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Field Notes
Farlow Olson
Photograph by Rebecca Hale
Melissa Farlow and Randy Olson

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

We enjoyed witnessing Carnival in the small mountain town of Koseze in Slovenia. Six bachelors wearing funny costumes that included masks, a wedding dress, and a pointed hat—all embellished with bright-colored streamers—marched solemnly through the town of 65 people. They stopped to visit each family, rapping on the door and announcing that they had come to chase away the cold and dark of winter. All the families welcomed them inside and shared food and drinks and stories with them. In one case they knocked on the door of a widow, who bantered with them before allowing them to enter. When she finally invited them in, they all laughed as they took turns dancing with the woman to lively music, twirling her around in the kitchen.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

Getting around the Alps was tough. On one occasion avalanches slowed us down significantly. We were driving with our Italian guide, Gianluca Colla, from St. Moritz to our destination in Meiringen, Switzerland. We had been on the road for a couple of hours when we came upon a sign warning us that an avalanche was blocking the way ahead. After making a quick side trip, we doubled back to a small town and purchased tickets for a train that would take us—car and all—over the mountains to the next town. When we reached the town, we offloaded the car and continued driving toward our destination. In about 15 minutes we arrived in the next town, where Gianluca found out that—because of another avalanche—we would have to drive to another community and take a second train. So we bought more tickets and were waiting in line to load our car onto the second train when Gianluca discovered that there might be yet another road closure. We still wouldn't have been able to reach our destination. We ended up driving about five hours in the dark, working our way around the mountains until we reached Meiringen at about 11 p.m.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

We were walking back from an igloo on a mountain in Switzerland with Gianluca to meet some people who would open the chairlift and take us down. It was a pitch-black night with no sound except the blowing wind. The snow was above our knees, and we were a little lost.

Suddenly Gianluca's cell phone rang. A mutual friend, photographer Michael Yamashita, was calling him from the other side of the world just to chat. Gianluca carried on a conversation with him as the three of us negotiated deep drifts, sometimes falling in snow up to our waists. After a while he politely thanked Mike for calling and told him that perhaps it would be best to talk another time.

When we finally reached the lift, it was closed. Things looked grim. We couldn't walk down the mountain, and we'd have difficulty climbing back up to find the igloo. Then we heard laughter as a group of drunken skiers burst over a hill. They blasted past us, opened the lift, and rescued us from a long, cold night.