While on a trip through Indonesia some years back, my husband and I came across a colorful Javanese shadow puppet, a character in the Ramayana, an epic Hindu play. The show takes place behind a backlit screen and is accompanied by a gamelan ensemble. By putting together lines from our Indonesian phrase book, we were able to ask the vendor which heroic figure the puppet represented. All we could decipher was that it is not one of the villains.
Dante, a wonderful gondolier in Venice, took us up and down the canals one evening, talking to us long past the few hours we'd hired him for. Before we said "Arrivederci," he tied up the gondola near a storage building, unlocked the door, brought out one of his original oil paintings, and gave it to us as a gift. In the winter, Dante explained, he had lots of time for art lessons.
Gerry and Ken Bonds
Oklahoma City, Okla.
I limit my souvenirs to Christmas-tree decorations. I have a shiny deck of cards from Las Vegas; Santa in a bathtub from Kohler, Wisconsin; handblown glass grapes from Napa, California; a British Santa carrying a Harrods bag; and so many more.
The souvenir we've had the most fun with is a mysterious hat from Szentendre, a village on the Danube in Hungary. Friends have tried to guess what material it's made from — suede, feathers, even potato skins — but no one has ever come close to guessing that it's made of mushrooms. It's as beautiful today as it was when we bought it five years ago — and, no, it doesn't smell!
Wheat Ridge, Colo.
In 1989, after scuba-diving off Saba, in the Netherlands Antilles, I was celebrating in one of the island's few bars. Sitting next to me was a local fisherman, who gave me a serpent-shaped handle from a sea chest he'd found on a shipwreck in the area. I still wonder what lies in the sunken chest it came from.
Just a short stroll away from the Meridian Club on Pine Cay in the Turks and Caicos is Sand Dollar Point, where each day we scooped up lily-white sand dollars of all sizes.
Susan and Rob Polack
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