A Single Baby Boomer Teaches English in Spain

A Single Baby Boomer Teaches English in Spain

 

If you want an exciting and adventurous travel and learning experience I suggest applying to volunteer at VaughanTown in Spain.  The program was designed by Richard Vaughan to advance the English skills of Spanish speakers.  VaughanTown is a program of English immersion.  It’s a concentrated dose of a stay abroad without leaving Spain.  The website says, “You will make a noticeable jump in your English learning.  In VaughanTown you will live with English-speaking native volunteers from all over the world. It will allow you to break the barrier that was preventing you from fully utilizing all your accumulated knowledge of the language.”

 

VaughanTown has 40 years of experience teaching English in Spain to 50,000 students annually and with the help of 2400 teachers.  It offers many different programs to adults, young adults and children in several locations in Spain and some English speaking countries.

I volunteered at the 6-day Immersion in English in a Vaughan village.  This is equivalent to 500 hours of class. They also offer:

  • FiftyFifty: A combination of classes using the Vaughan method and conversations with English speakers
  • Business English
  • Intensive English courses during school holidays for children and young people from 4 to 17 years of age in Spain and in English-speaking countries like England, Ireland and the U.S. You can also apply to be a host family.
  • Online English course for 1 year
  • Free email course
  • Radio and TV programs teaching English https://grupovaughan.com/vaughan-radio-tv/

 

My program supplied accommodation in a double room with a private bathroom, full board with excellent cuisine, materials and the bus transfers from the meeting point to the chosen location.  The volunteers must pay for their airfare, hotel accommodations before and after the program and other transportation.  Depending on the program the volunteers can be from 18 years of age and up.  You can apply at http://volunteers.grupovaughan.com/.

 

While at the program I met volunteers from England, Wales, Scotland, New Zealand and the U.S.  Some were educators, but there were Anglos from all walks of life with varied experiences aged 30-65+. The participants at my program were from Spain and included business people, police officers and teachers.

 

 

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Palacio Del Infante Don Juan Manuel Hotel Spa

I was lucky enough to participate in a program in Belmonte, a small village or pueblo, and stay in a renovated castle along the path Don Quixote traveled.  The hotel was next to a church and cemetery.  Three windmills, reminiscent of the Man of La Mancha, and a castle sat on the nearby hills. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castillo_de_Belmonte

 

The day started with a buffet breakfast similar to the lavish breakfast bars you get in European hotels.  Then we had our hour-long one-to-ones with our Spanish counterparts anywhere we liked.  We could stay in the public spaces of the hotel, walk through the village or visit the local sites.  We talked about many things and touched on English idioms which are difficult for the Spaniards to understand.  We were told to try to talk about subjects other than their job and daily life but it was fun to find out about police work and business in Spain.  One of the Spaniards was an owner of an olive oil company and we enjoyed his company’s products with our meals.  We also did a phone call where I played the part of a customer service rep from an airline and the Spaniard was the passenger who lost his luggage.  As a group, we had a conference call where the mayors of different cities tried to convince me that their city was the best location to locate a casino.  The reasons they gave were very inventive.  One offered my company ample room to grow and even threw in an imaginary lake for recreation when another mayor offered me a nearby police station and a school to train my employees.  It wasn’t all talking and eating.  We also had time to visit the castle and a winery.

 

 

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I thought the entertainment which was provided by all of us was the highlight of our program.  Our Master of Ceremonies took a group of people each day and prepped us for skits that were hilarious.  Since most of the Spanish participants were men, they were good sports and took the female roles.  One night our Master of Ceremonies brewed us the alcoholic concoction, Queimada, with the help of witches.  She set it on fire and ladled the flaming liquid out of the clay bowl until the flames turned blue.  Then we all made the toast “¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro!” which means Arriba –  up, Abajo – down, Al centro – center, andPa’ dentro or Adentro” – inside.  We then drank the brew which didn’t have that much alcohol burnt off.  See the toast at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dr3Q5H57kRU and the recipe at https://www.thespruce.com/queimada-recipe-fire-drink-of-galicia-3083122.  We usually finished the day at the cafe playing a game or socializing.  This was after the dinner at 9.  Europeans eat later than I was used to but we had lunch at 2 and a siesta from 3-5 so we soon got used to the change.  I’d like to show you photos of the entertainment but like Vegas “What happens at VaughanTown stays at VaughanTown.”

Video with traditional chant

I cannot say enough about how much fun I had at this program. At first, I was suffering from jet lag and after a conversation on the bus with a Spaniard who was struggling with his English, I thought that this would be difficult and tiring.  Yes, the long hours wore me out, but the experience was so exhilarating that I looked forward to each day and laughed more than I have in years.  It was not just immersion for the Spaniards, the Anglos were immersed in the Spanish culture and learned so much from the students.  I have an invitation to Wales, Scotland and Trinidad and have been in touch with several participants.  One police officer gave me tips for my novel and promised to answer any questions I have while writing it.

 

After VaughanTown I toured Madrid and southern Spain.  I’ll tell you about that in my next blog.  Right now I’m preparing for my annual Christmas trip to Minnesota.  Since I live so far from my family, I found that planning a trip over a holiday like I did with Thanksgiving keeps you from being alone and maybe lonely.

Continue the adventure!

Linda Lea

 

 

Hurricanes Can’t Stop a Single Baby Boomer from Cruising to Cuba

Hurricanes Can’t Stop a Single Baby Boomer from Cruising to Cuba

My adventure started with the uncertainty of how much devastation Hurricane Irma would cause.  Endless hours of watching The Weather Channel, something I won’t do again except to check the updates, put my nerves on edge.  My home in the Florida Panhandle missed the brunt of the destruction but the route I had to take to my cruise with my sister posed a problem.  After canceling bookings in Key West and for my timeshares which sustained damage, I booked new rooms at a low post-hurricane price on South Beach and set out with all the emergency, gas and map apps known to man to meet my sister at the Miami airport.  Unlike many Floridians, luck was on my side and I didn’t have any problems along the route.  Although it was less than a week since the hurricane, Miami was open to tourists with a bustling beach and bar scene so we were able to spend 2 fun-filled days there.  We could see the effects of Irma but there was electricity and the store shelves were well stocked.

 

 

 

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Then it happened—on Sunday my phone started to fade and died.  I had a fully charged laptop, tablet and back-up phone, courtesy of my wonderful son and daughter-in-law who always have the latest version of everything and give me their spares, but I didn’t realize that I could just put my old sim card in the back-up to make it work.  I could kick myself for not researching that since you can find anything on the internet.  The next day we used my back-up, previously printed Google Maps to get to the Port of Miami and I vowed to go old school for the way back home.  I’d traveled farther with less information for years.

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The long awaited cruise on the Norwegian Sky was heavenly.  We were overfed and hydrated at the many dining options and bars and pampered by the ship’s personnel. The ship was a small city with all the necessities for a life of luxury from a casino to a library.  There was Latin music playing almost everywhere to get us in the mood for our arrival in Cuba.  It wasn’t difficult to find entertainment at any time of the day and into the night.

 

 

 

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We departed for Cuba that evening and by morning we sailed into Havana Harbor.  We would soon find out that our luxury cruise was a stark contrast to everyday life in Cuba.  The tour director instructed us on how to go through customs, exchange money and find our bus.  We were traveling on an Educational ‘People to People’ Visa with a group so it would be easier to account for all of our time, which is required.  You could also get off the ship and walk around the city if you told immigration what you planned.  I don’t know if there was any follow-up on that.  We just chose the easier route that would give us more information and experiences.  The price was low and the tour company made it quick and easy so by 10 a.m. we were off in our air conditioned bus to see the sites.

 

According to our Cuban guide, Cuba is a socialist country and the belief of U.S. citizens that they’re communists is propaganda spread by our government.  Wikipedia says, “The Republic of Cuba is one of the world’s last remaining socialist countries following the Marxist–Leninist ideology.”  Other sources agree and when he told us of the opportunities affording to their residents it rang true.  They have free medical and dental coverage and education including college.  Taxes are low and often earnings are under-declared by farmers and business owners.  It all sounded like a good system until you look around and see the aging infrastructure, the conditions of the apartments in Havana and the farmhouses in the countryside.  Most of the time we saw only the outside of the homes, but it was evident that the living conditions were well below anything we have in the U.S.  Outside of Havana houses along our tour route were roofed with palm fronds and appeared to have few conveniences that we consider essential.  The Cuban people, like many of the citizens of tropical climates, spend much of their time outside with doors and windows left open for air circulation.

 

 

 

It’s not a surprise that their technology is behind ours when it comes to the internet, which is dial-up, and cell phone service.  We arrived a week after they were hit by Hurricane Irma and were told their electricity was back on all over the island, but internet and cell service were still spotty.  Of course, these services are expensive and with most people not able to afford cars, they probably aren’t top priorities.  Information is also censored so it may not seem as vital to them to have these services.

 

We did see some classic 1950s American cars but they’d been rebuilt with foreign parts because of the Cuban embargo.  There were other foreign cars on the roads.  Our bus was built in China.  Even on the outskirts of Havana, we saw horse carts used for personal transportation.   The carts were sometimes filled with grass cut from the ditches which was used for feed for their livestock.  Livestock was staked out along the highway to graze and taken from the farmers if they got free since they can wander into the roads causing accidents.  In the city, buses were used for mass transit but in the country, we saw large trucks with benches in the back for passengers.

 

 

 

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We were told that the Cuban people’s lives would be much improved if they had access to our products, especially prosthetics and other medical devices.  Even rice, a staple of their diet, must be transported from China at great cost.  These were some of the many examples given to us for reasons why we should try to influence our government into re-establishing trade.  There have been many reasons why the U.S. has kept up the longest embargo in history which started in 1958 with an embargo against the sale of arms and later in 1960 due to the nationalized of American-owned Cuban oil refineries without compensation.  Over the years human rights and other issues also kept it in place.

 

 

 

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Our guide told us that our tour may be one of the last before they close the American Embassy over accusations the illness that has affected 21 diplomats at the American Embassy, with symptoms including hearing loss and cognitive difficulties, may have been an attack.  After my cruise on September 29th, the New York Times reported that the State Department was withdrawing all non-essential personnel from the embassy.  Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson repeated the American assertion that the embassy personnel was deliberately targeted. He didn’t blame Cuba and U.S. officials held out the possibility that a third party might’ve been responsible. “Cuba has told us it will continue to investigate these attacks, and we will continue to cooperate with them in this effort,” Mr. Tillerson said.  The State Department issued an advisory that Americans shouldn’t travel to Cuba because some of the attacks occurred in hotels where State Department employees were temporarily staying. See  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/29/us/politics/us-embassy-cuba-attacks.html

Back to the tour.  After a ride through the countryside we arrived at a farm that grew tobacco for the famous Cuban cigar which is prized for its flavor and illegal to import into the U.S.  You can, however, buy them for your personal use and bring them back to the U.S.  Although this farmer was reported to be making a good living, there wasn’t indoor plumbing.  They were in the process of installing a restroom that at the time of the tour needed to be flushed by getting a bucket of water from the cistern and pouring it in the tank.  There was toilet tissue, but we’d been told to bring our own and future stops made us happy we did.  The small store where they rolled and sold the cigars was well kept and decorated with traditional Cuban décor.  As with most homes, the windows allowed the breeze to come through but it was still extremely hot.  The tobacco drying barn was one large open building (see photos and video).  It had a dirt floor and must have been used for decades.  The farmer and his wife had cigars, brewed coffee and coffee beans for sale.  I believe it was a true picture of a profitable business in Cuba.

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The rest of the trip into the Viñales Valley showed us one of Cuba’s most spectacular physical landscapes with forested pincushion hills or mogotes that soared from the valley floor. It’s one of the country’s top tobacco-growing regions and is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the traditional farming methods still used there and the importance of the region during Cuba’s Wars of Independence. https://insightcuba.com/blog/2013/12/16/live-from-cuba-unesco-world-heritage-sites

 

We made a stop at an open-air café and enjoyed a traditional meal while being serenaded by a Cuban band.  We were first served Cuban rum with coke and then enjoyed a meal of mixed fruit, crisp bread, Cuban rice and beans, roast pork, taro root and for dessert Cuban-style flan and assorted drinks.  I chose fresh mango juice which was made from only the juice of the fruit.  A teenage cat joined us and begged for food.  She ate more pork than I’d ever seen a cat consume in one sitting.  We saw many dogs and cats who were even thinner than this one throughout our trip.

 

 

 

Our next stop was in a small town where we bargained with the merchants in an open-air market for souvenirs and saw the few local sites.  Although I know that haggling is accepted, after seeing the living conditions I have to admit I later felt like I should’ve just paid full price even though I know there was a markup.  The homeowners are allowed to rent parts of their homes and small rental units to locals and tourists through companies like Airbnb.  The tourists have brought revenue and they’d like to have more American dollars to add to that of visitors from other countries.

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After a short ride, we arrived at a small rum factory that produced Guayabita del Pinar.  Guayabita means “little guava.”  In the Pinar del Rio region of Cuba, there’s a particular tree whose berries are tiny guavas. The flavor from the guayabitas is infused into sugarcane liquor. In 1892 Guayabita del Pinar grew from a local homebrew to commercial production.  Today it’s one of the more distinctive drinks in Cuba.  The factory we toured was not state of the art.  The bottles were filled by hand through a dispenser and then the tops were screwed on and the labels attached by several women sitting at a table.  Again there was no AC.  I know, I’m spoiled and couldn’t have worked under most of the conditions in Cuba without a great deal of discomfort but this was most likely a good job in this poor economy.  The rest of the factory where they made the rum was not operating at the time of our visit.  We mobbed the small store and while some learned about buying a quality cigar, I picked out a bottle of Cuban Club Rum, one of the rums produced at the factory and a large bag of coffee all for 20 Pesos a little more than $20.  During the 2 hour ride back to Havana, our guide pointed out more sites and answered our many questions.  Reentering and exchanging Pesos for U.S. Dollars was simple.  Some of the people on the cruise enjoyed the nightlife at the clubs and some went ashore the next morning before we sailed.

We had a free day to explore the many entertainment options onboard or to rest up for our final day on the Norwegian Cruise Line’s private island, Great Stirrup Cay.  There were many options from which to choose on the island from parasailing to swimming with the dolphins.  We chose snorkeling which was nice but didn’t compare to the Outer Great Barrier Reef but then what does.  The Cay had a nice beach but was rocky offshore.  The day was well organized with music, complimentary food and drinks.  Be prepared for very little shade and wear sunscreen and a hat.

 

 

 

We were able to disembark in Miami at our leisure after breakfast our final day just so long it was before 9 a.m.  No one seemed to have a problem going through customs with their Cuban goods.

 

I’m glad I got the opportunity to visit Cuba.  With the future of tourism in doubt there, it may not be as easy for others.  The Cuban people were welcoming and I felt comfortable during my visit.  Cruising is easy and enjoyable.  My advice is to enjoy the food and drink, but don’t overdo it.  You can get too much of a good thing.  We had free liquor and food at selected restaurants.  I was so happy when I found the ones that weren’t buffets because no matter how hard I try I can’t control myself at one.  It’s also nice not to have to worry about tips. I was lucky enough to get a free cruise through my timeshare company.  I only paid for shore excursions, fees, gratuities and a larger window.  If you don’t buy the water package, you’ll be paying more for the water in the minifridge unless you have a bottle you can refill.  I’d compare it to staying in a 5-star hotel but with a tiny room.  There are more luxurious accommodations to be had at a price.

 

This was an adventure that I’m happy I made.  Cruising will be one of my travel options especially as it becomes more difficult to travel.  Although I hope that’ll never happen, I’ll be ready so I can keep exploring the world on my own and with others.  In November I’m off to Spain to teach English to Spaniards and for a tour of the country.  I’ll need to keep studying Spanish because my skills are still dismal.

Continue the adventure!

Linda Lea

Single Baby Boomers, Where Were You During the Summer of Love?

Single Baby Boomers, Where Were You During the Summer of Love?

Photo credit: brizzle born and bred via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

I wish I could say that I was a Flower Child during the Summer of Love, but I was busy working and getting ready for college.  I did have a boyfriend, but he was in the Navy.  Love may have been the last thing on a lot of people’s mind because we didn’t want to focus on the horrors of the Vietnam Conflict that the government didn’t want to call a war.  I lived in the rarified environment of a small town that was miles away from the action in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco where as many as 100,000 young people sported hippie fashions and engaged in experimentation with drugs and free love.  Although hippies also gathered in many other places in the U.S., Canada and Europe, San Francisco the most publicized location for hippie subculture.

Hippies, sometimes called Flower Children, were an eclectic group. Many were suspicious of the government, rejected consumerist values and generally opposed the Vietnam War. A few were interested in politics while others were concerned with art, music, poetry or religious and meditative practices which were often enhanced by drugs and alcohol.

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The 60s and 70s are remembered for liberal attitudes toward sex and society. It also saw the beginnings of the peace movement, LGBT rights, the birth of the British Invasion and the decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK.  The U.S. didn’t decriminalize it until 2003.

The media’s fascination with the “counterculture” continued with the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, where approximately 30,000 people gathered for the first day of the music festival with the number swelling to 60,000 on the final day. The song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” written by John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas and sung by Scott McKenzie was initially designed to promote the Monterey Pop Festival.  “San Francisco” became an instant hit reaching #4 in the U. S. and #1 in the UK.  It transcended its original purpose by popularizing an idealized image of San Francisco.  Large numbers of fledging hippies headed to the festival to hear their favorite bands, among them Jefferson Airplane, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Otis Redding, The Byrds, the Grateful Dead, The Who and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin.

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However, values were not the same everywhere.  The Rolling Stones still had to change their lyrics in order to be allowed on the Ed Sullivan Show.  Legend has it that when the Stones were booked to play “Let’s Spend the Night Together” on his show in 1967, Sullivan announced, “Either the song goes, or you do.”  They compromised by changing the lyrics  to “Let’s spend some time together.”

The music of the summer of 1967 gave us wonderful songs.

The Soundtrack of the Summer of 1967 included:

San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) (Scott McKenzie)

All You Need Is Love (The Beatles)

Friday on My Mind (The Easy Beats)

Creeque Alley (The Mamas and The Papas)

Carrie Anne (The Hollies)

Let’s Live for Today (The Grass Roots)

She’d Rather Be With Me (The Turtles)

Groovin’ (The Rascals)

Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)

Somebody to Love (Jefferson Airplane)

Mirage (Tommy James & The Shondells)

Sunday Will Never Be the Same (Spanky & Our Gang)

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)

Pleasant Valley Sunday (The Monkees)

Reflections (Diana Ross & the Supremes)

San Francisco Nights (Eric Burdon & the Animals)

Light My Fire (The Doors)

White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)

Up, Up and Away (The Fifth Dimension)

Tracks of My Tears (Johnny Rivers)

I Was Made to Love Her (Stevie Wonder)

Respect (Aretha Franklin)

Little Bit O’ Soul (Music Explosion)

You’re My Everything (The Temptations)

The Letter (The Box Tops)

The expression Age of Aquarius in popular culture usually refers to the heyday of the hippie and New Age movements in the 1960s and 1970s.  Although more rock than new-age in genre, the 1967 musical Hair, with its opening song “Aquarius” and the memorable line “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius” brought the Aquarian Age concept to the attention of audiences worldwide.

When the newly recruited Flower Children returned home, they brought new ideas, ideals, behaviors, and styles of fashion to most major cities in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.  The closest I ever got to being a hippie was going braless, joining an anti-Vietnam group and wanting to wear flowers in my hair instead of a veil at my wedding, an idea that was quickly nixed by my mother.  However, I enjoyed the fashions and the music.  Janis Joplin was my favorite singer.

This was a peak moment of trippy rock posters and social activism.  It was cut short by an influx of violent heroin dealers into the Haight, subsequent overdoses and tourist buses arriving to gawk at the hippies. By the autumn of 1967 many of the flower children had decamped to rural communes and the original pioneers and visionaries were gone.  On October 6, 1967, those remaining in the Haight staged a mock funeral, “The Death of the Hippie” ceremony, to signal the end of the played-out scene.

 

During a time of war and hate the hippies gave us love and inclusion.  Maybe we could strive for their vision and make the coming years the Years of Love.

 

Continue the adventure!

 

Linda Lea

 

A Single Baby Boomer has a Whale of a Time in Victoria, BC

A Single Baby Boomer has a Whale of a Time in Victoria, BC

 

Victoria isn’t just the capital of British Columbia, Canada.  It’s home to some of the most stunning flora and fauna in the world.  Also called the “City of Gardens” Victoria is located in northern North America.  In spite of its northern location, the residents enjoy a temperate climate with winter temperatures ranging from the average daily high and low temperatures of 8 and 4°C (46.4 and 39.2°F), respectively. The summer months are also relatively mild, with an average high temperature of 20°C (68°F) and low of 11°C (51.8°F).  It’s the second sunniest city in British Columbia and drier than most areas in the region due to the rain shadow effect of the nearby Olympic Mountains.

 

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Floral Sculpture outside The Empress

Victoria and the surrounding area are known for its large retiree population. Some 6.4% are over 80 years of age, the highest proportion for any of Canada’s metropolitan areas. The city also boasts the country’s third-highest concentration of people 65 and older (17.8%).  Retirees are drawn to Victoria’s mild climate, beautiful scenery, year-round golf season and easy-going pace of life.  It’s been said of the city that it’s for “the newly wed and nearly dead” according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victoria,_British_Columbia.

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Sculpture on the wharf

On the ferry trip to the island, I missed seeing my first whale in the wild while talking to a fellow traveler that I spent time with on my Australia and New Zealand tour.  Even though we live on opposite sides of the U.S. we were lucky to reconnect on our travels and talk about traveling together again.  Since I didn’t see the whale I booked a whale watching and Butchard Garden tour with The Prince of Whales before my son, daughter-in-law and I took off for a walking tour of the local sites.  The majestic British Columbia Parliament Buildings which face the harbor are home to the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.  First Nations, British and Asian cultural histories make modern Victoria a vibrant and diverse cosmopolitan city. Museums, heritage and historic buildings, statues and sites showcase the people and art of the past while stores, such as the Hudson’s Bay Company and the shops in the oldest China Town in Canada and second oldest in North America, offer endless shopping opportunities.

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British Columbia Parliment Buildings
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China Town

When shopping and dining out, the Canadian exchange rate of 80% made all of our purchases even more attractive.  I always make sure I have a credit and an ATM card with me that don’t charge a service fee for foreign purchases and exchanges.

 

Food from all over the world can be found downtown and we happily waited in lines to dine at some superb moderately priced restaurants.  Friday is pizza night for my kids so we headed to Pizzeria Prima Strada which served Neapolitan wood-fired pizza on Fort Street (https://pizzeriaprimastrada.com/). I ordered the Four Season which featured tomatoes, homemade sausage, peppers, anchovies, olives, mushrooms, onions, fresh mozzarella and basil fashioned into 4 separate sections for 19 CAD and glass of wine.  It was fantastic and I had leftovers for breakfast so I reluctantly skipped the gelato.

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The Four Seasons

The Jam Café on Herald Street offers all day breakfast and lunch.  It had many intriguing dishes.  I chose The Charlie Bowl – their version of a hash with a crumbled biscuit, hash browns, diced ham, bacon, corn salsa, peas, green onions, cheddar and sausage gravy topped with two sunny side eggs for $14.50 CAD.  It was a large serving and there was no way I could finish it even though it was delicious. http://jamcafes.com/victoria/menu/.  Saturday night saw us lined up in front of Pagliaccis on Broad Street. (http://www.pagliaccis.ca/). My order, the small portion for of The Sophia ($18 CAD) named for Sophia Loren, had the quote, “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti.” on the menu.  It had a sauce of Canadian Dungeness & Rock crab, baby shrimp, pine nuts, white wine cream sauce and smoked salmon on fettuccine.  I added a great white wine and a bite of New York Cheese cake.  This time I cleaned the plate.  We ended our culinary expedition at The Fish Store at Fishman’s Wharf.  On a quest for the best salmon, I tried the fry bar deep fried sockeye salmon with twice fried chips and slaw.  The 1 piece basket cost $13 CAD. I’d never had salmon, my favorite fish, deep fried.  It was tasty, but I prefer my salmon without the breading.  I also enjoyed strolling around the wharf and looking at the colorful house boats.  See https://floatingfishstore.com/.

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Fisherman’s Wharf

It’s not too surprising that in the past people believed in sea monsters.  When an enormous whale fin or fluke breaks the water, it’s a sight to behold.  When the creature jumps out of the water or breaches, you experience an adrenalin rush.  A  Humpback Whale gave us our money’s worth on our Prince of Whales Tour by breaching 5 times right in front of our boat.  He put on a show while we clicked away with our cameras and smart phones.  The show lasted almost an hour before we continued on to Butchard Gardens.  On our 3 hour tour, we saw a bald eagle, baby and mother seals, and a variety of sea birds.  I was disappointed that I didn’t see an Orca.  The crew explained that they see fewer and fewer since they’re trapped for entertainment purposes. The crew was trained mariners and naturalists who provided a running commentary and answered our many questions.  I’d recommend this tour to anyone who wants a scenic and breathtaking experience.

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There’s nothing cuter than a baby seal.

When we disembarked at Butchart Gardens we skipped the line thanks to our VIP pass. Over a century ago Jennie Butchart, wife of Portland Cement manufacturer Robert Pim Butchart, began building what’s now one of the world’s premier floral show gardens.  In 1977 their great-grandson, Christopher, introduced fireworks shows featuring aerial and French ground displays accompanied by show tunes on Saturday evenings during the summer.  There’s a Sunken Garden, Japanese Garden, Rose Garden, Mediterranean Garden, Italian Garden, and Concert Lawn Walk all of which are well kept and change with the seasons.  They advertise 5 seasons with Christmas as their 5th with its Twelve Days of Christmas lighted displays.

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The Sunken Garden
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The Japanese Garden
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The Rose Garden

 

So any time of the year Victoria will offer you comfortable weather with beautiful scenery, wildlife and activities.  You can get there by ferry and bring your car, whale watching tours or the V2V luxury cruise.  If you want to fly, you can land at the Victoria International Airport or the Victoria Inner Harbour Airport which is for floatplanes and seaplanes from small airlines with less than 15 passengers and general aviation aircraft.  Helijets also fly from the Vancouver waterfront to Victoria’s  When you add the sightseeing planes to the landings in the harbor there always seems to be an aircraft landing and taking off on the waterfront. http://blog.hellobc.com/four-ways-to-get-from-vancouver-to-victoria/

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Victoria Harbor

This is just a snapshot of all that you can do in Victoria.  Needless to say, I would recommend it as a vacation destination or a side trip if you’re in Seattle or Vancouver.  Not too surprising, summer is a busy time.  If you’re driving from Seattle to the ferry in Port Angeles, WA, a GPS for rerouting and a patient driver are invaluable.  Between my son, the navigator, and my daughter-in-law, the driver, we had a pleasurable drive and enjoyed several podcasts.

 

Another thing I like when I travel with others is when my travel partner doesn’t feel that we have to always do the same things.  While I went on the whale and garden tour, they went to the Vegetoria, a festival for healthy eating, and rented bikes to tour Government House and the local area.  Just because you’re traveling together doesn’t mean you can’t all see what interests you the most and join up for meals and things you all enjoy.

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Government House

Next month I’m joining my sister for a trip to Miami and a cruise to Cuba.  After I drop her off at the airport, I’ll visit the Florida Keys on my own.  I’ll let you know how the rum drinks taste and maybe work on my Spanish in preparation for my trip to Spain.  I’m sure it’ll be a fantástica aventuras.

 

Continue the adventure!

 

Linda Lea

A Single Baby Boomer Attends a Class Reunion

A Single Baby Boomer Attends a Class Reunion

 

Have you ever been to a class reunion?  I can tell you that you’ll go through a wide range of emotions.  I graduated from an all-girls Catholic school, St. Francis High School, which was operated for decades by the Franciscan Sisters and closed in 1977.  I was taught by nuns, priests and a few lay women.  Yes, the stereo types are remarkably accurate.  Here are some of the emotions I experienced before and during the reunion.

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My graduation photo

Amazement – Has it really been that long since I was a naïve teenager?  This was my 50th so it may have been closer to shock.

Excitement – As I aged I felt a need to reconnect with people from my past and this offered me a way to do it with minimal effort.  All I really had to do was show up.  I did call a couple of classmates I hadn’t talked to in years, but other than booking the flight and car and telling my family I was coming, that was it.  I was overjoyed to be given the chance to see so many of my classmates in one spot.

Anticipation – I first heard about the reunion in late winter. It was slated for July so I had time to think about the positives of seeing old friends and then the joy of anticipation turned into…

Anxiety – I’d only seen a few of the people in my class a couple times in the last 50 years.  They had aged, but it always seems it wasn’t as much as I had.  Some were thinner.  I hoped it was genetic.  I was a chubby kid who effortlessly lost weight during puberty and kept most of it off until menopause hit.  Since then it’s been an uphill struggle.  I have few wrinkles due to staying out of the sun, my mother’s advice, and some nip and tuck.  Yes, I believe in being honest, but it had been over 10 years since I did that and gravity had its way.

Delight – When the time for the reunion arrived reconnecting with old friends was fun.  We were past the age of caring about how to impress each other with our accomplishment and those of our children.

Gratitude – Although I was sad we had lost 3 of our classmates, most of us seemed to be in good health with no visible impairments-at least none we wished to share.

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Frannie memorabilia

I found that people who’ve spent years apart can still reconnect when they’ve shared experiences.  When we talked about our time as “Frannies” the years lifted away and we were back in those classrooms talking about boyfriends and learning things we really needed in life and some we never would use.  We did get an education that I feel was superior to the local public school in some areas, but not many real-life experiences.  I guess we were supposed to get those in college or on the job.  Maybe they figured that our inevitable marriage would give us a new protector when our parents weren’t there for us.  It was a very sheltered environment.

 

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Frannies Forever!

 

Besides seeing my old friends and classmates, my after dinner visit to the once forbidden dorms was the highlight of the reunion.  We weren’t allowed there while we were students since we were day students and the life of the boarder was a mystery to us.  Although we attended classes together, fraternization was not encouraged.  We thought it was because we had boyfriends and more contact with the outside world, but the boarders must have had boyfriends since the prom was well attended.  To be honest, they did import boys from the nearby Catholic boy’s school for dances, but most of them were expected to be priests.  I met my first boyfriend, a local boy, at a dance there so males weren’t entirely banned.  I think one of my first real teenage crushes was one of the school’s priests who was from Boston and I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.  There were other places we dared not tread and even the boarders couldn’t go inside the convent.  Our class was the first one in history to not produce a nun, so we were real renegades.  One classmate told of going to the nearby Dairy Dream to smoke and later being confronted by the principal who said she shouldn’t insult her intelligence by thinking Aqua Net hairspray would cover up the smell of smoke.  I’m sure I would have found out more secrets when I was in high school had I not been such a Goody Two-shoes.  I regret missing out on some of the adventures.  I was too concerned about my GPA which dipped when I met my boyfriend.  Ah, the years have taught me so much.

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That’s me-Right Front-Check out the hairdo.

We were sure the boarders were sent there because they got into trouble at home, but that night I found out that for most of them being a St. Francis graduate was a family tradition like it was for my sisters and me.  St. Francis is no longer a school and has been used for many other purposes.  It’s currently for sale, but the dorms remain.  Now instead of climbing the marble steps to the 3rd floor, you can take an elevator.  My friend told me that now she understood why the boarder didn’t have many clothes.  The closets and rooms are tiny.  It’s now air conditioned, but there are still shared bathrooms and a common room. We took our snacks and once prohibited alcoholic beverages to the common room, pulled up chairs and continued to revisit memories and rules customary to Catholic schools in the 60s.  No skirts that didn’t touch the floor when you kneeled down.  Patent leather shoes were supposed to let boys look up your skirt, so even though they weren’t forbidden we were too proper to wear them.

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Boarders-A family tradition

My classmates and I have lived through the technology boom and the Woman’s Movement, which most embraced.  We grieved during the Kennedy assassination and terrorist attacks.  We applauded women in space and more rights for all groups of people.  We endured divorce, single parenthood and death in their families.  In spite of our hardships, we thrived.  Our class produced mothers, artists, educators, business people, writers, nurses and professionals from a variety of fields, some not considered appropriate for female Baby Boomers.

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My class-the class of 1967-I missed this event so don’t look for me.  I wish I could’ve been there.

Out of the 67 students who graduated, 30 attended our dinner, a good turnout for a class our size.  There was a whole school reunion with a Mass and picnic the next day that I couldn’t attend – maybe in 10 more years.  I hope to get together with the women living near our old high school when I return at Christmas and to travel with some.  We may have spent many years apart, but we still have so much in common no matter where we now live.  I appreciate the education we were privileged to get at my alma mater.

Continue the adventure!

 Linda Lea

P.S. Our class president, Carol, brought a book titled Class Reunions can be Murder by Susan Santangelo which told the tale of two friends, Carol and Claire, who with other classmates planned a reunion at Mount St. Francis Academy.  Claire is the name of our Carol’s best friend from high school.  There are other similarities like the name of the school, the marble steps, the dorms and the fact that the school was for sale.  Luckily, no one was murdered during our reunion.

Single Baby Boomers Often Feel Nostalgic

Single Baby Boomers Often Feel Nostalgic

As with most writers, my inspiration comes to me 24/7 from a variety of sources.  I note them on a scrap of paper, my smartphone, or laptop.  Even though I may not be writing as many blogs, because of other interests sometimes I just get an itch to delve into a subject.  Today I opened an email from Margaret Manning at http://sixtyandme.com/start/ about nostalgia.  When I retired I had more time to think about things than I did while work took up my time.  My brain doesn’t give me a rest.  I found that my interest in genealogy also made me think of old friends and want to reconnect with them.  This year is my 50-year high school reunion, so I’ll get a chance to find out what they’ve been up to in life.

 

Last year we had a 77th birthday party for a friend.  The theme was 77 Sunset Strip, an old detective show that I secretly watched as a kid in reruns when I was supposed to be in bed.  I fell in love with the debonair Jeff Spencer, Roger Smith.  He was my first real star crush.  I gave my friend a copy of the first season for her birthday and bought another season for myself.  Last December when I was recuperating from surgery, I watched my videos and even ordered another season.  Then one night when I couldn’t sleep, I discovered they were replaying the series on MeTV at 3 am, so every night I record it and in the morning I relive life in the late 50s and early 60s with my favorite private investigator. Then one day, I saw Roger Smith had died.  That was a bittersweet moment.  He’d been sick and certainly lost his dashing good looks like we all do, but to me, he was still the handsome leading man from my youth.  Watching him solve mysteries brings back fond memories of the time before my life became complicated.

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Roger Smith

Old memories have a way of bringing back emotions both good and bad.  In the 1700s “Nostalgia was originally described as a “neurological disease of essentially demonic cause” by Johannes Hoffer, the Swiss doctor who coined the term in 1688. Military physicians speculated that its prevalence among Swiss mercenaries abroad was due to earlier damage to the soldiers’ ear drums and brain cells by the unremitting clanging of cowbells in the Alps…In the 19th and 20th centuries nostalgia was variously classified as an “immigrant psychosis,” a form of “melancholia” and a “mentally repressive compulsive disorder” among other pathologies.” http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/09/science/what-is-nostalgia-good-for-quite-a-bit-research-shows.html?pagewanted=all

 

Hepper, Ritchie, Sedikides, and Wildschut (2012, Emotion) describe nostalgia as a complex emotion that involves past-oriented cognition and a mixed affective signature. The emotion is often triggered by encountering a familiar smell, sound, or keepsake, by engaging in conversations or by feeling lonely. We remember and think about a memory, typically a fond one that is personally meaningful. We view the memory through rose-colored glasses so we often feel emotional.  Usually, we feel happy, but with a sense of loss and longing that can sometimes be bittersweet.

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Photo via Visual hunt

Nostalgia confers psychological benefits such as, feeling a stronger sense of belonging, affiliation, or sociality and often indicates higher levels of self-esteem and positive mood.  Nostalgic engagement carried out habitually and excessively, however, may not be beneficial to all.  It goes without saying that there’s a difference between being nostalgic and only remembering the past as Alzheimer’s patients do, but maybe they remember past enjoyable events because it makes them happy.

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Why are some memories from our past so vibrant and enduring? Researchers have posited that there’s a Lifespan Retrieval Stage.  Those at the University of Leeds proposed this explanation. “The years highlighted by the reminiscence bump coincide with “the emergence of a stable and enduring self.” They specified the period between 12 to 22 years of age.  In other research, I found that ages 15 to 30 were identified as the time when more memories are encoded that are linked to our social identity. It makes sense that the memories which contribute to this process become important throughout our life. They didn’t just contribute to the development of our self-image.  They became part of it.

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2014/08/musical_nostalgia_the_psychology_and_neuroscience_for_song_preference_and.html

It’s not surprising single Baby Boomers surround themselves with things that bring back special memories like pictures, souvenirs, and keepsakes.  Our generation has also started to record their life stories or memoirs in online templates or fill-in books like The Book of Me. 

 

Some Baby Boomers make their own soundtrack, songs in their life that they remember from when they were the happiest and most content. The Nostalgia Machine website plays songs from your “favorite music year” while another app, Sundial, replays the songs you were listening to exactly a year ago. For photographic memories, The Timehop app and Facebook’s On This Day feature show you photos and social-media updates from a given date in history. The Museum of Endangered Sounds website plays the sounds of discontinued products.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/06/the-end-of-forgetting/524523/

Music spurs an emotional reaction. “Brain imaging studies show that our favorite songs stimulate the brain’s pleasure circuit, which releases an influx of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and other neurochemicals that make us feel good. The more we like a song, the more we get treated to neurochemical bliss.”  We are most susceptible during our pubescent years when our hormones are raging.  We want to remember our teenage adventures even if some of them were embarrassing.

 

In my case, taste tends to bring back good memories.  This has its pros and cons.  It makes it difficult for me to pass up a Dairy Queen even though I’ve been on a diet most of my life.  I think I’ve even passed on my love of sweets to my son since we both like Peeps and Twizzlers.  Both hold fond memories from my youth like the search for Easter Baskets with Peeps nestled inside and eating Twizzlers in the library with his father in college.  I do blame my mother more for his Peep addiction since she stuffed one in his formerly sugar-free little body when he was 5 months old.  Oldtimecandy.com can find your favorite candy.  Martha Stewart’s and other recipe websites can give you recipes for your old snacks and other comfort foods. http://www.marthastewart.com/1119136/12-nostalgic-foods-you-havent-had-childhood

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Photo credit: Nicholas Eckhart via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-SA

The sense of smell has the closest link to memory. Studies have shown that people can remember a scent with 65% accuracy after 1 year while visual memory dips to 50% after only a few months.  To this day the smell of Brut cologne, yes you can still buy it, bring back memories of my old high school boyfriend.  One last tip – Don’t get nostalgic about old loves.  Leave them in the past.  There’s often a good reason they’re there in the first place.

http://www.ambius.com/blog/5-ways-smell-influences-your-everyday-life/

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Photo credit: brizzle born and bred via Visualhunt / CC B

So keep remembering the things that made you happy in the past, but keep making new memories, because memories are something no one can take away from you.

Continue the adventure!

Linda Lea

Single Baby Boomers Need a Goal

Single Baby Boomers Need a Goal

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary lists the synonyms of goal as “aim, ambition, aspiration, bourne (also bourn), design, dream, end, idea, ideal, intent, intention, mark, meaning, object, objective, plan, point, pretension, purpose, target…”  Your goal may change during different stages of your life and at times you may have more than one.  Your family, environment, job, health and religious beliefs can all influence what you consider your purpose in life.  You want to be true to yourself, but life has a way of interfering with your plans.  Perhaps you face a health issue and need to rethink your objectives for the future.  You can’t continue working or must rely on others for assistance after a life of independence.  You need to readjust your goals to fit in with your circumstances and ability to do what you need to do.  If you’ve been living life taking care of others, you may now need to focus on yourself.

 

Your physical, cognitive, and mental health depend on you having something to look forward to.  It doesn’t have to be a world-saving goal, just one that makes you get out of bed every morning and look forward to the day.  Some people make some sort of appointment or find an activity to get them out of the house.  If you’re still working and hate your job you may need something that gives you a lift each day like a walk at lunch time so you can enjoy the fresh air, relieve your stress and get some exercise.

 

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Your purpose needs to be something that will improve your life in some way.  It can still be helping other but you should get something out of it like a sense of pride or well-being.  These are intangible rewards and sometimes you need something tangible.  I plan trips to help me achieve my goal of visiting all of the places I want to see before travel becomes difficult.  It’s not the only goal I have in life, but when I’m feeling down or bored, it brightens my day.

Here’s how even this small goal benefits me.

  • It keeps my mind active by researching the places I want to visit, airfares, accommodations and things to see and do while I’m there.

 

  • I keep engaged with family and friends. Planning a trip to visit them is one way to accomplish this, but I also like to take them with me. Sometimes we stay at my timeshare and other times we take a tour or cruise.  When I have a question I can’t find an answer to on my own or want the opinion of someone else, I call someone I know who’s been there or used a service like Uber or Airbnb.

 

  • I also make new contacts when I ask for help or information. At the moment I’m planning a tour with a tour planner for a trip to England where some of my favorite mystery writers got their inspiration for such fascinating characters as Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, and Inspectors Morse and Lewis.  You can find out more about it on my Single Boomer Life Facebook Page.

 

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  • I develop new interests. Every time I start planning a trip I get side tracked while I’m doing research.  I try to keep my mind open to ways I can make the trip more interesting and I explore new areas I find on related websites.  The plan for the British mystery writers trip was born out of the desire to write a novel of my own, my love of British mystery novels and TV crime shows in addition to my desire to explore London, Oxford, Devon and Cornwall.  I was watching a video about Agatha Christie’s home when I found it was near Port Isaac, the setting of my favorite TV show Doc Martin.  I couldn’t find any tours that went everywhere I wanted to go and I wasn’t too keen on learning how to drive on the left side of the road, so I decided to plan one myself.  This opened up many new avenues to research.

 

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  • It keeps me positive and looking ahead to a bright future full of adventure.

 

  • When the time for the trip arrives I’ll have a sense of accomplishment from seeing my plan come together.  I’ll also get to meet new people and explore the places I’ve read about and seen on TV and in movies.

 

  • When I finish the trip I’ll have the memories of a new and exciting adventure. I feel experiences are more valuable to me than material goods.  They never go out of style or break. As Mark Twain said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

 

This is a short term goal, but it’ll keep me entertained and engaged for over a year.  In the meantime, I have goals I want to work toward in other areas such as finding my ancestors in Italy, spending more time with my grandchildren and getting healthy and fit.  My goals change often, but I make them attainable and if I tire of them or just cannot meet them, I move on.  I don’t want to wallow in the fact I didn’t achieve them.  I just make new ones.  I may come back to the old plans when the time is right, but I leave the door open to new ideas and dreams.

 

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Travel may not be your dream but you can apply this principal to any goal.  The point is to find what interests you and set a goal to achieve.  Give yourself a timeline and date of completion. It keeps you motivated and accountable.

 

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Continue the adventure!

 

Linda Lea