March 7, 2013
Well, I said goodbye to the west coast and now I’m in Philomont, VA, with
my son, Mitch, nine-year-old Cris, 2 dogs, 4 horses, 2 cats, and miles of
My plan for the next month and a half:
• have fun with Cris
• write some guest blogs and articles about the gap year (write me if you
• write some brochures for kids, volunteers, parents, educators
• try to find like-minded, passionate friends to work with me on gap year
• do some personal promotion to get myself paid-speaking-engagements at
colleges and to organizations
• respond to e-mails that I never answered during Jan’s illness last year
• try to find a publisher for a kids’ book I wrote a while back
• get into writing the text for my book about “connecting.” I’ve had
notes on index cards for more than a year now.
The setting is right; the time is good; my head is filled with ideas. So
why am I not doing anything? If any of you want to join me on popularizing
the idea of a gap year (that means educating the country about the
possibility), please write!!! I need some partners.
Even though I love wandering the world alone, I’m really a team person. I
can’t seem to get anything done by myself. Maybe a group of us could meet
for a week and get things moving. Pease let me hear from you.
Meanwhile, do check out the American Gap Association
(www.americangap.org). Ethan Knight is working on standards for gap year
programs and the site has ideas for fundraising, scholarships, and tons of
links. I want to work on a national campaign getting local communities to
raise money for scholarships at graduation from high school. I’m calling
it, Back-a-Gapper. So how do we get the idea into every community in the
country? I need you to help me figure out how do it and then help me do
Just got an e-mail from my Florida friends, Carolyn and Dan; they are
about to begin their five-month backpacking trip to South America and
they’ve started a song-blog. As I mentioned in an earlier letter, they are
singers and song-writers and plan to write and sing a new blogging song
for every entry. What a great and original idea. How incredible to be so
Check out their first: www.followthesong.com And if any of you in S.A.
want to hire them or offer suggestions for their travel, they are open to
e-mails. They are Servas members and hope to stay with Servas famiies in
many countries. Danandcarolyn@followthesong.com
That’s it for now. Love, Rita
February 21, 2013
I can’t believe it’s been two months since I last wrote here. Oh, well. I’m certainly not getting more efficient and organized as I get older. The projects keep piling up. My mind is still generating fabulous ideas, but all I do is add them to the list. The good news is that I am having fun!
At the moment I’m house-sitting in Bandon, Oregon. I finish up a month here on Monday when I will drive to Seattle for two days. I will deposit my car (it lives on the street outside my daughter’s house) and then fly to DC to celebrate grandson Cris’s ninth birthday. I’m hoping to get some Gap Year writing and thinking done while I’m there; but that’s what I said about my stay in Bandon!
Bandon is a small town with a lot of creative and alternative people. My friend Bonita, whom I met when I was here two years ago, has again included me in assorted evening events. I saw a one-woman play about the mercurial and troubled Vivien Leigh (Scarlett O’Hara, for those of you who don’t know). One woman (Judith Chapman) onstage for about an hour and a half, having assorted nervous breakdowns. The acting was amazing.
The next day I had a fabulous massage from Yemaya Wind (my yoga teacher) at her house in the woods. The house is totally “off the grid.” Alternative electricity, water, etc. (Her husband was an alternative energy engineer.) I wish I could report that my shoulders are better, but they’re not, and I’m not even considering surgery, which has been suggested by some. I keep trying new alternative over-the-counter supplements (latest: astaxanthin and zyflamed). If they work, I’ll let you know.
Yesterday I had two great experiences. The first was a step-by-step lesson in how Michael Bell makes his Japanese swords….from scratch. He calls himself a “master swordsmith” and his creation, “custom hand-crafted Japanese swords.” They are made from forge-welded cable. The process is amazing. One sword can take a couple of months! Fire, forge, hammer, forge, files…all of it fantastic. I love learning about process. (If any of you want to study the craft, he does take on apprentices: www.dragonfyforge.com Michael@dragonflyforge.com)
I went from Dragonfly Forge to Cob Cottage Company where Ianto Evans and Linda Smiley build cottages made from earth, clay, straw, and water. There are no right angles and lots of warm, welcoming curves. They call it “natural building” and they do it with totally non-toxic, earthen materials. Their compound is also “off the grid.” The houses are heated with “rocket mass heaters” (fires in barrels that heat by way of pipes) and what they call “passive solar technology.”. They also offer courses where they will teach you how to build your own hand-sculpted house. The next beginner class begins on March 25th. (541 396-1825) Their book about the process is called, “The Hand-Sculpted House, A Practical Guide to Building a Cob Cottage.” It’s a fascinating process.
So, I’m not writing or getting my Gap Year stuff organized, but I am learning! Cob cottages, by the way, have a lot in common with Maasai homes, which I lived in from time to time while I was in Tanzania.
I’ll try to be back in a few weeks. Take care.
December 31, 2012
I want to get something written before the year ends. I'm in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, hanging out with Carolyn Nicely and Dan Hunter and working at getting my body back in shape. Carolyn and Dan are talented musicians (singers, song writers, and guitar players) who have been doing a ton of playing and singing during the month of December. And in between gigs, they've been working with me.....Carolyn is a yoga teacher and Dan has been working with me on the machines at the gym since I arrived on December 7th. (Carolyn invited me after reading the Nomad book. They recently visited China where Carolyn sang a duet with a Chinese singer and they got a standing ovation.
Carolyn is hoping to write a book about her travel experiences so we’re also talking about writing and publishing. From time to time I’ve given a workshop on the subject…..I’ve dug up my notes and I’m passing on my thoughts.)
If any of you live in South America, Carolyn and Dan are planning to tour down there for six months, leaving some time in March. They’re carrying guitars and hoping to perform as they travel. If you have any connections or suggestions of places that might hire them to perform along the way, it would be great. Send me an e-mail and I'll pass it on. firstname.lastname@example.org They’re terrific and their itinerary is flexible. They’ll be staying with Servas hosts.
I just got back to New Smyrna Beach after a week with cousins Sharon and Andy in Gainesville. It was fun spending time with them. At this moment I am waiting for Carolyn to come pick me up and take me to the bar where Dan is playing tonight. But it’s after eleven and it might not happen. I’m happy to use the time to update my blog. Somehow I haven't gotten to it in more than a month.
I will be in Purcellville, VA in January with Mitch (son) and Cris (almost 9-year-old grandson), and Bandon, OR, in February. And I’m still unsure about where I’ll be in March. I’m still thinking and planning to write about the importance of doing a gap year between high school and college. Popularizing the idea is probably the most important thing I can do during the next years.
Connecting with hundreds of friends. Listening to old songs on Pandora with Dixie-the-dog curled up at my feet, computer on my belly……feels like a good way to welcome the new year.
Happy New Year to everyone.
(Carolyn just got home. We're off to watch the ball drop.)
An hour break in a wild local bar. Great scene, probably 100 young dancer-drinkers, an energetic band, all six of them men. Carolyn sang a couple of songs, I drank a bloody Mary, swayed to the music, and came back to read a bit and sleep. Nice way to usher in the new year.
November 14, 2012
OK. I’m trying again. I wrote this earlier today and before it published, it disappeared!
It’s been several months since I got back from Turkey. Until a couple of days ago, I was in Virginia hanging out with my grandson, Cris. (Mom is in the Cayman Islands in veterinary school and I’m helping out my son while enjoying my grandson).
I had been there more than two months when I got an invitation to help launch the Polish version of “Tales of a Female Nomad.” The Polish publisher flew me over and scheduled two morning TV interviews, two radio programs, and several magazine and newspaper interviews, complete with photo shoots. Justyna Kubiesa, a PR employee of Pascal, the publisher known for its travel guides, accompanied me to everything. She even set me up with three Couchsurfing families. (I had told her I wanted to stay in homes and not hotels.) The families were great; altogether there were six kids, the oldest was in fourth grade (I talked in her classroom while her mother translated.)
I loved Poland and all the people I met. Interestingly, I discovered that my friend-making strategy of smiling and making eye-contact with people on the street, didn’t work. People look down or straight ahead when they are outside; they don’t smile at strangers. When I asked about it, most people explained that it is a custom born of the years when the Nazis (1939—1945) and the Russians controlled Poland.
My special “wellness” program didn’t work in Poland either. The program’s mostly about food and I just had to eat the pierogi and the sausages and even some of the fabulous desserts. Everyone wanted me to try the food they had prepared!! And of course, I couldn’t say no! Yummm. (I did walk nearly every day which is another part of the program.)
I was in Poland for ten days; then I flew back to VA. On the 9th of November (five days ago) I left Virginia and boarded a plane for Seattle. While I was on the plane, someone hacked into my computer and sent out one of “those letters” to more than a thousand of my contacts. You know the letter: I and my family were mugged and robbed and left destitute in the Philippines. A knife was held to my neck. Send money through Western Union!
My daughter, Jan, got the letter and immediately went to Facebook and posted the fact that I had been hacked. Fortunately, the hacker couldn’t write and most people realized that I couldn’t have written the note. (If I wrote like that, I would have long ago been drummed out of the profession.)
I have spent the last few days in Seattle changing passwords and addresses and alerting banks and credit card companies.
I’m here until after Thanksgiving.
- On November 27th I will be speaking at Alma college in Michigan and then head back to VA.
- On the 7th of December I am going to visit Carolyn Nicely in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where I will dutifully work on my wellness.
- I will fly back to VA on January 8th.
- On January 27th I fly to Bandon, Oregon, where I will be house-sitting for the month of February. I hope to work on my next book.
- On February 28th, I’ll head back to Virginia. And then?? Not sure.
Enough for now. I hope to be better at posting in the next month….but only if I have something worth writing about.
Thanks for hanging in there. If you don’t know, I do have a list that I send e-mails to a bit more frequently than I post here. If you want to be included, let me know. email@example.com
And finally, if you would like to give a nomad book as a Christmas gift (maybe to teenage friends?), let me know. I will autograph one and send it to you. And once you receive it, you can send me a check. The price is $15.00, and I will cover the postage.
Enough for now. Happy Thanksgiving.
October 10, 2012
It’s been a while. I left Turkey on August 17th and flew straight to my son’s home in Philomont, VA (not too far from Leesburg and just over an hour from DC). I’m helping him out with 8-year-old Cris while Mom is studying in the Cayman Islands. I haven’t cooked this much in more than 25 years.
I’m also working on myself….physical therapy for shoulder problems and a special wellness program that includes food, exercise, breathing, and the elimination of additives, white flour, red meat, and especially sugar.
While I was in Turkey, I was very aware that my body is weak and my energy dragging. If I don’t give myself a boost, I’m going to have to change my life….and I’m not ready to quit yet. I know 75 is not 50, but I do think with the right food and exercise, I could still have an active life. I’ll be reporting about my progress from time to time. So far I’ve lost 5 pounds in three weeks…. Still trying to psych myself up for a walk every day!
If you’re interested, check out the program. It’s 12 weeks of working online with five others who are taking the “course,” all of them a whole lot younger than I. It’s expensive, but I know that I’m not capable of doing it on my own.
Stephanie Dalton, Holistic Nutrition & Wellness Coach, HHC,
I’m drinking green smoothies for breakfast and eating tons of colorful foods! Stephanie is constantly in touch by e-mail and phone….and she sends things to read and stuff to fill out. Stay tuned.
I’ve also been helping my niece, Danielle, study for the Texas elementary-teacher’s exam. She’s a fantastic teacher (I’ve visited her classes a number of times.); Houston will be lucky to have her. At this point, I know more about Texas history and elementary math than I ever needed or wanted to know. It’s taking up a lot of room in my head; maybe that’s why I can never remember where I put things.
I’m driving with her to Houston, leaving the 17th of November from northwest VA. I’ll fly to Seattle for Thanksgiving with Jan.
On another note: I got word a few weeks ago that they are doing a
translation of Tales of a Female Nomad in Polish and I’ve been invited by the publisher to go over for the launch. Two interviews a day for three days….then I plan to stay for a week more to get a small taste of the country. The publisher is in charge of me from the 13th to the 18th of October; I’ll stay with Servas families during the next week. (My grandparents came from Poland; I’ve never been there.)
I’m hoping to get out of the U.S. for the month of December. Don’t know where. Any suggestions? I’m not looking for mountains to climb….just good people.
That’s it for today. Love, Rita
August 15, 2012
Erin’s and my Kars visit was coming to an end. Erin spent around five days in Sarikamis National Park with Ayse where they saw 23 bears hanging out in a garbage dump and one in the woods. Much of the rest of her time was spent organizing pictures from the motion-activated cameras that KuzeyDoga volunteers had placed on popular pathways in the woods. I stayed around the project house finishing up a kids’ book about the importance of preserving wildlife…and a simple brochure for adults explaining what KD is all about. They will both be illustrated and translated into Turkish. My contribution to an important mission.
Our final field trip in Kars which began at 6 AM, was once again to try to find the wolf whose collar had been sending signals that meant he was somewhere in the area. Our car receiver was quietly buzzing….but the major signal we were hoping for never came. We kept stopping on the tops of hills, getting out of the car, and holding up an antenna in all directions. Nothing.
So we had a picnic breakfast in the woods, put up another camera, and continued to search for the wolf. We never found him. But we did see thousands of cattle, (sometimes walking down the road we were on…Emra kept honking, but no one told the cows what it meant and we often had to wait), tons of sheep, and well-dressed herders with cell phones. This time of year there are also farmers cutting down the grasses and making huge piles of hay to be stored for the winter. Some of the locals are riding in horse-drawn carriages that are pulling giant rakes. Reminded me of Amish country in Pennsylvania. Except these drivers were carrying cells.
Bee colonies also are all over the place. They live in boxes about two feet square and they collect pollen from the amazing and brilliantly colored wild flowers that fill the fields. Many of the bee keepers have hundreds of boxes filled with bees. In the course of the day we also see horses, donkeys, geese, ducks, dogs, cats, crows, magpies, and even a few turkeys!
There are also plastic bags and discarded water bottles all over the place.
We pass through dozens of villages with piles of cow dung packed in rectangular bricks and stacked, drying in the sun; the dung-bricks are used for fuel in the cold weather. Most of the houses are roofed with corrugated metal, often rusted, and some have dirt and grass growing on the roof for insulation.
When we flew out of Kars to Ankara, Erin and I both knew it had been an extraordinary five (me) and six (Erin) weeks in that cool, beautiful part of the country. We also knew and cared a lot more about the wildlife in northeastern Turkey.
Ankara, the capital of Turkey, was a totally different world: fountains, statues, bars, crowds….not a cow in sight. Onder from Kars, who was in Ankara for a while, picked us up at the airport and took us around. Mostly we met the bars, restaurants, an upscale mall, some cafes…..and one excellent museum that had artifacts from all the many eras of Turkish history. We stayed with a friend of his who had an adorable one-year-old girl named Nar (the Turkish word for pomegranate), drank and ate with another friend, and flew out on day three. Ankara…a sophisticated, modern city that we skimmed and enjoyed.
The information that both Erin and I found most intriguing was the story of the street dogs. We’ve seen lots of stray dogs in the streets, in the parks, everywhere we’ve been; but we’ve never heard their story. Samiha, Onder’s friend and Nar’s mother, lives in a community of tall apartment houses. We noticed several dogs hanging out….no leashes, no apparent owners. They all had tags on their ears meaning that they were neutered and free of rabies. There were a few pots of water on the street for them. Kids playing ball in the street clearly knew and liked the dogs…and visa-versa. When we asked, we were told that the dogs are indeed free; they have no owners. There are seven of them on the street and they have all been government inspected; they get fed by the people who live there. In return, the dogs take care of the neighborhood. Thieves don’t dare invade the territory…..they know that the dogs protect their people. Love it!
We left Ankara by bus to go to Goreme in Cappadocia. A three or four hour trip. As most of you know, I am not a very good tourist….and Cappadocia is probably the biggest tourist attraction in Turkey. But I couldn’t resist the lure. I’m not even going to try to describe the extraordinary volcanic rock formations. Check out the pictures of the “fairy chimneys.” Google it and look around. I’ve never seen anything like them before. One of our activities was to go into an underground city where Christians had hidden from the invading Romans. It was really a city where they lived.… underground!
And we did a balloon ride too…..OMG, what an experience. It began with a 4:30 AM snack while we waited to be sure the wind and weather was right for flight. (We had tried two days earlier and were sent home! Imagine getting up at that hour and then being told it isn’t going to happen!!) We went with Butterfly Balloons. Mustafa was our pilot and I liked him a lot. It’s expensive…..but amazing. There were fifty other balloons up there with us…all of us totally at the mercy of the wind. The pilot can go up and down…..but he can’t steer. Trucks on the ground follow the balloons so they can deliver people and equipment back where it and we came from. It’s particularly exciting to watch the balloons get inflated and then deflated. I’m a big fan of process. The whole procedure was fantastic….even the part where I looked from outside the basket and said, “I need help getting in.” The words were barely out of my mouth before a big burly guy picked me up and popped me in!!
In spite of the many tourists (a lot of them from South Korea), the heat, and the expense (especially the balloon ride), we both loved the experience. If you have to pick one place to see in Turkey, that’s the one.
After Cappadocia, we flew to Izmir. I invited all the people I had met and stayed with when I first arrived to a dinner at Sabi’s favorite restaurant (Café Colette). It was great seeing old friends and adding a new one: Elvan Savkli. Elvan had read “Tales of a Female Nomad” years ago and e-mailed and friended me. We’ve “talked” many times over the years….but never met. I invited her to the dinner…even though she was three hours away…and she came, hung out in Izmir for a few days and invited us to spend three days at her summer home in Oren (near Bodrum). Summer home next to the beach. It sounded like a perfect way to end our Turkey visit. We accepted. More on that later.
Before I write about our visit to Elvan’s house, I do want to say a few words about Paivi and Santeri Kannisto and their book. They’re a Finnish couple, nomads themselves, and they’ve just completed a book about nomadding, in Finnish. They’ve been asking me questions online for ages and we finally made plans to meet in Istanbul. For most of the 7th in Istanbul, Paivi asked me questions while Santeri shot a video. I’ll keep you posted about the English translation when it comes out.
Erin, her friend Jen from Provo, Utah, who just arrived, and I have been staying together in #Bunk, an Istanbul hostel in the Taksim area for a few days. Last night I opted to stay home while Erin and Jen went out. I emptied my suitcase and my backpack onto the bed and a small table so I could decide which clothes to take to Elvan’s and which to store for the four days I’d be gone. I put them in the smaller backpack and went to sleep. (I’m leaving the carry-on at the hostel.) I also tore up lots of loose, useless pieces of papers as well as notebook pages that I don’t need any more. I love it when I can get rid of clutter.
Then I went over my “life-as-a-nomad talk” which, happily, I was able to find in my Documents folder. (That is not always the case!) I took notes, adjusted the talk for the group of ex-pat women who live in Istanbul. (One of them, Kelly Hevel, had taken the three of us to a few of her favorite places that day. Kelly is starting a unique tour business here….creativity tours. I love the idea. If my notes about Turkey have intrigued you, you might be interested in signing up for a tour with Kelly. Have a look at her site.)
Here’s her information. Sounds like a great idea to me. If I’ve tickled your Turkey yearnings, do check it out. She’ll make it easy and fun for you. The Creative Urge, Building creative muscle in work, art, life. KellyHevel.com Playing Around Workshops, Exploring Self - Creating Art - Bridging Cultures. PlayingAroundWorkshops.com
OK. Back to the topic at hand. I packed my small backpack for three days, went to sleep, and the next day I gave my talk to about 25 interesting, mostly American women who are living in Istanbul. (checkout: PAWI — Professional American Women of Istanbul www.pawistanbul.com
When the talk was over, Erin, Jen and I went off to the airport on a shuttle bus. Fortunately, we left lots of time and arrived early……I say “fortunately” because when I lifted my bag from the bus’s storage area and tossed it onto my shoulder, something snapped in my back. I couldn’t move without piercing pain.
Erin and Jen were able to get me a wheel chair and an airport employee who pushed. We jumped lines, got to see elevators, halls, and amazing machines that raised and lowered the wheelchair in and out of the plane. By the time we arrived in Bodrum (on the way to Oren), I could walk again! An unplanned adventure!
Our three days with Elvan and her family were great….for most of them we were stretched out on beach chairs reading, jumping in the water to cool off, and reading some more. We went out for wonderful meals every night. Elvan and her parents were great hosts….they fixed us breakfast every morning and gave us our own little apartment the top floor of their home.
Yesterday morning we flew back to Istanbul and are now back in the #Bunk hostel…..meeting friends for dinner. Yes, we have friends. One of them is Stephanie Swirtz who is sitting here with me befores we go out to dinner. Another is Ali Somay, a talented musician. We met him in Kars and have connected again in Istanbul. It’s great