Posted tagged ‘travel’

“How terribly strange to be 70.”

August 17, 2017

The morning is again glorious. The sun is wonderfully bright, the sky looks like the blue in a Van Gogh painting, and there is no humidity. Here it is August, and there is no humidity. The days are in the high 70’s and the nights in the mid 60’s. If I were Mother Nature, I couldn’t do better than today.

Every morning I put the coffee on then Gracie and I go get the papers. After the first paper and cup of coffee, I feed the animals. Each of my companions, Gracie and Maddie, have two dishes: one for dry and one for canned food. After filling their dishes, I have another cup of coffee and read the Cape Times. It seems my morning rituals are etched in stone. Maddie and Gracie have expectations so I seldom divert from the usual.

I have wonderful memories of growing up. At times I seem to have an idyllic view of my life back then mostly because I held on to the good with all my might and pushed the bad memories to the backs of my memory drawers. The things I remember aren’t milestones in my life. They are simply the good memories.

My life is filled with lucky choices. One you hear most about is my time in the Peace Corps, in Ghana. My hopes, my beliefs and my sense of self grew out of those two plus years. I can’t imagine what my life would have been without that experience. I think of all the places I’ve traveled, all the strange, weird foods I’ve tried and the wonderful people I’ve met, but mostly I think of how easy it has been to pick up and go to unfamiliar places and never feel lost or alone. Ghana gave me that.

Today I turned 70. It feels no different than yesterday when I was 69. It feels no different than when I turned twenty or thirty, but I don’t look the same. My hair is mostly gray. My face is wrinkled. My back hurts so I sometimes walk stooped. But what hasn’t changed are the basics of who I am, all I believe, all I know and all I have experienced through time. For that I am immensely thankful. For that I celebrate turning 70.

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“Hope is a waking dream.”

July 31, 2017

Movie night was a success despite a couple of things. First, as I was taking the DVD of The Four Feathers out of its case, I broke it in half. Luckily I had a back-up, Robin Hood, with Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone. The crowd applauded at the end. It was a hit. The second issue was the cold. By the end of the movie it was 57˚. We had sweatshirts at the ready, but really, 57˚ and cold noses are late September, not mid-summer.

As I was getting the deck set for movie night, I was pelted with acorns. I knew it was a spawn of Satan hiding somewhere on a branch above me. I kept checking from the direction of the falling acorns, but I couldn’t see it. I saw a branch moving, but the spawn was well hidden, a sniper of sorts.

Today is warm and promises to be hot by early afternoon. I’m thinking some deck time under the umbrella with a cold drink and a good book will be a perfect way to spend the afternoon.

My laundry is in limbo. I washed it but left it in the washer so I’ll wash it again today then put it in the dryer. I haven’t anything else needing to be done. Yesterday was busy getting ready so today will be a vacation of sorts. I have leftovers so I don’t need to cook. There is still room in the trash so no dump. The den is back to being the den for the daytime as I folded and put away the sheet and pillow until tonight.

Turning 70 is a huge milestone. I’m thinking I need to do something amazing to celebrate the occasion. I have no idea what that is. When I was a little kid, I dreamed about the future, what I’d do and what I’d become. Though my life has been even larger than those dreams, I still have dreams. I’d like to sky dive and learn to dive in the ocean. I want to travel across America by train. I’d like one more visit to Ghana, in 2021, fifty years since I left the first time. Seeing Asia is also on my to go list. The only obstacle to both trips is, as always, saving enough money, but if I want to go badly enough, I’ll just have to do that. Dreams are hopes. We always need hopes.

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”

July 20, 2017

The weather has settled into monotony. Every day is sunny and hot. We reached the mid 80’s yesterday while Boston was over 90˚. The shade was bearable, but the sun was unrelenting. The only times I went outside were to bring Gracie to the yard where I sat in the shade and waited for her.

I did nothing yesterday and will probably do nothing today as well. A dump run is in our future but probably tomorrow. I do need to water the plants, inside and outside, but that’s it.

When I was a teacher, I traveled every summer, mostly to Europe, and went for three or four weeks. I traveled on the cheap. Go Europe was my travel Bible. University housing and hostels were my hotels as such. Meals were sometimes at bar happy hours where I’d nurse a single drink until I’d eaten my fill or at railroad stations which had kiosks with cheap sandwiches. I usually traveled with a friend. B&B’s were sometimes our stops mostly through Ireland, Scotland and England. I remember one in London, in Earl’s Court. The owner barely spoke English and played music quite loud from the kitchen which was next to my room. The song I remember best is Cielito Linda with the damn ay, ay, ay. I swear it was played over and over. My favorite B&B was in Dingle Ireland. It was over a grocery store. The woman was old. She entertained us with stories about guests including the Frenchman who didn’t know how to eat Corn Flakes and another who wanted a facecloth. She laughed at the thought that the face had its own cloth. Breakfasts were eggs, bacon, toast and coffee and sometimes a grilled tomato. The hostels were cheap enough but didn’t offer breakfast, but they had a value of their own. Hostels were where I’d trade books and information with other travelers. All these trips were cheap enough that I could saved enough money every year for a summer in Europe.

Last year’s trip to Ghana was expensive enough for a couple or even close to three trips to Europe in the old days, but I was perfectly fine with that. I enjoyed the lap of luxury as if I had been born to it.

“Never hesitate to go far away, beyond all seas, all frontiers, all countries, all beliefs.”

June 22, 2017

Today is lovely. I woke up to a blue sky and the brightest eye squinting sunshine I’ve seen in a while. My house is comfortably cool. Outside my window, I can see chickadees on the branches munching sunflower seeds. None of the leaves of the oak tree are blowing. It is a still day.

Though Gracie ate on Tuesday, around midnight she started panting and walking from room to room. She’d sit on the couch for a bit then get up and walk some more. Around 12:30 am, I took her to the emergency vet for the third early morning in a row. She was given anti-nausea medication which settled her down. The vet told me that this was treating only a symptom. I already knew that. She suggested a battery of tests, most of which I probably can’t afford.

Last night was different. During the day, she ate two small cans of dog food, not her usual as I was tempting her taste buds. She ate treats, new treats. She napped and last night slept through the night. I had anti-nausea pills for her, but she didn’t need them. She and Maddie, the cat, are having their morning naps now. I’m going to take one later. I am exhausted.

The best part of any summer has always been having empty days to fill.  When I was a kid, it was games and crafts at the local playground. I’d be there all day. During high school, I did little on summer days, but I was never bored. When I was in college, it was a summer job which I didn’t really mind. Working in the post office was easy and paid well. The pace was slow. Europe filled my summers when I was a teacher. My trips generally lasted 4 to 5 weeks. I knew how to travel on little money. I slept in hostels or on night buses. I ate as cheaply as possible sometimes buying bread and sandwich fixings. I found bars where I could get a drink and eat my way through happy hour. I had only a broad itinerary open to change. It was a wonderful way to travel. They were some of my favorite summers.

Posting my Ghana pictures yesterday got me thinking about the faraway places I love. Ghana, of course, is my favorite. The rest are in no order, no preference. Old Quito is on that list. The narrow streets, the old buildings, the colors and the women’s hats still have a prominent place in my memory drawers. I loved Portugal and Morocco and the Roman ruins in Italy. Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso was my second favorite spot in Africa. It was my weekend getaway. The beauty of the Andes took my breath away. On overnight bus rides, stops at roadside restaurants where the menus were in languages I didn’t understand and peeing in a hole in the little house in the back were part of the adventure. In Morocco and in Ghana I found out that thitting the hole is a lifetime skill.

I don’t travel summers anymore, but I keep my passport up to date just in case.

“Adventure is worthwhile.”

October 10, 2016

This morning came at 4 o’clock, but I did go to bed at 8 so the early day wasn’t surprising. Right now I’m catching up with the debate by watching MSNBC. I despair.

Yesterday it rained all day and last night the rain fell in a deluge. It was the wettest day in the entire year. The wind blew so hard I could hear it howling. Gracie wouldn’t go out before bed. She took one look and backed away from the door. Smart dog!

I will try and empty my luggage today. I might even do a wash. I did exert myself and go shopping yesterday for animal and people food. We will all eat well for the next few days. I figure one of the best parts of a trip is not having to do anything but enjoy the travel. My room is cleaned. I eat at restaurants. My clothes get washed.

In Ghana time is relative. The Ghanaians distinguish between African time and European time. If Grace, one of my former students, said she’d be at our hotel at 10. We figured if she was there by 11, she’d be early. I’m coming is a favorite Ghanaian comment. It just means that at some time the expected visitor will arrive. The only exception is at a red light. The time between the light turning green and the first horn is about a second or two.

I am glad for the cool days here at home. I spent my entire time in Ghana sweaty. Beads of sweat rolled down my cheeks, and the back of my head was always soaked. Needing a sweatshirt in the cold, early morning is a joy. I probably won’t think the same when the temperature drops to below freezing.

Ghana is not known for its coffee. It is always instant with either evaporated milk or milk powder. I am now on my third cup of real coffee. Maybe I won’t need a nap today.

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

August 26, 2016

Today I’m back behind closed windows and doors. I went without the air conditioner for about an hour. The house went up 4˚ so on went the air. Last night it rained. I was in bed in that not quite asleep not quite awake stage when I thought I heard raindrops. I lifted my head from the pillow to listen and heard drops against the window. That was the sound which lulled me to sleep.

Th Mousetrap is the last play of the season at the Cape Playhouse. I saw it a couple of times in London so I’m not all that excited to see it again, but the play got a wonderful review in the Cape Cod Times so I’m back and forth about going tonight. Right now I’m in my cozy clothes and comfortable and cool. I’m even contemplating a nap. I figure laziness will factor into my decision as will a pizza delivery for dinner.

It is getting darker and cloudier. The sun has disappeared. The breeze is greater but is still hot. There is only a possibility of rain, but I’m hoping. I read an article this morning about how easy it is in Europe to recognize American tourists. Hoodies, running shoes, fanny packs, t-shirts with graphics, big tips, North Face, good teeth and water with meals were some of the identifiers. When I was young, I had a backpack which, back then, was probably screaming American. I wore sneakers and jeans. I couldn’t afford a big tip. When I was older, I used suitcases and dressed better.

I read an article this morning about how easy it is in Europe to recognize American tourists. Hoodies, running shoes, fanny packs, t-shirts with graphics, big tips, North Face, good teeth and water with meals were some of the identifiers. When I was young, I had a backpack which, back then, was probably screaming American. I wore sneakers and jeans. I couldn’t afford a big tip. When I was older, I used suitcases and dressed better. A red Marimeko bag I had bought in Finland was slung across my shoulders and carried what was important like money, my passport in a case I had made in Ghana and my camera. I still didn’t tip well.

My last three trips have been to Africa: one to Morocco and two to Ghana. It doesn’t matter what I wear or what I carry as my skin color is enough of an identifier though in Ghana they think I’m a European.

Now I bring one suitcase and a carry-on which has adapters, medications, my iPad, a change of clothes, a notebook and my camera. I still carry the Marimeko bag I bought in 1972 and it still carries what is important including the passport case made in the Bolga market in Ghana in 1970. They are the only continuity when I travel.

Jet Liner: Steve Miller Band

August 4, 2016