Travel Writing Challenges and Circadian Rhythms

We have just returned  from eight weeks on holiday visiting family in Perth, Australia, and getting acquainted with Dubai, The United Arab Emirates. Our Emirates Airlines return trip took us over Iran, Russia, the North Pole, and Canada on our way to Seattle and our home on Whidbey Island. The plane’s cameras and route information made the trip more interesting.

My plan on holiday was to write each week about the people we met, the places we visited and and the fascinating things we learned. However, our circadian rhythms slowed us down on both ends of the trip, our sleep/wake cycle shifted days and nights for us. We read a lot of books before our Australian family was up in the morning, and sometimes after they were sleeping. My biologist husband walked in the cool of many mornings and added to his bird list. The time changes also means we are slow getting back into the swing of life now we are home.

Most of our time was spent with our daughter and her family in Perth, including several meaningful celebrations:  three family birthdays, our grandson’s primary school graduation and his role in the school play, and and the baptisms of both grandchildren officiated by their father. We loved the art drawn and colored and the LEGO creations by our grandchildren, reading to the kids, playing games, cooking, and helping the family settle in, and helping them paint portions of their new home. They took us to beaches and restaurants new to us.

Here’s the skinny about writing abroad–not complaining, just describing: It’s harder to stay on topic and on time than you might think. So, take good notes, do extensive research, and don’t expect to get it posted or printed in a short time.  Energy is limited–my own and the Internet’s; iPads have their limitations; computer crash; international rates for iPhones are costly but worth it.. Also, I was reminded that posting photos including anyone other than family at school events is forbidden. Writing from abroad is challenging–but very worth it. I have already posted about our trip from the States to Australia, and about the very frightening bushfires we experienced.

Upcoming posts about Australia will include: The Welcome Wall and the Maritime Museum in the port of Fremantle, Perth history, downtown restaurants and music, shopping for food and eating out, and more about bushfires.

Our time in Dubai was fascinating, and I’ll write about our enjoyment of the Dubai Museum, Hotel Burj Al Arab on the Persian Gulf, the Jumeira Mosque, the spice market (souk) and the gold market, food, tours, the Dubai Public Library, and the ethnic make-up of Dubai (85% are contract workers from other countries).


Categories: Art, Australia, Beaches, Books, Culture, Education, History, Middle East, Restaurants, Sociology, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Major Bushfire in Western Australia – Update

Source: Major Bushfire in Western Australia – Update

Categories: Australia, Beaches, Education, Travel | Leave a comment

Major Bushfire in Western Australia – Update

A major bushfire, begun yesterday by a lightening strike, is burning on both sides of South Western Highway, Western Australia–110 km from Perth. Evacuation centers are open at Leschenault Leisure Centre, Leisure Dr., Australind and at Murray Leisure Centre, Pinjarra, and information is available from the Department of Fire & Emergency Services, and on Twitter @dfes_wa

The temperature today reached 42.5C/108/5. The situation is so sad and frightening for all involved. Our family is personally affected as their summer youth camp site is threatened. It’s hopeful winds will change, no one will be harmed, and camp can begin as scheduled next Tuesday.

UPDATE:  Sunday in Australia. Youth Camp – Camp Logue Brook in Cookernup, WA, has been cancelled. The building housing the kitchen, dining room, and offices was completely destroyed along with all but one cabin. The assistant camp director, his home and family are safe, as is the amphitheater seating area and the stage down the hillside. Many trees are still standing, but as charred remains. Over 140 structures–homes, businesses and historic buildings in Yarloop were destroyed and two deaths have been reported. The fires have continued to the coast along the Indian Ocean, and south, even threatening, again, the area around Esperance–the fabulous town just at the edge of The Great Australia Bite on coast of the South Ocean. I’ve previously written about the fabulous beaches and waters there.


Categories: Australia, Education, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Seattle, WA, through Dubai, to Perth, WA

Snow was falling at our home on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, as we began our trip to a summer holiday on the other side of the earth in Australia. We love to travel and especially enjoy Australia, and we have experienced Christmas in 40C/104F heat before. We choose to be with our daughter and her family who live there, and to enjoy Christmas, New Years, and three birthdays with them.

As flight time neared we were intrigued especially by these two things: the striking beauty of the Emirates Airlines flight crew, and the colorful ethnic clothing of the passengers. Some wore Middle Eastern and South Asian beautiful and exotic saris, shalwar kameez and similar styles in silk, chiffon and cotton, or the hajib, abaya or burqa. Most of the small children with the families wore Western clothing.

The announcements began: First Class, Business Class–and “those needing special assistance”. The next category called was: “Families traveling with small children” and half of the passengers milling about in the waiting area moved to the front of the line. We boarded the 737 at 6pm. It was a noisy flight with lots of moving about.

Hong Kong has been our stopover point in our two previous trips flying West to Australia. This flight pattern was very different: we flew NE across Canada, over Hudson Bay then Baffin Bay, continuing over Greenland, north of Iceland & the British Isles. I was fascinated to see Denmark below, then across portions of Russia and I’m not sure of the route from there to our landing at the dramatic and beautiful and huge Dubai Airport.

We arrived at 8:45p Dubai time. We explored the huge, dramatic, exotic-feeling, beautiful airport; part of the time we slept, feet stretched out, loving that feeling after flying coach. Emirates Airlines gave us a voucher for a meal; we enjoyed a small sandwich, really good coffee & a tasty scone in a tiny French restaurant. The waiting area for our flight was huge–preparing us for our double-deck, 500 passenger, Airbus a380, w/it’s 80m wingspan and length of 73m. The crew of 25 was from 16 different countries and spoke 13 languages. Another ten hours and we landed in Perth and were met by our family and, outside the airport, a 9′ kangaroo–metal and bedecked with Christmas lights.

Christmas Kangaroo, Perth Airport

Christmas Kangaroo, Perth Airport

We had begun the trip at 10am, arriving at the SeaTac at 12:30pm, waited for our 6p flight, then flew 14 hours to Dubai, where we had a seven-hour layover, then a 10-hr flight to Perth. We had a total travel time of 39 hours. Exhausting! Worth it! We will have eight weeks in Australia, enjoying our grandson’s birthday, Christmas, New Year’s celebrations, my birthday and my daughter’s birthday. Flying out on January 25. We have the security of a housesitter at home.

Categories: Asia, Australia, Culture, Middle East, Travel, Washington State | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


My memories of Paris comforted me on Friday the 13th, 2015. When I heard that some of the recent attacks and frightening terrorist activity took place in the area of the Place de la Republique, I went to my photos taken early August 2011 during a three-week visit there to celebrate our anniversary.

Place de la Republique is an iconic landmark in Paris. The rallying cry of the French Republic “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” is represented by  carved stone figures seated around its massive base; and, towering above is a huge 9.5 meter bronze sculpture, the form of a woman representing The French Republic.  Seven major streets converge at the monument on the border of  the  3rd, 10th & 11 arrondissements. The three figures seated around the massive pedestal represent symbols of The French Republic: Liberty, is carrying a torch, Equality holds the flag of 1789, and Brotherhood or Fraternity, is seated on a plow. It was unveiled on Bastille Day, July 14, 1885. Red masks covered some of the faces; and, I’ve not been able to learn more about the exact protest they represent.

Solidarity with the French people is evidenced in the media as we see individuals, organizations and governments around the world use photos, lights on buildings, selfies superimposed with the colors of France, and even create new art to express friendship and mutual support with the people of Paris. By extension, it seems these expressions seem intent on increasing a sense of community between peoples in distress, feeling fear. Out of terrible events can come feelings and actions of support and togetherness.

“In Paris, rituals of political discontent are traditionally celebrated on Place de la Republique.” An article titled “Place for Protest” (Metropolis Magazine, Sept 2014) describes the traffic gridlock which previously occurred during protests.  Two young architects, Pierre Alain Trevelo and Antoine Viger-Kohler, have redesigned the esplanade. “The angry strikers can still meet there—and they do—but they can no longer prevent others from going about their business. The venue proposes a new model for participative democracy in all-inclusive rather than obstructive approach.” You will see the monument in current news reporting.

Protests and demonstrations express solidarity and hope for change as well as discontent.  It’s informative to view the 47 fabulous photos taken by France Info journalist Nathanael Charbonnier in his presentation “Five years of street protests by the French.” He also illustrated Tapage nocturnes, a “novel published in episodes about angry protestors (les Indignes) on Mediapart”. There were protests about intellectual freedom (ACTA), midwives, budget cutbacks affecting homeless and other people in distress, pension reform, education job losses, youth job laws, the suppression of unions, housing, prayers in the street, jobs for the unemployed, the justice system, shale gas, and by les indignes (“the angry”), and for the regularization of illegal immigrants.

You may remember that on 11 January, 2015, an estimated 1.5 million people, including  world leaders, dignitaries and families of protesting the 17 people killed by terrorists during the 72 hours of the terror surrounding the Charlie Hebdo attack. Deja vu all over again. Fear is there—so is blessed Fraternity.

During our warm days in Paris we enjoyed such beauty, fascinating history, glorious art, and increased our understanding of beliefs and behaviors. Travel helps us better understand our world and its peoples. We spent a delightful day in the area of the Place de la Republique, enjoyed treats at a boulangerie nearby, and attended evening prayers at the nearby Orthodox Synagogue Nazareth. More   about that in a future posting.

Categories: Art, Culture, History, Media, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Audience with The Queen

Question: Would you rather have an audience with The Queen of England or with Helen Mirren?

Actually you can sort of do both:  “The Audience” is a film of a live production of the play filmed by the National Theatre in London’s West End in 2013. Writer Peter Morgan created this interpretation of some of the weekly meetings of Queen Elizabeth II with ten of her twelve Prime Ministers. She has conducted these private meetings for sixty years, beginning with Churchill and continuing with current

PM David Cameron.

Helen Mirren won the 2015 Tony for Best Performance by an Actress for her performances in this role. Many of Mirren’s costume changes occurr in clever ways on stage; and, there is a delightful surprise character from QEII’s past. Tonys were awarded for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role (Richard McCabe) and Best Costume Design (Bob Crowley), also part of this production. Currently most of the original cast from Britain is presenting the play on Broadway. At the end of this film, the play’s director, Stephen Daldry, conducts a delightful interview with Mirren after one of her Broadway performances.

Sunday, July 12, I viewed “The Audience” in a packed house at Bellingham’s Pickford Film Center, 1318 Bay Street. It’s also been screened at The Rose Theatre in Port Townsend and The Lincoln Theatre in Mt. Vernon. I’m looking for future screenings so I can urge friends to enjoy this experience, and hoping its popularity will encourage theatres to offer it more than once.

I found this experience to be engaging, delightful, historically informative, touching, insightful, and I enjoyed the clever humor. It runs three hours. At the Pickford the price was $20.


Categories: Culture, Education, Films, History, Media, Sociology, Travel, Washington State | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

4th of July Celebration / US & The Philippines

We are enjoying this 4th of July weekend on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle—and reminiscing about 4th of July celebrations in the Philippines.  We honor both countries and they have an interesting history of July 4 events.

The Republic of the Philippines Independence Day holiday (Araw ng Kalayaan) was July 4, 1946, commemorating the Philippines’ independence from the US.  The RP had been designated a US territory from 1898-1946.  The holiday was also known as Filipino-American Friendship Day sometime during the Marcos regime.

Former President Diosdado Macapagal moved “Independence Day” to June 12, the date the Republic declared its independence from Spain in 1898.  Then July 4 became Philippine Republic Day.  Other changes have been made and the day is no longer an official non-working holiday.

And, on the 4th, Whidbey Island friends enjoyed a fabulous salmon bar-b-que w/potato salad, cole slaw, watermelon, corn on the cob—and cherry pie!  We saw at a picnic table on a high bank near Swantown Lake.  Fireworks exploded around the edges of Dugualla Bay and along the shores of the Swinomish Indian Reservation to our NE.  Sister-in-law & niece stopped by w/strawberry/blueberry shortcake.  OMGoodness!  Lovely weekend.

A note of explanation:  The 12” flag stand and Filipino flag you see on our shelf of Filipino books and artifacts was purchased in the Philippines.  And, yes, it’s the same flag in both pictures.

Categories: Asia, Books, Culture, History, Philippines, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Improbable Libraries

This Cultural Adventures blog is evidence of my love of travel; it’s about me going places or reading about going places.  This time I want to tell you about Alex Johnson’s new book:  “Improbable Libraries: unusual places to bury your head in a book…”  Improbable places like on the back of a camel, and in vehicles like buses or van, or on a boat.  His ideas remind me of those tiny boxes on posts some folk place at the edge of their driveway where people may take book or leave books as they wish.

Some of the things challenging libraries now are sociological, or economic (think poverty), some are architectural, and some are technological (think digital books and apps).  Your best bet right now is to go to the Guardian website and read the excerpt posted there from Johnson’s book of fascinating challenges about getting books to people!!!  It very encouraging, and fun, and may get you thinking about sharing books in your community!

Categories: Asia, Books, Culture, Media, Sociology, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

World Read Aloud Day! March 4, 2015

The first Wednesday in March, World Read Aloud Day!

First Wednesday in March, World Read Aloud Day!

The power of words!  Being read to and reading help children learn about their world, about each other, and challenges them to get excited about travel and adventure.  The illustrations and photos usually included in kids books adds visual drama, helping them to “see” and remember the story.

The first Wednesday of March, World Read Aloud Day, calls global attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories.”  Lit World’s goal is to encourage children, teens and adults to celebrate the power of words.  Ideas for helping families, teachers, offices, and communicates learn about and celebrate reading and this special day are available in downloadable kits on their website,   Included are ideas for using Social Media to encourage reading; and there is a downloadable Picture Book called New Day, New Friends.

“Read Aloud 15 Minutes a Day.  Every child. Every parent. Every day.”   Fifteen minutes sounds like not  very long—how much difference can 15 minutes a day make?  Reading 15 minutes every day for five years translates to 456.25 hours, or 27,375 minutes.  Reading out loud builds literacy skills: “vocabulary, phonics, familiarity with the printed word, storytelling, comprehension.”  Why a national campaign?  “Because 15 minutes of reading aloud each day can change the face of education in this country.”    ReadAloud was founded in 2008 to encourage reading out loud by parents and children.  In 2010 they began a grassroots program called Big Box of Books, placing age-appropriate books in homes of low income children; and in 2012 the 15 minutes movement began.  Also check out 

Researchers in early education describe “Matthew Effects” in reading.  Studies led by Keith E. Stanovich, Oakland University, evaluate and describe the importance of children’s reading ability and success in school; “the rich get rich, the poor get poorer” is short hand for the evidence that children’s reading ability when they enter school affects their ability to continue to learn and understand.

The Primary Education Oasis website provides guidelines for teachers, describing elements of creating a well-balanced “Interactive Read Aloud”.  Foundational elements include Prosody (rhythm and intonation correlating to comprehension), Background (prior knowledge), enjoyment (“developing a positive emotional outlook about reading, critical for motivation”), and Thinking (opportunities for developing higher order thinking skills).

You are reading this, so I’m preaching to the choir.  I believe the reinforcement is valuable.  I’ll be happy to learn from you about your insights and projects for building reading skills.  Excellent material and websites at: www/

“Reading that bedtime story may not only entertain and soothe Johnny, it may also develop his vocabulary, improve his ability to learn to read, and—perhaps most important—foster a lifelong love of books and reading.”  –Jennifer Liu Bryan, author of Hilda, A Very Loyal Goat, a picture book for early readers.

Categories: Books, Education, Media, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Lunar New Year!

The Year of the Goat (or Sheep or Ram) begins February 19, 2015.


This impressive figure is a Chinese door god posted especially during the Lunar New Year, to avoid bad luck and as a prayer for luck and peace. This single individual facing forward is likely designed for a single inside door.  The door god decorations typically come in pairs, with the gods facing one another.  It is thought bad luck may come if the figures are mounted back-to-back.

Preparing for Chinese New Year in the Philippines a friend and I went to a predominately Chinese section of Manila and purchased this particular door god.  At that time (1980) it was estimated that about 600,000 Chinese lived among the 13,000,000 citizens of Metro Manila.  Seen as shrewd business persons, sometimes resented and still valued, the first Chinese were relegated to operating their businesses outside the original walled city of Manila.

Goat, Sheep or Ram — this New Year the animal is a ruminate which can be translated into any of these critters.  The date for Chinese/Lunar New Year is based on a solar/lunar calendar which legend says was created by Emperor Huangdi and began in the calendar year 2637; the holiday is celebrated by many Asian communities.  This is the 4712th Chinese year.  The holiday reflects an ancient myth about villagers setting out red lanterns and food to scare away Nian, a beast that otherwise would terrify children and ruin crops.

Celebrations begin New Year’s Eve and the festivities often continue a full week.  Lion dances, drumming, food, and flowers will be included in many celebrations.  Millions of people travel long distances to attend family reunions.  Homes are decorated with intricate and colorful paper cutouts, as seen in the New Year’s Card above (  Children are usually given red envelopes with ‘lucky money’.

Appropriate gifts include: teas, fruits, home supplies (alcohol, tobacco if he family uses them).   (  And, it’s very important to know the gifts not to give:  sharp objects (signifying cutting off your relationship), anything signifying a funeral or death (such as flowers or handkerchiefs), anything black or white (funeral colors), clocks (running out of time), mirrors (believed to attract malicious ghosts), or umbrellas (the Chinese word sounds like ‘breaking up’ and could signify an end to your relationship).

Long noodles signify long life and the family staying together and are often included in meals during Lunar New Year’s celebrations. We can thank Marco Polo who discovered the noodles in China in 1295, took them to Italy and named them pasta.  Be sure to wear RED!   This time of year many Chinese stores feature red underwear for men embroidered, this year with a sheep, goat or ram.  For an excellent overview of the the Chinese Horoscope and the elements of the stem-branch system see:

I’ve decided I will usis the Lunar New Year to re-make my 2015 New Year’s Day resolutions: First and Second:  exercising on my much disliked rowing machine while I watch TED Talks once or twice a day, every day.  Third:  posting a Cultural Adventure at least twice a month.

Categories: Asia, Culture, History, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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