Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jordan and Israel: Day Two, if you can call it that with the time change

"Travelers are the greatest ambassadors of tolerance."

Paris, oh Paris. I've seen you from above. I've looked out over your beautiful fields, and gazed at your cloud-filled skies... but only from the air or the air...port. And so it was again today.

Once I landed in Paris and made my way through security again (yes, they make you go through security even though you've simply gotten off a flight and then walked down the corridors to security to get on yet another flight), I was walking to my gate for the Paris to Amman flight, when I heard my name being called from behind me. It was Uncle Mike.

Nancy and Mike and their friends, Mark and Lynn, had rested at their arrival gate (from Cincinnati) for awhile prior to making their way to our departure gate. Once we all congregated at the gate, I met a few more people who were in our group. I knew there had to have been people on my Salt Lake to Paris flight who were part of our small tour group since Discovery Expeditions & Adventures is based in Salt Lake, but I hadn't met them yet. Mark and Lynn's parents, Alvin and Marilyn were there. I also met Jeff and Heidi, Stephanie and her grandma Amanda, Cindy and Luke, and Kevin.

Al, Marilyn, Mark, and Lynn
Photo courtesy of Mike

The next leg of the flight was not quite as comfortable. Somehow, I ended up in a window seat, a choice I have no recollection of making. My preferred seat is always an aisle seat which allows me to get up freely and use the aisle for elbow and leg room, if needed. Luckily the flight wasn't too long. At least I don't think it was. I don't have much recollection except that it was much more cramped and the announcements were made in three languages, Arabic, English, and French.

We arrived in Amman at about a quarter after 9pm. I was the first in our group off of the plane, so when I made it down to where our Jordanian host was waiting for us, I rushed off to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Suddenly, I was the last one of the group to make it back. Our Jordanian host took all of our passports and handled the visa and customs for us, while we sailed on through to the other side to claim our luggage.

Baggage claim at the Amman airport
Photo courtesy of Mike

I had mentally prepared myself to wear the same outfit during the entire trip in case my suitcase got lost. (I brought one change of underwear in my back pack). After ten minutes of waiting and watching other people claim their bags, I was beginning to think that my mental preparation might have been a good idea. Luckily, I didn't have to worry anymore when my bag made its appearance on the baggage carousel. I believe I was the last one from our group to get her bag. Hallelujah!

The Grand Millennium Hotel in Amman
This photo was taken the next morning, since we arrived in the dark

Luggage loaded and sleepy passengers all accounted for, we bused from the airport to the Grand Millennium Hotel in Amman. We were surprised to learn that the hotel had agreed to have a late dinner buffet just for us when we arrived at nearly 11pm. We were all tired, but the hospitality was simply so generous, we could not say no.

Wonderful buffet dinner at the Grand Millennium

Aunt Nancy and I dining... at 11pm

My room was a pleasant surprise: very clean, very nicely decorated, even if an interesting, more modern taste. Honestly, it was much nicer than I expected. And heaven sent was that bed! If I haven't mentioned before, Pat joined us in Israel, so I had all my accommodations in Jordan to myself.

As you can see if you look closely, the bathroom boasted a glass wall in the shower. For those who needed a little more privacy, a screen can be rolled down on the other side.

Our wake-up call was scheduled for 6:30am the next morning, so I got to bed as quickly as I could. However, in my tired state, I couldn't quite figure out how to keep the electricity on to charge my phone, so I had to keep the lights on. It was one of those hotels that you are only able to turn the electricity on by keeping your key card in a little slot. But also if you turned off all the lights, then the plugs wouldn't work either. I was too tired to figure it out. Good thing I had my eye mask.

Sunday, October 25, day two:
Steps: 5,185
Miles: 2.37
Flights: 4 floors

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jordan and Israel: Day One of a new adventure

"The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move,
to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of
your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape,
to risk the unknown."

Sunrise on the Saturday morning of my departure in Salt Lake City

Several months ago, I received an email from my Aunt Nancy and Uncle Mike asking if I would be interested and able to join them and Mike's sister, Pat, on a trip to Jordan and Israel. Jordan and Israel?! I'll admit that while neither of these countries was on my radar recently for potential international trips, I was immediately intrigued. Wanderlust started immediately brewing inside me.

Uncle Mike and Aunt Nancy

How could I pass up this opportunity? The unrest in the Middle East seems to be growing and frankly, maybe someday we won't be able to go. So, after checking my work schedule and vacation bank, my bank account, and the fall weather in the Middle East (I just don't do touring trips like this if it's really hot... no, thank you), and a little hemming and hawing, I finally responded YES!

Uncle Mike with his sister, Pat

In the months leading up to my departure, when I would tell people where I was going on vacation, about 70% of the time they would ask me if it was safe or why would I want to go there right now. My canned response was something like, "Yes, it's safe. I wouldn't be going if it weren't, and who wouldn't want to go there?" Visiting Jordan and Israel at this time makes a point: there are good people everywhere, don't avoid an entire region based simply on what's happening in a few countries.

However, in the couple weeks prior to the trip, the news coming out of Jerusalem was filled with stories of increased violence and tension. Every morning when I'd wake up and take a look at my news updates on my phone, inevitably a news story about the increased unrest in Jerusalem topped the list. Scary? Sure. But honestly, I knew I would be safe. Even the U.S. State Department website reassured me that I would be fine, despite its warnings (emphasis added, by me):

The security environment remains complex in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, and U.S. citizens need to be aware of the continuing risks of travel to these areas, particularly to areas described in this Travel Warning where there are heightened tensions and security risks. The security situation can change day to day, depending on the political situation, recent events, and geographic area. A rise in political tensions and violence in Jerusalem and the West Bank has resulted in injuries to and deaths of U.S. citizens. In view of the ongoing security situation, the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority make considerable efforts to police major tourist attractions and ensure security in areas where foreigners frequently travel. Although threat mitigation efforts by authorities are not 100 percent effective, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Israel and the West Bank each year for study, tourism, and business. 
And so, off I went. SLC>CDG>AMM

All set

The Paris flight was a red-eye, which was nice so that I could sleep. Delta Economy Comfort was really worth every extra penny on the long haul from Salt Lake City to Paris. After watching "Inside Out" and having my dinner meal, with the help of KDJ's BOSE noise-cancelling headphones, my trusty neck pillow, my homey blue scarf, my travel blanket, my fabulous eye mask (really, if you travel a lot, you have to get one), and a little Advil PM (doctor-approved), I got a very decent night of sleep before arriving in Paris.

And of course, arriving in Paris happened on Sunday. So read on to Day Two...

Since getting a FitBit, I've had a good time tracking my daily steps, distance, and flights of stairs, and challenging myself to do a little more. So for my right-brained reference, I'll be including those stats at the end of every post.

Saturday, October 24th, day one:
Steps: 4,539
Miles: 2.07
Stairs: 3 floors

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Chopped off my hair

"A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life."
~Coco Chanel

Amen, Coco. She knew what she was talking about.

After two years of growing my hair, with a few 1/4 inch trims along the way, I finally decided to chop it off, acquiescing to the fact that my hair would never look like The Duchess of Cambridge's long, full locks.

Now, I'm sure you're laughing out loud now and quite possibly rolling your eyes. Well, roll away. I know, I'm ridiculous. She's got a stylist on-call and loads more money to spend on her hair than I do.

But I really thought I could have my hair long again and love it. However, the longer it got, the harder it was for me to keep up and style and I certainly didn't like how frumpy I looked sometimes. Though I actually have a lot of hair, it's very straight and very fine, so it takes a lot to make it wavy and full when it's long because it's pretty heavy and totally straight.

A change was needed.

Short hair brings out so much more volume and body to my hair, and so, it will be. Short. Until next time, when it's even shorter.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Home Project: Paint the bench red

"Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task."
~William James, American Psychologist and Philosopher

When I moved into my new home, my mom gave me a bench/chest that has been in the family for some time. Originally, it belonged to my cousin, Nathan. My Uncle Jim may have even built it. I think he did. It is solid wood.

By the time it came to my house, as a child, it had seen it's fair share of life and carried an array of dings and chips. We painted it blue. And by "we," I mean my mom. Blue is my favorite color. It's hers too. Everything in our house was blue. Not quite, but it seemed like it. I loved it. Blue is peaceful.

Then the chest made its way from San Francisco to Utah, where my mom painted it with two different colors of tan. Yellow tan. Light brown. Neutral. It worked in her space.

And finally, when I bought my home it arrived in its tan glory and took up residence in my entry for quite some time. I intended to paint it red and put it in my room. But it just sat in my entry. When I got my Ruth Carroll antique secretary (a desk, not a person) refinished (pictures coming later), I put it on display in the entry and moved the bench to the garage. Ya know, to paint it red and move it up to my bedroom.

Well, seven months later and more than three years in the new home, I finally did it. Praise me. Of course, I didn't take any before pictures. I'll be sure to post some if I ever find any, but for now you'll just have to enjoy it in its current red state. I didn't even sand it. I just spray painted it, dings and all. Dings add character, and they remind me of my childhood and how that bench has been a part of my life, well, just about forever.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Saturday of old friends, Stein Eriksen, and clouds

"The thing about old friends is not that they love you,
but that they know you."
~Anna Quindlen

There's just something about meeting up with old friends. When I spend time with people who have known me and loved me for a long time, I get a little emotional with nostalgia and a feeling of love. I know these girls love me. And being with them fills me. And breakfast at the Stein Eriksen Lodge was also filling. Glad we took the time.

Sharon, me, Bethany, and Katie
Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, Utah

A huge dose of love, humor, and nature. Until next time, my friends...

Oh, and here's quick shot of one of my newest friends. Sharon and Ben made a cutie.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Random Photo: A little Sunday evening entertainment

"A Sunday well spent, brings a week of content."
~ancient proverb

Afternoon turned into evening and this just happened outside my window. I'm not sure what they were celebrating, but it sure made my day. I love my neighborhood!


Thursday, June 11, 2015

A lunchtime walk to Japantown in the heart of Salt Lake City

"It is impossible to remain indifferent to Japanese culture. It is a different civilisation where all you have learnt must be forgotten. It is a great intellectual challenge and a gorgeous sensual experience."
~Alain Ducasse

Now don't get too excited. Japantown in Salt Lake is a whole lot different than it is in San Francisco. In fact it's quite a ghost of what it once was about fifty, seventy-five, even a hundred years ago. You'd likely miss it if you didn't know it was there. The area consists now of one block of 100 South between 200 and 300 West and I walked there for today's lunchtime walk.

The only buildings left to remind us of a bygone era are the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple and the Japanese Church of Christ, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

The rest of the block feels pretty desolate and is comprised of parking lots, the Salt Palace storage and loading docks, a bookstore/gift shop associated with the Buddhist Temple called Lumbini's Garden, and a small Japanese-style garden which was incorporated into the block when the Salt Palace made extensive expansions into what used to be a bustling neighborhood.

The Japanese Church of Christ, built in 1924, is on the north west side of the block, closest to 300 West.

The Japanese-style garden, though oddly wedged between the Church of Christ and a underground parking lot entrance, is quite cute and very zen. Walking in the garden is not permitted, but I enjoyed seeing several trees (Japanese maples and bonzai types) with ropes tethered to stakes in the ground, training them to grow sideways instead of up.

Just east of the parking lot which borders the garden, are tall walls with attempting to hide the Salt Palace loading and storage docks. The gates that have been put up all along the rest of the north side of the block to 200 West are called the Kimono Gates.

Again, a nice touch by the Salt Palace -- despite taking over much of the land after the city's residents overwhelmingly voted to approve a 17 million dollar bond to build the Salt Palace complex in 1964 -- to help the Japanese culture endure in the area and to honor those who lived and worked in generations past where these structures now stand.

On the southeast corner of the block sits the Salt Lake Buddhist Temple.

I was glad to see at least some preservation of what used to be a vibrant neighborhood. But, of course, I was sad to know of what used to be there: a Japanese language school, a produce market, a fish market, two thriving newspapers, a tailor's shop, the Colonial Hotel, and countless families of Japanese descent.

In a city where the Mormon pioneers and their stories dominate historical discussions, seldom is anything heard about the strong, compassionate Japanese community, numbering in the thousands, which endured generations right in the heart of the state's capital city.

I hope since the naming of the street, Japantown Street, which happened in 2007, that eventually sometime soon, at least the empty above-ground parking lot on the southwest half of the block will be turned into land for businesses, restaurants. One can hope!