20 November 2009


I watched 'Outsourced' recently and found it to be an incredibly endearing film.

Have you lost your job in the last few months? In the last few years?

For Americans, corporate outsourcing has caused a lot of grief. If you were with a company when they first brought on Indian and Chinese offices, you remember well the frustration coming from these new well meaning employees that simply didn't have your training and whom you knew would ultimately be taking over your job.

Ayesha makes a good point in the film about how Americans support outsourcing: We make decisions in how we spend our money.

Are you deliberate in buying American made goods?

Granted, these days, not much is left to be manufactured in the US. Our decisions and those of corporations have driven much production outside of our borders.

Back to the movie.

Jeffcoat does a great job of plucking a less-traveled man from the comfort of American city life to the reality that is India. Granted, it is the only India I know from other movies I have watched as I have not visited personally, though it matches accounts from friends who have traveled there.

My experience leaving the Phnom Phen airport is not dissimilar to that of character, "Toad" as he peers from his tuk-tuk to the poverty and daily life a part of India's culture. His arrogance in training his new offshore office obvious and hilarious as you quickly figure out -if not before watching the film, that he would learn to appreciate and respect this new culture.

28 October 2009

birthday get away

There is a place that I love to visit, that I used to speak much about. The tourism has grown significantly because of others like me, and now I’ve decided not to reveal the place of such divine beauty and calm in that I might preserve its current state.

So it was my birthday and I not expecting too much in this state of the economy, was very surprised to be whisked away to this favorite area. It would be a new place to my boyfriend and I couldn’t wait to visit all my favorite locations. We left our computers at home and only had our cell phones for any business that would arise during our escape.

I only know the way to arrive by narrow tree lined roads whose names are surely printed on a map but none that I am aware. It takes a bit of time to reach by car and you could be tempted to stop at any beautiful place along the way. I knew right where our first stop would be. I packed a lunch from our left over goat cheese and roasted beet salad from the night before along with a bottle of wine and good bread. While it rained the entire time of our visit, my happiness and freedom would not be deterred.

We continued driving around this crystal blue green lake stopping at a place I normally put in my kayak. I insisted we walk along a riverside trail to reach the other side of a dam placed in the small river that runs to the big lake. I remember all too well of a paddle trip prior this time of year when the salmon were running; running, splashing, and slapping the sides and bottom of my kayak! If Alfred Hitchcock thought to write about fish as he did the birds, this would be his stage. We marveled at the crystal clear water and the 3 foot salmons swimming. There were so many.

After checking into the cutest bed and breakfast I know there, we drove further north to another one of my favorite secret spots. This one takes a bit of walking, but the view never disappoints. I’ve seen three shifts in the face of the dune since my first visit some eighteen years ago.

The favorite things tour was not yet over however, and we continued our drive to go wine tasting and to visit a small fishing town. There is gallery whose sculpture I adore and I love to walk on the old docks in the converted shacks shopping for sweets and savory alike. We took home smoked fish for family and a week of remembrance eating.

Of course, one cannot say their trip is complete without a drink at the famous Tavern in town. It is nothing special and perhaps the food worse, but its casual nature and memories of drinks with friends make it all it is.

The next day was spent touring some other favorite places and trying to catch the attention of the salmon. They wanted nothing to do with us.

When the rain was too heavy for fishing, I combed the beach for Petoskey stones, though only found pretty mineral pieces to burden my pockets. That my boyfriend would have the patience for this gathering and delight in my giddy rock finding was precious in itself.

19 September 2009

VBS in Biloxi

I once talked to God about becoming a nun. At the time I wasn’t Catholic but the idea didn’t sound too bad at the time. Of course, it was not to be so, and so it is ironic that I found myself sleeping in an old convent kept uncomfortably cold to ward off the grueling heat of the Mississippi summer.

I had traveled twenty hours with other women and teenagers to put on a full week of vacation bible school for this community. I know that I attended such programs as a child, though I remember none of them.

The planning had started weeks before by a friend of mine I’d met when she and her husband started organizing rebuilding trips to Biloxi immediately after hurricane Katrina. I learned not only how to drywall on one of those trips, but also how easy it is for a stranger to help another. As a stranger you aren’t stressed by the situation nor over- whelmed by everything there is to fix; you simply take on a task and then move on.

It’s terribly hot in southern Mississippi come mid July. The heat saps the energy out of your soul ex- ponentially by the minute that you’re exposed. Inside, the locals compensate by setting the air-conditioning so low that one requires a different wardrobe for each environment; not unlike a northern Midwest winter.

Children came ages four to sixteen and were divided accordingly, their maturity not always aligning with their assigned groups. The patience of our teenage volunteers – strangers not stressed by the daily lives of each child, overcame lovingly.

Both times that I’ve been a part of this program I’ve chosen to host the bible study portion of the week. It’s more black and white in preparation and allows space during the class for the kids to ask questions that might normally be brushed aside.

“What is heaven like?”

“Will I get to see my grandma in heaven?”

“Is there really a devil?”

“Are the saints like ghosts walking around?”

“How do I know my mom went to heaven?”

“What’s an atheist?”

“Why are there so many religions?”

“How do I treat people who aren’t Christians?”

The kids play games, eat food, pal around with teenagers they look to as mentors, make crafts, and giggle a lot. I don’t know what they’ll remember from the experience, but I hope they felt confidence, respect, and love for others that are different from them in addition to pondering new information for their life’s difficult questions.

20 August 2009

big cars in small spaces

There's just something about finding your own way and taking to the open road traveling cross country. I did just this in Italy one year not too long ago.

I rented by European standards a huge car: a Mercedes third row minivan. This is not an American minivan though, think half the size, but still large enough in case some won ton Italian driver side swiped me. Off I went.

I drove to the Almalfi Coast in search of the quaint mountainous towns I had seen in guide books. I was not disappointed. As I drove cautiously around hairpin turns overhanging the Mediterranean Sea, I understood: here the mountains meet the sea with surprise and I surely would as well if I was not careful. I would see a road sign often depicting a bugle circled with a red line through it. "No bugling." This wouldn't be a problem for me.

I settled into a sea view room at a tiny family run hotel in Positano with tiled floors and stucco terraces where over the course of the week, I was confided in by every member of the family including the fiance to the son about all their private matters. My favorite "meetings" of confidence held as I often crept home from being out and provided shots of cold Limoncello by the mother.

It was the day I drove down the coast exploring the towns of Almalfi, specifally Ravello that offer the most embarrassing part of my trip. Almafi went smoothly enough touring on foot their black and white cathedral, snacking on raisens wrapped in lemon leaves and buying my own bottles of Limoncello. My lunch target was Ravello as I made my way south. I saw many cars parking along the winding road leading up to the city center but as my visit would be short, I was seeking a closer spot to park. It was all going to plan until I had turn a hard right and found myself staring down a one way building lined road where an old woman on a bicycle pedaled alone turning a corner and out of site ahead. Now, I know these European villages and their one way streets. I'd be fine, I told myself.

I went forward slowly. After ten feet, the building to the left bumped out another foot narrowing this road even further. I played it safe and folded in the side mirrors. I hesitated a few seconds before pressing the accelorator. It was still a road for Pete's sake. I nudged the car a little further, but it resisted after only 10 inches. My front end was now wedged in between the buildings.

I sighed.

Face flush, I turned my head to look behind me. All I could see were four heads peeking around the corner from which I had just come, totem pole style.

In writing this story for you, I came across another traveler who experienced a similar day! Check out her post and more pictures from Almalfi!

25 July 2009

Sierra Leone

This is sort of a different post as I was inspired to write not from a travel experience, but from a film I watched recently. I attended several films at the Waterfront Film Festival this year and was deeply touched by one particular film born from tourist footage of a man's travels to Sierra Leone.

Through my travels and meeting people from all over the world I'm always reminded that while we may have different views, we are still very much the same. We love, we give, we laugh, we pray, we reach out.

My trip to Cambodia was first organized by someone else who is making a concerted effort to improve the lives of those he meets. It takes a lot of work to start something. It takes a lot of collaboration to start something that lasts.

Let's go back to Sierra Leone. Two siblings pieced together a dramatic documentary introducing us to the people of Sierra Leone, how they were impacted by their country's civil war, and how they are trying to overcome today. The film was also able to illustrate that while strangers have good intentions, they often don't follow through.

If you were to visit a third or second world country and witness their life, you would surely feel called to action. Once home however, your routine would swallow you and while your mind will drift back to the faces and daily struggles you witnessed, they will seem smaller, your guilt for haggling 50 cents for a handbag that meant $10 in their currency stinging.

Another good friend of mine took a leave of absence so to travel to Nepal and found his mission there: to help farmers unite and commercialize their much sought after herbs for teas and homeopathic medicine.

I'm so privelidged to know these people and so inspired. I encourage you to seek out the film, Pride of Lions and to check out the farmer's coalition website. Below, you can also find a few posts about my visit to the Wat Opot Orphanage. While you're at it, perhaps consider a cash donation directly to a charity that tugs at your heart. Small amounts go so far when everybody gives.

15 June 2009


I took a little sabbatical from posting on my blogs this past month. I'm looking forward to sharing more experiences when I return. I hope you're having a great summer!

01 June 2009

The one that got away

We had been preparing for weeks gathering just the right fly rod, a light weight standard reel, and specific lures along with trying to under- stand the complex fishing regu- lations of the state. We had been walking several rivers to pick good spots for access and to spy any unsus- pecting fish. We knew right where we wanted to go.

It was to be our first real warm weekend of the year and so that Friday night we got our all species season fishing licenses. It might as well have been our first driving license because we were so giddy about it.

Early Saturday we packed a lunch of homemade hummus, spicy tortilla chips, pulled BBQ pork, and fresh bakery bread into the cooler we would surely be bringing home fish inside. We included a few Heinekens and were good to go.

The weatherman did not disappoint and soon we were casting freely into a nice pool at a river’s bend on an empty river bank basking in the sun. Forty minutes had passed with no nibbles but we were having a great time none the less.

Then it was over.

“Scott” was outfitted in full fisherman garb: chest high waders, special vest, baseball cap, and tackle box. I notice him walking down the trail sans rod. He talks a little bit to my friend before approaching and tells me that my whole set up is wrong but that he can help. He also says he’s been fishing this hole for five years. The guy is surely 20 years our senior so we allow his sage advice out of politeness.

He is giving us instructions when our other rod gets snagged on a small limb in the bottom of the river. Scott immediately reaches for it and starts to yank while calling back to us orders on how to change my lure arrangement. He tells us to never leave a line in the water and how he’d been fishing that hole for five years.

&*$#^* C R A C K !

My friend’s rod is in two pieces; Scott with a dumbfounded surprised look on his face, now apologizing profusely. My friend goes to the water’s edge to inspect the damage and Scott pulls only on the line now to snap off the snagged portion. (Note that in our following fishing expeditions while we have infrequently snagged a limb, we’ve always been able to retrieve our line and rods intact.)

One pole down.

We’re not sure what to do next. It was an accident surely but the rod is destroyed, our fishing weekend over. Scott spies the ORVIS stamp and starts apologizing more realizing the damage to us was more than to just a $20 dollar rod. He insists on helping with the set up of my lure and we allow this as a way for him to save face. He chats away the whole time respacing my weights, moving the bobber, tying on a smaller hook, poo-pooing the orange fish egg sack we had just purchased the day prior, and telling us he’s fished this hole for five years.

Handed the pole, I am instructed to cast into a pool on the opposite river bank –where we’d been casting initially. My first two tries fall short and Scott’s impatience leads him to insist that he take my rod and do himself. I allow this out of politeness slowly passing him the rod glancing to my friend. Within a few tries Scott has landed in the pool though is allowing the lure to float too close to a downed tree and brush.

“Bring it in, bring it in, you’ll snag,” I say quickly. “Bring it closer.”

I am ignored. Within seconds he is snagged. He mumbles to himself and starts to yank on the rod to release the lure. I see second thoughts cross his face as he thinks better handing the rod to me and then yanks only on the line. He snaps the line and our lure set-up remains caught in the river.

Two poles down.

Scott insists on setting my pole back together with goods from his tackle box, but now we decline and pack up our small camp. Only ten minutes have transpired since Scott came on the scene; Scott from Pontiac wearing a red Doug’s Tree Service sweatshirt. Fishermen be weary.

18 May 2009

winter bicycling escape

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found was really going in." -John Muir, 1913.

Driving into Arizona is breathtaking in that you feel to be but a tiny spec on a very large desolate land and your views take you far away looking at only cactus and distant mountains.

The large single pillar cactus that often has arms reaching out from it, is the most interesting. I had only seen photos of such cactus before and was puzzled when I started to see them supported as if a newly planted deciduous tree along the highway. Later I learn that this Saguaro has an incredibly shallow root system and are easy to topple over. They only grow once inch per year but like the trees of the great Pacific Northwest, they grow quite old.

I drove my bicycle out to Tucson as it was the warmest place I could think of where I would find empty roads, hot sunny days, and low chance of rain in the middle of winter. I was not disappointed. I watched a few cyclists start the long journey up Mt. Lemmon, however with my Jeep struggling at most turns and signs insisting I have snow chains even though it was sunny and 70 degrees, I kept my cycling on more relatively level ground to the south and west parts of town.

Every day I rode a few times around a small eight mile loop in Saguaro National Park where I would spy many different variety of cactus and 200 year old Saguaro cacti. The loop is one way which makes it a popular place for cyclists and runners alike trying to best their time at each turn. This story could be much more interesting of course if I had experienced the many anticipated flats to my skinny bicycle tires had the rumors of sharp cactus needles on the roads bore any fruit. Of course peddaling by the many wash outs and warning signs of impending doom should it start raining 100 miles away I was surely grateful that the weather was so nice.

04 May 2009

Grand Cayon

Growing up, the Grand Canyon to me was always a place for a family vacation we would take at some later date. As I got older it became more of a joke as well as something I might do later in life with my own little family.

Then there I was driving through Arizona with a plan to ride my bicycle all over Tucson when I saw a sign that read, “Grand Canyon 40 miles”. Within a week I had picked up a friend from the Phoenix airport and we were driving north to the South Rim.

When I saw the canyon for the first time, my breath got caught in my throat. The vast distance of canyon in my view was more than my mind could compute, the colors warm with a hue of green, and an enormity that minimized my life.

John Wesley Powell, the first known explorer of the Colorado River who got through the canyon described succinctly in 1869, that “each canyon is a composite structure, a wall composed of many walls, but never a repetition. Every one of these almost innumerable gorges is a world of beauty in itself.”

Our days started out at 23 degrees with snow and we’d find ourselves basking in sunshine and 70 degrees deep within the canyon at lunch time. It was also a great reminder of choices we make in regard to food and waste. Policy or personal decision, we packed out what we brought in and thus chose to leave the canned salmon for our return snack.

This is certainly a place I yearn to return again and again during the cold months when so few people are there to be in awe of the silence, to be overwhelmed with the beauty, and to have the joy of meeting great people along the trail and having the luxury of companionship for that day. One can't help share this wondrous place, though likely we all keep its secrets hoping that in our next visit, it remains unchanged.

This last photo gives you a glimpse of how hard it is to go back.. up.