Gift Shop at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. As the buyer for that shop I bought a lot of "souvenir" merchandise. I tried to find things that were not so corny as the ones I just mentioned and even designed some of the merchandise myself—aprons, totebags, etc.
For our dinner last night I brought out my tablecloth from Ecuador and put the flowers I bought into the vase I bought at the Eduardo Vega gallery in Cuenca when we went to Ecuador for Emily and Cayo's wedding. It was fun to use these things with guests who would recognize where they were from and appreciate how much I enjoy them. My souvenir purchases tend to be things that I can use, rather than place-branded tchotchkes. I think my feeling is always that when I use or wear my vacation purchases I will somehow relive a bit of a wonderful experience. Maybe that works a little bit. But not always. Souvenir T shirts tend to become painting clothes or working-in-the-yard-wear. On our trips to Ecuador I have purchased at least two hats, always loving the way they look on other people. I am never comfortable in hats. I like the bottom one of the two the best, but I feel a little silly in it.
On one trip I fell in love with a ceramic light at the Artesa store in Cuenca. Ray and I looked at it and looked at it and left it at the store. The next day we went back and inquired about having it shipped. They could ship it, but shipping would cost far more than the light. Another customer who seemed to know what she was talking about said, "Don't ship it. You'll never get it." Finally, I just couldn't leave it behind and they wrapped it and padded it and wrapped it some more and even fashioned a handle I could carry it with and it became one of my pieces of carryon luggage on the return trip. I schlepped it through Customs and multiple airports—kind of a pain in the butt—but I have not regretted it. I kind of planned my kitchen around it when we moved, and I love having it here. Sometimes I look at it and I actually do remember walking down that street to the Artesa store and the sounds and smells and the feeling of sunshine warming the cobblestones and the idea that I could take that little piece of Cuenca home with me.