Category Archives: Stories

Cape Town, So. Africa: One Last Thing


My last activity in Cape Town was a poignant one. One of my favorite students organized a Middle Passage ceremony to remember and pay homage to the enslaved Africans who lost their lives during the passage from Africa to the Americas.

Sunset, Daisies, Friends. We each said our own private prayers, then public words, and set our flowers adrift. Our feet on African soil for a final few minutes. I can’t think of a better way to have ended my time in South Africa.

Oudtshoorn, So. Africa: Something Different


MEERkat Luv, originally uploaded by funchilde.

So you get the point that I am totally in lurve with Cape Town right? Well, I decided to get out of the city to get a little balance, and I knew a couple of months ago that I might have a chance to see Meerkat Manor in real life!

If you’ve ever seen the show, you know that there was no question I was going to do this if I had a chance. So, I packed some gear into my daypack for the two days we would spend out in Oudtshoorn. To give you some perspective, there were several trips heading out to safaris all over so. africa, there were opportunities as diverse as safari on 4×4 quad bikes, trips out to Kruger National Park, people were flying over waterfalls and driving to the highest bungee jump in the world, etc. There was lots to chose from and lots of people to satiate your adrenaline craving with.

Fortunately for me, only 7 other people were dying to get out to see the meerkats and the ostrich farm that would serve as our home base for the trip. At this point in the round the world journey, I needed the quiet, relative calm and the low people density of this side trip. I was overstimulated, overcaffeinated, overextended, etc. All in good ways, but definitely losing touch with reality with so much to see, do, hear, taste and smell.

The trip out to Oudtshoorn was about 4.5 hours and we had an 18 passenger van for 8 of us, which allowed us all to stretch out and occupy our own space. Within 20 minutes everyone had iPod earphones shoved in their ears or books out, tilted just so in the sunlight. I set my playlist and watched the amazingly green countryside fly by to the sounds of Corrine Bailey Rae, Jack Johnson, and Sade (the remixes). We passed the winelands, the mountains, streams and rivers and we drove and drove and drove some more. We made a pit stop for food, bladder breaks, and I picked up the local trashy paper and a samosa, both for less than $1 US (and EVERYBODY including our driver got caught reading my trashy paper at some point).

We made it out to the ostrich farm where we’d be staying and I was dazzled by how serene, beautifully laid out and artfully conceived the place was. This is what you see in glossy travel magazines made for people who travel Africa with MONEY! We ate all of our meals under a palapa roof – open on 3 sides, with good music, lots of wine and the firepit nearby, while gazing out over alfalfa fields (part of the diet of the ostrichs) and the pool.

The first day we headed out to Cango Wildlife Ranch and oohed and ahhed over all of the creatures being rehabilitated or protected from dangerous conditions in the wild. We spent hours wandering around. I enjoyed the birds, bats, this crazy looking thing, lots of baby crocs, big crocs, lemurs, meerkats, and the BIG BOYS! Lions, white lions and I got to pet baby cheetahs and got to have a huge boa constrictor around my neck until she got too antsy and wouldn’t stay still. A day of many firsts. (Hi Dad!)

We checked into our cabins on the ostrich farm and the woodcraftsmanship of these things is amazing. Each cabin has two rooms, a kitchen area, living room and back deck overlooking a small lake teeming with birdlife. After an amazing dinner of ostrich lasagna, red wine, white wine, salad, squash soup and erudite discussions about politics, class and international relations, I conked out. I woke up at 3am to the sounds of a mamma cow and her calf moo-ing their hearts out to the full moon-I got up and looked out the window because they sounded awful close, and damn if they weren’t right under the window!. If that wasn’t bad enough, every frog, cricket and racket making insect on the lake had some kind of general assembly going on. Fortunately 4 months traveling around Mexico has me immune to this nonsense and I promptly fell asleep again, only to wake at 4:45am to get out to the meerkat site before first light.

*oooh, I forgot to mention that I talked my way into the kitchen for a peek behind the scenes! 

Unfortunately, I woke up with the first signs of an upper respiratory ebola virus (my diagnosis and terminology-I don’t really have ebola), that I knew was not going to be pretty. Some tea soothed my throat but nothing was going to stop me from tossing my cameras, water, bandana, headlamp and snacks into my pack and trampling everyone else to get out to the site.

We drove and drove and drove some more, then crossed some scary mud holes, crossed into a locked ranch property and drove and drove some more. We finally were camped out in front of the meerkat’s burrow by 6am where we used binoculars to scan the landscape as first light dawned. We saw spring bok, water bok and lots of birds. By 7:30am the meerkats STILL hadn’t woken up and I was like, damn…they have more sense than we do. I pointed out that basically we had driven 300 miles to wake up and sit outside someone’s bedroom window and wait for them to get up so we could follow them around all day. Yes, I am very funny to myself. So witty, so clever. Wait, why am I single?

Our guide was none other than Grant, the Meerkat Manor dude! He has built a relationship with this group of meerkats as well as others over several years. They don’t view him as a meerkat, and they are not tame, he has them conditioned to view him as another large animal that is harmless, thus they have accepted him and they mark his shoes and tolerate his presence. This dude got us within mere inches of the meerkats. When the first little head popped up out of the burrow, 14 more followed within the next 5 minutes or so. It was the most adorable thing you can imagine.

We were coached not to make sudden noise, sudden movements and to be still if they looked directly at us until we passed their security test. Which we did eventually and then we spent the most nerdtastic morning following them all around their territory. We were literally in the middle of their group and they weaved in and out and between us as they searched for food, stood guard and the babies wrestled. Grant taught us all about this fascinating animal as we walked, I fell in love with their sense of community, their matriarchal structure and their cute little two legged sentry stance.

By and large we two legged beasties cried “uncle” and headed back to the farm for a breakfast of scrambled ostrich eggs and cheese, toast, bacon, yogurt, cereal and juice where we all talked non-stop about what we’d seen. Everyone envied the porcupine quill that I’d found (amazingly beautiful!) and I succumbed to the fatigue of my UREV (upper respiratory ebola virus) with visions of meerkats occupying my dreams.

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Cape Town, So. Africa: A Day To Remember Pt. II


I love this photo, not that it is well shot, but the context. The poster in the back is rather inflammatory without seeing the whole thing. It’s a beer ad that says basically “I hate being white because people assume I’m a racist…” but goes on to point out that South Africans come in all shades and unity trumps ignorance. Add to the foreground this picture of us (5 Americans – 1 African American (me), 1 Bi raciacial (black & italian), 1 Mexican American, and 2 Caucasian American) and I guess this poster could really be almost anywhere in terms of the issues that most countries are dealing with around race. The beautiful thing is that across the table from us are 5 South Africans and I like the symbolism that the table represents, we’re all reaching out across a divide to understand each other better.

After church w/ the Archbishop and crew, I hightailed it back to the ship to change clothes and meet up with Samuel, Lydia, Ammy (ah-me) & Danny to take an independent Township tour. Samuel has friends of friends who hooked us up with Gerald, a local media personality and Gerald gave us a peek inside of his world. No tour buses, no staring at people from behind panes of glass, no group ogling of the locals, we were going to get into the township and look people in the eye, connect, communicate…or so I hoped.

I should have known the day would disintegrate into a comedy of errors when Gerald rolls up to pick up the 5 of us in a 2 door BMW convertible. We were all like “no way, we’re not going to ride through a township in a Beemer are we?” but we packed in like sardines and chipped in to gas up the car and off we went. The Townships are hard to describe. they are like large ghettos with shacks, few running water sources, high population density, lots of trash blowing about, anything that can be used in some way is put to work, people, materials, ideas. But that would only be 1/2 of the picture. Most of the people in the townships are educated, there are lots of entreprenuerial pursuits being undertaken and there are relative middle class folks as well, some sections are nicer than others in terms of building materials, relative amounts of land per house, etc. The townships are a direct result of the impacts and residue of Apartheid, the unequal distribution of land, the stolen resources…it all sounds too familiar.

Gerald first took us out to Khayelitsha township (Shameka, I liked your vote for Soweto, but we never made it out there!), the largest township in Cape Town with something like 1.4 million people living in a fairly small area. We were warned not to go to townships on our own and I’ll admit that I questioned the sanity of our decision to go even with a guide, but Gerald parked and ushered us into a shabeen (local bar) called Morgan’s Place, and my fears melted away. People were either super friendly to us or paid us no attention. For the rest of the day I would never sense animosity, malicious intent, or even an ounce of ill will toward us. On the contrary we were turning down beers from the locals, playing a game called “waterfall” that I won’t discuss right now (smile) and talking all over each other “what languages do you speak? were you born in cape town? where is your family? why do you want to come to America?” and answering their questions “yes America has similar race problems, but I can live, work and play anywhere I want, yes I like hip hop music, no I am not married and I don’t have kids”

We were having such a good time in the little tin bar, snapping pictures, writing down propper spellings of our names, getting e-mail addresses and learning how to say hi in 3 different African languages, that when Gerald said it was time to go, we protested noisily, but he assured us that more and better were waiting. He took us to his home which was very obviously upper middle class and we finally got to joke him about his modeling career (hair products, corn flakes, clothes) and got to see some of the ads he has been in. Even more heartwarming were the 2 teenagers that were at his house, under the watchful eye of a neighbor, doing their homework in a clean, quiet space. I loved it. We got to see his bachelor pad, pics of his family and hit the bathroom before we tucked ourselves into the BMW again. He dropped the top and the afternoon sun, coupled with the breeze, the music (kwaito), the vibe and the continual realization that “Hey Man, we’re in South Africa!” overwhelmed me with what I can only describe as joy. We were all feeling it as people waved to us, we waved back, the music blasting with table mountain and the blue sky as backdrops.

Next we headed to Nyanga township for the best braai (think bbq) I’ve ever had. I’m not kidding. Maphindi’s is a butchery/restaurant and all the meat is fresh and seasoned and grilled/cooked to perfection. I was a little skeptical when we first sat down at a stainless steel table with nothing but a stack of napkins and a loaf of white bread (what?!), but when the meat came out (and it was ALL meat, no veggies, no potatoes, nothing but meat), we were like a pack of wild hyenas who hadn’t eaten in weeks! The meat was cleaned from the bones by our teeth and hands, the loaf of bread was reduced to a demolished plastic bag and some random crumbs. Little did we know that Gerald had called the owner and he was making his way towards us. Khaya and his family own Maphindi’s and a couple of other local businesses. He was funny, handsome and gracious as he gave us a full tour of the facility, including the expansion they’ve almost completed, the banquet rooms and finally the rooftop where we could see the township, the airport tower and the power plant as well as kids playing soccer on the schoolyard. The whole neighborhood was buzzing with energy and activity, Maphindi’s doesn’t serve or allow alcohol on premises so that the restaurant can be family friendly and I found myself falling a little bit in lurve with the idea of marrying a South African entreprenuer with a family business…but alas, Khaya is happily married and I am happily unmarried, so we kissed on the cheeks, hugged a bit too long and said our goodbyes.

At this point it was about 3pm and I thought Gerald would probably be ready to get rid of us and take us back to the ship, but we drove around for a while looking at the townships, the cityscape, the types of businesses and services that were around. Finally we slowed a bit and turned a corner into what looked to be the biggest block party I’ve ever seen. Out of nowhere there were more than 4,000 people, cars, dogs, beer bottles, stereos and did I mention PEOPLE!

We parked the car, which was a miracle in itself, and grabbed stickers, pens and pencils to give to the kids, stuffed some rand (so. african money) into our pockets and locked everything in the trunk before joining in the revelry. We made our way to a cargo container which doubled as a “brew thru” — a place where you could purchase beverages, we picked up Savanna Cider and made our way into the thick of things where we danced for almost 4 hours non-stop. The music was AMAZING, Kwaito is so. african hip hop with jazz and house infused and reminds me of early hip hop (which i love) and international house music (which i like a lot). Gerald taught us a sexy trick where you open one beer bottle with another and we were all thinking about who we could impress with such useful knowledge!

We met up with Nanna (a doctor from Ghana) and his girlfriend Maria (from Namibia) and all 4000 pairs of eyes were on them almost all day as they were a stunning couple with a knack for dancing suggestively. Our group swelled to about 12, but we kept mixing and mingling with local 20 and 30 somethings, dancing with anyone who would subject themselves to our enthusiastic appreciation of the DJ.

We shared beer, wine and cider with other visitors from the UK, Germany and France, dodged the local boy’s (and girl’s) attempts at kisses, and went to the bathroom 3 at a time because, hey…that’s just what they do here. And I don’t mean 3 people you know at a time, I mean you go in and 2 other women would push in too. At 8pm the DJ shut down so he could take a nap before he had to spin at a club downtown that evening so the party was over whether we wanted it to be or not.

We got quiet and somber on the way back to the ship, coming off of a natural high, knowing that a day like this would happen only so many times even in the most blessed life, believing that there was some magic to the particular mix of people that shared the experience, and knowing that our time in Cape Town would dwindle fast. All of this served to make us teary-eyed. At the dock, we couldn’t let go of the day (or Gerald) and stood around for another 45 minutes re-hashing the day as if we hadn’t all been there together. Ammy and Lydia cried so much they got the hiccups. I just tried to soak it all up, breathe it all in, and thank God for the chance to see, touch, taste, smell and feel, to be overwhelmed with sensation, overtaken by joy and overcome with gratitude. It really was one of the top 5 best days of my life.


Cape Town, So. Africa: A Day To Remember Pt. I

I’m not falling in love with Cape Town anymore. I’m so far past that that its ridiculous, inarticulable. Today was one of the top five days of my life. Really. It totally reminded me of that one night in Guanajuato.

So saturday was my Duty Dean day and things were so busy that I didn’t make it off the ship until dinner. It was a chilly, rainy and overcast day anyway, so if it had to be any one day that I was pressed into duty, that was a good one. Fortunately things were quiet in the evening and I was invited to put on my finest (slacks, summerweight polo sweater, cute loafers) and join about 12 others for dinner at the Archbishop and Mrs. Tutu’s house. Yeah, I can’t believe it either. We rode out to the suburbs and got to see the changing landscape from city to neighborhoods while the sun was setting, a quiet moment for me inside my head. I missed my parents terribly and wished they were with me.

Dinner was amazing. The vibe, the mix of people, the food, the laughter. To watch someone so revered in their natural, domestic life was touching. I am generally not nervous in environments where I have to be mindful of etiquette, etc, and I wasn’t this night either. Fortunately, I made an early faux pas (I sat on what I THOUGHT was a stool, but it turned out to be a small side table!) and I think this helped everyone relax a bit and just unwind.

The house was warm and it was like stepping into your grandparents living room, the food was colorful (lots of veggies), well seasoned (chicken and fish!) and the dessert was the design of the devil (custards, pies, cheesecake). But my favorite parts were the conversations. the Arch had invited several of his friends and staff and I got to hear funny stories about the Archbishop told by people who clearly love him as a person, beyond the celebrity. His personal assistant, one of his fellow Anglican priests, several of their friends, our cast of characters and really good wine. I told you it was ridiculous! Blessed is the only way to describe how I felt. And it gets better.

Sunday morning at breakfast, I ran into one of the Deans who asked me if I was going to Church, I said “sure, when are you leaving?”, he said “In 10 minutes” Well, when you’re invited to Church with the Archbishop, you find a way to gobble down your french toast, wash it down with juice and sprint to your room to change into a dress suit in under 10 minutes.

We drove out to Langa Township, the oldest township in Cape Town, and met up with the Archbishop at Saint Cypryanos church (sp?). The Archbishop wasn’t leading the service, he was there in his suit and collar handing out programs, dancing (he is ALWAYS dancing, seriously) and smiling. Now, I haven’t been to church since I started traveling about 14 months ago so I’m not going to pretend like I was doing something I always do. I settled in to my pew and just soaked up everything. The church is modest but beautiful, the word that came to mind was “craftmanship”. The wooden floors, the pews and the massive ceiling beams were undoubtedly hand cut, hand finished and hand placed. Amazing. The choir and pastor in their purple and white were stunning, and the music had all of us in our little group (about 12) literally crying, it was so beautiful, soulful and divine.

They sang in xhosa, one of the 11 official languages which is in and of itself beautiful (the word for hello is “Molo” which is incredibly fun to say). I obviously didn’t take any pictures, but I did grab some audio which I’ll figure out how to upload later. The sermon was also delivered in Xhosa, but it was easy to pick up the topic as the priest would literally drop a sentence of english in every 3-4 minutes so we knew that the “topic” for the sermon was basically community and how humanity is designed for companionship, that to be my best me, I must help you be your best you. That’s a philosophy that I can get down with any day of the week.

Stay Tuned for Pt. 2, the day got even better.

Cape Town, South Africa: Falling in Love

Wow. 24 hours in Cape Town and I can tell you that I think I want to live here at some point. Like now.

Yesterday was one of the most random days I’ve ever had in terms of activities, conversations, events.

After the diplomatic briefing I was cleaning up some conversations and giggling about various things when the Archbishop stops in front of me with the Premier of Cape Town and proceeds to introduce me to him. Yeah, you read that right. Archbishop Tutu introduced me to the Premier of Cape Town. Which is like having Oprah introduce you to Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger. Wild.

It gets better (and since we’re name dropping anyway)…I got to meet Arch’s wifey! She’s adorale, and together they are the most smiley, 64 teeth showing powerhouse of compassion you can imagine. I’ve had breakfast and dinner with the Arch a few times and he’s always joking me about my relative (to him I guess) youth and I’m always asking him “are you causing trouble young man?” so yeah, I’ve got inside jokes with an amazing guy. More on that later, back to yesterday….

So afer trampling everyone down the gangway I figured out how to get some money (south african “rand” = 7.11/ US $1) then we hit “Docks” restaurant and scoped out tickets for Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years). Due to the high demand, tourist season and general interest, by the time we got to the ticket office there was nothing available until Monday so we laid down our rands (and don’t you always feel super rich when you have foreign currency?” The notes are like 1,000 rand and you feel all wealthy until you realize its only about $145 and you’ve spent half of it on wine, music, peri-peri wings, and the like…wait, maybe that’s just me.

We roamed around all afternoon before checking our bank accounts online (alot of people got ATM bombed in Salvador and have watched scary amounts being withdrawn from their accounts). We watched this guy (pictured above) perform a street show that was the best worst thing I’ve ever seen. His shenanigans were more like a train wreck than a feat of amazing accomplishment, but as I’ve said before…I lurve an entreprenuerial spirit, plus he probably makes more money than I do.

After freshening we ran out to meet up with our waiter from lunch out for cocktails at Manegbas, a jazz bar (Jazz Safari begins!). I cut out after an hour to head to U of Cape Town theatre for an evening of high culture and froo-froo artsy type stuff. It turned out to be pretty great. Red wine, good food and appearances by the director tend to have that affect on me I guess?

After getting our culture on, we changed clothes and hit Cantina Tequila (yes a Mexican bar in South Africa!) then cabbed it over to Long Street which was packed with bars, clubs, pubs, etc and we got our dance on until it got too hot at Marvel. The music was phenomenal, but I need a fire code to be enforced and for there to be an observed “maximum capacity” for these places! there were 4,234 people in a little corner spot that might have fit 200. I didn’t stay inside long because I had taken off my money belt (its pretty safe most places here) and had my coolpix in one front pocket and my cash and a credit card in another. It was too packed in the dance spots for me to be able to guard my pockets well so we just danced out front behind the velvet rope. As tends to happen, we wrapped up the night (3AM for me) with a stop for some Peri Peri wings! I LOVE Peri-Peri sauce (an african hot sauce) and want to bring bottles of it home with me.

Tomorrow should be low key since I’m the Duty Dean and have to stay within 10 miles of the ship in case of any emergencies. After getting to sleep at 4AM, I’m not going to complain. Pics later when I find cheaper internet.

Wait, yall thought I was falling in love with a person? Not this time around, but this feels just as wonderful.

Cape Town, South Africa: Choose Your Own Adventure

By the time you read this I will be out and about in Cape Town. We just sailed into harbor and are in between diplomatic briefings. I have so much to tell you about our travels so far, but the combination of long days with lots of activities and responsibilities and RIDICULOUSLY expensive internet has created a perfect storm of blog blackout. So, I have 7 days in Cape Town, what should I do?

Robben Island (Where Mandela was imprisoned)
Table Mountain (in the photo)
Shark Dive
Ostrich Farm
Botanical Gardens
Go to the Theatre
Jazz Safari
Cooking Class
Bungee Jump from highest point in the world
Go to Meerkat Manner
Park my behind on the beach
Visit a Township
Skydive with Shayla
Ride ATVs
Stay in my room and recover from Carnival

What say you (and no, I can’t do “all of the above”). Let me know what you think I should do in Cape Town!

Puerto Rico: Guess Who Got a Tattoo?


I wish I could tell you that I slept in today, but I didn’t. Not a whole lot of time for that and who wants to sleep in when there’s a whole U.S. territory to see? Shayla, (another one of my staff colleagues) and I hit the streets of San Juan early. very early. So early that nothing was open except for the jewelry stores and the restaurants serving breakfast. She was on a mission to track down a tattoo parlor or two, and get some comparison prices for a small piece she wanted done. This would be her first tattoo and she was nervous. I don’t know her well, but she seems really similar to me in that she’s pretty conservative about that kind of thing. I like the idea of tattoos, on someone else, but have never seriously considered getting one myself. But I was curious and intrigued, so I went with her for moral support.

We spent the morning wandering around Old San Juan and the streets reminded me of San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) in some places with their narrow access and brightly painted buildings. It was a nice breezy morning and we just strolled which I love. We dipped into Cafe Mallorca, where they are known to have an amazing breakfast, but to conserve money, we ate breakfast on the ship (free!) and picked up some homemade macaroons to sample while we checked things out (worth the 30,000 calories!). We got bamboozled into checking out some jewelry and next thing I know, I had whipped out my credit card and so had she. I keep justifying these purchases as “gifts” but if yall don’t get any “gifts” when I get back, yall know the deal!

While waiting for the tattoo parlors to open we found a music store (Jah Rastafari) and I was all excited that I could pick up some Puertorequeno tunes, alas…they sold only Bob Marley and Marley-esque tuneage. BUT we did meet Rashonda who is an SAS alumni. She did the spring voyage last year and loved PR so much that after returning home and graduating, she packed up and moved down to PR last August! How cool is that? She was great and gave us a recommendation for lunch, but had no help for me regarding my music crisis. We found two tattoo parlors for Shayla and she got quotes from both of them. I liked the guys (pictured above), but wouldn’t trust them with putting ink on my body.

We decided to mull her options over lunch at Cafe Puerto Rico. I know, cheesey name, but the food was oh, so, good. After mulling the menu, and chatting up the cutie-pie bartender/owner and his brother while he made us some noon-time cocktails…I decided on arroz con camarones, plantanas (yellow rice with saute’d shrimp, plantains) and…red beans (good thing I have my own room, no?). They also made their own salsa picante (hot sauce) from scratch and it worth the sweat beading up on my forehead, they couldn’t give me the recipe though b/c they said their father made it, and they had no idea what was in it!

After lunch we stumbled across this little store (Hecho a Mano) where we spent a small fortune in jewelry and music, a lot of the students had found it too after word got out about the great prices and the place was packed but I picked up two CDs that I am totally in lurve with now and have on constant rotation (Shayla is rolling her eyes). Having made her decision (not the guys pictured above), I accompanied Shayla to the tattoo parlor of her choice and stood-by while she did all the paperwork and got all of the info and warnings.

It took about 20 minutes (17 of which I slept through) and I waited for her in the parlor lobby. The artwork came out beautifully. She hugged her tattoo artist as if she was glad to still be alive and we boogied out of there to a pharmacy so she could get the recommended ointment to take care of her new bodyart. We also stocked up on drinks and snacks, etc for the ship (we leave tomorrow!).

I also found these creepy things which are the worst souvenir idea I’ve ever seen! We spied some old dudes throwing down playing dominoes near the park and stopped to soak up their good time. The last stop of the day: booking our indie (independent) trip to El Yunque rainforest! A lot of people went yesterday with groups but we decided it would be more fun with less people so we cabbed (best cab ever) it over to the Ritz Carlton’s tour desk and hooked up a tour for the next morning. I’m still coming to grips with traveling in a group, but I realized I’d rather travel this way than not at all, so I’m keeping my attitude and perspective in check. All of which are easier to do because I genuinely lurve the majority of the people I’ve met.

Other highlights: Dusting off my rusty spanish and impressing others (and myself) with my ability to get around/get what I needed. I’m an international woman of mystery!

My latest post is up over at Gadling! Our talented team over there is growing. We’d love your comments!

Poetic: Tastee Freez in Snow Storm

I drove out of New Hampshire like a bat out of hell escaping the snow. For the first 45 minutes I thought I might have to turn back and delay my departure. I hit more snow in Connecticut, then high winds in New York, but the sun started to shine. I shed layers as I got further south. Wander Woman (my new new to me car) shed the layers of ice and snow, and I even rolled down the windows without complaint at the 47 tolls and to check out the Basketball Hall of Fame.

I hit Virginia with a smile on my face. Then I ran into a blinding snow on Rte 29 and my smile faded as the sound of metal on metal trumped my new favorite CD. Guardrail 1, Funchilde 0.

All is well, the packing continues.

T-minus: 5 days and counting to Semester at Sea.

Pre-Trip Planning: Courage & Inspiration


I’M No AnGeL But.., originally uploaded by ..Pu®e PoiSÇ’N...

So, I’ve been blogging for a year. My blogiversary was Saturday and this post was written more than a year ago as I worked up the courage to quit my lucrative career, pack everything up and rent out the house, give the nod to a relationship that the sun was setting on, and take a leap of faith. Let me know what you think, share your own story if you like.


The first Ellen was a junior high school classmate. Ellen B was closer to our mutual friend Monica than to me, but we were an affable group of 14 year olds who swore we had dozens of friends and fantastically cosmopolitan futures ahead of us. The second Ellen was a professor at the undergraduate business school that I attended. Ellen W was an Associate Dean by the time I reconnected with her in 2004. And though I had never had her as professor, she was happy to meet me for lunch, where we hunched over an index card as she helped me construct a metric to evaluate graduate programs. These two women were almost 20 years apart in age, and their successive deaths in 2005 still manage to astonish me.

Initially I thought that the two Ellens were pretty different from one another, one was black, the other white, one was younger and lived on the west coast, the other more mature (in years) and a long time east coaster. But after some scrutiny, I realized their similarities were remarkable. They were both single, neither had children and both had a deep, almost tangible faith in God. They were both kind, generous and carried themselves with a humility and openness that is hard to articulate, but easy to recognize. They both had what I call a “warm spirit”. They were the kind of people that even if you don’t believe in God, it would comfort you to know that you were in their prayers. Though I failed to find much dissimilarity in their lives, their deaths couldn’t have been more incongruous.

Ellen B died slowly, over the course of two years, battling daily to gain the upper hand over an aggressive disease. The last time I spoke to her, she sounded like she was winning. Ellen W died suddenly, over two days, succumbing to a merciless virus without warning, healthy on Friday, gone on Monday.

I was heartsick over Ellen B’s passing in that human way we all react when someone our own age dies. I wondered if she ever got the chance to fall in love? Did she travel to foreign lands and eat foods she couldn’t recognize? Did she dream about marriage or children? I wondered if she had ever been so happy, that time slowed down and she could feel the earth’s movement moment by moment for a split second, with a grin on her face and people she loved around her? I did not know these things because we fell out of touch after high school, I kept up with her through mutual friends, but our personal spheres never crossed until I called her when I learned that she was ill.

I was heartsick over Ellen W’s passing in that human way we all react when someone we have recently spent time with or laid eyes on dies. And I wondered about her life and loves too. I hope that both Ellens had the joy and heartbreak of a full life. That they were not strangers to love (people, places and things), and its inevitable companion: heartbreak.

I do admit to hoping that both found work that they were passionate about and utilized their gifts and talents. I hope that they both had many moments of heart-bursting joy, to temper the inevitable pain of a human existence. But mostly I hope, for my own selfish reasons, that neither died alone. That each was comforted by both earthly and heavenly creatures. That on one side of the divide of time, there were warm hands pressed into theirs, soft skin stroking foreheads and whispers of psalms and peace. And I hope that on the other, there were unmistakable celebrations of divine welcome and promises of harmony and rest.

I of course recognize that I wish these things not only for them, but also for myself and for all of us who have yet to make the final journey home. And it gives me a comfort that I cannot name, to think that when my time on this earth has come to an end, that I will be greeted by two warm spirits that seem at once familiar and breathtaking, but happy to see me. I wish this for all of us. And so I go, because time truly waits for no (wo)man.

Let’s get this party started.

Travel Personalities, pt. ii


The main thing I like about traveling is the people. That said I don’t necessarily like ALL of the people all of the time, but everybody’s got a story and I’m curious enough to want to hear it. The people that cause me to roll my eyes are not suffering personality flaws so much as they possess some unfortunate personal/physical/hygienic issue that I simply cannot overlook. Here are a few of the types of travelers that I try to keep an eye out for (continued from pt. i):

2. The Bump’n Grinders: Simply put these are the people that stand so close to you when you are in line that they can read your passport number through your pants. This is largely cultural in nature. Latin Americans and Spaniards have a lower threshold for personal space. They are very affectionate, touchy-feely, and culturally comfortable with people standing very close, touching them and even jumping/cutting lines. Uh, and I’m a Crazy.Black.Chick. with the emphasis on Crazy and Black, for this sidenote. Studies show that people of different cultures, races and sexes, tend to put more space between themselves when interacting, than when talking to someone of the same race, culture and gender. As an African American Female I like about 17 feet of clear space in all directions around me at all times, my Latin American amigos…not so much. My remedy is to go on the offense. I now try to see how many different people I can touch or jostle at a time. And if you’re cute…no, that wasn’t me that pinched your bum bum.

**Why I’m going to hell: for pinching people’s bum-bums!

So you tell us about some of the people you’ve met on the road!

To Be Continued…