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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

It’s a holiday weekend, bookended by Canada Day and the Fourth of July. As a dual citizen, I feel obligated to celebrate as much as possible, which means I am trying to work as little as possible. Today, that means learning something fun. Like perspective bending, with sheep.

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Original photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

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O Canada!

I originally hail from the United States but I’m also proud to be a citizen of Canada. Is it perfect? (Is either country?) No. But this is a multi-faceted country with a complex history and also a lot of good, and being part of something is the best way to both contribute to its present and better its future.

Happy Canada Day, Canada! Let’s all work together for brighter days.

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Photo by Steve Philpott on Unsplash

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Sunday

Istanbul-Cappadoccia

I’m in seat 34 and already seven minutes late. We’re on the night bus to Cappadocia and I’m settling in for a ten-hour ride into the heart of Turkey. The old woman ahead of me is getting feisty, pounding on the window and demanding to leave, loudly. This little drama is all in Turkish, of course, but it’s hard to misunderstand this kind of impatience. Most of the country seems to travel by bus and this is the largest terminal I’ve ever seen. The station is huge, complete with hotel and shopping complex, mosque, 200,000 lira WCs, and plenty of air guns to keep the kids occupied. 

What’s this? We’re leaving right on time, only 14 minutes behind schedule.

Tops in Turkey: Topkapi Palace, cherry juice and jam, beer on a rooftop terrace with a view of the Haghia Sofia and Blue Mosque.

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Photo by Fatih Yürür on Unsplash

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To my dad, who taught us to read without genres, cook without recipes, and love without limits.

Happy Father’s Day!

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We’ve taken a lot of steps to be where we are now. The Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863 and announced, finally, on June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, was a big one.

Is everything perfect? Of course not. But our path is clear and the goal is righteous. This is a good next step.

Happy Juneteenth, America!*

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Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to change the world.

— Harriet Tubman

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

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* Is this only a Black American thing? Nope, it’s a “let’s all celebrate a better world” thing:)

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Would the world be a better place if we added the words “I’m afraid that…” to many of our negative thoughts? As in, “I’m afraid that the vaccine is untested and will hurt me.” Or, “I’m afraid that my neighbor with the weird tattoo hates me because I’m different,” or “I’m afraid that Anders in accounting is undermining my promotion case,” or “I’m afraid that the people in charge don’t care about me.”

Adding those three words adds flexibility. It highlights worry but also makes room for the possibility that you may not be right about the danger. It isn’t fact, but possibility.

Anders may indeed have it out for you, but your neighbor probably doesn’t think about you at all.

I’m not unaware that there are real problems in the world, and many of them can be very personal. I was raised around a mix of people, some of whom were sweet hometown souls and some for whom intolerance was their bread and butter. It is true that some people are not good. And not all tattoos are harmless.

Still. This quote also rings true for me:

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

― Yoda, Jedi Master

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Growing up as I did, an adopted, mixed-race but not obviously so child in a mostly rural mostly white area, gave me a certain perspective onto the good and the not so much.

My brother looks Black, he got the brunt of the in-your-face not good. I don’t, as much, so I got to see what lay behind the masks. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was always interesting.

What makes people tick? In my experience, the answer is often fear. We’re all scared of something.

Understanding that, about others and ourselves, can open a fascinating window into motivation, behavior, and connection.

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Years ago, I went on vacation with a group. I didn’t necessarily agree with the politics of all present, but that’s fine. We were there for a good time, and most days, a good time was had.

The weather was warm but it rained on and off, and strong winds blew through even on the best afternoons. On snorkeling day, the boat that took us out was on the small side and the water was choppy with a chance of jellyfish.

The captain took us out into deeper water, pointing to a box of snorkels and masks as we slipped farther from shore. The woman next to me didn’t say much but when she spoke, her voice sounded thin and strained. 

The boat dropped anchor and most of the group immediately swam away. My seat-mate stayed near the ladder, tension visible in her short, choppy strokes and the way her breathing wasn’t quite level.

In that moment, our differences didn’t matter. The water was deep. Jellyfish swarmed nearby, and the boat cast an absurdly small shadow on a vast ocean. 

I reached out a hand and asked if she would swim with me. She laughed, half disbelief, half desperation. 

Then she reached back. 

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It was years ago, but I remember that day every time I am tempted to fall into a knee-jerk reaction about someone. 

I’m half white, half Black, half American, half Canadian, half Star Wars, half Star Trek, half duck confit, half pork and sauerkraut. I’m Exhibit J for the argument that differences don’t have to mean disaster. 

I know that reaching out doesn’t always work. I’ve experienced the alternatives. (And thanks to the joys of social media and increasing polarization, it’s impossible to miss the bonfire of bad so often happening around us.) But I keep trying.

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Like most people, I am best at remembering the foolish things I’ve done, the comments I wish I could take back, or the times I wish I’d done more.

But I also remember that moment in the water, when I was able to reach past our fears and help someone. I doubt she remembers, and that’s fine. In a fundamentally useful way, that moment humanized us both. We do not always see eye to eye, but we like each other far better than any algorithm says we should. 

I can still see the wide blue waters flowing around me, hear the slap of waves against the side of the boat. And feel the warmth of another’s hand looking for help and hope, and giving both back to me in return.

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Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash

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“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those late hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

― Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

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In today’s installment of things I like: this sauerkraut.

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I spent a patently unreasonable amount of time looking for a good, nay, great sauerkraut, and finally found it:

Wildbrine Raw Organic Sauerkraut. If you find it at Costco, you can get the ginormous size for an excellent price.

Are these fine folks sponsoring this message? They are not. They are just doing their level best to to put out a fine product, and I am here for it.

Is it unfashionable to like sauerkraut? Whatever. This stuff is freaking delicious.

Happy weekend cookouts, folks!

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Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

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I’m still thinking about travel, so today we have a short excerpt from my trip to Egypt (and apologies to anyone from Cairo, but that taxi ride made an impression).

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June 29

Thursday

Cairo

I’m liking Egypt. Even the boys’ open stares and the sticky heat don’t deter me, and the organized chaos seems creative rather than threatening. That’s how I know I’m infatuated, not truly in love. No clear-eyed observer looks out from the back of an Egyptian taxi and sees anything but fear and death.

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Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

Our guide picked us up in yet another van, but this time we were the only ones aboard. It seemed that no one else was crazy enough to tour the Valley on a June afternoon. And yes, it was hot.

The guide was very well-informed, trained in the States, and proud. He took us to many burial sites, tomb after tomb baking in the hot sun. As the day went on the heat made it harder to listen and certainly to remember all the facts being thrown at us. This caused us some trouble as the guide kept giving pop quizzes. At first we thought he was joking, but it turned out he really did care if we knew exactly which Ramses we’d seen (three in total), what the symbols on either side of the tomb entrances meant, and how the tombs were built. It was a little disconcerting, but kept us on track. We spent most of the time in the Valley of the Kings, but also headed around one of the mountainous valley sides to visit the Tomb of Queen Hatshepsut, the only woman buried as a king.

When Hatshepsut’s husband the king died, she bribed his priests into declaring her a man, transformed through divine will. In that way she was able to become more than a regent for her husband’s heir and take control of the throne directly. Her tomb is backed into a towering cliff wall and covered with carvings. Wherever her name appeared, however, her bitter nephew later scratched it out, hoping to keep the gods from finding her spirit in the next life. No love lost there.

Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, Egypt. Photo by Jeremy Zero on Unsplash

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I find it fascinating to see how much the world has changed, and how much humanity hasn’t.

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Thinking about my grandfather yesterday got me thinking about our trip to Sweden. Here’s one of the best souvenirs I brought back, an adjustable driving distance calculator. The sheet inside slides to show distances from a given starting location. I like maps, and this one is particularly well done.

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For fun, here’s one of the first known distance maps, the Tabula Peutingeriana, with measures for (where else?) the center of all things at that time, the Roman Empire. Although at 22 feet long, it’s not exactly portable!

Tabula Peutingeriana map
Conradi Millieri derivative work: Thecinic, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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