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Category Archives: travel

Having Lunch in Dubai for World Peace

I have no doubt that the more time people spend together, and the more they understand each other, the less likely they are to hate or kill each other. I feel so strongly about this that I wrote a book about how truly understanding another person would make it far more difficult to kill them.

Every so often I discover a group acting on similar ideas to make the world a better place, and it fills me with joy. Yesterday I had the privilege of having lunch with members of such a group.

I’m in Dubai, the largest city of the United Arab Emirates. This modern, cosmopolitan city of over two million is a whopping 82% expats. They come from every continent, culture and religion and, in spite of their current location, they bring plenty of biases and misunderstandings with them regarding Muslims in general and the Emirates in particular.

Enter a group called “Open Door, Open Minds.” Their idea is pretty much what you would guess. Come have a meal with us. Let us show you some of how we live while you ask questions. Any questions.

This organization not only performs outreach to Dubai’s many residents born elsewhere, but they also invite tourists coming through Dubai to participate. I was lucky enough to be in a tour group that did so.

The food is plentiful, and the hosts are warm and sincere. They invite you to try on the traditional clothing worn by your gender, and they take you on a tour of an old home.

They also answer whatever awkward questions the group wants to throw at them. Ours was pretty polite, but I got the impression that not all others were.

A map in the hallway shows the many places these tourists have come from. Have there been enough of them to achieve world peace? Of course not. But  ….. it’s a start.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2019 in empathy, travel

 

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An Irish Worldcon: I’m here!

A year ago today, I set off on a four week cross-country trip alone, visiting the high plains town I grew up in, the mountain cabin I wrote my first short story in and spending days at Burning Man. It was an amazing trip. Now, probably because I just finished season 3 of The Good Place, I’m fascinated with unintended and even unexpected consequences. It’s no surprise, that trip had many.

One of them was meeting someone who’s mother lived in my hometown in North Carolina. Months later, the mom and I met to share a glass of wine. We discovered we both loved science fiction, and by the end of the conversation (and the bottle of wine) we were talking about attending Worldcon 2019 together in Dublin. I’m still not sure how our conversation got there.

And yet, here we are. You gotta love how things sometimes work out.

This is my first worldcon, and hers, and we’ve both selected a non-stop itinerary for five days of panels and workshops and readings by author’s we like and, well, we’ll see just how much of this actually works out…

I’ve also volunteered for a few things, and it looks like that will keep this all interesting. I’ll be helping out at the Science Fiction Writers Association reception on Thursday and their table on Friday. I’ll be handing out worldcon volunteer assignments in the staff lounge three of the days. Most exciting of all, I’ve signed up to help with the stage crew of the opening ceremony and the Hugo awards which will be given out Sunday night.

My specific assignment? I’m going to get to run one of the spotlights! For some bizarre reason, I find this very exciting.

I’ll be posting more as the week goes on …

Read more at And the winner, she is …., at Feeling at home , at Forward into the Past and at A New Irish Experience.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2019 in being better, other authors, travel, writing

 

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What is that Woman with a Taser Thinking?

I had one of those worst ever travel days yesterday, with three separate you’ve got to be kidding incidents. Okay, by the end of event two I wasn’t at my best, but at least my belief in trying to put myself in the other person’s shoes got me through the first, and potentially most serious of the three.

You see, I’m not a person who likes to be told what to do. I’ve had a problem with TSA and airport security since the start of this millennium, largely because of what I considered petty enforcement of rules taking priority over common sense. (You’re going to take away my tube of mascara? Why? Oh it’s a 3.6 ounce container and 3.4 is the limit. Right.)

Yesterday I got the full body scan thing and it showed something suspicious around my chest. Turns out my shirt had sequins there. None-the-less, the lady had to feel around my boobs. Okay. Protocol also required her to check my hands for explosive-making residue. Much to my surprise, and hers, I came up positive.

“Have you been around fireworks? Fertilizer?” she asked. I hadn’t. I was taken aside, and two other women were found: one to do a considerably more thorough pat down of me and the other to make sure the first one adhered to policy.

This is the point where I normally would have started to loose it. But for some reason, I noticed the person doing the patting was as nervous as I was. This was all happening at a little airport in South Carolina, and I bet they don’t get a lot of women setting off alarms. This woman was being so careful, trying so hard to do it right. I started to see the incident through her eyes. What exactly was she supposed to do? Say “Oh you seem like a nice person, so just go ahead and get on the plane?”

You know, they don’t have the greatest job in the world. I don’t want people with bombs to get on planes either. It’s good they have some protocols in place, and good they’re trying to do things right.

I started to talk to both women a little, even joke a tad. They weren’t exactly chatty back (protocols, right) but the situation became less tense. I figured out the one woman was not only checking me for devices (of which their were none), but her gloves themselves were part of the process, as they would be checked at the end for suspicions residue, too.

The gloves were checked, and they triggered a second, more serious alarm. I was baffled, but it was clear to me the TSA people realized they had “A Situation.” All of my carry-on luggage was emptied and closely examined. All my electronic devices were wiped with cloths designed to detect … something. Once all my possessions were cleared, I was taken away to a small room with three women. My entourage was growing.

One began asking me the sort of questions I’d ask if I was trying to figure out if someone was lying. “Who are you going to visit? How long has it been since you’ve seen him?”

Then we began the serious pat down. The patter had obviously been told to explain everything before she did it. “I’m now going to run the inside of my hands down your buttocks.”

“You don’t have to tell me. Just do it.” Actually, hearing about it first was creepier than having it done.

“No, I do have to,” she said. That’s right. Protocols, partially designed to protect suspects like me. I should be glad they’re being followed.

“How about I just take off my shirt and pants,” I offered. “Seems like it would be a lot simpler.”

Three sets of eyes widened. “Oh no. Please don’t do that. That’s not the procedure.”

Right.

Luckily, this third exam was deemed to be negative, so I’ll never know what the next step in the procedure was.

They were very polite as I gathered myself back together. The whole incident took about half an hour. Had I cut it closer, I could have missed my flight because of this. No one apologized to me, but I guess they had nothing to apologize for. They were doing their job. Their job has a noble goal.

Also, no one could tell me why I’d set off a residue alarm twice. I haven’t a clue.

I do know that if my fascination with empathy hadn’t led me to try to see the incident through their eyes, it could have gone quite differently. That particular headline reads “Woman Ends Up in Federal Prison Because of Incident Caused by Sequins on Shirt.”

Of course, if they’d been belligerent or mean, all that empathy stuff on my part could have fallen by the wayside. Lucky for me, all three of them seemed to be trying to see it through my eyes too. Funny how well that works out.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 18, 2019 in being better, empathy, travel

 

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Proud Mama Moment

I’ve three wonderful kids, and one of them has just taken a job with a start-up. This company, called Noken, is designing a new app they hope will reinvent travel as we know it.
Check it out. Please. Every click I get will help me win a chance to go on a trip with her! (I’m hoping for Iceland. See Northern lights to the right.)
You also might find you like the concept.
Here’s a little text she wrote and sent me.
 
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Posted by on October 16, 2018 in travel

 

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The Journey of 6000 Miles Ends

I challenged myself to write a blog post a day while I enjoyed a four-week-long trip around the USA. I did it! It left me with an understanding of why people keep journals, and a better understanding of my trip. The act of sifting through the day and finding the funniest, strangest or most interesting happening changes the way you view the days.

If you choose to put your journal online like I did, it also turns out to be a fine way to sort and keep favorite photos and to share your journey with friends and family. Here are my 28 mostly very short posts, along with a smattering of pictures I liked best.

Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2018 in travel, writing

 

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Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….

fruit flies like a banana. Thank you Groucho Marx, because this day needed a little humor.

Today, day 21, has the longest single drive of this adventure, and in addition we re-enter Mountain Time and lose an hour. We’re already preparing for a long day through Utah and Southern Colorado when an old friend in Durango contacts me out of the blue.

Next thing I know we’re texting and we’ve changed our route to go through his town and have lunch because isn’t this amazing. Yes, it is great to see him, but throw in a little road construction and a couple of other longer stops than expected and we arrive well into the dark, 14 clock hours after we left.

Not a problem, except this Airbnb is along the unlit and poorly marked dirt roads west of Trinidad. Our host’s verbal directions are vague (and not entirely accurate) and once we make a wrong turn, my phone is so flummoxed it shows us heading across a pasture, which we clearly are not.

Frustrations are rising, so I call our host and describe our location. Yay for good phone service. She directs us back to a good starting place and then talks us, landmark by landmark, to the edge of her long driveway where she meets us with a flashlight to guide us in. Some Airbnb hosts go well beyond the expected. Yay for nice people.

We make a vow we’ve often made before, to allow more time tomorrow than we think we need. I decide this promise is worthy of being a rule of the road and more. I’ve been told the easiest way to reduce stress in one’s life is to leave early. Allow plenty of time and you don’t get hassled. I promise to take this lesson seriously once I get home.

The frazzled nature of the day has me craving soft music and pretty sounds as I get ready for bed. I think of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, maybe because we’ve driven through so much of the area settled by the LDS. I’m not particularly religious, but an old spiritual is wafting through my head as I settle down for the night and I look to see if the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ever sang it.

Of course they did, and it’s beautiful. I realize I’ve felt like a wayfaring stranger a lot for the past three weeks, and after a long and difficult day, the song brings me peace as I fall asleep.

 

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2018 in being better, peace, travel

 

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Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home

Today it’s back on the road, but different. My husband met me in Reno last night, and we will share the 3000 mile drive home as we visit family and friends along the way. I’m glad to be with him, even though I’m worn out from my time at Burning Man. Honestly, it also feels good to have a driving partner, and someone to help me get home.

However, the car is more crowded with him and his luggage, and we both feel cramped. We have 500 miles to go today, most of it through Nevada on Highway 50, the country’s self-proclaimed loneliest stretch of road. We keep the gas tank at least half full, stopping at almost every available station because we know how few and far between they are.

There are no trees out here. Hell, there are hardly even bushes. We marvel at the wide expanse of nothing as we take turns driving, and treating ourselves to coffee, sodas and coconut water purchased at each gas stop as we whittle down the miles.

After a while though, all those liquid treats begin to catch up with us. An eager look at the map shows the next town is, well, quite a few miles a way.

“We can make it,” my husband declares. But after about twenty more minutes he is squirming in his seat, and finally he pulls over.

“Sorry,” he says. “I’ve got to go.” He steps off to the ditch and does what he needs to do.

Now, have you ever really, really had to pee and listened to somebody else take a leak that goes on and on and on? If you have, you’ll understand. There may be no bushes to hide in, but at that point, I don’t care. I join him on the side of the road, doing my thing the way I have to do it.

“That was kind of embarrassing,” he mumbles. I agree. But nobody passes us from either direction, so there are some advantages to a lonely stretch of highway.

This wouldn’t be a story worth telling, except that we get back in the car and round a slight hill and there is it. A sign saying “Rest Area One Mile.” Now, I am sure we have not passed a single Rest Area in the entire state of Nevada. This one had no advance signs and is nowhere near anything. But there it is, a nice bathroom facility just waiting for us.

And they say the universe doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Today’s rule of the road? Do what you have to do when you have to do it, even though you never know what might be waiting for you around the next bend.

Today’s song? Join me in enjoying the Goo Goo Dolls asking to be taken home. It’s exactly how I feel today.

If you’d like to read a short blurb from each day of my journey, check out
Day 1. The Journey of 6000 miles
Day 2. Rules of the Road
Day 3. Just Don’t
Day 4. Bloom Here.
Day 5. Yes Aretha. Respect.
Day 6. No Trucks. Just Corn.
Day 7. Cry
Day 8. There’s No Place Like Home
Day 9. It’s Okay to Ask a Human for Help
Day 10. Always Bring an Onion
Day 11. Gimme Three Steps Towards Nevada
Day 12. I Want to Scream.
Day 13. Dusty Virgin
Day 14: Magical ride
Day 15. As Nice as I Want to Be
Day 16. What Rules? What Road?
Day 17. If you get interrupted by a parade …
Day 18. I, Human
Day 19. A Border Crossing
Day 20. Someone to Help Me Get Home
Day 21. Time flies like an arrow and ….
Day 22. Stop, or Else …
Day 23. What’s Your Reality?
Day 24. If it seems ridiculous …
Day 25. Backing Up
Day 26. To Stop a Hurricane
Day 27. Lights Along My Path
Day 28. Grateful

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2018 in travel

 

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