El Diablo Rises

Another day, another beautiful walk to Art VallARTa to continue my work on El Diablo.

The devil was covered in a plastic bag overnight to be kept flexible for further operations this morning. The first order of business was to add a protruding chin to the face, using a separate piece of clay which was then massaged into the correct shape.

I cut lines into the forehead to prepare the surface for eyebrows. After rolling out two small amounts of clay to the correct size, the eyebrows were attached and Froyland helped me to shape and mold them.

We added lines to indicate the brow and wrinkles between the eyes.

El Maestro seems to have been pleased so far!

The next step was to affix the horns; first small holes had to be pierced in the temples of the mask, then the horns attached with slip.

Froyland demonstrated how to attach the horns, holding the mask so that it would not crack as the heavy material was added. I also added cheekbones.

So far, so good. Froyland is working on a couple of vessels featuring imaginary undersea creatures.

As we were working, others continued with their projects, scarves and silk paintings and glazing ceramics.

Since the devil is a master of the art of temptation, Froyland thought that he needed a cigarette …

Small towers of clay were placed under the horns to support them as I worked on the finishing details of El Diablo’s face.

 

The Devil is in the Details: The Evolution of El Diablo at Art VallARTa

I am so happy that Art VallARTa  studio in the Old Town is fully functional now and doing so well. Monday Ty and I went for a visit and Nathalie showed me around what is now a well-equipped large studio and gallery space.

The theatre is also well set up with cushions and blankets for the weekly life drawing sessions held there. The 2nd annual Romance in the Romantic Zone exhibition of art on the theme of love drew four hundred people to its opening night, offering, in addition to framed two dimensional pieces, ceramic and glass wear, and a gigantic wall mural of a heart, a tunnel of love installation through which visitors walked to gain entry to the show – fantastic! wish I could have been there. Nathalie’s piece is the Love Roulette wheel below.

On Monday a large group of folks were painting water colours in one part of the space while a few others worked on clay projects in the high-ceiling multi-media area.

I have decided to take a ceramics course offered by Froyland Hermandez, a Mexican clay maestro, and attended the first class today. Froyland is a very experienced artist who is very patient with newcomers to the medium.

He is able to explain all aspects of the technique clearly and is very patient, particularly with people like me who are not the best students. I have tried wheel-throwing before, and while I enjoyed Charmian Nimmo’s class, realised soon that it was not for me, given that I don’t really have the arm and shoulder strength necessary to centre and raise the clay higher than about two inches off the wheel. Makes for a rather limited repertoire of objects that can be made, essentially small candy bowls. Although I did make one bowl that I was quite happy with, the only one that did not have walls that were way too thick and heavy.

I decided instead to try hand-building since I am interested in sculpture and particularly like masks. Froyland showed me how to wedge and prepare the clay correctly and how to roll it out like dough ready to be used. After deciding that I wanted to make a mask, Froyland prepared an armature of bubble wrap and tape around which we placed my rolled out piece of clay.

From this humble beginning the mask grew and took shape. After scoring the surface to indicate where the facial features would go, El Diablo, the devil, was begun by pressing indentations for the eyes and mouth, being careful not to press too hard so as to break or crack the clay’s surface.

For the eyes, I rolled two balls of clay which were placed into the indentations, then scored the surface around each eyeball to accommodate the bits of clay that would form the eyelids. these pieces were rolled out and placed above and below the eyeballs then massaged and stroked with wooden tools to create what eventually looked like a pretty decent set of eyeballs.

Next I created a free-standing nose from a separate lump of clay which was kept flexible by being covered with plastic. Two tusks and several teeth followed, each made by rolling out a cone of clay, first using my hands and then the surface of the table.

This process was trickier that I thought it would be; some of the teeth rolled out too long and thin, while others were too big and thick. Getting a few teeth the right size took quite a bit of time, as did getting the two tusks the right dimensions and curvature. These were carefully placed in the mouth indentation so I could get an idea of what the finished mouth would look like. Having decided that they were good, I then scored the bottom of each tooth, and the area of surface on which each would sit, and attached them with slip, very liquid clay.

I was very excited about the horns. These were made with cones of clay rolled out, like the tusks, first with my hands and then on the table top. Froyland and I had a bit of discussion about what kinds of horns would be appropriate. I didn’t really care but he thought bull’s horns would be best so I took his advice.

He believes that, when working on an object from nature, such as a face, one should look at the details of the face, or, in this case, the horns, to see what they are actually like, rather than simply making something up that doesn’t necessary correspond with the actual “thing”. So the horns took a bit of work to get the right dimensions and curvature. Froyland cautioned me not to put the horns on too quickly because they’re heavy and might crack the piece. I am looking forward to completing the mask tomorrow.

While I was crafting El Diablo, Kelly, a former air traffic controller from the States, was working on a wheel-thrown lidded vessel, on top of which she planned to affix a snail and two sea turtles.

To my right Rosemary, from Lethbridge, painted glaze on her projects, a head with small legs on top, and a mask, for her synchronised swimmer grand-daughter.

At another table several others worked with Carol Ann on silk-painting, a process that also looked very interesting. Some of those folks wore beautiful fused glass bracelets made at another workshop with Carol Ann.

Below, El Diablo so far!

After a hard several hours slaving over my clay piece, I met Ty down by the pier and we spent a very pleasant few hours under a palapa at the beach, including a refreshing dip in the ocean, the first one this year. Had the best guacamole and chips with hot salsa ever at the Mahi Mahi Beach bar with excellent service – highly recommended.

See more photos here.

South Side Strolling

Every second Friday night is the South Side Shuffle along Basilio Badillo. Some of the venues have changed from last year; Kathleen Carillo’s gallery has moved around the corner to Constitucion St and the Color Pod lady has packed up her palm fronds, left PV, and gone back to Florida.

However, the main galleries along here, Galeria Dante, Ambos Galeria and Contempo Gallery, are still rolling and bringing in the crowds, at least as long as the vino doesn’t run out …

Live music still gets the crowd going and adds to the festive ambiance. I particularly love the outdoor sculpture courtyard at Dante – I could sit there for a very long time – it is extremely pleasant.

I also really enjoyed meeting a small Mexican hairless dog in front of Cassandra Shaw’s jewellery shop. Poor old Ty has been fighting a cold for the last few days so unfortunately he was not well enough to join in this time.

Some of the things I love about this place are interesting roof lines, including this imitation Greek temple across the street from us, and cupolas;

skeletons and skulls, found all over the town;

angels, including this beauty at the Hacienda San Angel in Gringo Gultch;

dogs and cats, including these guys on Los Muertos beach;

and cold cervesas under an umbrella.

In my desire to be living “local” in PV, I had forgotten some of the idiosyncrasies of living in a typical Mexican neighbourhood. Let me give you an idea of what these are:

1) The small cluster of buildings in which we are staying which seemed so quiet when we arrived is now the site of a small-scale construction operation. Two guys showed up two days ago with jackhammers and buzz saws and proceeded to generate an enormous racket while presumably installing plumbing in two of the empty apartments. And, since PV does not seem to have any noise regulations, or at least none that are enforced, who knows how many days and hours this will go on.

2) Doggies and roosters I have already mentioned; there are several in the immediate vicinity. One rooster gets going at 2:30 am.

3) Our first Friday night in the Old Town was last night and it brought all new noise joys, above and beyond what we have already experienced. About 11:30 pm a blast of music startled us when a mariachi band, from the volume seemingly right in our living room, but actually on the street just around the corner, began playing at full volume to the delight of the local youth whose cries of joy added to the general mayhem. Then, around 3 am, when the mariachi band had finally finished their set, the tourist folks down the block, who’d obviously been having a few brews, began blasting their music at a thousand decibels, while screaming, yelling, and fighting, until 4:45 am. Even the animal noises disappeared into the background with all the commotion. Viva Mexico! Viva la difference!

** I realise that the whole noise issue is a cultural thing – we come from a culture of large houses (mostly) and concrete condos which mute neighbouring noises. Mexicans, at least those who are not wealthy, mostly grow up with lots of noise in the neighbourhood, houses that lie very close together with not much in the way of sound-proofing, and are accustomed to being surrounded with lively, noisy activity day and night.

One of the benefits of staying in this area is the plethora of local bars and restaurants; below is Que?Pasa just down the road from us. Here live music entertains the crowd seven nights a week and they do have delicious tortilla soup.

The Emilano Zapata farmers market is the place to buy food in this area, with several fruit and vegetable tiendas and a central area of butcher stands, as well as this little taco stand just outside.

Mid-day today, though, the scent from the meat stalls was too ripe for my sensitive nose.

While we were strolling around the area a tiny beautiful butterfly took advantage of my hat to hitch a ride. After riding around with us for quite some time, and showing no inclination to fly off, I gently swept it off my hat and onto a welcoming flower branch nearby.

See more here.

Laura Reznek CD Release Show at Renegade Studios, Vancouver

I was delighted to be asked to provide projections for the Laura Reznek ‘Who Came Before Us’ CD Release Show at Renegade Studios in Vancouver. Laura is a local up-and-coming singer/songwriter whose piano stylings and smoky vocals captivate. She and her band entertained the crowd in front of a screen on which my photographic projections provided a visual counterpoint to the musical proceedings. Along with Laura on piano are Hayato Kubo on drums, Mark Brown on bass, Samuel Romero on guitar, with Jocelyn Hallett & Bronwyn Malloy on backup vocals.

Awesome fun! For more information on Laura, click here.

Click here for a video clip of the event.

The Really Big Print Project on Granville Island

Art fun in the sun – the Big Print Project is happening this long weekend down on Granville Island. The brainchild of Peter Braune and Richard Tetrault, this project sees several artists creating gigantic four foot by eight foot woodcuts on particle board, which are then printed by a steamroller. All the action is taking place in the alleyway between Railspur and Cartwright Street.

First the ink to be used is rolled out on a glass slab.

(Photo above by Esther Rausenberg)

Then the huge plates are inked up and placed on the ground.

Below Richard makes sure that the plate is correctly positioned to be printed.

Peter has a look to make sure all is okay.

Then the paper and blankets are gently lowered onto the inked plate, making sure that the paper is in the correct position.

Peter then fires up the steamroller and drives back and forth over the plate; the ink is then transferred from the plate onto the paper with the pressure of the drum.

The unveiling is always the fun part – will it have worked?

First the blanket, then the paper is pulled gently off the plate.

Voila! The artist is pleased.

Another couple of plates ready to go (photos below by Esther Rausenberg).

This time Andrea drives the steamroller.

Doing a few little touch-ups by hand.

Fantastic job! Check it out if you are in the area.

Rockin’ art show and carpets

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Alison had suggested to Eljay that we have a show of our work at the Tuesday Gokcebel Market; that wasn’t a go but the man who runs the village store and tea house agreed to let us have an exhibition under the pergola in the teahouse, located just outside the store at the top of the village a few steps from the Stone House. Everyone was pretty excited about it and Eljay went around the neighbourhood drumming up an audience for us.

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At the appointed time, 11 am on Saturday morning, we grabbed our oil, acrylic, and water colour paintings, collages, and drawings, as well as easels and boards to display them on, and headed up the road in an art convoy. We arranged the easels and boards around the periphery of the space and sat down with a cup of cay to wait for the art-loving hoards we were sure were just about to descend on us.

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Our first visitors were an archeologist and his wife who were very pleased that we were bringing culture to the small village; he and Eljay arranged to meet later on to discuss collaboration possibilities.

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Everyone was very enthusiastic but the most engaged visitors were a group of young boys who spent quite a long time looking intently at everything and pointing out details of the paintings to one another. They were especially interested in the things they recognised – views of the mosque, mostly – and the Ebru paper marbling.

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One young boy was very taken with Su’s Ebru work and she kindly gave him a small piece.

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Lidia and I gave the store proprietor our oil paintings as a thank you for letting us show in his space. He seemed pleased and told Eljay that he was going to put them up on his wall.

For our last afternoon and evening together, Eljay had arranged for us to go to a carpet village in the hills not too far from Hikmet’s place so we all piled into a dolmus hired by the carpet man after taking the show down. Our driver, an experienced dolmus dude, drove very quickly down the highway, too quickly for my liking (but then I am a bit paranoid), particulariy considering that as we went along a storm gathered and it started to rain buckets.Our man zoomed through huge puddles, throwing up gallons of water from the wheels as he sped along. Needless to say we made good time to the village, arriving in one piece as the rain subsided.

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We were met at the end of the line by Hyati, the village mayor, carpet purveyor, and money man, a very lively gentleman who showed us around the town. First we had a look at the wares for sale in the local store, all a bit dusty, then he took us up onto the roof to appreciate the view out over the valley. After Hikmet accidentally hosed him down with water he explained that next year, this rooftop area will be a restaurant and bar where he intends to hold dancing contests for women – he invited us all to come back and give it a whirl.

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This village seemed much wealthier than Hikmet’s; each home had a tractor and several farm animals, either in a separate out building or in the basement of the main house. There were also quite a few abandoned old stone houses, some very old, in amongst the newer ones.

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This cocky fellow walked busily back and forth crowing as we inspected his pen.

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Hyati explained how the villagers dyed the carpet wool with various vegetables, each giving the wool its characteristic colour.

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We had a look inside one of the village houses where a young teenage girl was more interested in the game show on TV than in the visitors to her home. I wondered how many people Hyati had brought trudging through this house over the years.

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We passed the teahouse full of men all staring at us and entered the mosque after donning head scarves; inside Hyati explained how the mosque functioned and gave both Su and I the Imam’s gear to wear.

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I thought it was a pretty good look, especially the fancy hat.

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When our village walkabout was complete, we walked to Hyati’s home and sat ourselves down in the large chill out area where his wife had prepared dinner for us. She looked none too thrilled to be hosting this group and Lidia inquired as to whether we could invite her to join us. However, that was a definite no go.

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When our dinner was concluded, we were ushered into the carpet showroom and the dance began. While Hyati described each carpet, his helpers, including Osman, the carpet co-op director, and our bus driver, brought out the merchandise one piece by one piece.

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As the carpet pile got bigger, and the booze was flowing, our group got more and more excited. Su broke the ice with the first buy and then it was off to the races.

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Carpets were flying and a buying frenzy ensued, with almost all of our group emerging with a treasured purchase. Liz was hesitating, wondering about the size, and the men tried to encourage her by wrapping her up in the prospective carpet but unfortunately it ended up being too big for her space. Great fun was had by all!

Watercolour in Gumusluk

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One of our last painting excursions here at the Stone House was the afternoon trip to Gumusluk for water colour painting of water and reflections to practice the techniques Eljay had discussed in the morning. The fourty minute drive took us along the coast around the peninsula from Yalikavak to the small former fishing village of Gumusluk, in antiquity the Carian city of Myndos, ruled by Mausolus, he of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus fame.

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Gumusluk is lovely and, because of its heritage status, relatively unspoiled. No mega developments are allowed here and excavations are ongoing. Some of the old city walls and foundations can be seen under the water in the bay and archeologists are excavating Rabbit Island, just over the causeway.

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Maggie, Janet, and I picked a spot at the first beach loungers we saw, and set up our painting gear there with a great view of the headland and the Greek islands beyond. On the beach I was delighted to see several gigantic korek plants painted white festooned with hanging kabak lanterns.

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After a hard afternoon of watercolour painting, we assembled and straggled into the beachside restaurant for a nice fish dinner before rolling back to the ranch satiated.

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Magical Ebru

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Today we were introduced to a wonderful art technique – ebru, Turkish paper marbling. Hikmet laid out all the supplies on our outdoor dining table and explained how the procedure worked. A kind of sizing or gum Arabic is mixed into water to create a thickish gluey liquid paste which is then poured into shallow trays of various sizes. Hikmet had several small jars of coloured inks made from animal bile, an oil-based medium, and brushes, metal pokers, and paper.

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Into the bed of liquid she flicked brushes loaded with ink; these ink drops then spread open on the surface of the water. Into these drops she flicked other coloured drops, building up a layer of colour covering the shallow surface of the bath. A sheet of paper was then carefully put onto the resulting patterning, pressed down lightly, and then dragged through the water and pulled off, the coloured pattern coming off the surface of the water onto the paper – magic! The results were really great.

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Each of us made several sheets of ebru using various techniques to build up the patterning. The small metal poker was used to draw onto the surface of the ink, causing the circular forms to become hearts or wavy lines. As well, we had three small rakes to draw through the ink, making other kinds of patterning.

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After the paper is drawn out of the bath, it is then washed and hung up to dry. A bit unfortunately, the day was really, really blustery so the pieces of paper were swinging and dancing around quite violently on the clothes line. Barb and Maggie both printed onto their clothing, with good results. See more info on paper marbling here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_marbling

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From Acrylic Painting to Ephesus

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Monday’s art activities included “breaking the rules”, fauvist still lives a la turca. Eljay broke out the kits of bright acrylic colours and everyone proceeded to revel in the sun and the glory of unadulterated colour. Several people made more than one painting; it was very enjoyable to spend the sunny day in the garden painting.

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Tuesday morning dawned grey and not too hot, a perfect day for experiencing the large ruin site of Ephesus, the crown jewel of Turkish ancient cities, billed as the best-preserved site in the Eastern Mediterranean. I have been here on a couple of previous occasions; this time the somewhat poor weather meant a more pleasant visit, with fewer visitors and less discomfort from the heat and blazing sun of previous years. We boarded the bus at eight am and hit the road heading north, with a stop in a Guvercinlik village harbour tea shop for tea and pastries.

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After a drive of about two and a half hours we arrived at Ephesus and spent a further two and a half hours wandering through the ruins, spending some time atop the highest rung of seats in the bouleterion and the great theatre. I saw a few more areas of the site this time, including the inscription museum section. Barb and I also spent a bit of time in the Church of Mary, where the octagonal adult baptismal font fascinated me. It was a keyhole shaped pool with stairs at either end, allowing the person being baptised to immerse herself in water up to about neck depth. Surprisingly, Lidia and I both ran into Mete, our guide from a previous visit to Turkey, now based in Kusadasi and leading day trips to Ephesus.

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Our ruin visit concluded, we drove to Selcuk for lunch, scarfing down a huge pile of pide, kofte, and tea while watching a beautiful and large van cat, white with one blue and one green eye, watch us. After lunch shopping was necessary for most of the group, including purchases of jewellery and green leather boots. Overhead we could see gigantic storks winging their way around the city. Selcuk is known for its storks; the huge birds roost on almost every tall post, including light standards and mosque minarets.

 

 

 

Gobbling Down Gypsy Chicken in Gokpinar

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People continue to put out some great stuff here at the Old Stone House – here are some samples of the collage work our group executed on the theme of the four seasons of our lives, led by Hikmet.

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Another day, another great feast of food – Eljay treated the group to a typical Turkish village breakfast at the local Kahvalti Yeri (Breakfast Place), an eatery know far and wide for its great big breakfasts. We were there right when the place opened at ten in the morning and seated around one big table were fed dish after dish of tomatoes, cucumber, olives, cheese, bread out of a stone oven, borek, eight different kinds of jams, and eggs. When finished with this, we were whisked off in a midibus for the ride out to Hikmet’s place in Gokpinar (Green Spring in English), in the hills past Mumcular.

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Gokpinar is definitely well off the tourist track, up and down a winding path through farming terraces and pine trees. Although our driver had to stop several times to ask for directions, we arrived without incident at Hikmet’s Guesthouse at the end of the road through the village. Her place is also an old stone house which she has fixed up for guests; it includes three bedrooms, a beautiful big dining area and a sitting area with many colourful rugs, kilim, Hikmet’s bright abstract paintings, and lots of different objets d’arte.

The house faces west and is situated on a terraced property overlooking the rolling hills dropping down to the Aegean Sea beyond. Below the house, which has a lovely outdoor eating area, is a large garden and chicken run. Our plan was to make and eat some traditional Turkish food. Her neighbour Gunda came over to show us how to make “Lazy Ladies Baklava”, a dish which involved rolling out special dough into very large thin circular pancakes, topping them with crushed walnuts (which we crushed ourselves), and then popping the rolls into a large pan, drizzling them with sugar water, and baking them in the oven.

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While we were waiting for the baklava to bake, Hikmet took us on a tour of her small village. Just past her place is an enormous new home in the process of being built, a marble palace with pseudo-Greek pillars and a huge marble wall encircling the entire property. It is ghastly, in terrible taste and completely inappropriate for the area. Lidia and I wondered what the neighbours thought about it.

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Just across the path from this monstrosity we visited the oldest house in the village, a small, dark, very humble abode in which a one-eyed man sat carving wooden implements while his ancient wife watched.  I was very surprised to be told that she was seventy-seven, since she appeared to me to be at least one hundred and fourty. Several of our party purchased some of his wares and then we were off down the road to look at the old Roman walls, a couple of big rocks that Hikmet thought might have been graves, a village woman chopping wood with a gigantic ax, and a female shepherd with her cattle.

Once back at the house, we gathered vegetables from Hikmet’s huge garden – peas, potatoes, peppers, cucumber, and eggplant – and made cold mezes by chopping and grinding the vegetables into different purees for dipping. At one point there was a terrific thunder and lightning storm with torrential rain, at another point the power went out and we cooked in the dark, and finally the piece de resistance, Gypsy Chicken, was ready to be prepared. This involved creating a fire pit, pushing three multi-pronged sticks into the ground onto each of which was pressed a whole raw chicken, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants. Over top of these food pillars Nihat put three very large metal olive oil cans which were then surrounded with grass set alight. Usually this meal takes about 20 minutes to cook, but because the ground and grass were wet from the rainstorm, the whole process took about an hour. In the meantime we sampled the local village vintage and chowed down on mezes. The food flowed non-stop, each person getting a quarter chicken and veggies, as well as a generous helping of meze. Fantastic! Finally, we took pity on the poor old bus driver who was waiting all day for us and headed back down the dark highway back to town for a midnight arrival.

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