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IN THE SPOTLIGHT  (SCROLL DOWN TO READ OUR LATEST BLOG POSTS)

 

Tuesday
Oct212014

Learning to Adventure from Daddy

by Laura Hedgecock 

 

I was born with Fernweh, an ache to explore faraway places. It’s in my DNA; both of my parents had it. It was my dad, however, who taught us to pack adventure into our explorations.  

Like my mother, I’d bask in the preparations for travel. I’d research, map out itineraries, and pack well in advance. For Daddy, however, the best part of travel was the adventure—the experiences you couldn’t plan for. 

Mother and Father in Alaska.

In 1985, I was interning in Germany when Daddy was due to come over on a business trip. Since I was stressed about making a move from Köln (Cologne) to Homburg-Saar, Daddy decided we would make the move together and he would take care of the details. 

What he meant by that was that he’d leave the details to take care of themselves. 

He rented a BMW with a manual transmission. His plan was to teach me how to drive a shift as he took in the beauty along the winding road that followed the Rhine River. It would be cheaper, he said, than replacing the clutch in a car he owned if my “learning” didn’t go well. In my mind, he rented a red convertible, but I’m honestly not sure if I’m coloring the memory. 

He’d laugh and say, “Way to go kid!” when I wasn’t able to find a gear.

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Tuesday
Oct142014

If Only The Teachers Could See Me Now

by Cathy Laska

 

I had to step back a few feet to get a glance of the Scott Monument from the ground up to the spire. It was terrifying and made me rather dizzy. (It reminded me of the time back in junior high when I froze at the top of a five-tier bleacher and it took a couple of teachers at least an hour to get me down.)   

I was in my last full day of strolling around the streets of Edinburgh, taking in the remaining major attractions I wanted to see before leaving. For several days since my arrival, I had walked past the awe-inspiring gothic tribute to the famous Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. Located in the Princes Street Gardens, the monument, a cathedral-like structure, towers well above the other buildings on Princes Street and the surrounding area. This stunning piece of art, made from Binny sandstone, stands two hundred feet six inches tall, with a spiral staircase of 287 steps.  


I had been reading the brochure and thinking how much I really would like to go up to the top of the monument and experience the view, but my fear of heights kept me firmly planted on the ground, content to just wave to the people at the top of the spire. Eventually, though, curiosity got the better of me and I was faced with a tough decision: Do I let my anxiety take over or do I take the challenge?

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Tuesday
Oct072014

My Father's Syria

by Claudette Sutton


Growing up in a suburb of Washington, D.C., I knew only bits and pieces of my dad’s life in the years before he became my dad.

I knew that both sides of our family came from an orthodox Jewish community in Syria (we ate delicacies like fried kibbehs, stuffed grape leaves and baba ghanoush, long before these foods hit the mainstream, and men sang Arabic songs at the Passover seder).


I knew that my father’s family had lived in Turkey for a few years when he was little (he once gave me the Turkish answer to a crossword puzzle clue).

I knew that he had lived in Shanghai as a young man (he taught us how to use chopsticks).

But I never knew how these bits came together in a story. For Mike Sutton, oldest son of a Syrian textile merchant, the job of getting to America, obtaining citizenship, finding a wife, starting a business and supporting a family pushed his past to the background.

Then one day several years ago, Dad asked me if I would help him “put [his] story on paper.” That simple, straightforward request set off a multi-year journey of discovery. In our very first interview, I blurted out, “Dad! Do you realize how interesting this is? This is our family treasure.”

My father—modest, soft-spoken, quintessentially pragmatic—had no idea. He was just living his life.

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Tuesday
Sep302014

Driving in France

by Aysha Griffin


On my first trip to Europe in 1978, I landed a job driving a cheese delivery truck in London. I was too young and enthusiastic to be afraid of a right-hand drive minivan with no visibility or negotiating the "other side" of the road while deciphering the phonebook-sized "A-to-Z" map of London streets to locate stores awaiting chunks of cheddar and rounds of Roquefort. After six weeks, I moved on.

It was one of those jobs I've never known if I should include on my resumé to illustrate gumption and nerve, or never mention for its irrelevance. I submit it here as evidence of my behind-the-wheel experience and competence, and also the lack of clear direction in life. 

I've often taken the "next road" because it appeared, rather than plotting and staying a course. I like to think this has made for an "adventuresome" life, which I must value or else negate the roads I've taken. It's a journey that has often required me to debunk a sense of security as "illusion," although that illusion can be mighty sweet and comforting, deserving of appreciation for as long as it lasts.

I know of no happier sight than sunflower fields, so I smiled my way from Provence to Dijon along two-lane roads dotted with sunflowers and vineyards. Caption and photo by Aysha Griffin.

I admire those born with a sense of purpose and a clear path to satisfying lifelong careers and relationships. But I've discovered they are the exception. Most of us bumble from interest to opportunity, taking wrong turns, getting lost in detours, and sometimes spending years on roads that lead to disappointment in dead ends. 

I have learned to accept that life, for me, is not a clearly marked thoroughfare but a mix of toll roads where I speed along thinking I'm getting somewhere fast and not counting the cost, freeways where the landscape of time rushes past from the comfort of my driver's seat, winding country roads that meander and demand patience, and even bumpy tracks where I'm forced to get out and consider if I have the clearance and will to press on, or good sense to know when to change course. 

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Tuesday
Sep232014

Land: A World in a Word

story and photos by B.J. Stolbov


What is land? Land can have many different meanings. Land can mean wealth, profit, prosperity, privilege, prestige, power, control, status, accomplishment, satisfaction, success, fame, respect, honor, dignity, safety, security, stability, continuity, contentment, freedom, happiness, hope, joy, beauty, love...

Land, for most people of the world, means wealth. Wealth, like beauty and love, is in the eye of the beholder.

 

For me, land was never wealth.  Wealth was always money, money in the bank, money in a bankbook, a bankbook safely in hand or in a box in a locked drawer, money invested in stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.  Land was always an illiquid asset of uncertain value with high property taxes, constant insurance, repairs, trespassers, and troubles: land is an almost completely useless investment. The only land that I ever owned was a plot: 6 feet long by 3 feet wide by 6 feet deep. 

Every person I know in the Philippines either rents or owns their property outright.  For the average Filipino, there is no mortgage system of credit. In fact, I know few people who own a credit card. The Philippines, at least in the rural Philippines where I live, is a cash-and-carry, or, more often, a barter-and-carry, economy.

This is one of the main reasons why the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures for “developing” countries are often so low. GDP measures the above ground economy of wages and income; it does not measure the underground economy of cash and barter.  Particularly at a local level, GDP is a misleading number. Many of the people I know here in the Philippines live on almost nothing, except their own homegrown food, and the products that they barter for goods and services. This is how we, and most people of the world, live.

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Tuesday
Sep162014

Telling Stories in Cornwall

by Elyn Aviva

 

My husband, Gary, and I recently went to Cornwall to walk meandering paths with a small group. At least, thatwas the story. One morning over breakfast at Rosemerryn House in Lamorna Valley, one of our group revealed she is a professional storyteller. She described learning to take storytelling seriously. “After all,” she mused, “We don’t usually think stories are important. At least, not in the real world.”


I realized that often the word “story” is used as a code word for “false.” As in: “Oh, that’s a likely story! You don’t really expect me to believe you, do you?” Or it’s trivialized to mean something soothing, as in, “Tell me a bedtime story.” Of course, a story is much more than that: it is how we make meaning out of our experiences—as in, “telling the story of my life.” Sometimes I identify so much with my story that instead of me telling “it,” it starts telling “me.”

That morning the group set off on a journey to Boscawen-un stone circle. Usually, my story would have been to go along. But I decided to tell a different story: a story of following where I lead myself instead of where I am led by others. 

I set off on a different journey—a journey to 2500-year-old Boleigh Fogou, an underground, stone-lined passageway (in Cornish, fogo means “cave”) hidden in nearby Rosemerryn woods. There is much debate about the original purpose of fogous (storage? A hiding place?), but it seems clear that they were primarily used for community ritual and ceremony. As a guest at Rosemerryn B&B, I had permission to visit the fogou.

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