What Should I Read Before My Next Trip?

LessJust read the novel Less in under 24 hours. I had to find out what happened next, then discover the ending. Andrew Sean Greer won the 2018 Pulitzer for fiction with this travel novel. Most booksellers will rightfully shelve it in fiction. I have placed it with my favorite travel reads.

Similar to Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestselling memoir, it is the tale of an author traveling the globe to escape heartache and to find oneself. Except that Arthur Less is fictional. In this story Arthur learns to love himself a little more as he turns the big 5-0. It also gave me insight into gay culture. The author also exploits the advantage of a narrator who seems to be in Arthur’s head. We travel with Arthur from San Francisco to New York City to Mexico to Turin Italy, to Germany, to Morocco, to India, to Kyoto Japan to the Vulcan Steps in San Francisco. The descriptions are delightful, awful, and sometimes also funny, depending on the circumstance.

I have started to highlight “sparkletts” that I love rolling off my tongue or around in my head. Samples from Less include: …that crazy quilt of a writer’s life: warm enough, though it never quite covers the toes …what he met were not young Turks but proud bloated middle-aged artists who rolled in the river like sea lions… The kind of guy who wore his bicycle helmet while shopping…knuckle-whitening rattletrap wellspring of trauma.

It got me thinking about the various books I’ve read to prep for travel or to temporarily satisfy the need for travel in my life. My favorite travel authors whose work I’ve read EVERYTHING include: Bill Bryson Notes from a Small Island, and Tony Horwitz Confederates in the Attic. I just learned that Tony Horwitz has a new book coming out May 14, 2019: Spying on the South. (Just preordered!)

I consume a lot of podcasts. One of my favorites is What Should I Read Next? with Ann Bogel. And I was thinking about promoting the release of my travel guide for planning your own civil rights crawl. I thought about applying to be a guest–and there is a questionnaire to complete–so I’m practicing here. The topic I would want to discuss with her is travel literature. Not guidebooks, per se, but the broader idea of books where the characters or author travel. Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley is a classic, but there are many more that take a little effort to find.

IMG_7759You may also find suggestions for the place you are traveling next from Nancy Pearl’s Book Lust to Go. I have found some terrific books from her recommendations and some duds. Sometimes I discover that my interest in, say Norwegian, literature is limited. One of her recommendations is in my top three travel books I love:

1. Come On Shore and We Will Eat You All by Christina Thompson, a New Zealand story.

It is hard to choose among so many great books, and yet I remember #2 book having a tremendous impact on me, perhaps because my heart was already tenderized by Isak Dinesen and Beryl Markham classics.

2. Looking for Lovedu by Ann Jones, a memoir of traveling from Africa top to bottom

Choosing the third book is really tough because there are so many options. I only have one continent left to visit–Antarctica. I have read the journals of explorers and book about penguins by scientists. When I was in Australia I discovered #3 on my list.

3. Shiver by Nikki Gemmell, a novel set in Antarctica

Ann Bogel also asks her guests for one book they hate (or didn’t care for if you hate the “h” word, haha). This is harder to select because some years ago I learned to abandon books I do not enjoy. In knitting an abandoned project is “frogged” so I write this in my the back of my journal with a note why. I had to rack my memory for a travel book I abandoned or read with a sour face. In college I tried reading something by Paul Theroux. I can’t remember exactly what but I was completely turned off by his tone of disdain for the place or for the reader or both, my memory is fuzzy after 35 years. Nancy Pearl tried to convince me to give him another try, but alas, one chapter in a book store and I returned The Great Railway Bazaar to the shelf. I will provide a more current answer though. After PBS began showing The Durrells television series, I mentioned to someone that I didn’t enjoy the show as much as I hoped (I love Keeley Hawes mostly). They said, “Oh, you have to read the book it’s based on! I loved it.” So I dutifully bought Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals about their life on Corfu and waited for it to get good. And waited. And waited till the end. It’s not for me.

Ann Bogel also asks guests what they are reading now. I have several books on the go, but in keeping with the theme of travel, I am reading next: Washington Black by Esi Edugyan. This stretches the theme of travel as it is historical fiction involving travel by hot air balloon.

If Ann Bogel asked me what I’d like to be different about my reading life, I’d be hard pressed. I love the variety of my reading, and the amount I read. I enjoy both printed books and e-books. I listen to a lot of podcasts but I’m not that keen on listening to books. Although sometimes the narrator experience tempts me–like when I heard a review of Lincoln at the Bardo–a book I struggled to read and keep the characters straight. Hearing Liz Dolan recommend the audio version with dozens of actors sounded like fun. I don’t like headphones either, so that makes it hard to listen to books on planes or in public. I was feeling bad about not getting more books from the library until I heard one of her guests refer to her book buying as being a patron of the arts. That’s me! Plus when I buy them used from Time Tested Books, or new from Avid Reader, I can share them with my mom and others and keep my local bookstores open.

I write this blog to inspire travel. I am pushing myself into writing travel guides, where I am much less comfortable, because I want to help people design their own more off-beat adventures. Just as Arthur Less and Elizabeth Gilbert learned aspects about themselves that they’d never had known if they had not left home, I always discover so much about what I love, what’s not for me, and what I want to do next when I travel. And always, I pack books I can leave behind so I can lug more books home that I discovered along the way.

 

 

Celebrate Penguins!

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Art from a greeting card; originally in London Tube advertisement to entice you to ride subway to the London Zoo.

April 25th is World Penguin Day! People in Australia and New Zealand may already be celebrating!

I adore penguins. I will extend my celebration until Saturday when Mom and I are going to see the new film, Penguins.

Gutted for Christchurch and New Zealand

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This is an emergency blog to express my dismay at the Mosque attacks in Christchurch by white supremacists. Part of me doesn’t want to believe it because the New Zealand people I know and love are so far removed from this hate. Just look at the example of the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s leadership in the days following the attacks.

These fellas were hanging out in St Heliers on my last visit. Chillin’. This is what I believe better represents the Kiwi spirit. IMG-0783

I heard people make racist remarks in bars and in unguarded moments–made by much older people and never with any intent to do physical harm. I’d heard worse in the US, but as we witness in the United States, these attitudes are pernicious and difficult to change without real effort by everyone in society: education, neighbors, political and business leaders.

IMG-0793One of my favorite memories of New Zealand was in the community hall in St Heliers. They adopted the USA for the 2011 Rugby World Cup and the town was festooned in stars and stripes. The village hosted a celebration with the US Consulate and everyone was invited. A young woman sang the New Zealand national anthem and it was the first time I’d really listened to the words. I was so moved. It summed up the complicated beautiful people that I met throughout the North and South Islands. It is always sung in both English and Maori before the rugby test matches. Tonight I am saying it as a prayer for Aotearoa.

English “God Defend New Zealand” Māori “Aotearoa” Māori “Aotearoa” translated

1. God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

2. Men of every creed and race,
Gather here before Thy face,
Asking Thee to bless this place,
God defend our free land.
From dissension, envy, hate,
And corruption guard our state,
Make our country good and great,
God defend New Zealand.

3. Peace, not war, shall be our boast,
But, should foes assail our coast,
Make us then a mighty host,
God defend our free land.
Lord of battles in Thy might,
Put our enemies to flight,
Let our cause be just and right,
God defend New Zealand.

4. Let our love for Thee increase,
May Thy blessings never cease,
Give us plenty, give us peace,
God defend our free land.
From dishonour and from shame,
Guard our country’s spotless name,
Crown her with immortal fame,
God defend New Zealand.

5. May our mountains ever be
Freedom’s ramparts on the sea,
Make us faithful unto Thee,
God defend our free land.
Guide her in the nations’ van,
Preaching love and truth to man,
Working out Thy glorious plan,
God defend New Zealand.

1. E Ihowā Atua,
O ngā iwi mātou rā
Āta whakarangona;
Me aroha noa
Kia hua ko te pai;
Kia tau tō atawhai;
Manaakitia mai
Aotearoa

2. Ōna mano tāngata
Kiri whero, kiri mā,
Iwi Māori, Pākehā,
Rūpeke katoa,
Nei ka tono ko ngā hē
Māu e whakaahu kē,
Kia ora mārire
Aotearoa

3. Tōna mana kia tū!
Tōna kaha kia ū;
Tōna rongo hei pakū
Ki te ao katoa
Aua rawa ngā whawhai
Ngā tutū e tata mai;
Kia tupu nui ai
Aotearoa

4. Waiho tona takiwā
Ko te ao mārama;
Kia whiti tōna rā
Taiāwhio noa.
Ko te hae me te ngangau
Meinga kia kore kau;
Waiho i te rongo mau
Aotearoa

5. Tōna pai me toitū
Tika rawa, pono pū;
Tōna noho, tāna tū;
Iwi nō Ihowā.
Kaua mōna whakamā;
Kia hau te ingoa;
Kia tū hei tauira;
Aotearoa

1. O Lord, God,
Of all people
Listen to us,
Cherish us
May good flourish,
May your blessings flow
Defend Aotearoa

2. Let all people,
Red skin, white skin
Māori, Pākehā
Gather before you
May all our wrongs, we pray,
Be forgiven
So that we might say long live
Aotearoa

3. May it be forever prestigious,
May it go from strength to strength,
May its fame spread far and wide,
Let not strife
Nor dissension ensue,
May it ever be great
Aotearoa

4. Let its territory
Be ever enlightened
Throughout the land
Let envy and dissension
Be dispelled,
Let peace reign
Over Aotearoa

5. Let its good features endure,
Let righteousness and honesty prevail
Among the people of God
Let it never be ashamed,
But rather, let its name be known
Thereby becoming the model to emulate
Aotearoa

From Wikipedia.

Celebrating Penguin Awareness with Dr. Michelle LaRue

 

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Estimating populations of penguins is a challenge given the ice even in summer. Can you tell the difference between Adelie and Emperor penguins? Photo from https://emperorpenguinchange.blogspot.com/

Dr. Michelle LaRue is an ecologist and science communicator who specializes in using Geographic Information Systems, satellite imaging and other tools to count penguin, seal and mountain lion populations. I follow @drmichellelarue on Twitter—I especially enjoy her #Cougarornot game. She recently moved from the University of Minnesota to the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, NZ. This new adventure includes research opportunities in Antarctica.

The USA and New Zealand have a history of collaboration in Antarctica. The McMurdo research station is just down the road from the Kiwi Scott base, and both are supported from Christchurch. Dr. LaRue agreed to answer questions about this new opportunity.

Q: You’ve done research in Antarctica whilst maintaining your University home base at University of Minnesota. What prompted the move to New Zealand?

A: A faculty position with Gateway Antarctica at the University of Canterbury! Here I will continue my research on the ecology of Southern Ocean predators and look forward to building a lab in the next few years.

Q: From your new position, what do you hope you’ll be able to contribute to our understanding of penguins and the endangered polar habitats?

A: My goal is to effectively fill in the pieces of the puzzle that are missing – we’ve got several baseline population estimates now for Adélie and emperor penguins and we’re doing the same for Weddell seals and crabeater seals. Once those pieces are filled in, we get to start asking: why? Why are these populations in certain spots and not others? How do these species interact with each other across space and time? How might climate change impact their populations and habitats? To ask these questions we first need to know how many animals there are and where they live, so that’s my focus at the moment.

Q: Have you experienced an earthquake yet in Christchurch? And what is your favorite discovery about living in New Zealand?

A: For the first time, I felt a 3.2 earthquake back in December, though I will say the people around me didn’t even notice! I think my favorite discovery or realization is just how unbelievably beautiful it is – I mean this is something I knew before but now that I live here it’s remarkable to me how much diversity there is in the landscape in just a short distance. It’s an incredibly beautiful place to be an outdoor enthusiast!

Recall that it is currently summer in Antarctica, so she was in the field this past November. You can follow her team’s current research at https://emperorpenguinchange.blogspot.com/. Dr. LaRue also has links to a number of her video presentations and written papers on her website.

Dr. LaRue works on teams gauging the status of Adélie and Emperor penguin populations in Antarctica. There are things we can do to reduce human impacts on penguins and their habitat. First, more efficient fishing vessels are harvesting the krill that makes up the food supply of penguins and whales. It is important that we stop using krill oil (I didn’t realize this was a thing; however, a quick Google search and apparently lots of people are taking it as supplements). Second, the ice is shrinking in both polar regions due to rising ocean temperatures from rising CO2. We can all reduce our use of fossil fuels by riding a bike, walking, or carpooling.

Christmas Recipes from Abroad

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The mincemeat pie I baked for Jim Adan. I used my favorite pie crust recipe that uses Crisco.

Christmas is an inspiring time for baking. I usually focus on pie but I never liked mincemeat pie. Until I spent a Christmas season in New Zealand and fell in love with mince pies (a tart size version). Kiwis sell them in coffee shops, in the grocery store in 6 and 12 packs, and at church bake sales. When I was in Ireland I fell back in love with mince pies at Starbucks of all places. Their shortbread crust and mince is the perfect combination.

Plus my art dad Jim said all he wanted for Christmas was a mincemeat pie. In the past I’ve tried mincemeat from a jar. Even the fancy stuff leaves me “meh”. I looked at the prepared mincemeat sold in the Powerscourt shop and also knew I didn’t have room in my suitcase. So I asked my friend UK Sarah if she had a recipe. She took a photo of it and sent it to me right away.

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Delia Smith’s recipe. Makes enough for two big pies or lots and lots of tarts.

I looked through the ingredients and read the instructions. I can do this! Oh, except what is suet. UK Sarah said to look in the shops before I leave Ireland. So on my way back to the airport I stopped at the grocery in Bray and found suet. I slipped it into my suitcase in case TSA might confiscate. (At the time I wasn’t really sure what suet is; I learned that it is beef fat, which sounds much grosser than it tastes.)

Once I was home I bought the rest of the ingredients and proceeded to make the mincemeat. It is not difficult. It does take time with the resting 12 hours and baking 3 hours on low heat. I made the pie for Jim and it was a big hit.

IMG_6452 (1)For the tarts I used Nigella Lawson’s crust recipe. I don’t have a photo of the mince tarts but so far everyone has been enthusiastic (and they disappeared quickly). Several people commented that the tarts are just the right balance between the mince and crust.

My friend Carole gave me Christina Tosi’s new cake cookbook. And my neighbor friend Tiffanie presented me with gorgeous persimmons. I do believe I will be baking a lot this season.

Olympics Sparks Interest in Curling

On podcasts and in conversations with colleagues, everyone is fascinated with curling during this Olympics. I love being able to say, “I tried it.” Quickly I’m peppered with questions about the rules. I try to get by with saying it’s a lot like Bocce.  Here is my post from my Otago Rail Trail adventure in New Zealand. But first watch this 2 minute video from and see how much curling is not like Bocce.

Indoor Curling Rink in Naseby
Indoor Curling Rink in Naseby

Curling is the winter olympic sport that inspires both fascination and ridicule. Naseby in Central Otago boasts the only Olympic standard indoor curling rink in the southern hemisphere.

Why you may ask? Because Central Otago was settled by Scottish immigrants in the 1840s and they brought their curling stones and love of the sport with them. Most winters the lakes freeze over sufficient to send out the call and assemble teams for a Bonspiel.

The rink provides these rubber covers for your shoes to enable you to walk safely on the ice. No special equipment needed. Dress warmly!
The rink provides these rubber covers for your shoes to enable you to walk safely on the ice. No special equipment needed. Dress warmly!

If you book a tour with Off the Rails, Nick ensures that you enjoy an evening lesson and curling session. If you are unassociated with a tour you may book your own session.

The rules of the game are similar to bowls, kube, or bocce ball. You can throw the stone with your arm or you can push it with a stick. Your teammates can use the broom to sweep the ice and encourage your stone to reach the target. Your opponents can use the broom to sweep the ice and keep the stone moving past the target. I joined some other visitors for a lot of practice and a lot of fun.

If your back is stiff or sore, use the stick to push the stone.
If your back is stiff or sore, use the stick to push the stone.

Part of History! #WomensMarch 0n Washington

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This young woman embodied the enthusiasm and spirit of the March. Another young woman had a sign that read “What Would Hermoine Do?

It was so thrilling to be part of history. This was the biggest worldwide march for women ever. It came together within just a few months with marches from Antarctica to Stockholm and all across the United States. My son and I went to the Women’s March on Washington, DC. It was the first really big march for either of us.

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We drove from Boston to DC on Friday. It was a very long day due to traffic and weather. My college chum Carole was hosting us and her nephew Cade (who was my other March buddy). We chatted briefly, made plans for the morning and then went to bed.

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With Carole’s local knowledge we were able to get going at 8:30 a.m. and beat the traffic. She went way round to the back of the Capitol and came back in, dropping us a few blocks behind the Supreme Court building. People were already streaming from everywhere–with pussyhats. So many pink hats!

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We were packed in tighter and tighter. Everyone stayed positive, but after about 4 hours we needed to find an edge of the crowd.

We joined the throngs and walked toward the Capitol. Cade has worked for an Illinois Senator one year, so he knew his way around. Really though, you just had to follow the masses. Like everyone else we collected signs, button, and stickers, and took pictures of so many clever signs.

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We walked past the inauguration infrastructure as it was being broken down. We kept expecting to have to go past some sort of security check. None. We never saw any police presence the entire day. They made no arrests at any of the dozens of Marches. The mood was good natured and even joyful at times.

The main stage was on Independence and because of the 500,000 participants we couldn’t get any closer than the Mall. Since none of us could hear the official program, people got creative and started their own chants. The most common was “This is what democracy looks like.” After 4 hours of crowd jostling I was hoping that Democracy might have a little more elbow room.

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We began to make our way across the Mall and up 4th Street. This took another hour. More and more marchers were arriving to replace the small stream that were heading to the sides. So many marchers filled the area that it shut streets down for blocks. There was a festival atmosphere everywhere we went.

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We noticed that some of the more expensive restaurants were closed for private inauguration parties, but we saw very few Trump supporters or school groups. We were getting peckish and Cade had been telling Tevis about District Taco, so I knew we’d end up there for lunch. It is delicious. My only suggestion is to add more seating!

The Metro became more and more crowded as the day wore on. We hopped on the red line to go to our friend Gary’s house and watch the speakers and music on CSPAN. We caught the end and then marveled at the many other marches around the USA–especially San Francisco. Beautiful.

The day held such a positive spirit. I still cannot get enough Facebook shares from family and friends who attended marches in Oakland, Sacramento (my grandson!), San Francisco, San Diego, Boston and my friend Mexicali Cindy who helped organize the very first March of the day in Auckland, New Zealand. Right on!

This is just the beginning of the Resisterhood!