7 Things to Know About the Ireland Writing Retreat

Less really is more. It’s a tendency of beginning writers to want to prove what they’re talking about by going too far with description. I think you’ve got to keep it short, crisp and clean

Brad Thor

How long have you been writing? This is the first question we must answer on the first day of classes at the Ireland Writing Retreat. My answer “I just started one year ago”. Yes, that’s right. I am an ESL writing teacher and performed this job for forty-two years. I wrote academic papers. I never wrote for travel. Now, I want to write for travel.

How do I become a better travel writer? I attend a writer’s circle once a month, take online classes from various organizations that don’t offer feedback and want you to continue taking their courses so they can make money, and attend local workshops at featured bookstores. I felt I wasn’t geting what I needed.

How about attending writer’s workshops in other countries? Travel and writing! I have never been to Ireland and it was on my list of travels.  I was searching various writing retreats online and stumbled across the Ireland Writing Retreat. I signed up, paid my tuition, and off I went. I didn’t really know what to expect.

I would like to share my experiences with others who might be looking for writing retreats. This is only my experience. Everyone has different experiences.

Venue

The Ireland Writing Retreat is held and organized at Teac Jack.

Teac Jack is a B&B located in Gweedore in Donegal. It has a bar, restaurant, and a beautiful view out the front door.

Breakfast is served every morning from 8:00-10:00.  A full Irish breakfast includes bacon (fried ham), eggs, sausage, mushrooms, and a warm tomato. The eggs can be ordered sunny-side up, boiled, poached, scrambled, and over easy.

Orange juice, milk, apple juice, and coffee are available for drinks. There is a table that includes yogurt, cheerios, rice cereal, and oatmeal.

Bread includes wheat, white, and dark brown. Bread can be toasted in a toaster oven. There are no pancakes or waffles. Scones are not served for breakfast, but you can ask and you shall receive.

 

Disadvantages: Teac Jack is isolated. The only place to walk is to the beach. There are no other shops, bars, or restaurants nearby. I began to get cabin fever.

Activities

The program description includes the following activities.

Boat trips to the island of Gola:

There is one trip to Gola. The island was once inhabited by families. Most of the families moved away. The island is very busy in the summer with people having picnics and swimming. We are greeted by a couple who prepare lunch for us. They are an older couple. She has a job in Donegal and comes to prepare lunch on the island when there are guests. Her husband lives on the island full time. Lunch includes sandwiches, scones, cupcakes, bread, marmalade, tea, and coffee.

Leisurely walks and a tour of Glenveagh National Park and Castle:

The history of the Glenveagh castle is a tragic one. Many of the Irish farmers were forced to leave because Mr. Adair wanted to build his castle and did not wish to look at poor farmers and their animals. They were evicted from the property.  Unfortunately, it is raining. The gardens are beautiful. I can’t get many pictures of the garden because of the dark clouds and mist all around. There is a little café that serves, scones, cakes, tea, and coffee. We stop in to have tea and dry off.

 

Glenveagh Garden

Irish language and dance classes and lively, heart-warming, foot-tapping traditional music concerts:

There are no dance classes. Every Tuesday night Tech Jack hosts the residents and their friends to a Ceili (Kaylee), Irish traditional music event. I attend with some of my classmates. Two of my classmates are Irish and one of them is an avid Ceili dancer.

My new Irish friends and writers, Norma and Jo

Most of the dancers are women. They tell me they leave their husbands at home because they are boors.

The dancing starts at 8:30 and continues until 11:00. Most of these women never stop dancing. These are not young chicks. The ages are from 60-82. I am dragged out to the floor a few times. I don’t know any of the steps. I try to follow and end up stepping on a few toes. I wish I had a few lessons before attending.

Ceili dancing with the locals

There are no traditional music “concerts”. An accordion is the only instrument used. There is a performance by one dancer and a fiddler for about two minutes. A singer sings one Irish song. This is not a concert and should not be promoted as a concert. I was disappointed.

There is one leisurely walk that took us down to the beach. We picked wild raspberries. They were sweet.

A walk with Sean’s dogs

A visit to Teac Mhuiris introduces us to the life that once was in Donegal, Ireland. After the lecture, our host, Maggie, brings out bread, cakes, scones, and tea. A Gaelic teacher teaches us a few Gaelic phrases most commonly used in everyday language. Many people in Donegal speak Gaelic as their native language. The pronunciation is complicated. I am not able to get the words to come out of my mouth in an understandable way.

Afternoon tea

Living room of the traditional home

WIFI

WIFI is available in “Jack’s Bar” and the room where the classes are held.  It is not available in the hotel rooms. This is a disadvantage because we must sit in the bar with our computers to do our work. The heat in the classroom is shut off when we are not using it. The bar is noisy and there isn’t much space to work.

Classes

The writing classes take place from 10:00 am -1:00pm every day.

The information on the site includes the following information:

Hands-on teaching techniques including one-on-one, sentence-by sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, critiques of participant’s own work completed before and during the week-long writing retreat. 

We are given an assignment and it is due within 24 hours. There is no offer of one on one in person critiques. The critiques come in the form of feedback on line. The critiques help me to take care of the basic problems. They are not profound critiques. The critiques are given by Sean Hillen the instructor/author.

Emily DeDakis, a dramaturg, presents a workshop. She has us do various writing activities including putting our ideas into various groups. She gives us an assignment to write about something that we would never tell anyone. I don’t do the assignment. She isn’t going to give any feedback and I don’t understand the purpose. Why should I tell her a secret when I don’t even know her? Laurence McKeown, a play writer. Laurence had a very interesting story about being held in prison for 17 years. He was on a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We found his story fascinating. He gave us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment was to write a story that included 50% dialog. It was misunderstood by all the class participants.

Laurence McKeown, a play writer tells us about being held in prison for 17 years and a hunger strike for almost seventy days. We find his story fascinating. He gives us intensive feedback on an assignment. The assignment is to write a story that included 50% dialog. It is misunderstood by all the class participants.

He corrects them in a way that makes them bleed. So much red ink!

Farewell Dinner

The agenda lists the Farewell Dinner as an “evening filled with wine snacks, and lively conversation”.  We have sandwiches that are hastily made and not tasty and lots of wine. The “lively conversation” includes a local guitarist whose voice gives me a headache. He tells us that he doesn’t write music, he just sings from memory. Another local woman tries to sing a traditional Irish song. She has a very bad cold. We have some lively music from one of the participant’s husband who plays country western music and she sings. She has a beautiful voice. The lively conversation switches to Irish politics.

Welcome Dinner

A magical mystery welcome is the title of the welcome dinner.  The owner of Caife Kitty gives a presentation on potatoes and how they can be cooked. She brings a sampling of her mashed potatoes for us to try. Sancho entertaines us with a few Irish fairy tales.

Later in the week we go to Caife Kitty for lunch.

Transportation

There is no public transportation. Cabs are available and expensive. This is a problem if you want to go to another town to go shopping or eat. The cost of transportation by cab to the airport is 25 euros.

Meals

Meals are not included. You could spend between $30-40 for food and drink per day. Breakfast is included. The menu in the bar and restaurant offers a variey of foods.  Don’t forget the fish and chips (fries).

Save

An Ode to Coffee

Two weeks ago I participated in the Iowa Summer Writing Festival at the University of Iowa in Iowa City. I wrote this poem as a homework assignment. I am not a poet and always thought that poems had to rhyme. I learned that modern day poems don’t. This is the first poem I have written since sixth grade.

___________________________________________

The Iowa River flows by.

It has gained some water from the storms last night

There is a wind today, which feels cool upon my face

There are a variety of trees. Maple and a few Pines

The trees have much bigger leaves and a lot fuller than the ones in Phoenix

Green places indicate cold and snow in the winter months

It is becoming cloudy

The day is dreary

Condensation has accumulated on the windows in my room

Can’t wipe the windows

The condensation is outside Continue reading “An Ode to Coffee”

Five Thousand miles: Five States: Seven Lessons Learned

 

I travel to discover different cultures. Every state and every city in the US has a culture. People from all over the world come to visit the US to see how Americans live. Americans travel to different parts of the world to see the culture of others. Americans don’t look for cultural differences in their own country. We tend to think that we are all the same.

What is culture? It is not only the language, the food, the historic sites of an area. It is the way people think and act. The US is not a homogenous society. People are different and that’s what makes the US so interesting.

The seven lessons that I have presented here are cultural examples of American life that we don’t recognize. People from other countries would recognize them as part of American culture.

  1. Hotels

Hotel chains are not the same. I learned that one La Quinta is not going to offer the same services as another LaQuinta. LaQuinta is known for their dog-friendly hotels. They don’t require a pet fee. The LaQuinta I stayed in Medford, Oregon wanted to charge me $15. I pointed out to her that LaQuinta doesn’t charge a pet fee. She decided not to make the charge.

Hotels are franchises bought by private people. They don’t have to follow the rules that would make them the same as the others in their franchise division such as the Choice Hotel group, Holiday Inns, or Hampton Inns. Hotel owners charge anywhere from $5- $50 for pet fees. There is no set fee for one group of hotels. Hotels should follow the Starbucks model. Every Starbucks serves the same kind of coffee and you can count on getting the same service at any of them.

The Hoover Dam Lodge was the last hotel we stayed on the way home. They didn’t charge a pet fee and allowed me to take Chloe, my cocker spaniel, into the casino area. She did not like it because it was too noisy. I was winning and she wanted to leave. I was ordering my food at the little Mexican restaurant to take to the room and the waiter told me to go get the dog and bring her with me.  He got a big tip!

2. Fuel

Google Images

The price of fuel depends on the city. I paid the most on the Oregon Coast, $3.75 per gallon and the cheapest in Idaho, $2.25 per gallon. I learned to have a full tank of gas when I traveled the scenic back roads. There were no gas stations and if I did find one, the price was almost doubled. Oregon does not allow for self-service gas. An attendant will come and fill your tank and even wash your front windshield. I asked the attendant why they didn’t allow self-service and he replied, “It provides more jobs.” I agree with that. Being a self-serve state eliminates a lot of job positions.

Gas stations were also the best places to take a break, use the restroom, and get something to drink.

3. Car Warning Messages

Google image

I believe everything my car tells me. Halfway through my trip the “maintenance required ” light flashed on. I was really nervous because I was traveling the backroads. I continued driving hoping that the car would not die in the middle of the forest. Who would help me? I didn’t have cell service either. I arrived at a place that had service and called the Toyota dealer and asked him what I should do. He said, “Don’t worry you can bring the car in tomorrow.” I said, “I am in Bend, Oregon and still have 3,000 miles to go.” He replied very calmly, “You can drive the car up to 4,000 miles more.” He said, “The warning light is like a timer on your oven. It is telling you that it is almost time to take out the cookies.” I don’t think so. When the timer goes off in my oven, it is TIME to take out the cookies or they will burn. I continued driving and with great caution.

I learned that I could drive up to 3,000 miles after the warning light comes on!

Google Image

This is another annoying warning that indicates the tire pressure is low. I learned that the temperature can trigger this light to go on. I was traveling in much cooler weather. Every morning the light would go on. I kept driving. When the temperature reached 75F the warning light would turn off. I no longer worried about this warning in cold temperatures.

4. Speed Limits

Google Image

Speed limits vary from city to city and state to state. Interstate speed limits across the USA go from 65 mph to 80 mph. Backroads have slower speed limits. Many of the roads pass through small towns and the speeds are reduced to 35-45 mph. I learned that most drivers, including me, do not drive the speed limit. I tend to drive faster when the roads are straight. I slow down passing through mountains ascending and descending. I become nervous descending the mountains and other drivers are speeding past me or getting closer to my bumper. I really didn’t find many problems with speeders during my travels.

5. Interstate vs. Scenic Backroads

Google images

The advantages of traveling the interstate are speed and time. I did not want to pass up the opportunity to travel the scenic byways of Oregon. I learned to appreciate the beauty and quietness of the state. I stopped at various places to take pictures. There were many turnouts to allow other drivers to pass if needed.

The backroads from Medford to Waldport followed the Umpqua River part way before encountering the cliff driving on the 101.

I passed through towns with names Grass Valley, Madras, Shanko, Dalles, and Rufus on the Journey Through Time byway. Most of these towns have a population of 1,000-1,500 people. There were usually a general store and a very small gas station. I wondered how these people did their grocery shopping. They were sleepy villages with charm.

 

6. Restaurants/Coffee Shops

Coffee Shop in Sisters, Oregon

Stand alone coffee shops owned by women are very common in Oregon. This coffee shop was located near a park and catered to bicycle riders and cars. The coffee was great and the man on the bike paid for my coffee. Chloe and I sat at one of the picnic tables and had our coffee.

I was at a disadvantage because I did have my dog with me. I could not go into restaurants. I sought out restaurants and coffee shops that had outdoor seating. I bought beef, chicken, and vegetables and grilled out at the park. There were a couple of sandwich places in Bend, Oregon that did allow me to take the dog inside.

I would sometimes go for three hours without a cup of coffee. This is really a difficult almost impossible thing for me. I am a coffee addict. There were times I was driving and not a single coffee shop in sight. Not even a gas station! I learned that I could survive without coffee.

7. Rest Areas

Google image

Rest areas are few and far between. Sometimes it was 75 miles between one area and the other. Rest areas are expensive to keep clean and safe. Many states have decided that fewer is better. I learned that I needed to use every restroom stop available. The interstate provided more chances of finding restrooms and most of them were well used. The majority of the restrooms were clean and there was plenty of toilet paper. I hate walking into a bathroom and not finding toilet paper in the US. I never carry tissue.

Some of the rest areas had vending machines and picnic tables. They also allow sleeping for a limit of 8 hours. I encountered one young couple who had pitched a tent the night before at one rest area early in the morning.

The rest areas also provide a place for your pet to do their business. Chloe did hers anywhere. I always cleaned up!

 

Take the time to find out about the culture around the US.

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

How Important is Religion in India?

Cultures grow on the vine of tradition.     

Jonah Goldberg

Religion plays a very big part in the lives of Indians. There are mosques and temples scattered everywhere throughout the city of Delhi. Not many churches are visible. Hinduism is practiced by 82% of the population, Islam 12.8%, and Christianity 0.87%. People who are Hindus have altars in their homes. They pray every morning and night in hopes that these gods will bring them happiness and health. The altars are decorated in bright colors and are usually placed in their bedrooms. I did not feel comfortable taking pictures of gods and goddesses in the temples nor in the home of Hiroko’s friend.

If religion has given birth to all that is essential in society, it is because the idea of society is the soul of religion.
Emile Durkheim

Jama Masjid Mosque

This is my first time to visit a mosque. Jama Masjid is one of the largest Islamic mosques in India. The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built it in 1656. I took eleven years to build. We arrive during prayer time which begins at 12:00. We must wait until 1:30 to enter. The mosque is in the center of one of the busiest marketplaces in the area. There were white-haired tourists taking their pictures while riding on the rickshaws. I am sure this was part of their tour package. Some of them have very nervous faces. Their rickshaw drivers are trying to navigate the traffic while these tourists feel that their lives are at risk. The air is thick with smog. Many of the stalls are firing up their gas stoves getting ready to prepare food for the lunch hour. The prayer at the mosque as ended. The people descend in groups down the stairs and pour out into the streets. It looks like a dam has let all of its water flow at one time. The streets instantly fill over their capacity. People stand in line waiting for food. I feel vegetarian and confused. I lose Hiroko for about 1 minute. It felt like a lifetime.

We finally emerge from the hoards of people and walk up the stairs to the entrance of the mosque. We are greeted by a young man who feels that he has a very important job.  He tells me I must wear a robe over my clothes. My forearms are exposed. We must also take off our shoes. We take off our shoes and carry them. We could have left them at the front entrance and paid a fee to get them back.  I didn’t trust the guy manning the shoe stand. Hiroko gave me the signal to carry them with me. We walk around the mosque barefoot. I must admit it didn’t feel very comfortable. The ground was not very clean and everyone was walking around barefoot. Hiroko gave me the heads up about leaving our bags in the car safely guarded by our driver. Bags and backpacks are not allowed into the mosque area.

Carol at Jama Masjid in my cover up

The mosque is completely outside. People are washing their feet, face, and hands. The men are in one area and the women in another. An Indian family rushes up to us and wants us to be in a picture with them.  The children are all smiles and ask us where we are from. Hiroko says, “I am from Japan” and I say “I am from America”. Most Indians can’t tell the difference between a Japanese and a Chinese. Hiroko is sometimes referred to as being Chinese. The country “America” has the same meaning as the USA. They can’t distinguish between North, South, or Central America.

Carol and Indian family at Jama Masjid

It was the first place that I didn’t feel very comfortable visiting. Most of them just stared at us and we didn’t spend more than 40 minutes walking around and taking pictures. We exited the mosque and I handed in my coverup for the next foreign tourist to wear. On our way out of the mosque, we were approached by a Canadian couple. The young woman was less covered than I was. They had their backpacks and cameras. I told them that they would have to leave their backpacks with the shoe guy and she would have to wear a cloak over her clothing. They asked if it was worth the chance. I said no. They decided to not go in.

Hiroko calls her driver and instructs him to take us to her favorite restaurant.

Vinod is our driver. He is employed by the company where Hiroko’s husband works.  He is 27 years old. He has been married for 3 years. His wife is expecting their first child in May. He doesn’t see his wife very often because she lives 8,000 kilometers from Delhi. Before becoming a “driver” Vinod owned a cigarette stall for three years. It was shut down by the police. Someone turned him in for not having permission to operate his stall. He says it was a disgruntled customer. He had to find another job. His brother taught him how to drive. He practiced four- six hours a day.  He obtained his license and applied for a driving position. He hasn’t had any accidents. I commended him every day for his driving skills. He was ready every morning with a huge smile and greeting.

Our driver Vinod

Claustrophobic Mandir

Understanding the Hindu religion is not an easy task. For this reason, I present you with a description of the goddess Kali. She is one of the most worshiped goddesses in India.

The idea that women are innately gentle is a fantasy and a historically recent one. Kali, the Hindu goddess of destruction, is depicted as wreathed in male human skulls; the cruel entertainments of the Romans drew audiences as female as they were male; Boudicca led her British troops bloodily into battle.
Naomi Wolf

It is partly correct to say Kali is a goddess of death but She brings the death of the ego as the illusory self-centered view of reality.

Hiroko’s friend Lily has lived in Delhi her entire life. She like many other Hindus worships in mandirs, temples. She accompanies us to vegetarian Mandir. It is one of the oldest Hindu temples in the world. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess Kali. Lily has connections with the Chief Priest at this temple. We arrive and are led to the room where the Chief Priest will present himself. We are served masala chai and butter cookies. Masala chai is always presented to visitors and customers. We sit on long brown leather sofas. A recliner is sitting on a stage. A gold curtain is behind the recliner.  Very important meetings with other religious leaders take place in this room.

The chief priest arrives forty minutes later. We rise to bow before him. He talks to Lily in Hindi. They have been friends for a long time. I think Lily donates much of her money to this temple. We are led into the worship area. It is jammed. People are chanting mantras in very loud voices.

Kali Mantra for Worship

Kring Kring Kring Hing Kring Dakshine vegetarian Kring Kring Kring vegetarian Hiring Hung Hung Hring
The Mantra consists of three seeds, krim, hum and hrim, and the name ‘dakhshina kalike’ and ‘swaha’, which signifying offering. This mantra is used by the devotees of Kali, the preserver of Earth, who saves us from all the ignorance and the fear of death.

They are lined up and pushing each other into the worship area. We are led into the area and people are instructed not to push us. The people are so surprised to see foreigners in their temple. The statue of the god is hardly visible. Worshippers bring garlands of flowers to throw onto the statue. They throw some money and before they leave the area, they are given gifts to take back home. Most of them have altars at home. These altars have a statue of the god sitting in the main position. They decorate the altars with flowers and food. They pray every day for wealth and happiness.

We give our thanks to the high priest and I am relieved to be able to breathe air again.

Gifts are given to us at the mandir

Holy Cows

Cows are revered among Hindus. Most Hindus practice vegetarianism. They refrain from all meat.

SRI CHAITANYA CHARITAMRITA, Adilila, Chapter 17, verse 166,
Caitanya Mahaprabhu confirms:
o-ange yata loma tata sahasra vatsara go-vadhi raurava-madhye pace nirantar
Cow killers and cow eaters are condemned to rot in hell for as many thousands of years as there are for each hair on the body of every cow they eat from.
It is further written – Those who fail to give cows reverence and protection and choose to foolishly oppose and whimsically ignore the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures by selling a cow for slaughter, by killing a cow, by eating cows flesh and by permitting the slaughter of cows will all rot in the darkest regions of hell for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of each cow slain. There is no atonement for the killing of a cow.

Cows are highly prized as gifts. Do you want to impress someone? Give them a cow for their wedding gift. There are more than 44,900,000 cows in India.  The highest population in the world. Cows in India roam the streets, eat garbage, stop traffic, and sleep on the streets. Most of them are not owned by anyone. They are dirty, smelly, and many of them are old and sick. There is relief for some of these cows. Gaushalas  offer a home for sick and homeless cows. They recieve medical treatment, a lot of hay, a clean place to rest, and music.

Happy cows at the gaushala

Hiroko and I are on our way to visit a gaushala. We travel down the street hitting various potholes, a mother pig with her six piglets trailing behind her and three dogs barking and running around going nowhere in particular. It is just another dusty day in Delhi. We arrive in front of the gate and are greeted by two girls who work at the “compound”. We enter the gate and the ground is covered with green grass. I haven’t seen green grass for three days. There is not visible grass in Delhi unless you visit a park. Even the trees in Delhi are dusty. There is a small courtyard very neatly taken care of. Flowers of various colors yellow, red, and white are blooming near the courtyard. No dust anywhere. Four older men are sitting on the benches sharing the news of the day.

Our guide, Manisha, shows us around. Manisha came to Delhi when she was seventeen. She received her B.S in agriculture. During her college years, she became very interested in helping others. She became involved with this project. The first stop is the gaushala. The gaushala employs people who previously did not have jobs to clean, milk, and feed the cows. These workers are provided housing, food, wifi, and electricity within the “compound ” they live. The compound is much cleaner and healthier than living on the streets

The gaushala is only a part of a much bigger program on this compound. There is a center for women to receive sewing classes. The women make bags and purses that are sold at the market. Many of them are just beginning to sew. The center also provides after school homework help for the children. The children are taking English classes as we walk in the room. They greet us with “hello, hello” and “konichiwa”.  Hiroko volunteers her time at the center by teaching Japanese language and Japanese handicrafts. Her Japanese friends join her to teach Japanese traditional songs and dances.

Sewing classes

Children getting help with homework

The center receives donations to help continue their work. It is part of a grassroots movement to help those in need.

We say goodbye to the children and the volunteers. We exit the gate to the dusty street and wait for our driver to retrieve us. He didn’t go too far. He was parked in front of the compound. I wonder what he does while he is waiting for us.

Please read the next entry coming soon: A trip to Jaipur

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

An Old Friend, A New Culture: Delhi India

One of my main purposes for traveling to India is to visit a very good friend. I met Hiroko in Battle Creek, Michigan. She was a student in my ESL class. Hiroko is one of the most adventurous persons I know. We traveled to Chicago many times by train to shop and sight see. Hiroko’s husband was transferred to Delhi, India almost seven years ago. My husband became sick and we were not able to visit. Unfortunately, my husband passed away two years ago. I decided it was time to go to India and see Hiroko.

Travel by rickshaw

Rickshaws are a very useful source of transportation in India. They don’t require fuel, are easy to repair, and are cheap to maintain. The investment is attainable. Bicycle rickshaws are a very cheap way for everyone to get around. They transport food, hay, bricks, heavy boxes, and people. School children ride bicycle rickshaws to and from school instead of school buses.  Rickshaws can cram up to 8 children at one time.

Rickshaws lined up and waiting for customers

My friend, Hiroko, and I decide to climb into one after negotiating the price. There really isn’t a lot of room for negotiation as a foreigner. The price starts high and is only reduced a few rupees. We climb into the small cabin. Everything is so much smaller when you are tall and not very thin. Hiroko holds out the palm of her hand and draws a circle with her finger indicating that we want to go around the local market area. We don’t speak Hindi and the driver doesn’t speak English. The driver is in his forties and probably weighs no more than 150 lbs. The weather is warm and I can see beads of sweat running down his face and neck as he peddles through the narrow streets lined with vendors.  We hit a few potholes and bumps on the way. The padded seats don’t seem to help the impact. It is a good thing that I have a naturally padded rear end. The driver is getting tired and looks frustrated. I feel sorry for him. He can’t figure out where we want to go.  He stops every five minutes and asks the question “Where is the entrance to the market?” No one knows the answer. Fifteen minutes have passed. We are lost.

He stops, descends from the bike, and summons a man who has a very good command of English. He asks us “Where do you ladies want to go?” Hiroko tells him that we want to go to the front of the market. He relays the information to the driver and gives him directions. He seems to understand and off we go. The destination was right around the corner.

This is not a place where foreigners/tourists come. There are no museums, famous temples, shopping malls, or supermarkets. These streets belong to the people and their stalls that sell fruit, vegetables, food cooked in front of you, and clothing. These people are hard working and want to you to purchase their items.

Fruit and vegetable stall

Everyday Life

We stop at a samosa stall. A man and his young son of about 12 years old welcome us into his stall. His son greets us with a “hello” and shyly smiles. We sit down on two white plastic buckets. He serves us each a  deep fried samosa filled with potatoes. I ignore all of the advice given to me about not eating street food. It is just too tempting.  We dip our samosas into a green chile salsa. I tell him that these are the best samosas. He smiles. We pay for our purchase and thank him. I hope we made him happy.

Man and his young son at the samosa stall

As we are walking down the street I notice this woman standing in the heat holding an iron.  She stands on her feet for about 8-9 hours a day. She irons clothing that the people in the neighborhood bring to her. The iron weighs about four pounds and is very hot.

The ironing lady

We stop at another stall. A man is making sugar cane juice. He is older, maybe in his late 60s. We watch the sugarcane stalks go through the grinder as the juice comes out of the other end of the machine. He smiles and I urge my friend to stop. We buy some juice and drink it. It is very sweet. I only hope that today’s food doesn’t come back to haunt me tonight in my sleep.

Sugar cane juice stand

We decide to take a ride on a tuk-tuk to the local supermarket.

Tuk-tuk

Supermarkets are not as popular with the common people as the local stalls. Supermarkets are expensive and the vegetables are not as fresh. Not everyone is allowed in the supermarket. Many of the locals are kept out. Our bags are checked at security. Men and women are lead in separate directions.  The women enter a small enclosure and the curtains are drawn. The security guard who is a woman proceeds to slide her wand all around me. I pick up my backpack and proceed into the supermarket. It is about one-third of the size of our monster supermarkets.

There are no “street” people, fixed prices, and not many customers. I wander through the store and find Kellogg products, Heinz tomato sauce, and Nestle instant and condensed milk. The prices are about triple the prices at the stall. Hiroko prefers to buy her vegetables at the local stall because of the freshness. We decide to invest in three small boxes of mango juice. We are checked out by not one cashier, but three cashiers. Not a single woman is working in the store.

___________________________________________________________________________

Foreigners are not allowed to drive in India. They must employ “drivers”. Hiroko and her husband both have drivers who take them where they need to go. Hiroko’s husband uses his driver to go back and forth to work every morning. Hiroko keeps her driver very busy. She is always on the run. Vinod is our driver. He greets us with “Namaste” as we exit the apartment complex. We climb into the car and Hiroko begins giving directions. Vinod has a very limited command of English and Hiroko speaks Japanese. He has been her driver for almost 6 years. They have their way of working out the language differences. We are on our way to the center of Delhi.

The traffic moves very slowly. There are almost no working traffic lights nor stop signs. People drive defensively honking their horns and almost never using their turn signals. Vinod is a very careful driver. He has a knack for squeezing in front of others without hitting them. The traffic makes me nervous. I decide to focus on the people around me. We aren’t going anywhere. Women with babies and small children sit on the back of motorcycles driven by their spouses or other male members of the family. Most of the time women sit sideways. Some are wearing helmets, but the majority are not. Women don’t drive in Delhi. Vinod told us he doesn’t let his wife drive. I can understand. I wouldn’t want to drive here either. It reminds me of driving bumper cars at the state fair.

Six to eight elementary school girls wearing their green plaid uniforms and green sweaters pile into a bicycle rickshaw. The girls are giggling and catch a glimpse of us in the car. They start waving frantically and yelling “hello, hello”. I roll down the window and they all shout “What’s your name? What’s your name?” I yell above the noise of the cars and busses, “Carol”. I make the mistake of asking “What’s your name?” because 8 different names come flying in my direction. I didn’t catch a single one. Our car finally inches up and before I can take a picture of the girls a van pulls up and blocks my view. The girls are gone.

The van passes us and behind him is another rickshaw. This one has seven males in their twenties. They catch my eye and began to send me hand signals. One asks me if I want to meet his friend. I throw up my left hand and point to my wedding ring. They laugh and wave goodbye. Friendly banter in the middle of traffic going nowhere anytime soon.

First Tourist Stop

Forty-five minutes later we arrive at Qutb Minor, a 73 m-high tower of victory, built in 1193 by Qutb-ud-din Aibak. This is one of the must-see monuments in Delhi. Foreigners/tourists are charged three times the price as locals. Hiroko is considered a local. She carries a document stating that she lives in Delhi. We don’t have a guide. Other foreigners have formed a line behind us. Many of them accompanied by a private guide they have hired to shuttle them around all day. Guides are a very helpful for tourists in India. They provide valuable historical information, recommend restaurants, and protection when necessary.

Groups of Indian elementary school children dressed in their gray pants and navy blue vests are trying their best to stand in line.   Their teachers are telling them in English, “Line up here”. They proceed into the park in single line formation following their teachers. Elementary schools in India have both coeducational and segregated classes. Some of them pass by and sneak a smile and a few giggles when they see the foreigners watching them and taking their pictures. I wonder what they think about us.

School children waiting to enter the Qutb monument park

We take pictures, read the guidebook, and walk around. Every time I turn a corner, there is a young Indian couple stealing kisses and embracing. Showing signs of affection in public is not acceptable. Young people take advantage of theaters, museums, and national monuments to show their feelings for each other.

Qutb Minar

Qutb Minar

_________________________________________________________

We stop at the market on the way home to pick up some things for dinner. The market has stalls of vegetables, dry goods, pharmaceuticals, dried fruits, nuts, and clothing. Hiroko has her preferred vegetable stall. We quickly pass by all of the others who are trying to hawk their products. Hiroko walks into her vegetable stall and everyone greets her with “Namaste”. She goes about picking her vegetables. She is being closely followed by one of the workers who is holding a small plastic container with small holes.

Hiroko chooses a vegetable and he places it in the container. He tries to get her to buy mangoes, she says no. There are gooseberries, grapes, cauliflower, ginger, bananas, and cabbage. He hands the plastic container of vegetables to another man who weighs it. The tally is done by hand with pencil and paper. The next man gives Hiroko the total. She haggles for a little less and is successful. She pays with her debit card.  We leave the bag with them and proceed to the next stall.

There are no women shopping nor working in the stalls. The men lie around, drink tea, and talk to each other. I walk through the stalls observing the colorful clothing and the various choices of nuts and dried fruits. Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, dates, apricots, and apples.

Vegetable shop

Vegetable stall

This was the first day of my visit to Delhi, India. Please read Part 2.

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

My First 10 Days of Retirement

Life is a circle. The first part is learning. Learning how to be someone, a child, a teenager, and an adult. The second part is teaching. Teaching your children and your students to be someone. The third part of life is back to learning . Learning how to be a retired person.

Carol Kubota

I have just completed my first ten days of retirement not counting holidays or weekends. I began counting on January 3 because all of my colleagues had to report back to work and I stayed home.

Staying Organized

When I was teaching, I did the same thing every day. Go to class, teach, come home, grade homework, prepare the next day’s lessons and repeat for five days. It was easy to keep track of my time. Now, every day is  Sunday or Saturday.

Now I have three calendars, one in my bag that I carry everywhere, one on my Outlook, and one on the refrigerator. The first thing I do when I wake up is to check the day and date on my cell phone.  I am always afraid I will miss something.

Retirement has a different meaning for each person. I was not ready to sit home, sleep in, or watch TV.  I didn’t have any plans to play golf, mahjong, or pickle ball. My idea of retirement was being able to leave a job that I no longer found challenging to a place where I could travel, write, and connect with my community.

Ten things I did in my first 10 days of retirement.
  1. Became a member of the Kiwanis club in Fountain Hills
  2. Had lunch with another retired educator and didn’t care about the time. Neither one of us glanced at our cell phones to check the time.
  3. Attended a six-hour training for Chloe, my Cocker Spaniel, to be a therapy dog
  4. Joined the Arizona State University book club
  5. Had an interview on Skype with a start-up travel group, Joey, in San Francisco
  6. Attended a  “Wanderful” meeting with  other women who like to travel
  7. Became a docent for the art tours in Fountain Hills
  8. Signed up for one class at Changing Hands bookstore for travel writing
  9. Coffee shop hopping around Phoenix
  10. Completed  two online writing classes

I spend about two hours a day on my computer trying to write enticing stories to attract readers to my web page. Writing is not easy and I am in the process of finding that out. Teaching was not easy when I first started, but with time and experience, it became less stressful. I hope that eventually, I will be able to write with clarity, enthusiasm, perfect punctuation, and a much bigger vocabulary.

This is the beginning of a new adventure and I want to invite my readers to come along with me.

 

 

Up Up and Away

 

World Hot Air Balloon Championship

It was July 13, 1985 when I had my first encounter with a hot air balloon. Our family of three had just arrived to Battle Creek, Michigan from Japan. We had been living in Japan for five years and my husband was being transferred to Battle Creek, Michigan to help open a new plant. We had just ended a twelve-hour flight and we were tired and disoriented.

We arrived at what seemed to be the only hotel in Battle Creek because it was so crowded and the city was so small. We checked in and held on to our three-year old so that she wouldn’t get lost. We finally found our way into the crowded elevator trying to squeeze our over packed luggage along with a stroller. As we were successfully stuffed into the elevator a young man of about twenty-two asked my husband if he were one of the Japanese balloonists. We both looked at each other because we had no idea what he was referring to.  We said, “No, is there a balloon festival?” and he said, “Yes”. We headed up to our rooms in the elevator and my husband was asked the same question again. We turned on the TV and realized that Battle Creek was celebrating their annual World Hot Air Balloon Championship representing twenty-one different countries. One of those countries was Japan.

We attended the festival in Battle Creek for twenty years. Now, my friend and I  were on our way to attend the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta one of the largest balloon conventions in the world.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

It is 4:00 a.m. and we are on our way out the door. The early morning is very dark, not a star in the sky. The morning is crisp with a very slight wind blowing in our faces. The GPS is set for our destination which should be no more than ten minutes away. It is giving us the directions, “turn left on Jefferson, in two miles turn right on to Washington.”  We arrived at the Balloon Fiesta field outside of Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is one of the largest balloon conventions in the world. It began in 1972 with 19 balloons and expanded to 600 balloons. This event takes place every year in October for one week. Balloonists who participate come from all over the US and the world. They must compete in their own states and countries before they are accepted to participate in the event.

We walk towards the only light we have seen for almost 40 minutes and find ourselves in front of vendors which are tightly lined up on the side of the path leading to the main field. The smells of doughnuts, elephant ears, breakfast burritos, and Pinon coffee are in the air. We walk over to the field and find some old wooden picnic tables, which we can’t see until we bump into them. This is when a flashlight would have come in handy.

The Launch

There are two very important factors that prevent hot air balloons from ascending, too much wind and rain. These factors will make or break a perfect launch.

The sun is beginning to rise which means that the balloons will be inflating and we will soon be witnessing one of the most popular hot air balloon festivals in the USA.  There is only one problem, there is too much wind. Spectators sits around on the picnic tables and lawn chairs waiting patiently for the announcement of ascension.  There is anticipation for everyone who has traveled from all over the USA and the world to watch these colorful bulbs get up into the air.

The balloonists are laying out their envelopes, the actual fabric which holds the air, on the field waiting for the “all go” signal. Everyone’s eyes are focused on the sky above them.

Lift Off

The signal finally comes and the balloons begin to inflate.  People are crowding on to the field and getting their cameras ready for the artistic panoramic scenes the balloons will create once they are all launched. The balloons are orange, red, blue, green with designs that include stripes, stars, diamonds, and sponsored balloons which have names such as Pepsi, and Kodak.

Animal shapes of famous cartoon characters, such as Tweedy Bird with his bright yellow head and orange nose, followed by Puddy Cat, the big black and white cat with the red nose, who is forever chasing Tweedy Bird around. Both the children and the adults identify each balloon by name as it is being inflated. It is a magical moment .

Unfortunately, these balloons are not able to ascend very far, they are heavy and cumbersome to fly long distances and the wind is working against them , not allowing them to get more than fifty feet into the air. They stay above the crowd and no one is disappointed because this is the time to get some great shots of these magnificent balloons. The bigger balloons don’t stay up more than fifteen  minutes before plopping down on the grown and showing their frustration. The rest of the balloons end up landing no more than one to two miles away.

This time the wind won.  Balloon Festivals take place outside and depend on the movement of the natural elements wind and rain. They don’t like either one.

Consider yourself lucky, if you  experience a successful Hot Air Balloon Launch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save

Save

The Last Final Exam

“Exams test your memory, life tests your learning; others will test your patience.”
Fennel Hudson, A Writer’s Year – Fennel’s Journal – No. 3

It is 2:00 p.m. Thursday the last day of exams for our program. It is also my last time to give a final exam. I can’t count how many final exams I have given in the past  forty-two years of my teaching life.

Nineteen students file in and place their beloved cell phones on the table in front of the room. They sit in alternate seats so that they don’t cheat. The rows in the class are set up as five sets of desks going across the room and six sets of desks in each row. They place their backpacks on the floor next to them and take out only an eraser and a pen or pencil.

One student does not have a pencil and asks his friends if they have one he can borrow. This student has not been prepared for class since he walked in the door seven weeks ago. One of my very well prepared students offers him a choice of two pencils and he chooses one. I pass out the test to the students in the front rows and they pass them back to the other students in their rows. There is complete silence and anxious faces. I go over the directions and ask for any questions. The student who did not have a pencil asks me to put the time on the board. I point to the wall clock in front of the classroom and tell him to watch the time. He and the other students never knew there was a clock in the room. The only way they keep track of time is with their cell phones. They vibrate in their pockets when the class is over.

The students have seventy-five minutes to take a reading exam. The exam is worth 15% of their grade. This was a good class so I expect most of them to pass. The test begins and I keep an eye on them. I have never been one of those teachers who feels comfortable reading my e-mail, grading other papers, or searching the Internet during a test. Students have figured out so many ways of cheating. I once had a student who wrote an essay on five ways to cheat during a test.  The information was not very surprising, but when your future depends on a test you will try anything.

Twenty minutes have past and students are reading the passage flipping the pages back and forth because the first part of the story is on the front page and the second part is on the back. Some students begin to crack their knuckles, some are tapping their feet, and others are staring at the clock. The students have been in my classroom for seven weeks and I know who will get a passing grade and who won’t. Fortunately there is only one who will not pass. Yes, you guessed right. The one who came to class without a pencil.

Ten minutes are left in order to finish the test.  Ten students have finished and handed in the exam. They grab a brownie, wave goodbye , and head out the door. As time goes by more students are finished and leave the room waving with brownie in hand.  Time is over and the last student to hand in his test is the student who did not have a pencil. He hangs back until all the students have left and asks me if he is going to pass. I must give him the news which he already knows , no he will not pass. He asks me if there is anything he can do to pass. I tell him it is too late and I am very sorry. He looks at me sheepishly, takes his brownie and waves good-bye.

“The job of an educator is to teach students to see vitality in themselves”
Joseph Campbell

unadjustednonraw_thumb_1cd0This is the last final I will ever give . I will miss my students and I will miss walking into a classroom and seeing the expressions of my international students who had to listen to stories that I told them about my life when I was a student and how easy their life is. As I sit  here looking  at the empty classroom, I begin to feel sad. Teaching has been my life, but it is time to move on.

Goodbye students! Goodbye teaching!