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  • Thanksgiving 2020

    At this time of year it’s so easy to get overcome by all the immediate things that need to get done and overlook the really important thing that sh...
  • Breakfast at Finlaystone

    “We’re 14 for brekkers [breakfast] this morning,” Jenny explained as we set the massive dining room table with antique Blue Willow plates and ornate sterling silver flatware, “because we’ve six guests, plus the usual workers, slaves, Sir Gordon and Lady M.”

    Already distressed by the prospect of frying 14 eggs, I suddenly realized that my presence might be an inconvenience rather than a help to the MacMillans. “So this wasn’t a good time for me to arrive here, was it?”

    “No, no. Don’t worry. It’s just family. The MacMillans’ son John, his wife Belinda [pronounced “Bline-dah”] and their smalls [children], and Belinda’s parents. Lord Lumley-Webb was in the Army with Sir Gordon, and Belinda was once a slave. They’re all here for the Hunt.”

    “The Hunt?”

    “Yes, it’s shooting season, you see, so if it goes well, we’ll soon be dining on pheasant. Do you like pheasant? I’m not very keen on it, but the MacMillans adore it.”

     

  • Keeping Warm in a Scottish Winter

    Jolande saw me shivering and said, “Come here by the Esse and get warm.”

    It was my first chilly morning at Finlaystone and I had no idea what the Esse was, but I joined Jolande beside it and did appreciate the warmth. While Jolande explained the daily breakfast routine, I happened to notice a skillet of burning bacon and without much thought, reached over and pulled it aside. The bacon and its tantalizing fat simmered down and I turned back to Jolande, who terrified me by telling me that there’d be 14 for breakfast that morning so I must fry 14 eggs. I glanced at the Esse and realized it was a stove. I would have to fry eggs on this stove? How? Where were the burners? Did it even have burners? Fourteen fried eggs?! FOURTEEN?!

     

  • Stop, Look & Listen

    I’ve lived in a lot of different places, some that invited tourists and others that tourists overlooked or even avoided, so I think I’m qualified to state that tourism can be a mixed blessing. Visitors can bring money, create jobs in hospitality businesses like hotels and restaurants, and foster a sense of pride of place in an area’s natives. They may also bring less desirable things, from littering to disrespect and COVID-19. A friend in Spain was dismayed this spring to learn that 800 German tourists were about to land on the island of Menorca – a boon for local businesses but a terrifying prospect in a pandemic climate. The tourists were eventually rerouted to the bigger neighboring island of Majorca, but it was a close call.
  • Cultivate Connections

    At times my travel memories make me sad. There are places I want to re-visit, new places I’d like to explore, and so many foreign friends who I miss and want to see again. More travel isn’t impossible, but at this point it’s unlikely given the constraints of health and finances. That’s why my correspondence with pen pals and faraway friends is so precious to me. It helps keep me connected with other people. One of my favorite connections is Xiao Song, a young medical student in China.

  • An Athens Afternoon

    On an afternoon in Athens years ago, I explored some of the city’s “must see” sights but saw more than just the Parthenon, Acropolis, and Roman Stadium. As I’ve often found in my travels, there are unexpected lessons lurking around the corner in every city in the world. In Athens I met a man my mom had warned me about many times: the starving artist.
  • Happy & Full

    I have a young Chinese friend, a pen pal who comes from a difficult, impoverished background but is determined to become a doctor. The next step in his career is a postgraduate entrance examination that will determine what medical school he attends, and at times that exam looms over him like a dark cloud. Recently he told me “my dream is very big and it is difficult to realize it” and “I can hardly breathe under such great pressure every day.” He asked me, “Have you ever encountered this problem in your life?”

    Have you ever felt that your ambitions were impossibly difficult to achieve? I certainly have, and this is what I wrote to him.

  • A Winter Day in Istanbul

    It wasn’t until I visited Turkey on a business trip in my early 40’s that I learned the truth of the legendary term une dame d’un certain âge. It's a French phrase for a woman over 40 who leads a chic and adventurous life, and whose youthful verve is balanced by the wisdom and experience of a mature person. This worldly woman is also likely to have a handsome young male escort on her arm as she attends parties, shops, travels, and otherwise enjoys life to the fullest. When I first heard the term in a college French class when I was 19, it was hard to believe such a thing could be true, but an encounter in Istanbul set me straight.

     

  • Around the World with Knife and Fork....and Chopsticks - Part One

    Trying new foods everywhere I go has been both educational and enriching. And sometimes fattening. But mostly, yummy! So I tell you now what my mother used to say, “Don’t knock it until you try it.”

     

  • The First Step

    I am a veteran traveler. In the past 66 years, I have explored the world, at first as a child with my parents in the USA, Canada, and UK, and late...
  • Strong Women on a Journey - May 2020

    Did you know what you wanted to do with your life when you graduated high school? I thought I did. I got myself accepted to the University of Tennessee Dental school at age 19 and took off to Memphis. After only two weeks I was completely miserable and able to add “dental school dropout” to my resume. All this came to mind when I was interviewing this month’s “Strong Woman on a Journey.”

    I can’t remember the first time I met April Parnell, and I was surprised at how little of her story I even knew. At OUTsideIN, I let folks tell me what they want me to know about their lives. What I did know about April’s life was that her mom and our employee, Lisa Salazar, was very proud of her. I wanted to know why.

  • Mother's Day 2020

    It’s hard to be separated from your mother, isn’t it? Not just in the midst of a pandemic on Mother’s Day, but any day. But although my mother passed away in 2009, I sometimes think that she is with me and always will be.