Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label travel. Show all posts

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Back in print from 100 years ago - Turkish and American women reflecting on their cross-cultural experience

I came across this marvelous book series "Cultures in Dialogue" the other day, and wished I could park myself down immediately to see what had changed for American female expats living and writing in Turkey 100 years ago, and what was the same.

Here's how the series publishers describe it:
Cultures in Dialogue returns to print sources by women writers from the East and West. Series One considers the exchanges between Ottoman, British, and American women from the 1880s to the 1940s. Their varied responses to dilemmas such as nationalism, female emancipation, race relations and modernization in the context of the stereotypes characteristic of Western harem literature reframe the historical tensions between Eastern and Western cultures, offering a nuanced understanding of their current manifestations.
Obviously, the Ottoman Empire is no more, so it would be impossible to see the Sultan at Yıldız Palace as Anna Bowman Dodd did.

Anna Bowman Dodd, the author pictured above, traveled throughout Istanbul and shared her impressions of household management, education, slavery, marriage, women's rights from a female travel writer's point-of-view.

The eternal conversation on cross-cultural female emancipation will still be occurring in some form 100 years from now. How interesting it would be to see the progress from 100 years back.

Even today, only 12% of Turkish women have been out of their country. How fun it would be to read Zeyneb Hanoum's impressions of Europe as she visited it at the turn of the last century or to read the memoirs of the famous feminist from the early Turkish Republic, Halide Edib.

So many books, so little time! Kudos to the publishers for bringing these historical voices back to the conversation.

You may also be interested in these posts:

#EnSonNeOkuyorsun What are you reading lately?

"My Little Library in Anatolia" by Kaya Genç

"The People Who Go"

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

"The People Who Go"

A sample quote
from the public literature project
"Those Who Go"
My Danish friend Michael, who took me on my very first outing as an expat in the Czech Republic, introduced me to all of his fellow expat friends by saying "you know how there are people who stay and there are people who go? These are the people who go."

I was delighted to learn there is a wonderful contemplative public literature project with nearly the exact same name currently showing in the beautifully designed Denver International Airport. It is entitled simply "Those Who Go."

The artist honors "those who go" by assembling great quotes on travelers and traveling to inspire them as they move through the airport. Even better, an entire library of books devoted to traveling are available free through the project website and free airport wifi for downloading.

The creator of the exhibit says:

"As far as I know, there are four ways to travel:
  • in Space

  • in Time

  • in the Mind

  • and in one's own Self.
This small collection of books includes great travels and travelers from all four dimensions a human being can go. They are meant for you to share and explore. You can download them directly from the link at the airport or from this site, and may they inspire and delight you wherever you are."

What a creative way to share great books and to create a reading culture around and in celebration of one of humanity's greatest activities. What a wonderful reminder that being a 'person who stays' doesn't mean you can't be a person who in the mind...or in one's own self. Which free book will you download?

Special thanks to friend Suzanne LaRue who told me about the exhibit.

You might enjoy some of my other posts on travel books and media:

Hello, Great Big Beautiful World!
(the very first post I wrote - it shows the power of a book to make one travel!)


Armchair Traveling with Tony

Armchair Traveling with Rick

Friday, December 28, 2012

Why the Obama Presidential Library should be built in Springfield, Illinois

President Obama taking the oath of office
I notice the race is on for the Obama Presidential Library. The two cities mentioned as possible sites are Chicago and Honolulu. This astonishes me, as I find the obvious choice to be Springfield, Illinois.
Obama campaign poster
As a community, Springfield had an outsized influence on Obama as he spent his early legislative days there in the Illinois legislature. Why did it have such an influence? Because Springfield has excelled at passing on the message of the Lincoln Presidency to all humanity, even, as it turns out, to future Presidents.
The old
Illinois State Capitol
Obama deeply identifies with Lincoln and used several of Lincoln's signature moves prior to and in his first term: speaking on the steps of the Illinois State Capitol, a long slow train ride to Inauguration, and assembling a Team of Rivals. As Obama conducted his State legislative business in Springfield, Lincoln's words, example, and sites were everywhere in the city for him to identify with, learn from and absorb. Obama even used a term from the Gettysburg address as his first Inauguration theme: "a new birth of freedom."
The Obama family
Placing the library in Springfield would be a gigantic economic boost to Southern Illinois. Chicago is already thriving and doesn't need the Obama Presidential Library to continue thriving. I appreciate that the current Mayor there has some pull, but will the Chicago mayor 100 years from now care as much? Will promoting the Obama Presidential Library and Museum be on the top of that mayor's to-do list?

Honolulu might seem an obvious place since Obama's boyhood was there. However, if it is placed there it ensures that the people who will get to see it are upper-income, older Americans who can afford a Hawaiian vacation plus Japanese tourists on holiday. How would that change the world any? I can't help but think that the young person who could most use the inspiration of the Obama legacy, wouldn't get to see it.

That's why the Obama Presidential Library should be placed in Springfield, Illinois. Think of the savings to education budgets if school children can take in the Lincoln Presidential library and Museum and the Obama library in the same field trip.
The famous hug
after winning a second term
Foreign visitors who come to learn about one of our Presidents who worked to heal a divided nation,  would learn about two of our Presidents who worked to heal a divided nation. An Obama Presidential Library and Museum would probably be one of the most important economic drivers of Springfield as a city, even 100 years from now.

Springfield has a lower cost structure for a visit and its slow Southern pace makes for a more reflective experience, plus it places the Obama presidency in the context of wider American history. Tourists can afford to spend more days there so they can take in both the Obama library and museum. If Obama's library and museum are placed in Chicago, people will give one of those two new buildings an afternoon of their time and that's that. Back to business.
Obama in Prague
speaking on disarmament
I'm thinking about the experience created by this placement not only as a library professional, but as a consumer of the experience these destinations create. Between us, my family and I have visited the Hoover, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan Libraries. On my last trip back to America, my family and I made a special trip to Little Rock just to take in the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library. One of the things that made the Clinton Library experience work so well as an education about American history is that it was partnered with the experience and history of the Little Rock Nine.
Placing the Obama Presidential Library in context with Lincoln's presidency is a powerful history lesson in and of itself. But the most important reason the Obama Presidential Library should be in Springfield, Illinois is the message it sends to people yet unborn.

This is what makes the historical context in Springfield perfect for Obama's legacy. Springfield was the scene of a white riot in 1908 so horrible that the NAACP was formed out of the complete despair that resulted from the event. White Springfield has come to terms with this event and is not in denial. The Mayor officially apologized on behalf of the city. A walking tour has been created that explains what happened. It would not be to Springfield's shame if this story was more widely known around the world, it would be their success story.

Why? Because out of that despair, trying to pick up the pieces after a devastating hate crime, humanity organized. They worked to create a better future by organizing themselves into an association (the NAACP). These citizens had no idea what would result from that work. Out of that community organizing and the changes that resulted in society because of it, 100 years later, there was an almost unimaginable outcome: the citizens of the United States of America elected a black President.

Humanity: there is nothing you can't do if you're willing to come together and work for it. That's the astonishing, hopeful message an Obama Presidential Library in Springfield, Illinois could send the citizens of the world.

To put it in President's Obama's words: "We are here because enough people ignored the voices who told them the world could not change."

You might be interested in reading more about my visit to Springfield, Illinois. Touring Springfield, Illinois was one of the things I most wanted to do before becoming an "Empty Nest Expat."

Entering the Land of Lincoln

What Inspires Stories?

The Springfield Race Riots of 1908

A living tribute to Abraham Lincoln

A House Divided Against Itself Cannot Stand

America's Finest Example of Prairie School Architecture

Route 66 Road Food

How broke is Illinois?

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Talking About "My People," Iowans, to the Travel Junkies

"American Gothic"
by Iowa artist Grant Wood 
If you live away from where you grew up, have you ever received an invitation to talk about "your people," those that raised you and the culture you grew up in? I can't say I had before. But one of the pleasures of living in Istanbul and having so many expat friends is that I interact with a variety of international people everyday.
My Internations travel group, the Travel Junkies (who I will write more about in future posts), began hosting evenings where individual members shared about the place they came from. The woman who spoke immediately before me spoke about her homeland of Iran. I joked it was just a little intimidating to follow an 8,000-year-old culture to tell about my home state of Iowa, which became a state a mere 166 years ago! 
 Repeat three times please: Iowa = corn!
The first things I wanted to teach my friends was to never mix up Iowa, Idaho, and Ohio ever again. Americans always confuse the three and ask Iowans about potatoes and Idahoans about corn.
The President of Iowa State University
at the National Archives in Washington D.C.
celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Morrill Act.

The Morrill Act gave every state in America
that wanted to participate
30,000 acres of federal land to use for a university to
uplift the population.

My hometown of Ames, Iowa, was the first
place in the nation to accept this land grant.
The result today: Iowa State University,
one of the world's most successful
agriculture and technical research universities
in the world supported by a mere 3,000,000 Iowans!
I then was deeply proud to share about Iowa's educational legacy. One of the best things I've ever read on just how good Iowa public education was in Tom Wolfe's book "Hooking Up," a series of essays about American culture. In it he wrote an inspiring essay detailing the impact Iowa public education had on Robert Noyce, a founding chairman of Intel, and a man frequently described as "the father of Silicon Valley."
 Besides describing Noyce's educational experiences growing up in Iowa and at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa specifically, Tom Wolfe made the case that the business casual dress popularized the IT industry was just Noyce's Midwestern lack of fashion pretense institutionalized into Silicon Valley culture.
I love that story, as one would never imagine Iowans having an impact on fashion. We are not a fashion forward people. But we are a deeply democratic people. There is no "us and them" in Iowa, when I grew up there, we viewed ourselves as "us."
Iowa has the highest per capita number of high school graduates of any state in the nation (as well it should since it was the first state in the nation to insitutionalize high school), the highest literacy rate of any state in the nation, we have two cities out of the top three with the most number of PhDs per capita (Ames, Iowa and Iowa City, Iowa share that distinction with Boulder, Colorado).
The beautiful law library
at the Iowa State Capitol building -
frequently used as a television backdrop
for Iowa caucus reporting by national news organizations
Indeed, literacy is so darn important in Iowa, that our recent first lady, Christie Vilsack, visited every single public library in the State because she considered public libraries the most important provider of culture in each town. Some of those libraries were probably one room! She still visited them because those libraries brought their citizens the greater outside world.

Iowa's appreciation of reading and literature is so profound it's even been recognized by UNESCO. Iowa City, Iowa was named a "City of Literature" by UNESCO along with Dublin, Reykjavik, Melbourne, and Edinburgh.
After all, the University of Iowa (where I received my M.A. in Library and Information Science) is home to the Iowa Writer's Workshop, the very first creative writing program in the nation. It draws not only nationally-famous writers, but internationally-known writers. For example, Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's Nobel laureate for literature, has spent time at the Iowa Writer's Workshop. UNESCO speculated Iowa City may be the most literary spot in the world for its size.  It has a mere 67,000 people and was recognized with those large world-famous cities!
"Spring in Town"
painted by Iowa artist
Grant Wood, 1941
In addition to our educational values, I thought our next most important deeply-held value was in feeding the world. Iowa is first in the nation in corn production, first in the nation in soybean production, 1st in the nation in hog production (the most searched for recipe on the Internet in America is for pork chops) 1st in the nation in egg production, and 2nd in the nation in beef production. Indeed, 90% of all Iowa's land is used in farming which resulted in Iowa contributing $4.5 billion in exports to help America's balance of trade in 2005.
Notice the precise geometry
of Iowa farming.
It's a sublter beauty than mountains and oceans,
but it is beauty, nonetheless.
My friends were fascinated by the combination of a highly agricultural state combined with a high level of education in the general population. Most Iowans live in cities. It's hard for folks who come from countries where agriculture is all about peasant traditions to imagine a place where high education levels and ag can be combined.
Dr. Borlaug
Iowans care about feeding the world so much there is now a prize coming out of Iowa started by one of our own, Dr. Norman Borlaug, the ag scientist who is credited with saving more human life than anyone else who has ever lived in the history of the world. Coming from a small farm in Cresco, Iowa, born of Norwegian heritage, Dr. Borlag helped farmers globally increase their yields. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
The Iowa-generated World Food Prize is a mere 22 years old, but hopes to be recognized as the "Nobel Prize of Food," honoring those innovators in politics and science who find new ways to feed humanity. The Secretary of State announces the winner every year and the Secretary General of the United Nations comes to the awards ceremony each year. I hope, gentle reader, that you will care as much about who wins this award, as any other. I think it is that important, don't you?
A talk about Iowa wouldn't be complete without an explanation of the whole Iowa presidential primary caucus system. I think Iowa maintains its first in the nation status for selecting the president through a primary caucus for a very important reason. The first place to get a crack at judging future presidents should not only be highly educated but small enough for retail politics. Iowa is both. Candidates have to interact personally with Iowans, instead of selling themselves in paid media campaigns.
There is even a joke about it. A presidential candidate asks an Iowan for his vote in the upcoming caucus and the Iowan says, "I can't vote for you yet. I've only interacted with you three times." When I was a county chair for Bob Dole when he was running for President, it was fun to host Elizabeth Dole in my mom's living room where she preceded to tell us why Bob would make a great President.
Iowa (97% white), literally made Obama a star, when in 2008, chose him above everyone else as the winner of the Democratic caucus. He finished his 2012 campaign in Iowa too, combining sentimentality and swing-state saavy.
I described three Iowa companies I thought would impact the entire world culturally: Pioneer Hybrid for genetically-modified foods, Pinterest, a social media company for sharing visual media, and Dwolla, a brand new financial services company that makes money transfers inexpensive between people and companies.
The Iowa butter cow,
and her current sculptor, Sarah Pratt
Since my friends were travel junkies, I wanted to make sure they knew the four most important tourist things to do in Iowa. First is riding on RAGBRAI, the 10,000-strong annual bike ride across Iowa that occurs every July. The second is driving the Iowa River Road along the Mississippi, what National Geographic Magazine calls as on of the "500 Drives for a lifetime," third is spending a day at the Iowa State Fair with a special look at the sculpted "butter cow," and my last suggestion was renting a houseboat to float down the Mississippi.
You don't have to be in Istanbul, or even an expat, to carry out this idea of rotating travelogues from natives to friends. I've loved attending each one (usually presented with a meal that matches the country) and so far I have learned about Trinidad and Tobago, Lebanon, Sudan, and Iran.
Just gather a bunch of international friends and put on evenings for each other. I felt deeply honored that my friends cared enough about me to learn about "my people." I had great fun and renewed passion for my birthplace putting my presentation together. Yea Iowa! That's where the tall corn grows.

Here are four other Iowa-related posts I wrote you might enjoy:

You're My Al Bell!

Enjoying Hometown Friends in Istanbul

Dvorak Embraced Spillville, Iowa; Spillville, Iowa Embraced Dvorak

UNESCO Names Iowa City, Iowa a "City of Literature"

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Sunday, November 4, 2012

"Been There, Done That," only in present tense

At Topkapı Palace
with a trusty audioguide
around my neck
Wow! How exciting. I'm part of a trend documented with a three-page travel story in the New York Times. What is it? Solo travel. According to the article, Google reports that solo travel searches are up 50 to 60% and becoming larger all the time. Women make up 70% of solo travel, although men do more solo adventure travel like mountain climbing. The article also explains the difference between solo travel and single travel.

 Where does the article recommend a solo person go if they want to explore a new city? Istanbul! I'm here, I'm doing that! Click here to read the entire article.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Voting in the American Election as an Overseas Voter

This week, I cast my ballot in the American election. I was proud to have not blown it off but to have figured out how to do it. Figuring it out could be overwhelming, but it really helped to just call the Board of Elections where I last voted and ask them how to do it. There is a military and overseas voter specialist in both the city and county election office. I found it reassuring that two specific people actually had their name attached to making my vote count, and it wasn't a shared responsibility with an entire office, possibly becoming no one's responsibility.

They told me to go online, using my Colorado driver's license, and activate my registration for this election which I did. On September 22nd, all military and overseas voters were emailed instructions on how to download and return an email ballot.

It wasn't as simple as downloading an attachment, clicking on the right box, and then emailing it back. If it was going to be emailed back, it had to be printed, signed, scanned, and sent back. I printed it and then faxed it back. I figured there was less chance for someone to change my ballot if I sent it to the office then if I sent it through email. Fax seems less secure than electronic communication, but in this instance it made me feel more secure. I am basing that on well, no knowledge whatsoever! I called the office and confirmed that it had been received though and I had done everything correctly so my vote would count.

Overseas voters give up their right to a secret ballot. I was okay with that. Again, I am basing that on, knowledge to the contrary that it could be a bad thing.

Thinking about how to make my vote count gave me a feeling of vulnerability. After all, there are people running for office who are okay with my children not getting equal pay for equal work, who want to criminalize private family planning decisions, who approach decisions of war and peace with a buccaneer's attitude. It matters deeply to me that my vote count. I also felt that I couldn't complain, if I hadn't done my part by voting.

I am a much, much more globally-aware voter than I was four years ago. I've grown a lot in perspective since I moved abroad the day after Obama was elected in 2008. While I've always followed foreign affairs, now living overseas, I have a view from the other side informed by living in a completely international community talking with people from all over the world everyday. I understand that it is not just about America and what's best for us (although I appreciate that many Americans find that view hard to give up and don't see why we should).

I see how important our leadership is in so many venues and that it has to be informed by voices from the entire planet. It isn't just about us, because the complexity of the world has grown, and so many decisions are about all of us.

America has unique advantages: size, wealth, a shared tongue, and a stable, old, democracy renewed with ideas from the world's finest research universities. Nations can try and band together to replicate our size, but as the EU has shown, it is harder than it looks. It's interesting to me that one party still calls for sending issues back to the States, rather than solve them at a federal level, when our problems have gone from local to national to now global. To send issues back to smaller units of governance would disadvantage the people's representatives when trying to regulate behemoth global corporations. But maybe that's the point of their philosophy.

I hope leaders like Obama and George H.W. Bush, who are so good at creating a consensus among multiple poles of power all around the world, are our future. The people are currently deciding in this election whether or not to go through life on their own or to instead decide we're all in this together. I hope we choose to see that not only are we are all in this together - it's not just as a nation, but as a planet.

Thanks to all the people who made my ability to vote possible in 2012: American veterans, female sufferagettes, the Founding Fathers, public servants in election offices - see - we're all in this together.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Favorite Way of Learning About Islam

When I first moved to Turkey from the Czech Republic, I noticed the different vibe immediately. America's dominant vibe is commerce and making money. The Czech Republic's dominant vibe is skepticism and lack of belief in religion, politicians, and ideologies. Turkey's dominant vibe is faith. Even though the dominant faith isn't my faith, I do enjoy the cocoon feeling of being surrounded by faith.

Before I came to Turkey, everything I knew about Islam was taught to me by the American media. There was a heavy emphasis on how Islam holds back women's rights and doesn't promote critical thinking.

People must be getting something out of it as a religion though, otherwise why would it have become so popular so quickly in this region of the world and remained so. I wanted to learn more about it from people, rather than media sources.

I needed someone who knew my culture to guide me because I wanted someone who knew where I was coming from and my culture's standards of critical thinking and equality.

Luckily, I came across a blog written by a woman of Egyptian heritage who grew up in the Vancouver, Canada area. She too, had, North American standards. Daliah is a financial and economics reporter for a Western corporation, but she is also on a journey to explore her own faith of Islam and to submit to it deeper.

Learning about Islam makes me a better friend and expat. It also allows me to get more out of my time here. With each year here, I understand the festive feeling of Ramazan better and participate more. When I take the time to learn more about the dominant belief system in this country, I am treating my friends and hosts with respect. Most importantly, I find Islam and Islamic people way less threatening than I used to before I lived in an Islamic country. They are not a monolith.

Here's a sampling of blog posts from Daliah's blogs that I enjoyed.

This is single best description I have ever read on how to honor your father and mother:

The three-letter word that taught me how to respect my parents

Daliah explaining the act of fasting:

Fasting to feed the soul

Daliah explaining how hard it can be to pray five times a day:

Becoming spiritually punctual

This post helped me understand the spirit of Ramazan (Turkish name):

10 Ways to Maintain Ramadan's Spiritual Momentum

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A trip to Provence, accompanied by Julia Child

What is the greatest expat book of all time? So far, for me, it has to be "My Life in France" by Julia Child. These days it is easy for expats to get a book in an instant on Kindle. I still love the experience of paper copies though. I bought Julia Child's memoir of a life in France in Little Rock, Arkansas, hand carried it to Istanbul, and then to Provence, to read while when I went to visit my college girlfriend Robin and her family in July.

Last year, I delighted in documenting the pleasures of the Provence in ten different posts about my visit to Robin's house. This year was as wonderful and we did much the same things. First, there were the market pleasures in Loumartin to experience:
Perfect cherry tomatoes
Beautiful berries
more exquisite
by the small size of their boxes
French rabbits who gave their lives
in service to their country's cuisine
There were also the pleasures of food and conversation at the table. My friend Robin is a wonderful cook who knows how to make her family and guests feel loved by the smell, taste, and look of her exquisite home-cooked food.

Knowing I was coming from Istanbul, where access to pork in daily cuisine is practically non-existent, she indulged my cravings for all things pig while I was there. I think we had eight pork meals in a row!
My first breakfast in Provence.
Scrambled eggs and bacon!
Like manna from heaven.
A leek and bacon tart
Steak, mashed potatos and gravy,
grilled mushrooms and roasted fennel
Roast chicken, potatoes, and carrots.
Notice the French market preference
for keeping almost the entirety
of the chicken's feet on the chicken.
Warm leek and bacon soup
Fresh melon and prosciutto
Fresh berry tart
An English summer pudding
Oh, so delicious!
Serena, Robin and Jim's daughter, was visiting from Australia where she is working on her Masters degree in philosophy. It was so wonderful for me to see and listen to her. I had last seen Serena when she was in eighth grade. I enjoyed hearing her discuss her intellectual interests. Experiencing the children of our friends can be so delightful, don't you agree? It's a chance to appreciate our friend's life work in parenting.
Serena has grown up
to be as fine a cook
as both of her parents
Serena's apricot upside-down cake
inspired by famous food blogger
 David Lebovitz
Last year, I had told Robin and Jim about my favorite soup, Russian Cabbage Borscht, out of Mollie Katzen's "Moosewood Cookbook." Neither of them had tried borscht, so I promised to make it this year. I must need new glasses though, because in buying the tomato puree for the soup, I failed to notice two bright red chilies on the French-language label.

My soup may look like it is supposed to look, but borscht is not supposed to burn your tongue with chili heat! Oh well...our memories are always enhanced by the things that go wrong in a humorous way. I hope Robin, Jim, and Serena will give borscht a second chance after my Russian cabbage soup got a cross-cultural Latin American dose of extra heat! It's not supposed to taste like that.
Beet, cabbage, carrot, and potato goodness
Russian Cabbage Borscht
topped with yogurt and dill -
normally, healthy and satisfying comfort food.
I relished reading Julia Child's memoir of cooking and cookbook creation at the exact same time I was experiencing such interesting French food markets and food. Julia's joy in discovering the best in a culture new to her, and personalizing that knowledge with the creation of a cookbook celebrating France's cuisine was such rich reading. Provencal surroundings of French landscape and cuisine and dear friends who celebrated both enhanced my reading pleasure.

It was fascinating to me that Julia Child saw America in the polarized way of red and blue that we know today, even if she didn't use those familiar descriptive terms that were invented long after her book was published. She expressed such wonder in cross-cultural discovery and couldn't understand why her own family did not want to experience that same wonder.

Julia Child hit the sweet spot of publishing with her book when American women were cooking for themselves and wanted to make their meals as gracious and as beautiful as possible. I personally have tried cooking out of her cookbook and always find it too laborious and complicated. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate her achievement though.

I could not help but weep at the end of the memoir, such was Julia Child's fervor for the act of living and discovery and creation. What an incredibly well-lived life. Were she still alive, she would have turned 100 years old this week.

Robin and I traded books, and I started the book she was reading: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Author Gretchen Rubin fretted that time was short and she asked herself, "am I focusing on the things that really made me happy?"
The book was an account of one woman's drive to do all the things that could contribute to a net increase in her happiness over the course of the year.

How fun it was to read two books in one week and discuss the ideas in each title with my friend. I haven't read two books in one week in years! In the afternoon, Robin and I would have a late afternoon swim and discuss what we had read. The week was a retreat in every sense of the word.

I love this woman!

Thank you Robin,
for a wonderful week with you and your family.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Hearing "Tales from a Female Nomad" in Person: Rita Golden Gelman

Rita Golden Gelman
Author, "Tales of a Female Nomad"
and over seventy children's books
It struck me today as I was sitting having lunch with author Rita Golden Gelman how ironic that was. If there is anything Rita Golden Gelman is not - it is a 'lady who lunches.' Pinch me! I was meeting one of the exciting role models of my last four years as an 'Empty Nest Expat'."

I got to meet Rita, and by arriving early, have lunch with her at the Professional American Women of Istanbul (PAWI) meeting in Istanbul which I attended for the first time. Rita was the guest speaker! The women in attendance were also captivating, happening ladies making their dreams happen here in Istanbul.
Rita Golden Gelman is the author of the acclaimed book "Tales of a Female Nomad." I read her book as part of my vagabonding journey these last four years and was absolutely riveted. The blogging universe exposes us to all kinds of people living lives different than our own these days, but Rita Golden Gelman was a true pioneer in choosing a different path than the American dream of a house with the picket fence.

Rita lived the American dream, actually. She was married - a dutiful wife of an interesting man and mother to accomplished children. She lived with them in Manhattan and Greenwich Village, New York as her children grew up. Eventually, her husband's work took the family out to the film industry in Los Angeles in California. Rita didn't identify with any of it. Her marriage eventually fell apart and she decided to put the anthropology she had been studying in a PhD program at UCLA into practice by seeing the world. By then her children were grown. She sold everything, stuck the house money into savings without spending a dime of it, and has spent the last 27 years living without a permanent home and traveling the world.
She told such incredibly inspiring stories from her book which I won't share here because they are hers to tell. "Tales of a Female Nomad" inspired a whole community of readers to email her with their travel adventures (including the sublime recipes they collected along the way). Rita organized some of their tales into an anthology called "Female Nomad and Friends: Tales of Breaking Free and Breaking Bread Around the World."

Random House paid her and her 41 contributors an initial payment of $55,000 for the book. All of the money goes to support children of the lowest castes in India with vocational training. Guess what's on your Christmas list, family! What a legacy. And what a gift to give to her community of readers - the chance to be part of that legacy.

Risk-taking, trust, and serendipity are key ingredients of joy. Without risk, nothing new ever happens. Without trust, fear creeps in. Without serendipity, there are no surprises.
~ Rita Golden Gelman's quote on Starbuck's tall cup #31
There are cultures where overseas travel is really celebrated. The Netherlands and Isreal come to mind, for me, as two countries where citizens have enough time off, a lack of fear, and the willingness to hit the open road. America is not one of those cultures. Rita is interested in changing that and has a plan to do so.

At age 75, Rita is starting to feel her age for the first time. She wants to go home to spend the next two years in America working on her legacy. She is frequently invited to speak at universities about her global travels. She always asks the university to set up a talk at the local high school as well. Gentle readers, do you know of students that would benefit from hearing Rita's inspiring tales? Why not suggest her as a speaker to your favorite lecture series committee?

Rita believes Americans would approach the world with more understanding if each high school senior took a gap year between high school and college to see the world. She said high school students have three choices: university, work, or military after high school. They are not ready to experience any of these yet with full maturity. She urges grandparents to begin a $500 a year gap year fund for their grandchildren so that kids have a year to mature before starting the bigger commitments of study, work, or job while using that time to understand the greater wider world better.

She has started an organization called Let's Get Global. Her plan is to partner with a young man who is creating an American Gap Year Association and beginning an accreditation process for American gap year programs. Rita would like two people in every high school to be able to win a "Gap Year Scholarship" just to demonstrate the power of the idea to young people everywhere. Two young people from each high school nationwide setting off for parts unknown could begin to change American culture of fear about the outside world.

Rita says that fear drives one of the most common questions she gets about her lifestyle. "How can someone overcome the fear of setting out on an adventure?" She is currently working on a book of 64 tips for developing a successful mindset for global discovery.

What an exciting moment to
meet one of my vagabonding
role models!

So Westerner, ask yourself, could you give up the control Rita has over her life? It seems like control is the #1 Western addiction, but Rita just strugged her shoulders and says "I see what opportunities come to me." She rarely knows where she'll be six months from now. She has four steadfast rules 1) smile at everyone, 2) talk to strangers, 3) accept all invitations and 4) eat everything that is offered. The ability to be adaptable to multiple peoples, cultures, situations and opportunities has resulted in an incredibly inspiring life well-lived.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hanging out with old friends in Wichita, Kansas

After my daughters and I spent a few days in Arkansas, my children and I parted. It was incredibly satisfying for me to know they were both now college educated. My oldest was on her way about to take the next step in life, getting engaged. My youngest daughter had a few days at home with her father before she started her new job as an Oscar Mayer Brand Ambassador and Weinermobile Driver.
Nhan and Gulnara
with her baby bump
My next step while I was home in America was to rent a car to drive to Wichita, Kansas. That may seem like an odd destination for someone to go to all the way from Istanbul, but I had wonderful friends from Prague living there (Gulnara and I had done TEFL training together) and I wanted to be present with them at an exciting moment in their lives. Gulnara and Nhan were expecting their first child! Oh, how my friend Gulnara had longed for this! It was wonderful to see her slow down and "listen" to this growing child inside of her.

I loved, loved, loved being pregnant and was so sad when my own second pregnancy was done because I knew it was the last time. It's such a wonderful time in a woman's life feeling a child inside growing, stretching, and kicking.
Gulnara and me
As always, one of the great joys of spending time with Gulnara and Nhan is their amazing hospitality. The first thing Nhan did when I walked in the door was chop open a fresh coconut with a big machete and hand me fresh, cold delicious coconut juice. How fun is that?

Every morning I enjoyed robust coffee from the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans that Nhan made me with their wonderful coffee maker. I remember when I was a little kid thinking that coffee was so dark no one could actually drink it and like it. How our tastes change over a lifetime! Now, thanks in no small part to Turkish coffee, I love deep, rich coffee. Wow, was that good.
Nhan cooking up
some crayfish
Doesn't that look amazing?
Vietnamese noodles
with carmalized onions on top
Peking Duck
Warren Theatre
in Wichita, Kansas
One night when Gulnara wasn't feeling 100% and needed to rest, Nhan and I went to watch "The Avengers" in 3-D on Wichita's IMAX screen, which is six stories high and 100 feet high. The Wichita IMAX theatre cost $7.2 million and features the largest digital screen in the country. I'm not much of a comic book girl but the movie was so fun and so engaging in 3-D, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  I saw it with "overseas" eyes. Our entertainment industry gets so much admiration from folks in other lands, I walked out the theatre feeling very patriotic.

I look forward to hearing all about Gulnara and Nhan's child's development. Even though pregnancy reminds me of the wonders of life, it didn't make me want to be a grandmother any sooner though. I sure am loving this expat life!

You might also enjoy these other blog posts about my trip home to America:

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