Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Amman, Jordan - August 9-19 2008

We arrived 5pm from O’Hare on Royal Jordanian Airlines. This would be 9am CST. On the plane ride, it was clear we were headed to the Middle East. Women and children walked behind their husbands and fathers. Women’s head scarves or hejab’s were worn by most. Bejan and I felt like the only “whities” in line.

One of my first mistakes in this nation of Islam was asking the Zalatimo Brothers sweet shop owner next to our hotel where a good wine bar was. They are muslim and do not drink. A night out for these Jordanians is a café where hookahs or “Arg”’s (water pipes) are prevalent in just about any flavor. We chose watermelon and mint from Zara Café, somewhat American and surrounded by Subway and Popeye’s Chicken. Ugh, reminded of the Western World already? Our driver to the Kempenski Hotel in Amman (ah-man) joked that the first Western fast food outlet we saw, KFC, was referred to as the Kerack Fried Camel, KFC. We laughed. Kerack is the crusaders castle we ended up later touring. It was also interesting to see “men only” cafes with a few adventurous (or promiscuous?) women smoking pipes with them. What was refreshing that at almost midnight the children were still awake, alive and accompanying their parents out.

Men sit at different tables than their wives. Marriage to a maximum of four wives is legal. Waiters do not seat women first if they accompany their husbands. Waiters do not acknowledge the women for fear of offending the husbands. The conservative garb is designed to avoid the temptation of skin, hair and a view of the human body. No alcohol minimzes foolishness in public.

Women and men do not touch in public unless they are married. No PDA. Darn. I love tapping B’s butt when we are walking. His sweet spot for me (we are only 4 inches apart in height) is my left outer thigh which his hand gracefully touches when we walk. However a recent scooter incident in Chicago has left me with an open strawberry on that thigh that with lots of coconut oil last week and hopefully a dip in the 35% salty Deep Sea this week will heal in no time.

While walking around the hotel, we heard some great Middle Eastern music. We walked in to find tapes, DVDs and CDs. We listened to a few and chose Egyptian Haytham Shaker and Egyptian Elissa who won the World Music Award in 2006. We were back in the hotel after working out and opened the CD of Shaker and it was empty. The owner left it in the sample player. Did we get ripped off or was it an honest mistake? We will have to go back to morrow to find out before heading to Jerash and Damascus.

We quickly learned a few words: yes, no, we are done and thank you in Arabic. Nam, la, halas and shukran. The highlight of the night was dinner at Kempenski Hotel in downtown where we are staying. Very modern, and minimalist. Fire torches and a fireplace surrounded the pool, a half moon was in the air, 30 degrees Celsius and a nice breeze. We received our appetizers of hummus, olives and marinated vegetables. The live two-person band started playing and it was incredulous that 6,ooo miles from Chicago, one of my favorite artists introduced to me by San Francisco Sarah was being played. Robbie Williams’s “I just want to feel real love.” This warranted a quick text to Sarah, to which I received a quick response. As if that weren’t enough. The band ended the song short I thought. I found out for good reason. Each day in this country, five calls to prayer are made. The band stopped in deference to the prayer calling. The city’s unity in spirit struck me. While residents were in public, at home, at work or wherever, they bow and kneel on the ground facing South toward Mecca and pray. Goosebumps were all over my body. Ahhhh…my vacation and first trip to the Middle East had just begun.

Sailing from Chicago to Mackinac Island July 18-20

My first long distance race was a buzz kill from a racing perspective but great from a cruising perspective. Seven of us sailed from downtown Navy Pier across the lake east toward Michigan. The wind died and the rain continued. We bobbed for 16 hours. Little did we know that we were in 1st place of 22 in our cruising division. Sunday after 27 hours we decided to abandon the race, voluntarily withdraw and motor the rest of the way to Mackinac. Whew. I was ready for a steady 12-15 knots, four hour shifts of sleep and rail hanging fun. Not this year. We motored in time to pull into port at 11pm on Monday just in time for all the festivities. The five newbies to the Mac on the 43' Irwin, The Betti, were spared being thrown off the stern into the cold waters after midnight as our rite of passage. Instead, one of them, endured the snores of her lazarete port side roommate snoring after at least two six packs in his part. Another whew.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Passport Use

I started collecting sand from around the world when I was 18 and went away with my boyfriend's family for the first time. I brought back a sample from the Jersey Shore as a keepsake. Little did I know that this incident would start a hobbie and later dub me as an arenophile - a sand collector.

Every where I went for the next decade I brought back sand. 30 states, eight countries and then I started working too much. So I asked my friends going to exotic places through whom I was living vicariously. Never did one person forget. When digital cameras were still in their infancy and film containers were common, they were the perfect container to bring back a sample. When I'd forget to explain how I wanted the samples, I got everything from a full Orangeina bottle from a beach in Europe to a plastic ziplock bag from Germany that I can't believe wasn't confiscated at US customs by mistake.

My hobby turned passionate when I decided to design a piece of art to display the samples. I met two Hungarian twins in Denver. We brainstormed a functional piece of art somewhat like a Shoji screen that held the 40+ glass lenses that contained each sample. I wasn't sure how to identify each sand then, but knew I wanted to interchange them on future occassions.

I finished the design and had a wood working plant in China design the prototype screen that I now have the life size piece in a bedroom. An artist's rendering was also made to show my idea of using this art as a way to bridge disparate cultures and yet to have them all peacefully coexist in one piece of art, unlike the real cultures that are so fragmented in our world today.

I intend for some incredible chain of resorts to want to use this design idea to show their portfolio properties around the world by way of the sand that represents each incredible location. Strangely enough, I have sand from Fenway home plate, Central Park and even a sample from the moon. If I share that one with you, I'll have to kill you.

I laughed when I saw Michael Moore's documentary Sicko where he profiles a mid-to-upper-class couple living in Paris. While touring their home, the wife pointed out the sand collection they started years ago in small containers.

While this seemed like a strange hobby years ago. Now I run into others who appreciate the beauty of sand collection for reasons of geology, travel, art, culture and simple memories. I've called my growing sand collection The Passport Collection ( My real passport has now become two and grows considerably in my quest to see the world.

I'll post a photo of the Collection soon.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Trip Advisor - Where I've been...

This is a great tool for tracking the places you've been and the places you'll go.

In 20 years, I've been to 30 states, three Canadian provinces, three Caribbean spots, three Central American locations, three Latin American countries and eight European countries.

This year, I will venture to Asia for the first time, and if lucky, I'll celebrate my birthday with friends in February in Africa, adding two more continents to my travels.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Mission of YGG

Here's a guide to help put your "You Go Girl" ideas into something more tangible.

To demonstrate how travel shapes (and reshapes) our lives, and because of this realization, how it continues to inspire us to inspire others to be open to different worldviews.

To share collective stories by women on global exploration and life empowerment. These stories will illustrate how we philosophically change when we open our minds to adventure in the quest to evolve our life perspectives.

-Highlight views of self and the world through the travel experiences of a diverse group of women
-Show how travel shapes who we are
-Share how travel empowers those of us who embrace it
-Set good examples for those who want to live vicariously through those who travel
-Illustrate ways one can easily (or not so easily) assimilate into other cultures
-Educate by sharing lessons and realizations of cultures not known to you before travel

The tone is a philosophical one with themes of inspiration, inclusion, ideation, empowerment and levity.

Your experiences will be highlighted by your motivations as: philanthropists, entrepreneurs, ex-patriots, explorers, and connectors, and also for reasons of education and family.

The beginning of a book

I've asked 30 women who I respect a great deal to give me a 3-4 page description of who they really are and to make it fun. All of these women are well traveled and accomplished in their own right. As I begin a book that I've wanted to write for awhile, I asked them a series of questions that will shape the anthology of "You Go Girl." The book will not be about trip details but rather the philosophies of me and these women and of why travel is such an important part of our lives. Why can some people move or travel at the drop of a hat and others never leave their home town? Is it nature or nurture? Is this quest in our DNA?

-Where have you traveled in your lifetime? Have you reached all seven continents? If this is a goal, why?
-Why did you travel or relocate? (eg life transition, personal interest, family, job, college, engagement, personal goals, life curiosity, medical care, taking care of a parent)
-What revelation about yourself did you experience in your travels?
-What lesson(s) did you take away?
-How easily did you adjust/assimilate/fit in? Did you set out with the intention to do so?
-How did you include the local people/culture into her travels?
-What are 1-3 funny experiences that you had in your travels?
-What one realization did you have about a culture that you visited?
-What one thing did you change in yourself as a result of the travel experience(s)?
-How did major life events or world history (9/11) shape or reshape your perspective of travel and of life in general?

I'll answer these questions personally in another post.