I hope you got to play calcio too.

Storms Silence This Yapper

Shout out to subscriber Kathy H. who said “I feel a blog about being silenced is in your future.”  Now, Kathy knows I love to chat.  We  Facetime, Viber or Magic Jack call each other a lot.  What do we talk about?  I haven’t a clue, but for about a week the chatting  stopped.

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Run Dorothy Run!

On those chatless days we were plagued with thunder, lighting, whooshing rain and turn  your umbrella inside out wind.  The internet went kaput. No Internet no chatting.

What? No Magic Jack or Viber?
What? No Magic Jack or Viber?

Suddenly I was silenced!

 Yeah, yeah I know – I could still e-mail from my smart phone but it ain’t the same as voice to voice chatting.  For one whole week I couldn’t verbally reach out to family and friends in the USA. WHAT!

It was a great opportunity to read books, sit in the caffè and gossip and maybe even play at writing something.  It also made me realize that my blabbing about our great cheap ways to communicate with folks in other parts of the globe needed a revision.  Here in the hills we have one communication tragic flaw – storms knock out the internet.

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Our internet is provided through an antennae on our house and a signal sent from an even bigger antennae somewhere in the hills.  When the wind is whoooooooooossssshhhhhhhing the signal starts swirling and may be providing internet to Saturn.

NO INTERNET

(Read – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/09/27/internet-cant-…ome-without-it/ ‎)

No internet means NO Magic Jack.

(Read – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/07/16/land-line-phone-no-voip-yes/)

No internet means NO Facetime or Skype

(Read – https://nonnasmulberrytree.com/2013/06/05/talking-for-fr…ound-the-world/)

How does one overcome this dilemma?  First, make sure you have a good cellular telephone provider.  We use WIND and pay ten Euro a month for 200 minutes of calls, 200 texts and UNLIMITED data.  Second, make sure you have a phone that can become a wi-fi hotspot.  I have an iPhone 4s that works well as a hotspot.

I will caution you, there were times when the storms also limited our ability to use our cell phones but not often.

To make quick calls to the USA – really quick because the more you use the unlimited data the slower it becomes – I would turn the cell phone into a hot spot and call through my iPad or Macbook Air.  Apple doesn’t send me dime for saying what I’m about to say (though I would gladly accept the latest iPhone.)  Apple products all work incredibly well together.  

I’ve installed Viber and Skype on my iPad.  Facetime comes with the iPad and Macbook.  Magic Jack also now has an application for smart phones a well as your computer.  Our New Jersey phone number is our Magic Jack number so folks can easily call us and/or leave a message. (Though I wish telemarkerters would stop calling at 6:00 PM Eastern Standard Time which is MIDNIGHT here.)

Bottom line – I may not be able to sip Campari Soda and talk about nothing with pals in America for an hour but thanks to a good cellular provider and the hotspot on my iPhone we can still get our words out.

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Thanks Apple for Facetime.