June 06, 2005

The universal language of pigeon

Feeding pigeons is a universal activity, and the kids have often used pigeon-feeding as a way to hang out with and meet people in many of the cities we've visited.

The spice and carpet sellers around Istanbul's Suleimanye mosque applauded Adam when he threw fistfuls of feed we bought from an old woman into the air, causing scores of pigeons to swoop up and around and down trying to catch some.

In Lisbon, the kids came to know the eccentric lady who spent some 10 hours each day feeding the pigeons in the small square near our hotel. (Since we saw these pigeons every day for a week, Dana became very attached to them. When uniformed officials pulled up to the square in a truck and shot a net over the pigeons and began hauling them into the truck, the pigeon lady wailing at them, we assured Dana the pigeons were simply being relocated to a lovely new home in the country...)

In La Paz, Adam shared his bag of corn with a little boy decked out in a sweatsuit decorated with the Bolivian flag. After they'd fed the pigeons for a while, the boy went to the bench where his parents sat watching and returned to Adam with a soccer ball. The two kicked the ball around the square for an hour, drawing a large, appreciative crowd who sucked on cotton candy from vendor carts.

In Buenos Aires, we joined the Argentine familes who came to the Plaza de Mayo to feed the birds and to view the white kerchiefs painted on the square's center cobbles. The kerchiefs represent the mothers who continue to come to the square, anchored by the government Pink House, for information about the "disappeareds," the 30,000 people who vanished without a trace from 1976-1983 during Argentina's "Dirty War."

In Venice's Piazza San Marco, a pigeon found Adam's head to be a convenient roost (above). After the dramatic avian landing, Adam was surrounded by locals who wanted to meet the American pigeon boy. Teenagers, young men, cafe waiters and small knots of extremely attractive women came to Adam's side to teach him how to throw the feed without making himself a target.

Meanwhile, Dana (below) had zeroed in on the sole white pigeon in the square, and they were becoming friends. Through the din of flapping wings and peeling church bells and chattering tourists, Dana's voice carried through the piazza's great expanse: "Yo, Whitey, my man!"