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Laureen

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Good Neighbor – The Life & Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    I wanted to love this book. I was excited and was sure I would.  But it fell a bit flat for me.

    However, if you grew up loving Mr. Rogers or if you have learned since becoming an adult about this remarkable man, you should read The Good Neighbor, despite its length and sometimes dry detail. You will certainly come away with a renewed sense of awe about the brilliance of America’s favorite neighbor.

    The book chronicles Rogers entire life from his wealthy and protected upbringing to his death from stomach cancer at age 75.  King’s remarkable and in-depth research provides the book hundreds of details and stories about Fred’s lonely childhood, philanthropic family, love of music and puppetry, college days and marriage.

    Not until the middle third of the book do we begin to really see Fred become Mr. Rogers.  It’s here that we learn how his childlike demeanor combined with his; passion for early childhood education, unfailing Christian faith, exemplary moral compass, spectacular musical talent, groundbreaking methodical writing and editing standards and deep love and concern for children – create children’s programming that has never and will never be surpassed in quality and impact.  And all from this quiet and brilliant man.

    Satirist love to poke fun even today at Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  But for me, Rogers is someone we should all admire, remember and emulate.  His signature value was human kindness.  He lived, breathed and preached it to anyone who would listen.

    Rogers was a man of acceptance.  He asks those around him to make good choices and be accepting to all kinds of humans but especially children. Because “It’s You I Like”.

    It’s you I like,
    It’s not the things you wear,
    It’s not the way you do your hair–
    But it’s you I like
    The way you are right now,
    The way down deep inside you–
    Not the things that hide you,
    Not your toys–
    They’re just beside you.

    But it’s you I like–
    Every part of you,
    Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
    Whether old or new.
    I hope that you’ll remember
    Even when you’re feeling blue
    That it’s you I like,
    It’s you yourself,
    It’s you, it’s you I like.

    – Fred Rogers

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four Stars for the Good Neighbor by Maxwell King

    Read last week’s review of Still Life

     

    Inspire

    Travel is Not Always Glamorous – Despite What Instagram Says

    Memorable Moments of My Fab Fifties Life

    Location: Costa Rica

    Let’s just say it.  Sometimes a life of full-time travel or even a short vacation, can just plain suck.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Clinic in Namibia

    Despite what everyone tries to make you believe through social media – travel, like everything else in life, can and will involve many less-than-glamorous moments.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Bad hair day in Denmark

    You will puke.  You will have diarrhea.  You will be exhausted.  You will snore and or drool on an airplane.  You will fall off your paddle board and lose your swim top.  You will have horrendous humidity hair. You will not shave your legs for weeks at a time. You will sweat. You will cough so hard you pee.  You will fall

    Humidity hair in Costa Rica

    on your face even though you are sober. You will get caught in a downpour in your only nice shoes. You will get sunburned. You will get a thousand bug bites. You will lose your luggage. You will inevitably need to see a pharmacist, doctor or dentist in a foreign country.

    Travel is not always glamorous despite what Instagram says.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Not figure flattering in Chile

    Travel is real.  And though it is, for the most part, a wonderful and fun adventure, it is not always perfect.

    Take yesterday for example. After a year and a half of babying along a bad tooth, I spent six hours in a dentist chair in Costa Rica.  They cleaned me, extracted the bad tooth, did a bone graft and gave me an implant.  It was a  long and painful way to spend Valentines Day.  But it was necessary.  And much cheaper than doing it in the USA.

    Not too glamorous as I sat there with the dentist prodding and poking

    Best and Worst airports

    Motion sickness in Seychelles

    and prying me all day long.  I did walk away with some good pain meds.  I’m putting those to good use right now.

    Travel is not always glamorous

    Cold and wet in Spain

    No, travel is not always glamorous, despite what Instagram says.  I’ve written blogs before about how frustrating I find so-called “influencers” on Instagram who make it look like travel is perfect every day.  Who make every destination look like a magazine cover.    Who are young, thin and glamorous in every shot. It is not reality. It is not authentic.  It is all fake news.

    I am not now, nor will I ever be “thin”.  I am, shall we say, endowed.  But I am not

    Walk On

    Covered with flies in Australia

    ashamed.  This is me, real in the flesh, not a made up version for Instagram.  Glamorous? No.  And I sure didn’t feel glamorous in the dentist chair, or when I was sick in the bathroom, or covered with sweat, or drenched from the rain, or laying on the

    Not so glamorous swimsuit shot in Costa Rica

    sidewalk wondering “how did I get down here?”

    Don’t believe everything you see on Social Media.  I think most of you know this already.  Instead, get out and see the real authentic

    Not so glamorous at the dentist in Costa Rica

    world yourself – it will be amazing, if not glamorous, and you will be a better person for the experience. Real, authentic and fabulous travel.  It’s the best kind.

    Just remember to bring your Imodium.

    Be fabulous (not glamorous).

     

     

     

     

     

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Still Life by Louise Penny

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Still Life by Louise Penny

    I am not normally drawn to murder mystery books, but somehow Still Life ended up in my reading queue.  When I downloaded it from the library I was surprised to find a book that is actually part of a series that follows Chief Inspector Gamache based in Montreal Canada.

    The book reminded me a great deal of a Vivica Stein murder mystery I read last year.  Similarly the story is a whodunnit in a small normally placid country town outside of Quebec.

    A variety of characters emerge revolving around small towns, artists, lost lives and friendships as the entire grieving community work with Inspector Gamache to solve the case.

    Simple writing and easy to read, if you like murder mystery genre you will enjoy Still Life.

    Three Stars for Still Life by Louise Penny ⭐️⭐️⭐️

    Read last week’s review of Radium Girls.

    Inspire

    Most Romantic Sunsets Around the World

    Celebrate Valentines with a Sunset and your Honey

    Most Romantic Sunsets Around the World

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Malpais Costa Rica

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Guam

    For the past two weeks, the nightly show the sun has put on here in Malpais has been nothing less than astounding. Each evening we watch breathless as it dips into the blue

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Hawks Bay New Zealand

    ocean dressed in a beautiful pink and orange gown.  Some nights the show actually gets better after sunset – as the sky extends the celebration with a spectacular rainbow of hues of pink, purple, orange, yellow and indigo across the western sky.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    AntiParos Greece

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Huraa Maldives

    Watching the sun each night from Malpais Costa Rica has been a glorious part of our day.  A reminder each evening of how lucky

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    we are.  A romantic interlude of breathtaking beauty, mixed with awe for our planet. A planet that loves to share the most romantic sunsets around the world.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Exmouth Australia

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Cairo-Giza Egypt

    As we celebrate this annual week of love I thought what could be more romantic than watching a sunset on Valentine’s Day?  Or how about on any day?  Watching a sunset with the one you love.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Nile River Egypt

    Our travels have presented many sunset opportunities to us, some better than others, but many very memorable.  So in honor of

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Praslin Seychelles

    Valentines week, I give you our most romantic sunsets around the world – memorable moments of the Grand Adventure.

    Note – double-click on any photo in this blog for a larger view

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Seabeck Washington USA

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Etosha National Park Namibia

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Mekong River Laos

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Sydney Austalia

    Wishing you and all those you love a Happy Valentines Day! I love you all!

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    Central America

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    A Step Back in Time

    Location: Malpais Costa Rica

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    No matter how you spell it, it’s laid back.

     

    Getting here isn’t easy.  We found ourselves bumping along dusty dirt roads on the six-hour drive from Coco Beach.  With each passing mile we were transported back to another time.  A slower time.  Malpais is lost in time.  It’s time to slow down in Malpais Costa Rica.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Rocky beaches

    Long just a fishing and cattle-farming village, Malpais (often spelled Mal Pais) has become popular among surfers and adventure travelers around the world. Recently, Forbes Magazine voted the beaches of Malpais and neighboring Santa Teresa as “One of the ten most beautiful in the world.”

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Our beachfront Airbnb

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Amazing sunsets

    I don’t know if I would put the beaches on my top ten beach list, but I would definitely rank it at the top for sunsets.  Our fabulous little hidden Airbnb offers a spectacular west-facing view of the Pacific and the nightly sunset show is sublime.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Dusty roads

    Malpais means “bad land” or “bad country”, with the name originating from the dry dusty waterless conditions during the summer.  The town of Malpais is teeny, stretching only about 6km from the village of Santa Teresa to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve.  Santa Teresa is about 2km from our Airbnb.  Because Malpais is so small (just a tiny convenience store, a church, a school and one restaurant), we walk to Santa Teresa for our groceries and restaurant needs.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Surfer paradise

    This part of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula is often referred to as Malpais – inclusive of Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa and Malpais.

    Surfing is now king in the area, taking over from to the old days of farming.  Fishing still also reigns and fresh fish is available most days at the pier. Don’t ask what time though – when the fisherman come.  That’s what time.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve

    In Santa Teresa shops and restaurants, hostels and a few hotels cater to the twenty-something surfing crowd.  Young kids outnumber us fabulous fifties 100 to one.  I can’t help wonder where are these kids all from and how do they sustain this lifestyle?

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Tide pools

    There is a long sandy beach at Santa Teresa (where most the surfing takes place) but in Malpais the beach is mostly of unique rock formations pocked with deep holes where both fish and humans soak the day away in the bathtub-like water.  Well, until the tide comes in and covers these pools until the next day.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Tide pool

    No watch needed, your day consists of morning yoga, noon tide pools, dinner following the sunset.  Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care?

    What do you do if you aren’t a surfer in Malpais?  Relax. Read. Soak in the pools.  Yoga at sunrise and drink gin and tonic at sunset.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Howler Monkey

    Monkey watching is another favorite pastime.  Howler Monkeys are abundant (and loud) and a family of ten visit our Airbnb often.  White faced monkeys (smaller and squeaky) also make their home in the trees around the area.  There are butterflies and birds galore.  There are iguanas and many other lizards.  A fascinating collection of nature, including wild horses, pass through our little paradise.

    Slow Down in Malpais Costa Rica

    Moctezuma waterfall

    Paddle Boarding

    Fresh catch

    You can hike about 3 miles from Malpais to the Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve and beach.  Or rent an ATV and go to Moctezuma on the other side of the Nicoya Peninsula and make a visit to the Moctezuma waterfall (a past Sport Illustrated Swimsuit Edition shoot location). Its’ a lot of fun to rent stand up paddle boards and have a fun day out on the water.  Maybe consider a guided beach horse back ride, ziplining or go charter fishing.

    Or you can do nothing at all.  Just slow down in Malpais Costa Rica.  And that’s alright with me.

    Fabuloso!

     

     

     

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    This is the incredible true story of the dawn of the age of radiation, a time where radium was considered a wonder drug.  And the untold hundreds of women who suffered.

    When the Curries discover the new radium element headlines around the world touted it as a beauty product, a health tonic and the bright new shiny life elixir of the 20th century.

    It was also the perfect element to illuminate clocks and dials and during WWI it was a boom industry in which thousands of women worked hand painting with the glowing dust paint in the radium dial factories.

    The painting process included putting the paint brush into your mouth, to tip it, before putting the paint on the dials.  The process continued for years, decades in fact, slowly poisoning those in the industry and the people around them.

    This fascinating book is the story of the brave women who fought to the bitter end for worker’s  rights and compensation, for US recognition of the radium poisoning and for new laws and protections against the former “wonder element”.

    The tenacity of these women and their story had never fully been told until author Moore became their champion.  The book is extremely detailed, and a bit slow in places, but worth the read to learn this unknown story of female courage in the early 20th century.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Four Stars for The Radium Girls

    Read last week’s review of Lots of Candles Plenty of Cake

    Asia Travel

    Seven Boats, Three Days, One Rare Bangladesh

    One for the record books – our visit to Bangladesh

    Location: Bangladesh

    Throw back Monday! Enjoy this one from a year ago once again. One of my favorite experiences.

    We would not have normally come to Bangladesh, except the opportunity was here because our friend Natalie is a teacher in Dhaka.  I preach frequently the need to visit less tourism developed places – and yet am guilty of wanting to see places like the Taj Mahal, the Great Wall of China, Table Mountain.

    One rare Bangladesh

    Beautiful Bangladeshi dancer

    And so our decision to visit Bangladesh helped us make the leap to a place no one goes, except our friend Natalie.

    We connected with Deshghuri Tours – one of a handful of tour companies catering to the few Westerners who come here, mostly Canadians, Germans and

    One rare Bangladesh

    Fort Lalbagh

    Americans.  Because our time was short we booked a three-day tour with Deshghuri.  It’s difficult to see Bangladesh without a guide.  The cities are crowded and Dhaka is plagued with air pollution.  Driving here is, shall we say, daunting.  So a tour is a must.

    Our first day was to see the densely packed city of Dhaka – home to 20 million people.  Bangladesh is the 8th most populous country in the world and

    One rare bangladesh

    At the beautiful mosaic mosque

    Dhaka has a density of 23,234 people per square kilometer within a total area of 300 square kilometers.  We spent the day weaving in and out of traffic, but also enjoying getting in and out of the car to see some remarkable sites; mosques, temples, university, and the 600-year-old Lalbagh Fort that serves as a lovely oasis in the city.  It was here we really began to feel how unusual it is to have a westerner walking around Dhaka.  Bangladeshi

    One rare bangladesh

    From on board the Rocket Steamer looking at the busy port

    stopped and gaped at us, some asking for selfies, others discreetly taking our photo without asking.  Very strange.

    At the end of the day we arrived in Shadarghat, the steamer terminal and one of the busiest places in Dhaka (which is saying something).  Here we

    One rare Bangladesh

    Rocket Steamer

    boarded our first of seven boats: the 100-year-old “Rocket” paddle wheeler that plies the waters of the Buriganga River.  These boats were, in their time, the fastest thing to ever hit these waters (thus the name), but today faster and more upgraded ferries provide service.  The Rocket continues to work however, and tours often include a night aboard these vessels for the “experience”.  It was definitely an experience as we were on one of the oldest and most worn down vessels.

    On arrival in Barisal early the morning of day two of

    One rare banhladesh

    Nine dome mosque

    our tour we were met by our new guide Ontu.  After breakfast we went by car three hours to Bagherhat, a UNESCO world heritage city and one of the most historic cities in Bangladesh. On the way to Bagherhat we rode a very small and crowded car ferry which is boat number two.   On reaching Bagerhat we toured three remarkable mosques, built in the 15th century!  All still in use today. Two of these mosques were a

    One rare Bangladesh

    80 dome mosque

    remarkable architecture design of domes rather than minarets.  The first was a nine dome and the second was an 80 dome mosque.  Truly fascinating for the time period and in wonderful condition considering the climate and the years.

    We continued by car to Mongla, where we boarded

    One rare bangladesh

    Crossing the river

    boat number three:  a small wooden pirogue which we stood in to cross the very busy river.  On the other side we boarded boat number four, known as a country boat.  It was just the two of us with our guide and we sat back and enjoyed cruising the river on this small 20-foot boat.  We enjoyed a

    One rare Bangladesh

    The country boat

    traditional Bangla lunch onboard, then went ashore at the Sundarban’s breeding sanctuary where we saw deer and crocodiles and walked the mangrove forest.

    Back on the boat and back to Mongla where we

    One are bangladesh

    On the river

    met the car, returned to Barisal (including car ferry-boat number five) and to our hotel in Barisal.  It had been a very amazing day.

    Day three we were up early, and instead of car we were in a Tuk Tuk before the sun had risen, driving an hour from Barisal to the banks of the Shondha River. Here we would board boat number six, a long deep river dwelling vessel,  for what would turn out to be my favorite part of our

    One rare Bangladesh

    Floating vegetable market

    tour.  Cruising through the backwater region of the Shondha we enjoyed the floating vegetable market as well as seeing the river people going about their daily life – scratching out an existence on and in

    One rare Bangladesh

    Meeting the friendly locals

    the river.  The river is both highway and washing machine, bathtub and food source.  We got off the boat several times, including a visit to an ancient and scrabbled together Hindu village where the people were so kind and generous and interested in us.  When we tell them we are from

    One rare Bangladesh

    Meeting the locals

    the United States they say it is their honor to have us in their country.  This is the Bangladeshi way – welcoming, kind and generous; even if they have nothing to give, they will offer you a cup of tea.

    It was particularly interesting to me how astonished everyone – men, women and children – were with my white hair.  They found it fascinating and we felt like celebrities.  Very

    One rare Bangladesh

    Laundry

    humbling experience.

    We learned a lot about river life, about the kindness of strangers, about how important community is to this ancient way of life.  We learned about religion (Islam is the largest religion of Bangladesh; Muslims constitute over 90% of the population, while Hindus constitute 8.5% and Buddhists 0.6% are the most significant minorities of the country. Christians, Sikhs, animists and atheists form 1%), we learned about food, we learned about education.

    One rare Bangladesh

    River life

    But mostly we learned about how much we take for granted.

    Saying farewell to our boat driver we were back in the Tuk Tuk for the hour ride back to Barisal where

    One rare Bangladesh

    Iron workers at the market. They asked us to stay for tea.

    we had time to tour the market before our departure.  The market was remarkable to me mostly because not a single tourist item was there.  This was perhaps the most authentic market I have been to (except for Ethiopia and Burkina Faso).  In fact I have not even been able to find a postcard in this country – a sign of how small the tourism

    One rare Bangladesh

    Beautiful Bangladesh

    industry is here.

    We said goodbye to our wonderful guide and boarded a river ferry, faster and more modern than the Rocket, for the overnight return to Dhaka. Boat number seven.

    Seven boats, three days, one rare Bangladesh.  I’ll not forget my time here.  Unique, remarkable, rewarding and above all, humbling.