Tunisia at Last


“Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.” Proverb

The land of Tunisia, on the North African Coast, sandwiched between the giants of Libya and Algeria has long been on my bucket list of countries to visit. Why? Because of what I’ve read of its history and heard of its culture. I have friends who have spoken glowingly of the weeks and months they’ve spent there. And the fact that of all the countries that experienced the Arab Spring, Tunisia is the only one seeking political change that has at least partially achieved it.

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See the USA in a Dodge Van, Part 1

As you probably know, but may have forgotten, Kay and I are no strangers to long road trips. Our last in the U.S. was in 2012 in a motorhome that we nicknamed The Beast. That experience taught us a lesson; we won’t do it that way again. This time we are traveling in a brand new Grand Caravan by Dodge, so loaded with features that we don’t even have to open the two side doors or the hatchback manually. Just give them a nudge and they open automatically. For us old-timers, technology has changed our world in unrecognizable ways, hasn’t it?

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Innocents Abroad in Japan, Part 3

“Wearing kimono and walking in Kyoto”

Sign for a kimono rental service

From the window of a speeding Shinkansen on a sunny day, the impressions pile up quickly. There nearly always seem to be mountains in the distance. In the foreground, every bit of land seems precious. All the arable fields are under cultivation, and in settlements, the two-and-three-storey residential buildings are grouped so close together that it seems it would be difficult to drive a car among them. As for passenger cars in Japan, many are smaller and boxier that the larger, aerodynamic styling we associate with the Toyotas and Nissans in North America.

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Discoveries in Uzbekistan

It is after 7 a.m. in Tashkent where I had arrived with others only four hours before in the middle of the night. I go into the hotel’s currency exchange office and lay a hundred-dollar bill on the counter. The woman in charge goes to a cabinet in the rear of the room and returns with a brick-size bundle of local currency. There are eight packets of one thousand Uzbek som notes, one hundred notes to a packet. With eight thousand som to the dollar, I now have eight hundred thousand som, which, other than for a few major purchases, will see me through the next eight days. “Salem Alaykom.” Welcome to Uzbekistan!

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Gdansk and Around

Kay and I passed through Gdansk for the first time about ten years ago on our way north through the Baltic States in an attempt to beat the summer heat further south. On that occasion, we stayed only a couple days to admire the old city and ogle the amber jewelry in the shop windows.

This visit was more comprehensive. During scheduled excursions from our annual two-week literary conference held at a nearby resort on the Baltic Sea, we revisited the beautiful old town’s center, overflowing with summer tourists, and spent some choice hours in two museums that hadn’t existed at the time of our first visit.

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The Austere Beauty of Iceland

March, 2015

Geologically speaking, nature did a good thing for the planet fifteen million years ago by giving us the volcanic island of Iceland. Of course, it took humans a long time to discover it. It wasn’t until the 9th century CE that a fugitive from Norway named Ingólfur Arnarson approached the island by boat. Throwing two carved logs overboard, he declared that wherever the gods decreed they would touch land he would settle. That spot became known as Reykjavik (Smokey Bay) due to the steam rising from its fissures and thermal pools. Today, it is that steam that heats the water that supplies the bathroom shower and fills the kitchen sink. Its faint odor of sulfur betrays its source.

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Getting Mellow in Melbourne

The city of Melbourne on Australia’s South Coast with a population of 4,200,000 is nearly as large as Sydney, yet we experienced it quite differently. Partly, this was due to the influence of our German friends, Conny and Jocki, who have a long relationship with the city and who enjoy a relaxed style of life. They introduced us to Melbourne in a gentle fashion, first when we disembarked from the QM2 for a day and then again when we arrived for this longer visit after Sydney. It was fortunate that their current visit to Melbourne coincided with ours.

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Pleasures of a German Spring – 2012

“ . . . everything was thrilling because nothing was the same . . . “

Tom Waits

There is a phenomenon common to us all known as psychological time. I mean that our perception of time passing is a function of what we are experiencing. That time passes more quickly when we are having fun and more slowly when we are bored or watching the clock is a truism. The longest fifteen minutes of my day occurs when I’m running on the treadmill at the gym.

Studies show that when we step out of our daily routines and do new and different things our hours and days seem to lengthen and that they pass more quickly when our routine activities resume.  At home, although I may be doing many things in the course of my day, they tend to be the same things, and the days, weeks, and even months seem to pass very rapidly, too rapidly for someone as conscious of finite time as I’ve become. I have the opposite reaction when I travel. At those times, days seem to pass much more slowly; a week on the road can seem a month long because I’m seeing different sights, hearing different speech, and thinking different thoughts.

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