24 August 2011

The taste of another land

The school year began on Monday. Thus I officially have to declare summer over, and live in the memories.
It's no secret that I love to travel, I take every moment of my vacation time and live it to it's fullest. When it is over, I miss it greatly. (Please don't interpret this to mean that I don't love my job - I love my job, I also love the fact that it affords me the opportunity to travel).
So I try and recreate the experiences I had during the summer at home. It's about fooling the senses. I do so through taste. In every country I visit, I usually discover foods that I fall in love with, flavors that will forever remind me of that country. Whenever possible, I bring home whatever I can. Now there are many rules regarding what you can and can't bring back into the United States from abroad. No fresh produce, no meats, no seeds etc.
But what you can bring in tantalizes the senses. I consider myself lucky to have an international kitchen.
I make salad dressing with pumpkin seed oil fro Austria.
I use Knorr spice, soup and meal packets from Germany to cook my veggies with.
I dip veggies into Pebre from Chile.
I enjoy wine and reggio paramesano cheese from Italy.
I spice my food with Aji from Chile and with spices from Turkey.
I make my breakfast with English Ready Brek
I also make lemon meringue with Green's from England.
I've got Linsen Oil from Germany to cook eggs.
I have other oils and vinegars from Germany as well.
I have tea from Germany, England, South Africa and possibly other places.
And of course I have candy from around the world...gummys, chocolate etc.
But my international kitchen is not just about the food in it.
I cut with knives from England.
I have metric measuring cups from Germany.
I have a 'spätzle' maker from Germany.
I have several German recipe books.
And I am sure if I dug deeper, well I'd find more.....

I am lucky to have an international kitchen to fool my senses and let me take a mini vacation whenever I wish and not just when the school year allows for it.

11 August 2011

When travel is no longer travel

This comment may sound smug, condescending or even a bit flippant. It's really just a statement of fact and is not meant as any of the above:

I don't think of going to England as traveling.

Yes, obviously I pack a suitcase.
Yes, obviously I pack myself into a pressurized metal tube for over 9 hours.
Yes, obviously I need my passport.

So you might think all these facts above equal up to travel - right? Well in the literal sense of the word, yes going to England is traveling. But traveling to me is about the unfamiliar and the experience.
Wait don't take that the wrong way! I see new places in England and I have incredible experiences. BUT I don't go to England for those purposes.
I go to see my friends.
I go to enjoy their company and spend time with them.
When I go to England, some days we go out and about and do touristy things, other days we stay at home and play lego (the 'we' in this comment involves Oz and/or Edward who are both 3 years old). Sometimes I help Ruth with housework and sometimes we scrapbook together.
Its not about being a tourist, it's not about ticking little boxes off on the "to see" list. It's about spending time with friends. Thus to me, this is why I don't consider going to England to be travel.
I can't resist a few fun photos of my most recent non-travel to England:
Charlie at Guide Camp

Vee juggles at Guide Camp

Jamie and Ruth

Ruth, Paul and I

Alice sitting next to Edward

Bethan enjoys the sun

Oz, Edward, Christopher and I enjoying a sunny summer day next to the wading pool

Susan and Oz playing

Puddles are perfect for splashing - right Oz?
My activities here are not the activities of a tourist. Yes, I am a visitor,  but consider this - if I was just a tourist, would my British friends trust me to make a cup of tea?!?

Are you reading this?

Given that my blog is about travel, I thought it might be interesting to see to what corners of the earth my blog posts have traveled.
Below are the stats for this month. (Hmm...given we are only on Aug 11th, I wonder if this is really July or maybe it represents July 12 - Aug 11. I"m not 100% sure).

As you can see - my blog has been visited on most continents. I'm a bit confused by India and China - but if you are from India or China and reading this (or if you went to India or China and read this there) then hello and thank you!

Actually I"m quite humbled.

Some of the things I wrote were clearly more frequently viewed than others. This page shows the "all time" stats of which entries were most beloved. Apparently the Dirndl was quite popular. It's also interesting to see where these articles were viewed from.
I won't bore you with the next image, but I also can see where people are coming to my blog from. Most of the views have been referred through Facebook and are frequently accessed on your mobile device. A fair number come from couch surfing as well!  I can also see that most of you are PC users. I"ll forgive you for that :)

No matter which of these labels you fall into, I"m just impressed that you wish to read my blog and want to say 'thank you' :) Feel free to comment on posts - good, bad or ugly.

06 August 2011

This one time at Guide Camp...

This year I had the opportunity to spend time T Guide Camp in England - only 2 days, but tons of memories. As many of you blog readers know I have been a Girl Scout for 29 years and spent 15 or more summers at Girl Scout Camp. Camp is a part of me. So being able to go to Guide Camp was a fun experience and well I couldn't help but compare...now for fairness' sake, its really like comparing several variety of apples with just one orange.
I was at Come To Tomers with the Guides of my friend Charlie and the Rangers of my friend Vee. Guides are 10- 14 years old and Rangers are 14 - 26. The oldest of the Rangers was 21. The camp ground is an established site with several decades of history. CTT is a 2 week event for Guides and Scouts every summer - I have no idea what. Takes place the other 50 weeks of the year at this site.
Okay so let the apples/orange comparison begin:

(note: I am going to refer to a Guide Group as a troop in this post - although technically that is not the correct word)

My GS camp experiences have been camps with permanent / semi-permanent facilities. At CTT guide units set up their own tents and canopies. The only permanent structures were office and bathroom - maybe a few other facilities like storage sheds here and there.

My GS camp experiences, girls come to camp alone or with a buddy or two. It's not a troop activity. At CTT the Guides and Scouts (yes, those are of the male variety) come with their troop. At GS camp the campers were either in a unit that did everything together or in a unit that did some things together and other times the campers signed up for activities. At CTT the campers signed up for activities. However a troop could sign up for a common activity as well. But the troop would come back together for meals and sleeping. Plus the girls could work on badges in the unit space as well.

My GS Camp experiences typically included a large mess hall where the whole camp came together for most meals. Generally a unit would cook out only once a week - one dinner and one breakfast and over the weekend as well. At CTT every meal was a cookout! I loved it! While I was there we cooked eggy-bread (known to Americans as French Toast), soup, pasta, sausages, fried bread, jacket potatoes (known to Americans as baked potatoes), custard and more. It was soo good to be at camp cooking over a fire. Heck not having a burn ban and actually being able to light a fire was priceless!

Both GS Camp and CTT offer a variety of activities for the campers. Every camp offers different activities based on facilities, climate and age of campers. CTT had a lot of fun activities - many of which I wished I could do!
Slides, rock climbing, zorbing, fire lighting, rifle shooting, laser tag, rafting and so much more! Activities galore.

Camp is camp, no matter where you are, you've got to be prepared for the weather. At CTT this meant everything from shorts and T-Shirt to sweatshirt (in British-speak: jumper) and cap and don't forget your wellies and waterproof (rain gear to us Americans). In the 2 days I was there I needed it all! But the big difference was neckers. Everyone wore a necker to signify who they were. The campers had cow-patterned ones (western theme week), the Guiders and Leaders had bright orange (me too!) and staff had navy blue. This was not optional and MUST be worn around the neck, held on either with a woggle or a friendship knot. I liked knowing immediately what the role of a person was!

At GS Camp, often the unit would have a theme for the week - and the camp might hold an all camp theme dinner or theme night. At CTT there was a theme for the entire program: wild west / cowboys. Fun theme - hence the cow patterned neckers. Many people wore cowboy hats and had stick horses with them. They also had flags flying to signify the wild west. One was the American Flag. The other - well first I was told "we have the Texan flag up", then they said "that's the one with stars and bars - from the Dukes of Hazard, right?" uh. No. Yes that's correct the Confederate Flag was flying. I must admit I was less than thrilled. I was telling my friends Charlie and Vee why I had problems with it and they explained that everyone there thought of it as the "Dukes of Hazard" flag. I was amazed at how strongly I was opposed to it flying at the same level as the American flag -after all when I was a freshman in high school this was the flag of my high school. (that's a whole other story - quite a year it was as it was removed) heck the school I teach at now even used to have this flag as their school flag. I live in the south. I am not a stranger to seeing the Stars and Bars - but I really did not like it. I know that the flag was flown at CTT for completely different reasons.

At GS camp the girls come to camp and the leaders do not. Instead there are paid camp staff. I was part of that camp staff for many years - loved it! We worked our tails off and had as much (if not more) fun as the campers. At CTT the Guiders and Leaders come with their troops, but are not responsible for the activities. We are responsible for meals and campsite. That meant we had more time to relax. (relax at camp? Crazy isn't it!) We also did more of the cooking because girls had activities. So my day went like this:
Wake up, help cook breakfast, eat.
Girls to sign up for activities, we enjoy a cup of tea
Girls return, finish clean up.
Girls to activities, we straighten camp site, walk around watching activities, work on badges (yes - there were badges that even a leader could earn), talk to/ do crafts or badge work with girls who had a free period and well enjoy the time
Elevenses - we'd prepare a snack of squash (it's a punch), fruit and biscuits (cookies) for the girls
Girls off to activities, begin prepping lunch.
Cook and eat and clean up from lunch
Girls to activities - more relaxing etc as in the morning. Wander up to camp store for an ice cream
Cook and eat dinner, clean up
Head to main camp for flag lowering and announcements
Girls to evening activities
Evening activities for leaders (we had a pub on camp - seriously - with beer, wine and sodas. One night we had a trivia night at the pub - fun but the questions were all a bit easy!)
Good night!
Yes, quite an easy day for the leaders...... The staff ran everything.

In comparing. GS Camp with my experience at CTT, I am not saying that one is better than the other. I love camp and am so glad I had the opportunity to spend a few days at CTT!

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05 August 2011

Diverting plane, part deux

The flight was going well. I was spending time, as I often do, in the back galley chatting with the flight attendants. This crew was unique in the fact that they were 100% male. The air was smooth and a small group of passengers were back in the back, when one flight attendant, he looked to be in charge, came back and used the phone to speak to the pilot. I didn't hear what he said, but no sooner than he hung up, the fasten seatbelt sign came on. Coincidence? I didn't think so. I thought possibly he just wanted to clear the galley. I returned to my seat and a moment later, a flight attendant came to talk to the man opposite me in the aisle. Eavesdropping, I quickly learned why we were all seated. The flight attendants came to this man because they knew he was an MD. A first-class passenger pregnant with triplets had begun to bleed fairly heavily and there were concerns about her miscarrying. The girl next to me asked me what was going on. I told her and she said "oh my god, that's my boss." (note: it was actually her ex-boss, she had been fired on this trip) She then told me that the ex-boss had had problems and also a reduction surgery two weeks ago and that all of her doctors had told her NOT to travel. So, I suggested she tell this info to the doctor seated next to us who was about to go look at this woman. She did, plus she tried to go up to the ex-boss. Why? Well the ex-boss had a 1 year old daughter traveling with her. The girl next to me promptly returned, they wouldn't let her into first class. However a few minutes later the flight attendants came and got her and a few minutes after that she returned with the one year old. The *crying* one year old. We both tried to calm her. The best solution: looking at my photos of Chile on my iPad. The girl next to me comments that she's been fired but is still having to do work! Then after a bit she returned the girl. Fast forward twenty minutes and they decide they need her again up there. She leaves for first class to go amuse the one year old and comes back about 30 min later. She tells me they had been discussing diverting the plane and making an emergency landing, but decided against it. We only had 1.5 hours to go at this point. As the air actually began to get a bit bumpy, the fasten seatbelt sign was finally turned off. The doctor returned to his seat and nothing more was said until just before landing. The flight attendant came back to the girl next to me and discussed her moving to first for landing, but also told her that the paramedics would remove the ex-boss last, so she could stay in economy and just walk up as we disembarked. Bueno. We landed and most of the plane was apparently clueless to the situation and began to line the aisles. Then once the majority of the passengers were standing, they announced that we should all sit down because paramedics were coming to remove a passenger with a medical emergency. No one sat. Not a single one person. Oddly they all began to de-plane almost immediately after that announcement. The two of us waited. After a bit a flight attendant told her that the one year old was with another colleague (presumedly one not fired). In the end, I have no idea what happened to the woman. I commented to the girl next to me that maybe she'd get her job back, her response: I don't want it!
Ah adventures on an airplane.....

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Location:British Airways Flight 69 LHR to PHL - somewhere over the Atlantic