Month: July 2016

Returning to the Peace of Discovery

Around this time last year while on a Nordic tour, I beamed photos and features from my smart devices to social media, not only excited to discover new worlds but also pleased to share with supporters, friends and family, too.

Thinking back, I recall a sort of peacefulness about that holiday, about how I felt wandering around that part of the world, a place that is often portrayed as insular. So when friends and family alike cautioned that I should take care, I rather thought they were being overly cautious. In my travel experiences, even if a destination’s reputation has been called into question, particularly over xenophobia, I tend to give it the benefit of the doubt, unless there is clear and present danger.

But post the Brexit vote, the racial unrest in the US, the insane politics there too,  and the terrorism in France, this year’s holiday on Spain’s south coast felt uneasy. Not that there were any incidents there, none that can compare to the conditions mentioned, but nowadays all destinations seem questionable as a result of chaos in the world.

As an American expat living in Britain, I am acutely aware that the metaphorical band aid that once covered the deep wound of xenophobia has come unstuck. Of course, Brexit is about a lot things and some insist that prejudice is not one of them, even in the face of increased hate misconduct here. In the aftermath of the vote in London, there was a steady stream of graffiti against some European nationals and choice words to others from places as far away as Africa and Jamaica.

For everyone, however, one thing has become clear and that is that the world is overrun with an intense fear, which salts the xenophobic wound, now weeping of hate for some and a disturbing uneasiness for others.

In the latter camp, I find even the coolest of places uncomfortably hot. Sadly, worry has a way of wandering with me, wherever I go, often to the upset of physical and mental health. But that’s another blog. Watch this space.

Meanwhile, let’s get back to Malaga, Marbella, Estepona, Ronda, etc. my trail on the Costa del Sol. Admittedly, it was not an escapist holiday, not the fault of the pretty, bustling region, but it was a reasonably enjoyable one.

Per the guidebooks and reviews on and off social media, it is a fun place for sun seekers, though it was windier than anticipated and it rained on the day we left. Never mind, London ceased being rainy for our return. The folks are friendlier than in the average place and even welcoming to those who don’t speak a lick of Spanish. And the food of Andalusia isn’t bad at all, depending on where you go. One place worth mentioning is Las Brasas de Alberto in Estepona. If not for the Iberian Pork, then go for the house wine. You’ll be glad you did.

Also, sadly for me, there wasn’t much emphasis on food intolerances such as gluten, though organic everything was abundant. Never mind, I needed the comfort food to manage the slower pace of life and to try to catch a bit of the carefree reigning spirit there, which was much needed while navigating the narrow streets of Ronda in our little rental car.

Gee whiz, glad that is over, the bumpy ride that is. As for the holiday, it’s over too, but the desire to discover new worlds remains deep within. May acceptance and assurance as a way of life return with a force, one that sweeps the world, bringing many peaceful holidays for years to come. Now that’s cool.



Discover the World with Mispronunciations

People mispronounce words all the time, don’t they? And not only when it is according to accent, e.g, American English, British English. The old you say tomat(e)o, I say tomotto. That is not really a mispronunciation. It is a matter style, if you will. High time some folks come to grips with that. Never mind.

Anyhow, I am talking about words whether in English, French or Spanish and so on, that have the same pronunciation – most of them proper nouns, of course.

The ‘s’ in words such as Cannes or even Paris is silent, for example. But who is to know this unless they really know the cities, right, or the language. Wrong, the most savvy of travellers don’t always get it, right. I should know.

So when someone gets it wrong, what then? A) Ignore the faux pas, while feeling embarrassed for their ignorance, B) Correct them promptly, at the risk of being rude, C) Weave the correct pronunciation into conversation, quite politely.

I have been on both ends of all three answers and in the middle, too, watching on during such slip-ups. But in an early experience with this sort of thing years ago, not having been too far outside of Georgia, I mispronounced, okay I botched the word Bethesda, as in Maryland, only in the company of one friend, and her blunt correction left me marred until this day. Her voice, the weight of a strict teacher’s is still in my head. Needless to say, B is the wrong answer.

Then what about A? Wouldn’t it be best not to say anything? Your friend or associate will stumble upon the truth, sooner or later. Not necessarily. A few years ago, still a green expat, if you will, I pronounced Newcastle, as in England, New Castle, as in New York, time and again, until one bold person resorted to B, in a rather hit me over the head sort of a way. Shocked that A, no one had told me politely after all that time and miffed that B, when they did, they were rude, I refrained from pronouncing strange words, so I thought until recently.

In a casual conversation, I chatted easily about something I thought I knew about. After we had changed the subject, my associate so very cleverly and graciously weaved back to it, asking a question about the town/city I spoke of, pronouncing it correctly. So what do you think of Mar-baya, she said as in Marbella, Spain?

The rule here is that the two ll’s in some Spanish words such as Marbella, sound a bit like a ‘y’. Ok, how is an English speaking person to know that unless they have studied Spanish? Actually, though true, it is irrelevant to the point, which is well summed up in an apropos James Joyce quote.

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”

As for me, best get on with discovering, with a view that some tactful person will help me see (C) my way through it.






Gems of Wisdom Handed Down

If you do everything now, you will have nothing to look forward to.

You can’t buy class.

 It’s better to buy one good thing that will last instead of several cheap things that will fall apart.

These are things that one friend’s momma, grandma and great grandma used to say. Such priceless words of wisdom often come in handy when we are in a pinch. But sometimes they’re just words we live by or not. In any case, some of the things that our ancestors say to us stay in the alcoves of our minds from generation to generation and in a round about way keeps them, even after they are gone, alive and fresh in our hearts and minds.

Read more in the Huffington Post: Elders Leave Traces Behind. Now for that cup of coffee to access more of those gems! Why don’t you grab one too and share your favourite gems of wisdom right here  or on the Huff Post.


Heeding from the Book of Elder Words

With ill-advised politicians playing on the national stage about now, we are starving for some wise words, and action, too. I know I am.

If only we had the likes of Solomon about now. Aside from his 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11), there hasn’t been a man credited with more wisdom. From his prudence in the dispute between the two mothers over the live baby (cut the child in half. Honestly, but it turned out well. Read for yourself: 1 Kings 3:16-28) to the Proverbs that are accredited to him, his words continue to epitomise fairness the world over.

But unless we reach for the Bible regularly or have the recall of Malachi (that’s my father) we don’t always have these words in mind when we need them. Sometimes we just need wise words to pop into our head, like before we leave someone in a lurch or throw a temper tantrum, on a world stage, for example. What can we do? Short of remembering all the wise words contained in the Bible, a hard task even if you are reading the Bible In One Year, via Holy Trinity Brompton’s app (I should know), refer to the Book of Elder Words.

Yeah, that’s the one. It lives in your head and your heart, too, and comprises words from the elderly that come to mind almost always in the time of trouble. More to come on this very thing later in another, more in-depth blog, but for now in the midst of national confusion, I thought I would share with the politicians and anyone who cares to listen a few of my favourites from this wise old book.

In a pinch, in the time of trouble, in need of advice, I have heeded some of these words, if only silently and graciously, sometimes hearing them echo throughout the day and the night, mind you.

Many of them are, of course, from my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers and so on. But regardless of their origin, the thing about elder words is that, in whatever language them come in, they are handed down from generation to elusively and seem to put us on the same playing field when wielded, even though playing is the last thing we ought to be doing right about now.

Ah, ha! That’s one from the book. Alas, more wise words

  1. When you know better, you ought to do better.

  2. You are too old for that… You complete the sentence.

  3. You started this mess, now you need to finish it.

  4. Winning is not everything.

  5. By now you should know that lies always catch up with you!

  6. Don’t you learn anything from your mistakes?

  7. Well, at least you have your dignity.

Umm, really! I don’t know about that last one. What about you? What are some of your favourites from the Book of Elder Words? Do tell!