Friday, April 18, 2008

Amber or honey?

A wee bottle sealed with brown paper lightly waxed takes up 7/8 of an inch of space on my windowsill. Together the glass and amber-colored contents weigh one ounce. Sunshine warms and melts it.

Amber is fossilized resin, or tree sap, the earth sat on for millions of years. Trapped bugs and nature's trash give it extra value. If you were by the Baltic Sea at ebb-tide, you might find chunks of amber washed up. Lithuaniams call it Lithuanian gold.

Empress Catherine's palace in St. Petersburg, Russia, features the "amber room." It is worth seeing: view it online. My amber-colored substance isn't likely to decorate anything more than a shelf.

Shopping at the open air market in Aswan, Egypt, my sister and I searched out an apothecary. The man behind the counter stepped out to assess her badly swollen feet. He gasped, shook his head and muttered to our guide in Egyptian. We asked for a remedy. Wearing a grave expression, he produced this tiny prepackaged bottle and said, "Rub it on her feet every day." Worried about his gloom and doom expression, we thanked him, paid in piastres and walked away. Being the ever curious fool that I am, I went back and asked what it was. "Liquified crocodile fat."

2008 Red Convertible Travel Series

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