an odd collection of tales about learning to do the impossible

Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

The Other Side of the World: I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away

Over the next several days I’m going to share posts written during my recent trip to UAE and Oman.

The opulence in these two recently built, oil-rich countries is astonishing. Their precarious location in the Persian Gulf gives one pause. And the interactions between my travel group (mostly retired women from the Washington DC area) and the locals who dealt with us (mostly young Muslim men) provided material for dozens of posts. Most remain unwritten. I hope over the weeks ahead that will change.

I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away

Imagine what a US city would be like if it had been built from the ground up after 1960, and had an unprecedented amount of wealth poured into its creation?

World class public transportation, all fully automated? Wide, well designed streets? Sparkling tall buildings?

You’re describing Dubai, and Abu Dhabi as well.

Read the full post at I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away.

Find my other posts about this trip at Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace, We All Just Want to Have Fun, and Not a Country of Immigrants. I hope more will follow.

The Other Side of the World: Not a Country of Immigrants

Over the next several days I’m going to share posts written during my recent trip to UAE and Oman.

The opulence in these two recently built, oil-rich countries is astonishing. Their precarious location in the Persian Gulf gives one pause. And the interactions between my travel group (mostly retired women from the Washington DC area) and the locals who dealt with us (mostly young Muslim men) provided material for dozens of posts. Most remain unwritten. I hope over the weeks ahead that will change.

Not a Country of Immigrants

 

Citizens of the USA are almost all immigrants and their descendants. Were this not so, only Native Americans would hold citizenship here.

The United Arab Emirates is not a country of immigrants. For the most part, only the descendants of native Emiratis may hold citizenship. Those who move there will never fully belong, and neither will their children, no matter now many generations their ancestors have been there. As a result, about 80% of the population of the UAE consists of expats.

Read the full post at Not a Country of Immigrants.

Find my other posts about this trip at Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace, We All Just Want to Have Fun, and I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away. I hope more will follow.

The Other Side of the World: We All Just Want to Have Fun

Over the next several days I’m going to share posts written during my recent trip to UAE and Oman.

The opulence in these two recently built, oil-rich countries is astonishing. Their precarious location in the Persian Gulf gives one pause. And the interactions between my travel group (mostly retired women from the Washington DC area) and the locals who dealt with us (mostly young Muslim men) provided material for dozens of posts. Most remain unwritten. I hope over the weeks ahead that will change.

We All Just Want to Have Fun

If you’d asked me how much drinking liquor was tied into to my idea of having fun, I’d have said “not much.” And I’d have been wrong.

It took going all the way the United Arab Emirates to realize it… The country belongs to the more open-minded part of the Arab world, and it aspires to be an international playground. Tourism is an important part of its economy. The UAE wants you to visit, and wants you to have a good time while you are there.

Read the full post at We All Just Want to Have Fun

Find my other posts about this trip at Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace, Not a Country of Immigrants and I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away. I hope more will follow.

The Other Side of the World: Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace

Over the next several days I’m going to share posts written during my recent trip to UAE and Oman.

The opulence in these two recently built, oil-rich countries is astonishing. Their precarious location in the Persian Gulf gives one pause. And the interactions between my travel group (mostly retired women from the Washington DC area) and the locals who dealt with us (mostly young Muslim men) provided material for dozens of posts. Most remain unwritten. I hope over the weeks ahead that will change.

Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace

I have no doubt that the more time people spend together, and the more they understand each other, the less likely they are to hate or kill each other…

I’m in Dubai, the largest city of the United Arab Emirates. This modern, cosmopolitan city of over two million is a whopping 82% expats. They come from every continent, culture and religion and, in spite of their current location, they bring plenty of biases and misunderstandings with them regarding Muslims in general and the Emirates in particular.

Enter a group called “Open Door, Open Minds.”

Read the full post at Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace.

Find my other posts about this trip at We All Just Want to Have Fun, Not a Country of Immigrants and I’ve Seen the Future, and It’s 8 Time Zones Away. I hope more will follow.

An New Irish Experience

In 2004 we met a family on the west side of Ireland who were raising their children to speak only Irish. The desire to regain Irish roots resonated with us, but the approach seemed a bit extreme. Speaking English is an asset, whether one likes it or not, and all bilingual children have a brain-wiring advantage that can’t be duplicated later. Yet, to each their own.

In 2019, that desire to reclaim linguistic roots has taken hold in Dublin, but in a gentler way. Signs are in Irish first, and announcements in public places are made in both languages. I find this new pride to be wonderful, and I am happy a few words stuck with me.

Read more about my fifth visit to Dublin at An New Irish Experience

(Read more about my Worldcon 2019 adventures in Dublin at And the winner, she is …., at  An Irish Worldcon: I’m here! , at Fast Forward into the Past and at Feeling at home.

 

And the winner, she is ….

It’s hard to find a simple explanation for this preponderance of woman SFF writers. One could guess it is because the world has become more welcoming to women pursuing dreams of all kinds. But that should result in something more like woman being half the nominees, not most of them.

It is true that women as a group tend to be more verbal than men.  (Yes, men tend to be more mathematical. I’ve no quarrel with statistics, only a quarrel with extending those generalizations into making assumptions about individuals, or to making assumptions about why the tendencies exist in the first place. Life is complicated.)

Anyway, today’s world of SFF writers could, in part, reflect the fact that women make up a larger percentage of the writing and the reading community in general.

Read more of my thoughts about why woman dominate the awards these days for best SFF fiction at And the winner, she is ….

(Read more about my other Worldcon adventures at An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!,  at Feeling at home and at Forward into the Past.)

Fast Forward into the Past

Last week I had the chance to attend my first world con. What a great time! The following is an excerpt from post three of five about the event.

Time itself becomes a little fuzzy at an event like this, you know, as the real world fades away and the surreal world of of nonstop fan activities takes over. One tends to forget if it is day or night, much less what day it is. Most of us had to laugh when we saw signs like this pop up a couple of days in, but honestly it was helpful.

The past was also present in references to beloved science fiction from long ago. Dublin’s convention center peppered the areas around the escalators with warning messages like the one to the left. It was advice no fan could ignore.

Read more at Forward into the Past.

Read my additional posts at Feeling at home and at An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!

Finally — Twists of Time will be free on Kindle from Friday August 30 through Tuesday September 3.

Click HERE during those dates to take advantage of my Kindle promotion.

An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!

We discovered we both loved science fiction, and by the end of the conversation (and the bottle of wine) we were talking about attending Worldcon 2019 together in Dublin. I’m still not sure how our conversation got there.

And yet, here we are. You gotta love how things sometimes work out.

Read more about how I ended up at Worldcon 2019 at An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!

Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Most of my life I’ve considered time, not money, to be my most valuable resource. Maybe I should have put it second to love, or joy, but if I’m honest with myself, I didn’t. Maybe I always thought I was going to die young. Lucky for me, I’m getting a little too old to do that …

Read the rest of this post about the importance of rest (and fun) at Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.

Day 28. Grateful

The final stretch is a trip through the deep south. We end up spending the night in town in which the only open restaurant is a fast food chicken place, and the only open grocery store is whatever they sell at the bait shop attached to the local gas station. We patch together a meal from what’s in our car.

The next day, as I drive up the road to my own house, my last rule of the road, #28, is clear. Be grateful to have made the journey. Be grateful to have made it home.

I’ve been listening to my playlist of 25 songs with home in the title. When the list is done, Gabrielle Aplin’s Home is the one I play twice. Make that three times.

I don’t see the video until after I’m in the house. It has such a creepy start that I almost don’t post it, but I watch it a few more times and it wins me over. So much of the country she travels through looks like where I’ve just been.

I could swear I passed the guy in the yellow truck at least once in my travels. In fact, I might have stayed at his Airbnb. Or maybe I saw him at Burning Man. At any rate, the video resonates with my journey, and her song leaves me smiling … because I’m finally home.

Read the full post at Day 28. Grateful and enjoy the final video.

Day 27. Lights Along My Path

As far as rules of the road go, I fear I might have run out of words of wisdom. I feel myself spiraling out towards lofty observations like “always put love first” or inane comments like “don’t forget to give the pets treats.” I guess rule #27 is going to be: If you didn’t learn anything special today, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it.

I do have a song for the day, however. It was introduced to me by my sweet and lovely host and I think of her when I hear it. It also is about being beckoned home, and about the things that light our way.  At Burning Man, the lights off to the right helped me find my way back to my tent. Today, in this second to last day of my four week journey, she was one of the lights along my path.

Read more at Day 27. Lights Along My Path and enjoy my favorite song about lights.

Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane

A few years ago I made a play list of songs with the word “home” in the title. I was moving across the country at the time, leaving my home of fifteen years, and I was trying to generate enthusiasm for making a home elsewhere. It helped.

As I take a turn driving, one of those songs keeps running through my head, I think because the chorus has something to do with stopping a hurricane.

Tonight, I won’t be in my own house but I’ll be staying at the home of someone I love, and I’m looking forward to it. There will be a home-cooked meal (and probably a very good one) and fine wine and a soft bed that I haven’t had to pay to sleep in. It feels welcoming as I drive through the storm.

Read more at Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane and enjoy the song of the day below.

 

Day 25. Backing Up

We spend a satisfying few hours ranting about the sad state of affairs in the world (that is what news junkies most love doing) and sharing our predictions for how our current mess is going to end (that is the other thing news junkies love to do.)

Leaving our place to get food, my friend backs up on the long driveway, misjudges and hits a tree. “Just broke one of my rules,” he says. “Never back up more than you have to.”

It’s a such wise insight that I immediately adopt it as my personal rule #25.

Read more at Day 25. Backing Up.

Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …

The house is hot. Really hot. Inside, it’s a single room with a room air conditioner stuck high in a window up over an armoire. It’s turned off, of course, and there is nothing to stand on to reach the controls for the AC.

This is ridiculous.

We try several ill-fated and bad ideas for getting the place cooled down when my husband notices a page of info for guests to read. It includes the usual wifi password and request to do ones own dishes, and one sentence that is key.

“Turn on the AC by flipping the light switch just to the right of the bed.”

Read more at Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …

Day 23. What’s Your Reality?

I’ve spent several days at Burning Man, which I think we can all agree is a world unto itself. Now that I’m back in what burners call the default world, I seem to be hyper aware of the fact that none of us live in quite the same reality as each other.

The point is really brought home today when I go visit my husband’s brother and his wife at their ranch. I admire these two a great deal. Years ago they made a choice to live off of the grid, growing or raising most of their own food, hauling in their own water, generating their own solar power. Their food is pure, their bodies work hard.

The vision has morphed somewhat, allowing more modernization and convenience, but they still live a harsh and solitary life in a stunning location. Today’s big news is that they have found a way to have hot running water. They’ve both just taken their first shower at home at the turn of a knob since they began this life about a decade ago. They are quite pleased.

For all that I find their place beautiful, and their choices admirable, I realize that I’m glad I don’t live their life. I enjoy hot showers and baths, among many other creature comforts.

Read more and enjoy the song of the day at Day 23. What’s Your Reality?

Day 22. Stop, or Else …

I should have reconsidered my plan to follow-up 6 nights camping at Burning Man with two long days of driving. Last night I woke up twice in the night thinking the place was filling up with dust. An inch or more of the flaky grey coating on everything gave the room the look of something out of a horror movie, until I turned on the lights and saw there was no dust at all.

The second time it happened I knew I needed a little more decompression time.

Read more at Day 22. Stop, or Else …

Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….

Next thing I know we’ve changed our route to have lunch because isn’t this amazing. Yes, it is great to see him, but throw in a little road construction and a couple of other longer stops than expected and we arrive well into the dark, 14 clock hours after we left.

Not a problem, except this Airbnb is along the unlit and poorly marked dirt roads west of Trinidad. Our host’s verbal directions are vague and once we make a wrong turn, my phone is so flummoxed it shows us heading across a pasture, which we clearly are not.

Frustrations are rising, so I call our host and describe our location.  She talks us, landmark by landmark, to the edge of her long driveway where she meets us with a flashlight to guide us in. Some Airbnb hosts go well beyond the expected. Yay for nice people.

The frazzled nature of the day leaves me craving soft music and pretty sounds as I get ready for bed. I’m not particularly religious but my time on the road has put this song in my head. I turn to this amazing rendition, not knowing yet that it will help me get through the remainder of this journey, and soothe me for many more nights once I’m home.

Read the full post at Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and …. and enjoy.

 

Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home

There are no trees out here. Hell, there are hardly even bushes. We marvel at the wide expanse of nothing as we take turns driving, and treating ourselves to coffee, sodas and coconut water purchased at each gas stop as we whittle down the miles.

After a while though, all those liquid treats begin to catch up with us. An eager look at the map shows the next town is, well, quite a few miles a way.

“We can make it,” my husband declares. But after about twenty more minutes he is squirming in his seat, and finally he pulls over.

“Sorry,” he says. “I’ve got to go.” He steps off to the ditch and does what he needs to do.

Now, have you ever really, really had to pee and listened to somebody else take a leak that goes on and on and on? If you have, you’ll understand. There may be no bushes to hide in, but at that point, I don’t care. I join him on the side of the road, doing my thing the way I have to do it.

“That was kind of embarrassing,” he mumbles. I agree. But nobody passes us from either direction, so there are some advantages to a lonely stretch of highway.

Read how this ended, and enjoy the song of the day at Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home

Day 19. A Border Crossing

My noon-time good-byes are rushed and sweaty, perhaps not a fitting climax to this amazing experience, but then again, exactly what about this experience has been fitting?

I am leaving a day before the man burns but even then, the five mile an hour drive out is slow and long. Along the way, I distract myself by cherishing my favorite moments…

How about that nearly assembled 747 blaring out Santana’s Black Magic Woman as I rode up to it at sunset? For that matter, the mix of music of all types coming at me 24/7 was surprisingly entertaining and even soothing. The soothing part is hard to explain, but ear plugs and an eye pillow remain two of the things I didn’t need to bother to bring. Burning man lulled me into a sound sleep each night, and woke me each morning…

 

I know there is so much I didn’t see, and I suppose that is part of the charm. I think this place works best if you leave deciding you found the things you were supposed to, and what you missed, well, it was meant for others, or maybe for you another time. Some of the art and camps do come back year after year…

 

I realize I’ve had a crazy week, but I wasn’t in a crazy place, just a different one; one in which I got to experience joy and sorrow and wonder, sometimes all at once.

Read more, see more photos, and hear the song of the day at Day 19. A Border Crossing

Day 18. I, Human

Right before I give up, I have my epiphany.

This is totally stupid.

I mean it. It makes no sense. I am standing in the middle of a desert so inhospitable that no life form except microbes lives here. It is hot and miserable. The food is lousy and I have no appetite. The liquor all gives me a headache. It’s crowded and noisy and the sounds never stop. The porta-potties stink and I’ve no where to brush my teeth and I can’t even get a damn art car to stop for me even though the sign says it should have been here by now.

What’s worse? I paid $400 to do this. I drove nearly 3000 miles, spent at least another $1000 on supplies, and used up most of my free time for the last month getting my shit together to be out here. And  ….. here comes the epiphany. I’m glad I did it. I’m enjoying myself. Worse yet, I’m thinking about coming back here and doing this again. Seriously…

Do you think you could program a machine to do that?

Read more, see more photos and listen to the song of the day at Day 18. I, Human

Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …

It’s jazz. New Orleans jazz to be precise, and I realize this is a funeral procession …. Then I notice just how big the procession is. It’s got to be hundreds of people, maybe more. They are getting closer to the temple ….

I’m happy to let my private tears coexist with this noisy tribute. Then I realize the trajectory of this procession will take it into the temple via one of the many curved entrances, and it happens to be the one in which I’m sitting in the dust crying. I’m about to be in the way of the largest single act of mourning ever held at Burning Man.

Read more, see more photos and check out the song of the day at Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …

Day 16. What Rules? What Road?

I spend about half an hour trying to find the henna tattoos, located at 4:00 in center camp. Hot and cranky, I finally give up.  This has certainly turned into a shitty day.

Then I stumble upon friends and next thing I know I’m on an art car with some sort of south seas theme. It takes us to a memorabilia-filled tiki bar tucked into a bus and I’m drinking rum drinks and talking to a psychiatrist about phobias when I meet an older burner at the bar who’s been doing this since the early 90’s and he kisses my hand and suddenly I feel so welcome here.

Read more, see more photos and enjoy the song of the day at Day 16. What Rules? What Road?

Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be

When I arrive, I find a universe that is gentler and more accepting than I hoped. Staff and performers hug, compliment and encourage. Some acts are polished and great fun to watch. Others are raw creations, not ready for prime time elsewhere. Yet, they are cheered on by this coffee-sipping audience that seems to understand the fragility of nascent artistry .

I receive quick and generous praise from everyone for being a warm, helpful and happy human. How odd. Is this worthy of praise?

Read more at Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be.

 

Day 14: Magical ride

This day is as dusty as yesterday, with short bursts of almost no visibility. I’m determined to survive in this and I fill the day with getting settled in to my camp and doing a little preliminary exploration. The beach bike I have brought to the playa is perfect, its fat tires riding smooth and sturdy over the desert.

As twilight comes, the winds stop, and the world takes on a carnival glow. Color is everywhere, blinking and twinkling in the most unexpected of shapes. My camp mates invite me out for a bike ride on the deep playa, that place away from the campers where art cars roam and art installations glitter, waiting to be admired.

Read more at Day 14: Magical ride

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