Category Archives: Travel

Keeping Connections

I am really glad that we were able to get to my cousin’s funeral. She was the daughter of my mom’s youngest brother, Harvey. I was the only (and oldest) cousin there. Two cousins from my Aunt Leona’s family live in Pipestone but didn’t attend, and two other cousins from my Uncle Ronald were too far away to attend. We brought Norma, Uncle Ronald’s widow, to the funeral. She was so happy to get out of Watertown, SD, and get to see nieces and nephews she hadn’t seen for a long time.

We all caught up with eachother’s and our children’s lives at the funeral lunch. Of the four remaining children of my Uncle Harvey, all but one lives within 30 miles of Pipestone. That cousin, Alan, lives in Grand Island, NE. He plans to move closer to the Pipestone/Luverne area near to the others after he retires. Alan said he thought it really important to be closer to his siblings. He and the others were delighted to hear our plans to move to Luverne when I retire. Connections are important.

The Methodist pastor who conducted the funeral was one of my high-school classmates. It was good to catch up with her, too. Despite the sad occasion, it felt so good to be with people who knew me, with whom I had a history, and who appreciate the connection we have.

Who are your important connections? What do you do to keep those connections going?

Family Favorites

We had a lovely visit on Monday from my cousin, Wes. He lives in Columbus, OH, and is a retired librarian at Ohio State. He was a librarian at Macalester for several years, and then moved to to the big time in Ohio. ( I always think of him when Wesew comments on the blog).

Wes was on a return trip from Seattle and stopped by before heading to Minnesota to see other family there. We had a great time reminiscing and telling stories. We share similar political and social beliefs. I hadn’t seen him for six years. Growing up as an only child, my cousins were like my brothers. I spent a lot of time with them. I had very few female cousins and I wasn’t very close to them. I think perhaps that is why I have always been more comfortable around men than I am around women.

We have had very few visits from any family except my parents since we moved here 33 years ago. This visit was a real treat. I wish that more of our immediate and extended family had the sense that a visit to other family is more important than the appeal of the area in which they live. I suppose that our family could just consider us real pills, and that is why they don’t visit, but I they seem to like it when we visit them, so I don’t think we are that putting off.

What family visits have you dreaded or enjoyed over the years? Who are your favorite cousins? Who are your favorite relatives? 

Sabbatical

Lisa, our Senior Pastor, is taking a three month sabbatical this summer to spend time with her young family, to finish the editing of a book about women’s struggles as clergy, and to begin another book on the same topic. Our congregation is paying her salary during this time. We appreciate our pastors and we want to nurture them. Local pastors and members of the congregation are going to give sermons and help out.

I always thought the concept of a sabbatical was wonderful. To spend time studying, resting, and getting ready for the next phase of life seems so positive. Husband says if he could have had a year sabbatical, he would gone to Halifax, Nova Scotia to study psychology at Dalhousie University, live in residence, and hang out with colleagues. I would spend time in Germany to learn the language in my maternal grandfather’s village in northern Germany, and study my family history. (I could justify that as a study of the intergenerational transmission of family mental health issues as influenced by economics, politics, and immigration.)

If you could have a paid for sabbatical year, where would you go and what would you study? How would you rest and rejuvenate? 

The History of everything

I had a four day weekend over Easter, and I spent it cooking and reading, both real treats for me. The gift of goat meat sent us on a Mediterranean cooking binge, and made me get out a cookbook I had neglected for some time, A Mediterranean Feast, by Clifford Wright. It is 815 pages of the history of Mediterranean food from Spain to Turkey, and all the countries in between. There are hundreds of recipes as well as references. He writes extremely detailed information about each of the recipes and the history of this food and the people who ate it from the Middle Ages to the present. His main emphasis is that the Mediterranean food that we know today is very strongly influenced by the Arabs, and that many food writers of the past have ignored that fact.

One of my favorite comments is in the section devoted to the history Greek and Turkish food, and the stubbornness of Greek food writers and historians to acknowledge the influence of the Ottomans on Greek cuisine,  “Unfortunately, there are no comparative historical studies of Greek and Turkish food by disinterested third-party scholars. In any case, all claims regarding the heritage of Greek food must by taken with a grain of salt….” (p. 219).  Wouldn’t it by fun to be such a disinterested third-party scholar?

It is hard to decide if this book is more of a cook book or a history book. I think it succeeds at both. I would love to write such a book, although I am not sure what I would write about. I suppose a history of children’s play would be fun, as I am a play therapist.

What kind of  history book would you like to write?   What Mediterranean countries have you visited?

Contain Yourself!

Photo Credit:  Bored Panda

After a request for photos yesterday, I thought I’d expand a bit on the wild dog story.

My first trip to South Africa was with a client who wasn’t crazy about working with my company.  Her previous company had just gone through a merger and she inherited the job of overseeing the travel programs.  We were already contracted for two programs when she came onboard so even though she had contacts in another incentive house, she couldn’t change suppliers at that point.  She was professional about this but she never seemed happy or excited.  Now it’s completely plausible that she just wasn’t a person who like to emote but we’ll never know.

We had a large group, bigger than any one safari camp could hold, so we needed to check out three different camps and decide which winners would go in each.  That meant that we had to stay in each of the three camps, one camp each night.  Boo hoo. These were luxury camps with incredibly nice rooms (all three camps had gorgeous indoor bathrooms and great outdoor showers), amazing food and, of course, the safari runs.  You got up very early for the first safari run of the day (think 4 a.m. early) – heavy “snacks” before you left then a massive breakfast when you got back 3 hours later.  Then a late afternoon safari, getting back in the dark for a huge “boma” dinner.  And you’re in Africa all this time.  Amazing.

It was all I could do to contain myself during the trip.  (Actually I can hardly contain myself on any of my trips.  I can’t think of a single time I’ve gone on a site inspection that hasn’t been wonderful.) My client was the opposite; she was doing her job by being there but she couldn’t muster any enthusiasm.  It wasn’t surprising when she bailed on the last safari run of the trip.  When the driver and guide came to pick up the Account Exec and me, they told us that they’d heard from other guides on the radio that there might be wild dogs up near “the cut line” (this is the edge of each camp’s territory.  Guides are not allowed to take their charges into another camp’s territory).  They said if we wanted to try to find the wild dogs, it would take a bit and we’d have to head straight there.  The Account Exec and I immediately agreed.  As we were driving up, we both acknowledged that if the client had been with us, she would not have wanted to do this.

Well thank goodness she didn’t come.  The wild dog pack was indeed on our side of the cut line and it was amazing.  They weren’t too worried about us so we were able to observe them for almost 2 hours.  There were a lot of puppies and they were very cute.  It was a defining moment during the trip, a trip with many unbelievable moments.  The photo above is not mine (long story about where those photos are currently stored) but it is very similar to some of the photos I took that day, especially when the dogs and pups came a little closer to the jeep. The puppies are much cuter than you would think, with huge ears and puppy faces.

Even now, after almost 20 years, I feel sorry for that client.  I hope she enjoyed South Africa, even if she didn’t show it.

What makes it hard for you to contain YOUR enthusiasm?

Comfort Ye

Husband announced the other day that he considers Gjetost to be a comfort food. I have never considered it to be so, but he was really happy when he found some at the store earlier this month.  It is too sweet and chalky for my tastes.

This is a year that has screamed a need for comfort. It has been hard to find at times over the past ten months.  I think the worst day in memory was yesterday, as we anxiously waited to see if Daughter’s plane left Denver with her on it.  We hadn’t seen her for a year.  Her flight into Bismarck on Tuesday was cancelled, and she couldn’t get a flight home until Christmas Eve. She had an excellent  time with her grandmother. though, which was a comfort to both of them.

I was so worried all day yesterday.  I tried to distract myself with music. The King’s College Lessons and Carols service was a good start, but it was a really long day. I made some soup, cleaned the kitchen, played solitaire, did laundry, and wrapped some presents, all with a horrid sense of dread and apprehension.  Our cat must have sensed my distress, as she stayed unusually close by me all day.

The only thing that would provide comfort for me was to hear that she was boarding her plane, and then to give her a big hug (but not, she insisted, until she showered to get the Covid germs off her). She was texting us  in caps as she waited for the plane to take off.

What foods, books, music, people, places, activities, or  other things give you comfort these days?

Keeping An Eye out

I drive home  for lunch most days. It takes me about seven minutes to get home. I take the same route, and on the way I keep watch for two gorgeous Standard Schnauzers who are sometimes in their well fenced-in yard enjoying the sun. They are perfectly matched and are very well trimmed. I love watching them run around their yard in the few seconds I glimpse them as I drive past.

Son tells about two Great Horned owls he watches for as he walks his West Highland Terrier.  He once observed an owl try to nab a duck in mid flight.  It wasn’t successful.  The owls hoot as he strolls past.

What do you like to keep a watch for?

Following My Pajamas

I ordered some new pajamas on September 22, and, because there is really very little else to do here and because I have no life outside of work, I took great amusement following their progress from Maine to North Dakota via FedEx.

It took more than two weeks for them to arrive. They left the warehouse in Maine on 09/25 and arrived in Massachusetts that same day.  Five days later they were in Connecticut.  As I recall, it isn’t very far from Massachusetts to Connecticut.  I hope they had fun in the interim.

By 10/1 they were in Clyde, Ohio and then Chicago.  By 10/2 they were in Fargo. I live 300 miles from Fargo, and for some reason they left immediately for Billings, Montana,  which is 600 miles to the west of Fargo.  They left Billings on 10/3 and travelled 300 miles back east,  arriving in my town at 9:00  pm according to the package tracker.  They appear to have meandered around town for twelve  hours. I imagine them at the Spur Bar, having a couple of beers before climbing wearily back into their box. They were checked in at the FedEx warehouse in Dickinson at 9:00am on 10/4, and were delivered on the morning of 10/5.

I wish I could get the story behind all the delays and the visit to Billings and what they did in town for twelve hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning. They are really nice pajamas, but I wish it didn’t take so long to get things out here.

What stories, book series, authors, famous people, movie series, trends, or comic strips do you follow?

San Diego Surprise!

When YA and I went to San Diego last month, the second attraction on our list was the San Diego Zoo.  The zoo has a great reputation and YA has wanted to go there for years.

It was hot that day (although not as hot as the day before at the Safari Park) and due to covid, none of the zoo shuttles were running.  Like the Park, the zoo is built on the hills of San Diego, with different regions of the world represented in their own areas.  And like we did at the park, YA and I covered the whole thing during our day there.

Our first surprise was the North Sulawesi Babirusa.  Never heard of it?  Neither had we!  The last time I encountered an animal new to me was 20+ years ago on my first trip to Africa.  In Kenya I saw an okapi – a large deer that looks like a cross between a horse and a zebra.   Babirusa means “pig deer” Malaysian and have daunting looking teeth and the males also have remarkably dangerous looking upper tusks.   We didn’t see any baby babirusa but if you look online, they are very cute.

We got our second surprise about an hour later in the Africa Rocks section of the zoo.  We came upon a large empty enclosure with a sign that said “Fossa” – another animal that neither YA nor I had ever heard of.  One of the zoo employees told us that they had just cleaned the enclosure and would be putting out “lunch” for the fossa in a minute, so we stayed.  She put food all over the space so the fossa would “hunt” for it.  If you’ve every thought about what the result of a dog and cat union would be, the fossa is it.  Or maybe dog, cat and weasel?  It was beautiful with a long, luxuriant tale and looked like it would be quite a proficient hunter.  Their natural home is Madagascar and apparently they are able to bring down even the largest lemur species.

It was a great day and we were both happy to have made the acquaintance of two new animals that we had never encountered before.

Have you learned anything new lately?

109 in Escondido

The number one attraction on our to-do list in San Diego was the Safari Park.  I had been there about 20 years ago, but as is typical of my travels, I didn’t get a long tour – just the back of a truck to feed giraffes.  While this was a fabulous experience, I had always hoped to get back for a thorough visit.

It was a 40-minute transfer up to Escondido and we had our ride scheduled so we would get there right at opening as the website had said that it was “first come, first served”.  We didn’t need to worry – the pandemic has definitely changed people’s leisure habits – it wasn’t crowded.  In fact, as the day wore on, there were fewer and fewer visitors.

The park is like a zoo, except fewer animals with larger habitats, separated into different areas: Gorilla Forest, Condor Ridge, Elephant Valley, Tiger Trail, etc.  Due to covid-19, all the various tours by safari van and truck were cancelled, so we were faced with getting through the whole park in one day.

We started with the Tiger Trail and that’s where we met the first of the volunteers stationed around the park to answer questions.  These are my favorite people; it’s always fun to ask questions and chat about the animals and the park.  The tiger in the photo is Rakan, a two-year old Sumatran tiger.  He came to the safari park when he was five-months old from the Smithsonian Zoo, after his mother aggressively rejected him.  For the entire time we stood and talked to the volunteer, Rakan laid majestically behind very thick glass, as if it was his turn for the photo op.  YA snapped this great photo.

As the day wore on, YA started to complain about the heat.  I was quite hot as well, but I thought it was probably just all the walking around.  I had looked at the San Diego forecast that morning – high of 85.  Well, turns out that when you drive 45 minutes north of San Diego, towards the mountains and desert, the high is a bit higher.  In fact, at 2 p.m., the temperature was registering at 109.  Yikes.  And the safari park is NOT built on a flat land.  I know that for every up we had a down, but by the afternoon, it felt like all we did was climb up!  We went through a lot of diet pop and water but powered through; who knows if either of us will ever get back to the park.  The other areas we really enjoyed were Condor Ridge, Elephant Valley and Gorilla Forest.  I suppose it’s not a surprise that there were great volunteers at all those locations.

It was a great day and I don’t think either of us have ever appreciated how cool 85 degrees feels after you’ve walked all over a safari park in over 100!

What animal do you like to visit at the zoo?