People Watching Abroad: A Story of Parents and Teens

No matter where in the world writer Bobbi Lerman travels, she has only to give herself time to sit and watch to find a story. During a trip to the Isle of Skye, it was an overheard conversation between an errant Scottish teen and her father that served as the inspiration behind this delightfully universal tale of parental love and aggravation.

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Scents of the Past

Smell is one of the most powerful senses. One whiff of a familiar scent can invoke a form of time travel. When Debbie Wilson opened a present containing her mother’s favorite perfume, she didn't know that its scent would transport her back to her childhood. But it did. Suddenly, she was eight years old again wrapped in her mother's love and comfort. 

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Bereavement Abroad: When the unthinkable happens and you're not there.

Ellen Barone awakened in Medellin, Colombia, to the news that her dad, who lived in Utah, had fallen and broken his hip and hand. Soon afterward, he was cleared for immediate hip surgery, and from there, things escalatedand deterioratedquickly.

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A Funeral in the Philippines

by BJ Stolbov

Maria Natividad Pascua Olivar has died.  Nanay Mary (Mother Mary), as she was known, was 76 years old.  Her husband, Ruben Olivar died suddenly 36 years ago, leaving Nanay a single mother with six young children.  Her eldest, Rowell, died when he was hit by a car at 6 years old.  Her next eldest, Ronaldo died suddenly of a heart attack 9 months ago at the age of 50.  With her four surviving children, two daughters and two sons, all now in the 40’s, around her bed, and after a long sickness, a confluence of incurable old-age illnesses, Nanay Mary breathed her last.  She died peacefully.

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The Risks of Time Travel in Santa Fe

by Elyn Aviva

We punched in the entry code on the keypad on the side of the looming concrete storage building, opened the door, and walked down the empty, darkened corridors to our numbered unit. We unlocked the roll-up metal door and pushed it up, revealing a colorful hodgepodge of items stacked along the walls and piled on metal shelving units in the center. We were entering a mysterious domain, a mixture of refuse dump and Treasure Island. 


This was the stuff we had left behind six years ago in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when my husband, Gary, and I moved to Spain. Now that were happily settled as expats in Girona, Catalonia, Spain, the time had come to clear out the storage unit. No more excuses.

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The Stars of Our Ancestors

"For Dad" by Austin Eichelberger

 

In March, I visited my parents in Virginia from my home in New Mexico: twenty-four full hours of driving over three days and across six states, from desert mesas to grassy flatlands to the wooded Appalachian Mountains where I grew up. I stepped through the kitchen door just as dim night settled over the nearby barn where my mother was feeding horses. My dad, whose name I share, walked toward me smiling but breathing hard, an effect of the lung disease he had been diagnosed with months before. It had already restricted his existence, keeping him from the veterinary work he loved and the active, exuberant lifestyle he had always enjoyed. Watching it happen from over halfway across the country – like snippets of a harrowing home movie, with distance creating a gnawing hunger – was feeding a mix of anxiety and relief within me: anxiety that I'd be too far away to make it home if something happened, relief that I was far enough away to deny the disease’s effects on him.

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“It’s A Blessing!” A Filipino Wedding

On a sunny dry day, about an hour before the wedding, it begins to rain; the skies open up, dumping torrents of tropical rain, and I say to the family of the bride, “I’m sorry about the rain.”

“It’s a blessing!” they reply.

An hour later, it’s again sunny and dry, and outside the church on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines, the bride is waiting, dressed in her full wedding gown, inside an air-conditioned van.

“It’s a blessing!”

The groom is waiting outside the church, in the increasing heat; he is spotlessly clean and his hair neatly combed.

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Learning to Adventure from Daddy

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. 

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My Father's Syria

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).

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Inside Jamaica’s Blue Mountains: A Stranger in their Midst

by Laura Albritton 

The ancient Land Rover banged through another pothole as the rain poured onto the muddy, treacherous road. “We’re almost there,” my husband shouted encouragingly. I nodded, and clutched the door handle even tighter. Our little baby, carsick, had already thrown up twice. Driving from Kingston up 4000 feet into Jamaica’s Blue Mountains, with precipitous drops just steps away, frightened me into speechlessness. When the vehicle’s tires slipped at a hairpin turn, I silently begged God to keep us safe.

Blue Mountains, Jamaica by Nick Sherman via Flickr CCL

At last we crunched up a bumpy driveway to Whitfield Hall, a centuries-old Blue Mountain coffee farm surrounded by giant eucalyptus trees. I unsnapped our child from her car seat and hurried after my husband Zickie. Outside in a covered breezeway under a kerosene lamp, a large Jamaican woman in a red headscarf held out her arms. “Miss Lynette!” Zickie bellowed, his stream of patois making her burst into belly laughs. I shivered with the baby as they embraced. Lynette Harriott was the matriarch who kept my in-laws’ 18th century guesthouse running, just as her mother Cynthia once did. This was the first time I’d met her, on my very first trip to the island.

Finally, she turned to inspect me, the new American wife. Her mahogany-colored eyes moved swiftly from my muddied running shoes to my blond hair. “Laura,” she said formally. I shifted the baby to my hip as I moved in to give Lynette a hug. She responded stiffly. “It’s nice to meet you,” I began, telling her how much I’d heard about her. Lynette ignored this, and reached for our baby.

“Likkle Iris,” she cooed, now smiling again. Other farm workers crowded around to see the baby, the long awaited grandchild of Mr. John and Miss Maureen. “Bright-eyed white lady,” an old man named Vinnie called her. Everyone laughed. I might as well have been invisible.

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Can Anyone Go Home Again?

story and photos by Richard Rossner

 

Life is slippery. Just when I think have it in my grasp, it slithers away like an eel. It twists, writhes and slips from my grip, leaving me empty-handed. And feeling empty in many ways.

That’s when I ache for some place of intense safety and familiarity to regroup.

The house where I grew up as it looks today.

Johnny Mercer wrote, “Any place I hang my hat is home.” I wonder about people who are that comfortable.  Frank Sinatra…George Clooney…the Dalai Lama (if he had a hat). They exude such ease with everything.  

I’m not on that list. I’m on the list of people who never feel at home. And I’m not talking about a geographical place. I’m talking about feeling at home in life.

Sure, I’ve accomplished some wonderful things, but it’s all been hit or miss with no mastery. In quiet moments I’m haunted by my sense of ineptitude at navigating something that seems so simple for others.

I recently had the chance to return to my state of origin. No, not the womb as a zygote. New Jersey.  

First, I went to the town where I was born. It’s been in an economic slide for decades. Sweet memories I knew of bright Christmas lights gaily strung down the main thoroughfare; the heady smell of popcorn and candy wafting through the glorious department store; summers of big-leafed trees and fat, fuzzy caterpillars; the sweet breezes off the Raritan Bay – they’re gone. Downtown is all bargain discount stores now. The place looks like a dump. 

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A Life Of Travel: Three Gifts from My Father

by Dan Sapone

I’ve often been asked, “How did you become so interested in travel? Where did you get your curiosity for the world?”

I trace my excitement for travel to three life-altering gifts from my father. 

 

 

A World Globe: The big picture

One Christmas morning when I was young enough to have written a letter to Santa Claus, I found a world globe under the tree. It wasn’t a surprise, because my letter asked for a “revolving globe.” It was more than a foot high and rotated on a tilted axis — just as I had expected. But as I lay on the floor examining the different-colored shapes, some surprises emerged.

I asked my dad, “Where are we?” Since the Christmas before, when I got my first big-boy bicycle, I decided that my hometown was huge. I could ride my bike for half an hour and not even get to 18th Street. So, I was surprised when my dad said, “Our town is so small you can’t even see it.” When he showed me that our town was half an inch from San Francisco and three inches from Disneyland, I was stunned.

I looked back at my globe with new respect and suddenly I was full of questions: “Where are the New York Yankees?” “Where does President Eisenhower live?” Then my dad opened my eyes to a new subject: “Let me show you where my father came from." To my amazement, he turned my globe to the other side and pointed to an orange shape that looked like a boot. “Italy, Reggio Calabria, down here near the toe.” I looked at the ‘boot,’ back up at him, then down at the ‘toe.’ I remember wanting to ask more questions, but I didn’t know what to ask.

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The Doors (And Not The Ones You Think)

by Richard Rossner

“There’s a disturbance in the Force.”  - Obi-Wan Kenobi 

My uncle died today.  As soon as I heard the news, I felt the depth of Obi-Wan’s statement.  It’s been happening a lot lately.  My mother died last June.   

The disturbance I feel is that small hole…the emptiness…the gap that a person leaves behind when they finish their life’s journey and head for the next adventure in the Hereafter. It seems like a selfish thing, but I didn’t even have to talk to them; I just liked knowing that my uncle and mom were here.  My maneuverings in the world somehow felt safer knowing that we were sharing space, air, the daily happenings…everything.  But the death of someone I love sensitizes me to the rip in the fabric of life.

Even though I believe in the concept of “spirit” and that it survives bodily death, it doesn’t make the loss any easier for me.

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Revelations at a Convent

by Kristine Mietzner 

 

When I walked through the tall wooden doors of the Santa Sabina Center, thirty minutes north of San Francisco, I hoped for rest and revelations about what was next in my life. The former convent is tucked away in San Rafael among oaks and eucalyptus, and it is a place for quiet, contemplation, and meditation. Exactly what I needed.


On that rainy May weekend, I sought a break from navigating the litigious end of a long marriage. I was a sailor caught in a storm of emotions, seeking a safe harbor. No talking, just a place to take my tired self to bind my wounds, shed disappointments, and release anger. 

Just as I was falling into bed in a room that once housed Dominican novitiates, my cell phone rang. Why was I getting a call at 9:30 p.m. from the father of my children? I jumped to the fear that my son or daughter might be hurt, so I answered the phone. Big mistake. 

The kids were okay but he, an attorney, wanted to talk about our unsettled property issues. I didn’t. I referred him to my attorney. Before we hung up, I said, “Don’t call me again this weekend.” Sighing, I turned off the phone. 

Then I berated myself. How foolish could I be? I knew better than to take a call from my ex-husband while on a spiritual retreat. 

I stopped myself from a bitter downward spiral by recalling that the marriage had had its good years. We were blessed with two incredible children. I found some compassion for myself. It was okay that I answered the phone and besides, I had ended the call quickly.

Opening the window, I inhaled the eucalyptus-scented air, listened to the soft, steady rainfall whispering in the night, and reflected on how far I’d travelled in my post-marriage years. 

Right from the beginning of the unraveling of my marriage, I knew that forgiveness would unlock the door to my new life, but finding the key proved challenging. How could I forgive someone I perceived as trying to take advantage of me?

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In My Father's Footsteps

by Connie Hand

The sun was bright under a clear azure sky. The birds were merrily singing on that beautiful Summer morning. As I stood by the country road and stared at the house in front of me, my heart was pounding. I was in Nariz, Portugal standing in front of a house that was typical of the area. But this house was special to me because it was the one in which my father was born. Immediately I thought of the stories he used to tell about his childhood in Portugal and his journey to America.

I always loved to hear about far away places and thought that one day I would travel to Portugal to visit those little towns and big cities that Dad talked about in such a vivid way.

The story of my father, Augusto Silva began on June 8, 1911 in Nariz in the district of Aveiro. He was the second of five children born to Maria and Luis Silva, and it was not an easy life. The family farmed their lands  and tried to make ends meet. In 1927, Dad decided to emigrate to the United States, and it was a life-altering decision. He researched what was necessary for his journey. It must have been very hard on both of them when his widowed mother gave him her approval to leave. He told me he vowed to go back to visit this sweet woman, and he did keep that vow. He described that visit with tears in his eyes.

He traveled to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, and worked there for several months until he discovered that Portugal’s emigration quotas were filled for the next several years. He was advised to travel to France to take up residency in Paris. He told me that he worked in Paris doing odd jobs. I remember Dad telling me that Paris was a huge, beautiful city. He said he saw as many sights as he could, but he really couldn’t wait to get to America.

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