Walking tour of Chania on the island of Crete... Lighthouse Ancient mosque A ride around the harbor? Greek flag flying proudly Ruins An excavation in the middle of town This is what they think this ancient Minoan village looked like And this was on the same corner...talk about a juxtaposition of old and new! Wooden penises in a souvenir shop Beautiful Cretan blanket With this sign on the door Loved this sign ... [Continue Reading]
This morning, as homework, I asked my students to write an ode to our home for the past four days, Milia Mountain Retreat. This is the ode that Jean West from Port Orange, Florida wrote: Even though I arrived when you were busy, quick hands extended fragrant coffee and toothsome cookies, making me feel as if it was a homecoming instead of a visit. You embraced me between arms of limestone and slate like my grandmother, earthy and earnest, and caressed me with herb-laden breezes and butterfly wings.
I love the rhythm of our life here in Millia. I love being in one place for four full days, waking up to yoga and writing class every morning and then sharing lunches and dinners together, sitting at the broad wide wooden table with different seatmates at each meal, getting to know each other while savoring the fresh local food. Yesterday afternoon at 4, half of our group took a cooking class in the basement, in Millia's second kitchen, adjacent to our writing room. We filed in, put on aprons and washed our hands with olive oil soap. It was hard to believe that such a luscious oily soap would ever wash off our skin, but it did, leaving my hands clean, my palms soft and pliable. When we were all ready to begin, Tassos, who owns the place, began his instruction. He wanted us to know ... [Continue Reading]
National Geographic has called Milia Mountain Resort, our first home in Crete, one of the world's best Ecolodges. In the 1980s, when many Greeks left their villages to ride the wave of tourism development along the coast, two local friends took to the mountains of Crete instead. Their vision was to restore an abandoned medieval village and turn it into a retreat based on living in harmony with nature. Tassos Gourgouras, the owner, has created an off-the grid stone village and this is where we arrived yesterday. We are staying in spacious one-of-a-kind ancient stone apartments complete with fireplaces, eating our meals in a huge rustic dining hall. They grow all the herbs and food, raise and slaughter their own goats and chickens. Everything is organic and incredibly delicious. They serve ... [Continue Reading]
On my Write, Travel, Transform trips, I always begin by talking about some core attitudes that make traveling (and traveling in a group) more successful. One of these attitudes is flexibility and letting go of irritations and a second is respect for peoples' differences. I also ask people to take a risk every day. It can be a small risk, one that would be invisible or insignificant to others--like attempting a greeting in Greek, striking up a conversation with a local person, or trying an unfamiliar food. Or it can be be something bigger--sharing something intimate in writing class or going on a solo adventure. When I was explaining this concept to the group in our first orientation session, I gave the example of eating olives. All my life, I've hated olives. Don't ask me why. I pick ... [Continue Reading]
I didn't write and post as much as I thought I would from Cambodia. Our days were long. I was savoring my final days with the group and with my family. But I wanted to at least share some photos from our final day's outing: exploring village life in Cambodia. And I also wanted to wish you a fond farewell, at least until my next trip. I also want to thank you for being such a great audience of readers. It's been a pleasure to move through this journey as a writer - always looking for the next story, the next quirky detail, that great overheard bit of dialogue, all those strange juxtapositions of ancient traditions and contemporary modern culture. To share my travel experiences with you. Each day searching for just the right story. I loved exercising my creative muscle in this way. ... [Continue Reading]
I've spent the last 30 years dealing with trauma and thinking about trauma, so while I was in Siem Reap, I felt a visceral need to do more than marvel at the ancient temples this area is so famous for. I wanted to do that yes, and I loved walking around Angkor Tom, Angkor Wat and several smaller temples--snapping pictures of the phenomenal carvings--but I also wanted to witness first-hand evidence of the killing fields and the war crimes of Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge. I'd read the memoir, First They Killed My Father, by Loung Ung, and seen the movie, The Killing Fields. The genocide suffered by the Cambodian people at the hands of their own people has haunted me ever since. There was ... [Continue Reading]
One last P.S. from Laos. On my very last visit to the night market to buy some gifts, I came across this woman selling jewelry, key chains and bottle openers made from the aluminum that came from U.S. bombs. Talk about transformation! They money is helping their village in many ways. The sign explaining the project said: "We bring the new meaning bombs and help ourselves and escape poverty." I bought a bottle opener in the shape of a map of Laos.
Last night, after my wonderful interlude at Big Brother Mouse with Eliza, we returned to the hotel and headed out with our group for a farewell dinner and Baci ceremony at the home of a local family. Tui had arranged it for us and I knew it would be a wonderful evening. Judy and Surya always end their trips with something special. We were dropped off at a family compound, took off our shoes, and each of us was draped in a ceremonial wrap around our chest and shoulders. We sat on chairs around the perimeter of a large room. At the front of the room were members of our hosting Lao family: the oldest man (the high priest), several older women, a couple of teenagers playing drums and an instrument I didn't recognize, and two young children. They sat on the floor in front of a large altar ... [Continue Reading]
Several times since we've arrived in Luang Prabang, I've passed a storefront that says "Big Brother Mouse" and I've always wondered what it was. The other day on my way home from the night market, I passed a cart out in front filled with children's books written in Lao, including a Lao translation of The Diary of Anne Frank, which I thought was pretty cool. I recognized it because it had that classic photo of Anne which is on all the copies I've ever seen of her diary.
Anne Frank in LaoIntrigued, I picked up a brochure and learned that Big Brother Mouse is a project designed to promote literacy in Laos. The opening paragraph of their little pamphlet read as follows, "This is the story of how we are changing Laos from a country where 'people don't ... [Continue Reading]