It Is All About The Journey

The New York Times advertises their trips as, “Journeys for the Curious Mind.” Robert Frost encouraged us to take the road less traveled and Ralph Waldo Emerson reminded us that, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” There is something that fascinates me about people on a journey and I am drawn to photograph them…people living their daily lives, putting one foot in front of the other to discover the unknown or return to a place of knowing. I have a deep curiosity about where a person is headed to and why. New understandings unfold through the accompaniment either in silent observation or animated interaction. Is the person walking fast or slow, bent over or standing tall, smiling or deep in thought? So much can be learned about the other and leads to a connection of “you AND me”.

On The Journey

A Smile For The Journey Off the Beaten Path

Balancing and heavy burdens on the journey.

Many people piled into a truck sitting on top of produce.

The Journey is better when shared with a friend.

Women walking around the fields looking for beans

Trusting in the wind and the currents.

Tender Moments Along The Journey

A Burmese Mother and Her Child on the Journey

Making the journey so much easier with love and laughter.

Gentle parental protection

Such tenderness in this moment as a grandson washes his grandmother who no longer has fingers to do this herself.

This young girl took her water buffalo on a journey for a cooling bath.

I also try to check in and explore the internal territory of my journey and was very focused on this with the beginning of the new year. What path am I on and is it the best for me at this moment in time? Am I creating touching moments for those on the same journey and am I taking the time to just stop and say, “Thank you” for so often being on the receiving end of welcome, touching kindness and generosity. May I just take this opportunity to extend my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to those who have walked beside me for a bit or for the long haul! You have and continue to add much sweetness to my journey and I wish you all a journey of wonder, undiscovered paths with the curiosity to explore and times to just sit and enjoy the view.

From my heart to yours.

Iceland: Street Art

There are many diverse and interesting museums in Iceland where I explored the unique art, history and culture. However in this beautiful land of contrasts, what struck me was the “museumless” artwork offered freely on the streets of Reykjavik. Plain walls were transformed through vibrancy, color and imaginative design… all became manifestations of the creativity and pride of the locals. The city has so much to offer to the peregrinating tourist!

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland Street Art

Iceland’s Magnificent Waterfalls

Some of the synonyms for “Magnificence” are splendor, grandeur, beauty and greatness. I would add many more but one definitely being breath taking after standing by two of the largest waterfalls located along the South Coast of Iceland. The Seljandsfoss Waterfall (seen in the Amazing Race 6) drops approximately 200 feet and it has a well developed loop trail that allows for up close and personal views from behind the falls. The Huffington Post Travel just posted beautiful photographs of the Falls during the spring if you would like to get that perspective. I however, was there when a late night snowfall blanketed all in site and the temperature dropped so many degrees below zero. (I stopped counting – when it is below zero, it is all relative!). The winds and freezing temperatures quickly turned the path behind the falls to ice. Since I didn’t yet have my strap crampons with me to ensure that my cameras and I would remain upright, I was only able to capture the views from the front of this powerful work of nature.

Skogafoss (SKOH-ga-foss) Waterfall is also located in the south of Iceland. There is a hiking trail enabling visitors to climb alongside the cliffs to get a stunning view from the very top of the falls and the Atlantic Ocean as well. The thundering water cascades 200 feet down and has a width of 82 feet across. This was one of the sites used for the film. “Thor:The Dark World” and “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”.

The freezing water hitting my face…the thundering sound of falling water, every sense heightened while feeling so very small against this backdrop of sheer wonder and magnificence.

Iceland's Wonders

Iceland’s Wonders

Cascading Waters of Iceland

Cascading Waters of Iceland

Iceland's Glory

Iceland’s Glory

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

Slippery Slope

Slippery Slope

Just as light shapes, water follows suit. The icing created unique, constantly changing abstract designs.

Iceland's Natural Wonders

Iceland’s Natural Wonders

Iceland's Stunning Waterfalls

Iceland’s Stunning Waterfalls

Iceland's Waterfalls

Iceland’s Waterfalls

Iceland: Glacier Lagoon and the Play of Light

Iceland Glacier Lagoon at Sunset

Iceland Glacier Lagoon at Sunset

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Glacier Lagoon, Iceland

Gentle Day, Gentle Night

Gentle Day, Gentle Night

With the approaching Winter Solstice and viewing the thousands of photographs I took in Iceland, I am so very conscious of light and its many qualities. Such a gift it is. It shapes the landscapes of our mind and our earth. It uplifts spirits and brings forth a quiet reverence as it takes its leave at the end of every day. Aaron Rose stated, “In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” I was so grateful to be in the right light at the right time on this trip.

In Iceland, light covers the landscape about 10:30 am and night begins to enter in about 3:30 pm. On the solstice, daylight last only 4 hours. One site I passed was a cemetery with each headstone lit up. Jonas,(Arctic Adventures) my guide, explained that 66% of Iceland’s primary energy use comes from vast geothermal sources so people try to light up as much as possible during this time, even graves! I have to say the twinkling lights on snow covered streets created such a magical feel… but speaking of magical, Jokulsarlon, Glacier Lagoon was like no other place I had ever seen. It is said to be one of the greatest wonders of nature in Iceland. This lagoon is a recent one, the result of a warming climate. Huge blocks of ice constantly break off the glacier and the tide brings them to rest on a black volcanic beach. Jonas wanted to get us there just as the sun was beginning to set. I was in total awe as I witnessed such beautiful changing light as its rays touched each player and gave it its special moment. Turquoise, golds, blacks, gentle and vivid pinks were each brought forth and again, “In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary!”

Brigadoon In Lancaster County, Pa

Gene Kelly and Van Johnson played two weary hunters who came upon the mystical village of Brigadoon. As the story goes, the preacher in the town invoked God to protect the townspeople against the changes and the influences of the outside world. His prayers were answered and for one day every 100 years, Brigadoon magically appeared amidst the rolling hills of Scotland.

Waiting for Renewal

Waiting for Renewal

The rolling hills of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania holds its own Brigadoon. On 14.5 acres of land, 190 small white cabins sit empty, alone and boarded up but for one summer week each year. The Central Manor Camp Bible Conference first opened on Thursday evening, September 7, 1892 with 19 tents under the direction of a pastor, Dr. MacDannald. He wanted a place where for one week, “Fundamental truths of the word of God are faithfully proclaimed.” This is an area with the strong influence of Evangelical Christians and Mennonites, so the rules were very strict. No noise after 10:30, women wore dresses, no tobacco and no alcohol.

Mennonite Sisters

Mennonite Sisters

United in Prayer

United in Prayer

Singing is very much a part of each service.

Singing is very much a part of each service.

Deep in Prayer

Deep in Prayer

Reading faith based newspapers.

Reading faith based newspapers.

Over a hundred years later, there is a “tabernacle” seating 1,000 people set in the center of the grounds with these white washed and very sparse cabins surrounding it. These habitats have basic electricity but no running water. There is no wifi and not one lap top or television to be seen. The cost of each cottage can be up to $10,000 and they are either passed down through generations or auctioned off at the end of each year’s revival. Basically, most have just beds, lighting and a fan in them. Curtains are used to partition off areas.There are three bath houses for men and three for women. Each family brings their own unique style to their home away from home…Ruthie raised a foster child who returned to her birth mother at age 13 only to end up dying on the streets of Philadelphia. The exterior of Ruthie’s “home” is a memorial to Heather while her daughter is fighting brain cancer and sits quietly quilting outside the cabin. A mother with 5 children found a pink light to soften the look inside and she created a shabby chic haven. One cabin was “pranked” with colorful postettes adorning the plain white. Flowers, streamers, crosses, bibles and books by Glen Beck can be found outside. There are “porch visits” that go on throughout the day for the purpose of “Christian Fellowship”. Some met here for the first time and are now sitting on their porch as a married couple. Others remember coming when there were only tents and now have their own cabin. RV’s are permitted on the grounds for $40. per night and do have water and electric hook ups.

Ruthie Remembers and Honors her Foster Child.

Ruthie Remembers and Honors her Foster Child.

Creating

Creating

Color Splash

Color Splash

Love Grows During the Week

Love Grows During the Week

Sharing from the Heart

Sharing from the Heart

Pink Lights and Shabby Chic

Pink Lights and Shabby Chic

This year’s small booklet listing the speakers and program related the Statement of Faith as the following:
“We believe that the Bible is the Word of God.”
“God is a Triune God.”
“Jesus Christ is the only savior of men.”
“Man in his natural state is totally depraved. Man is sinfully enslaved in transgression, and without the provision of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ, is eternally lost.” These tenets have remained the same since the founding by Paster MacDannald. What has changed is the operating budget which is now approximately $74,000.

The day begins at 6:30 with the ringing of the bell. 7:30 is family worship and no recreation may take place during times of worship.
There are speakers each day at 10:00, 2:30 and 7:00 pm. Snacks can be purchased or meals can be taken in the dinning hall with two seatings of 400. The menu basically stays the same from year to year. Saturday is always chili for “dinner” at 11:45 and chicken barbecue for supper at 5:00. There is supervised recreation. Saturday is “Parade Day” and the “Peanut Hunt” in the afternoon. The purpose of the recreation program is to “develop attitudes and behaviors that exemplify the Lord Jesus Christ.” Activities include quoits, street hockey, volleyball and basketball. Crafts are held Monday through Friday at 2:30 – 3:30 each year and crafts for women are at 1:30 pm on the days announced. At 10:30, there is the ringing of the bell, signaling the end of the day and all to be in their cottage. No smoking or alcohol is permitted and no soda is served.

A Parade of Balloons and Smiles

A Parade of Balloons and Smiles


Bathing In Sinks

Bathing In Sinks

Feeding the Multitude

Feeding the Multitude

A Pop of Color

A Pop of Color

For one week each year, there is a continuity of faith and family. Just as in Brigadoon, there is a type of shielding from the influences of the outside world that is embraced by generation after generation. On August 16, 2015, the Central Manor Camp was brought to a close…it saw its moment in the sun and now has returned to its stark waiting stillness.

Sources: “123rd Annual Program of Central Manor Camp and Bible Conference”
“Central Manor Campmeeting Celebrating a Memorable Century 1892 -1992

Japanese Tanabata

Tanabata Festival

Tanabata Festival

According to legend, Orihimi (weaving princess) wove beautiful clothes by the bank of the Amanogawa (The Milky Way, “The heavenly river”) but was so sad because she could never fall in love and marry. She had to work day and night. Her father took pity on her and introduced her to Hikoboshi (cow herder star) who lived and worked on the other side of the river. They fell instantly in love and became husband and wife. Orihimi no longer wove for her father and her husband allowed all his cows to roam all over heaven. Tentai, the father, was so angry, he separated the two lovers across the river. Orihimi was so despondent at the loss of her husband but her tears moved Tentai to acquiesce and allow the two to meet but one day each year. On the 7th day of the 7th month, if she finished her weaving, Orihimi and Hikoboshi would be reunited. But since every good story/legend has more than one conflict, Orihimi and Hikboshi found no bridge to cross the river. The young bride cried so much that a flock of magpies came and promised to make a bridge with their wings so that she could cross the river. It is said that if it rains on Tanabata (the 7th day of the 7th month), the magpies cannot come and the two lovers must wait until another year to meet.

In Japan, people celebrate this day by writing wishes on small pieces of colorful paper known as tanzaku and hanging them on bamboo with other colorful decorations which is known as the “Wish Tree”. Long streamers with Tanabata star ornaments and paper cranes are hung for good luck.

In Philadelphia, in the midst of city noise and frenetic movement lies a serene sanctuary that should not be missed. Philadelphia Magazine named Shofuso Japanese House and Garden the best hidden tourist attraction in this city of “Brotherly (and sisterly) Love”.Shofuso in its present incarnation was built in Nagoya, Japan in 1953, using traditional materials and techniques, exhibited at MoMA as part of “The House in the Museum Garden” series and moved to the temple gate site in Philadelphia.

Three traditional types of Japanese gardens comprise a 1.2 acre site: a hill-and-pond style garden which is intended to be viewed from the veranda; a tsubo-niwa, or courtyard garden in the style of an urban 17th century Kyoto garden; and a roji, or tea garden, which is a rustic path to our tea house. Visitors can immediately feel the expansive and collective “Ahhhhhhh” as they dwell in pristine beauty and elegant simplicity of design and style. This past weekend, Shofuso celebrated Tanabata with families by sharing the legend and having old and young create colorful wishes to decorate the bamboo trees. It is fascinating to take time out to become immersed in another culture and another world. I am presently working on a series of short videos highlighting out of the way and interesting places Philadelphia has to offer and I can’t resist the opportunity to return for the the tea celebration this weekend …let’s hope the sun shines on the 7th day of the 7th month so that the magpies can work their magic for Orihimi and Hikoboshi!

Japanese Gardens

Tanabata Festival

Tanabata Festival

Japanese Legend

Japanese Legend

Japanese Garden

Japanese Home

Come and Visit

Japanese Beauty in Simplicity

Awe Inspired Question: How Did They Ever Build These?

While in Greece and Italy, I found myself in awe of the human spirit driven to continually seek higher ground combined with the engineering skills to achieve these vantage points…how in the world did they ever do that?!

Breath Taking! Life in Greece!

Breath Taking! Life in Greece!

Delphi, reaching the heavens

Delphi, reaching the heavens

Cliffs of Italy

Cliffs of Italy

Italian Vacation

Italian Vacation

Greek Mountain Stay

Greek Mountain Stay

Hotel View

Hotel View

Greek Island Homes

Greek Island Homes

Pompeii, Walking on Sacred Ground

Paths of Pompeii

Pompeii Muted Colors

Remaining Artifacts from Pompeii

Person of Pompeii

Pompeii Unearthing

Years ago, I can remember being totally mesmerized when I heard the story of molten volcanic ash enveloping an entire city and its inhabitants. Approximately 2000 people living life were now preserved in their final moments for the ages. Mothers and fathers sitting at a table, little ones sleeping…these acts became their last on August 24, 79 A.D. EyeWitness To History.com relates an ancient voice from the past that reaches through time to relate these horrific events. The ash grew to be 16 feet and a once flourishing resort for the rich and famous of Rome with marketplaces, brothels, taverns, bathhouses and a 20,000 seat arena was totally silenced until 1748. The archaeologists found buildings intact, skeletons frozen in time, art and artifacts of every day life. Today, Pompeii draws thousands of tourists. One must past through about 15-20 vendors lining the entrance selling bottles of lemoncello, cameos carved from shells which may or may not be authentic and of course row after row of the famous winged penis which was the city symbol (who knew)! There was no McDonald’s in site though!! Despite all of the tourist trappings, every time I walk through Pompeii, it is truly one of those “pinch me now” moments. I wander through the homes, seeing mosaics and frescoes which are erotic and beautiful still visible after thousands of years. It is a bit surreal to come upon the few frozen remains still on display… the people who were so compelling to me years before. Many of the artifacts have been moved to the National Archaeological Museum in Naples and is so deserving of a visit. It is said that a third of the city still remains covered. In just a span of 4 years, I saw graves carved into stone that had just been unearthed. It continually gives me a reason to return so the story I heard sitting in a classroom may take on new layers of richness and intrigue.

Feelings, Mood and Taking a Different Path

Childhood and Summer

As a photographer, I have spent years trying to master the technical and will happily continue for many more if I am lucky… it is a constant! When I am able to get that tack sharp image I am thrilled. In fact, that type of image was one of the aspects which first drew me to photography many years ago. So often I would look at an image and discard it if it wasn’t in focus. Creativity though is thinking out of the box, trying different things, playing and having fun, going down that overgrown path. So I decided to do just that…to create an image that is more about the mood and the feeling…the universality of feelings in a very simple image. Abandonment!

My first image is an attempt to capture the moments we are able to just stop, enjoy and just get caught up in curiosity and exploration…here’s to summer and childhood!

Sorrento, Italy …Rain and Shine

We drove into Sorrento in a rainstorm but it did not dampen this small town’s charm. The narrow winding streets create a sense of intimacy and invite one to explore. Not knowing what is around the next corner but being greeted with surprise after surprise.

Rainy Day in Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

In Southern Italy, lemon trees abound. It seems that lemons come in two sizes here – large and extra large and limoncello is the drink of choice. In one of the stores, I was kindly invited back to see how it was being made. With a vegetable peeler, long strips are taken from the lemon and put right into vats where they are left to steep in vodka for several days. A sugar syrup is made and mixed with the vodka mixture and then it is strained. Limoncello is both delicious and strong (for my taste!). My advice is to try some AFTER visiting all the other quaint shops. We found everyone so open to us and spent a lot of time “visiting”! Hospitality is a hallmark!

Sorrento lemons

Making Limoncello

Limoncello Bottles for sale

Shop owner, Sorrento, Italy

The town sits on the top of rocky cliffs. The next day, we ventured down by both elevator and stairs in order to catch a boat over to Capri.
We saw ingenuity at work! Since there is little beach, piers were built out over the water. Sitting on top are very small and brightly colored bath houses for people to change in and then lay out on the piers for some sun bathing!

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento has both charm and grandeur. Taking in breathtaking sites and wandering through the narrow streets, spending time with the locals is such a captivating experience. This is why I try to return year after year!

Sorrento, Italy

Capri is next!

Victor’s Cafe, South Philadelphia Landmark

 

I just love being a travel photographer…I go in search of new and interesting people, places and things.  I always have a camera with me for that unexpected find which happened this past week.  Victor’s Cafe is a landmark restaurant in South Philadelphia.  It is housed in two brownstones located at 1303 Dickinson Street, Philadelphia and it was my first visit and definitely not my last.

Victor’s has a very interesting history :

“One hundred years ago a young Italian immigrated to America bringing with him little more than a great love for classical music and grand opera. It seemed only natural that his way of living would somehow include that love. John DiStefano settled in Philadelphia in 1908 and in 1918 opened his first business: a gramophone shop. Here, friends and neighbors came and enjoyed an espresso and spumoni while they listened to newly recorded operatic arias, symphonies and popular music of the day. DiStefano’s Victor dealership became a meeting place not only for the musically inclined but also a nexus for companionship and advice.

John often took the South Street Ferry to visit the directors of RCA Victor, located just across the river in Camden, arranging auditions and making suggestions of selections to be recorded. Because of his broad knowledge voice and vocal repertoire he earned the respect and trust of those at RCA, and established a lasting relationship with numerous budding artists, some of whom went on to musical renown.

His efforts to bring together artist and recording studio are well documented by the signed photographs and operatic memorabilia which literally cover the Café’s walls. The collection includes thousands of the family’s considerable collection of 78 rpm recordings, treasures of another era. Many discs are rare, out of print, or never published but still earn their keep. A larger-than-life replica of Nipper, well-known canine mascot of “His Master’s Voice” fame, stands sentinel at the front door, mute witness to a century of devotion to an ideal.”

Sylvester Stallone and the production crew filming “Rocky” decided this would be the perfect restaurant to transform into Adrian’s, an Italian eatery.  Throughout the filming cast and crew hung out here and it was the place to come for dinner every Saturday night.

Victor’s is known for the live performances of arias and instrumental solos which used to be performed by its patrons but now, the servers have taken over that role. Introductions were made and David Koh would be our server.  We learned that he was a doctoral student studying opera at Temple. After delivering our first delicious course, a small bell rang and Puccini would have certainly given his nod to the aria David began to sing to us…we were truly transfixed as his amazing talent  lifted us all. Throughout the meal, we were treated to two more operatic arias and while we dined on delicious homemade dessert, “Younger than Springtime” was one more gift David gave us.

I tried to be very respectful of the rule regarding no video but this was just too good !  I was grateful to receive the permission to film just a very limited amount in order to share this unique dining experience.  I would highly recommend Victor’s Cafe for a lovely, romantic dinner  as well as a wonderful evening out with friends. Experience the stars of tomorrow as they stand in the shadows of the great stars from the past…another of Philadelphia’s historic charms!

Just click on Victor’s Cafe to be treated to a bit of our experience.

 

 

Sarasota Florida in a Weekend!

On the road in Sarasota, Florida

This story starts with a surprise cell phone call and a very happy ending! My brother and I live close to each other and are close but we haven’t lived under the same roof for a few decades (give or take some)! He had an idea…why didn’t the two of us go off to Sarasota, Florida for the weekend. Never having been to Florida..ever…”YesGreatWhenDoWeLeave” became one word!

The first thing that struck me were the incredible skies, constantly changing due to the two or three hours of rain each day we were there.
Siesta Keys beach was voted the number one beach in 2012. I would heartily add my vote to that. The sand never gets hot, the water is crystal clear and the waves seemed to be the perfect size for drifting and swimming! We were there every evening after the crowds left and it was the perfect way to end the day!

One cannot go to Florida without looking for alligators and or crocodiles! I can now proudly say that I know the difference between the two after riding the “Gator Gal” airboat at the Myakka River State Park. For $12.00, one can go out on a very leisurely and informative tour of natural wonders. There are also canopy trails and horse trails but we were on a time crunch and one always has to leave something to come back to!

Fall has worked its magic on our Philadelphia trees. Maples, oaks and walnut trees are now glorious shades of orange and gold. While in Florida, watching the spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides…what can I say, I love “Google”!) draped over branches and gently swaying in the breeze is as calming as a meditative experience. It is a signature of the Deep South!

During the early 1900’s, 67,000 acres of what is now Sarasota and Longboat Key were purchased by
John Ringling to be used as the summer headquarters for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Hundreds of personal mementos as well as the world’s largest miniature circus is on display in the museum. One can walk through the opulent Venetian styled mansion of John and Mable, envisioning the huge parties and the famous guests who also walked through the same doors. Designed in the Italian renaissance style, the John and Mable Museum of Art houses his collection of over 600 painting, sculptures and tapestries. The entire Ringling estate is now under the auspices of Florida State University. What can I say, I had never been to Florida or a circus and in one weekend, I now felt fulfilled!!!

Back to the water now with Adventure Kayak. I was in the manatee playground and as my paddle went into the water, a family of manatees rose up out of the water. The term “gentle giants” is a perfect description. I loved being so close to them in their natural environment. Now my brother is a MUCH better athlete than I am and he “had my back” as I clumsily tried to maneuver my way through the maze of exotic mangrove tunnels. According the Discover, Science for the Curious, “Mangroves are survivors, due to elaborate root systems that sprawl above and below the waterline. These so-called walking trees coolly shrug off extreme heat and muddy topsoil deficient in oxygen and filter the salty waters of southern Florida and tropical Southeast Asia, where the majority of the 73 known mangrove species live. Mangroves also help other species survive, forming dense forests that shelter monkeys, kangaroos, and tigers as well as shellfish and brightly colored corals. Even humans benefit as impoverished 
coastal communities exploit the tree for food, lumber, and medicine. ”

Heads have to be down as not to hit a hanging black mangrove crab feasting away and paddles have to be close by as not to get caught in the complex root system. A difficult task while trying to capture the experience with a camera in one hand. A memorable experience for sure!

So even though my brother and I are so very different on issues related to politics, religion and philosophy, Florida was the perfect spot to reminisce, argue over who was the favorite sibling and enjoy our shared love for adventure! Where do we go next Tom?

Those Who Inspire and my attempt to honor them!

This will be remembered as the summer of inspiration for me. In the beginning of June, a former student showed me his power point presentation… a simple one with such a compelling message that frankly took me totally by surprise and truly touched me. In his brother he saw a hero. His brother is 12 years old and he can’t speak, can’t eat and has difficulty learning due to CDLS but Joe didn’t remain in the “can’t” category. He saw so much more and recognized all the lessons that his brother was teaching him. Joe created for his audience just a brief glimpse but this story to me, just called for so much more. He needed the tools to tell his story more fully and Kickstarter, a wonderful program that funds those with creative endeavors seemed to be the path we needed. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1262482929/my-hero-my-brother-a-short-film. I am so sincerely grateful for all those who have visited the Kickstarter site and I am happy to say that in less than a week, our contributions total over $600. My sincere thanks also extend to the Patitucci family, to Beth and Paul and Joe and Andrew for their gracious welcoming (and feeding me) as we try to birth a short documentary on the lives of teenage boys and the impact of CDLS on the family.

Last week, I received a call from a friend who invited me to a Tony Melendez concert and perhaps I would be interested in filming this! Tony was born without arms due to the thalidomide his mother took while pregnant. In Nicaragua, he developed his love for music. His family brought him to Los Angeles to be fitted with artificial arms which he wore until he was ten and then decided to dispose of them because he could use his feet for so much more! Tony has gone on to travel the world, stand next to two Popes, be gifted with the First Inspirational Hero Award from the NFL Alumni Association and asked to sing our National Anthem at the fifth game of the World Series in 1989. He had a desire to enter the priesthood when he was in high school but due to the fact that he didn’t have an index finger and thumb, he was rejected (I could go off on this but I won’t!) but he has remained faithful to his love of contemporary music that speaks to faith, courage and inspiration and has taken it throughout the world and this past weekend to St. Thomas Acquinas parish in South Philadelphia… a truly vibrant parish that celebrates the rich ethnic diversity of its parishioners. The church came alive and I certainly was thrilled that I was there to film this.

So this summer I have been given the challenge and the grace to reflect upon those who strive not let expectations and limitations hold them back and hopefully, when I have something difficult ahead of me, as Tony said, “Just think of me!” Thanks Tony, I will!

New York Times Travel Show 2013

New York Times Travel Show

New York Times Travel Show

Arthur FrommerThundering Waterfalls of the Caribbean, the Golden Buddha of Thailand, The Great Wall of China…imagine being in the center of it all! One of my most coveted possessions is the press pass I receive each year for the New York Times Travel Show (even though my name was spelled incorrectly, I think they meant it for me)! This show feeds my wanderlust while keeping me up with the latest technology and trends of the travel world. One can meander through the aisles from continent to continent sampling foods, listening to musical accompaniment while many happy people share the most unique characteristics of their countries. Concurrently, there are one hour workshops happening from 10am – 5pm in three different conference rooms on the lower level of the Jacob Javits Convention Center. So many wonderful decisions to be made. So many wonderful connections to be made! During this week, I will be going through all of my notes and passing along a synthesis of the many workshops I attended.

After visiting the elegant American Express Lounge for a cappuccino planning session as to what should come first, no one can go wrong with this father and daughter team… Arthur and Pauline Frommer always share such valuable information and I have provided the link for each recommendation. The following are companies offering customized experiences: Vayable.com,
UrbanAdventures.com, Gidsy.com, HomeFood.it . Small Group Tours are offered by: Intrepid Travel, G Adventures, Djoser Tours and adventure consultants are Adventure Center, Adventure Link. Short volunteer vacations are provided by: Parismina Turtles.org, Give The Kids The World , British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, Colorado Trail Foundation while companies specializing in longer volunteer vacations are Global Volunteers, Earthwatch, Vaughan Systems, American Hiking Society. In order to get the best airfares, they suggested the following sites: Hipmunk.com, DoHop.com, Momondo.comm. Booking on a Tuesday or Wednesday, six weeks in advance seems to provide the best prices. Non-direct flights and two one way tickets may be cheaper. It is such a smart move to follow your favorite airline and hotels on Twitter and Facebook since they are competing with Orbis and Kayak so they will offer discounted deals to their followers but they may only last for a few hours so this way, you will always get the notification. TripTwit will add in this. If you are daring and would like to break out of the hotel box, VROB, Flipkey.com, Endlessvacations.com, Air B&B offer homes and apartments to rent. often directly from the owner. As far as the airlines go, it is so disheartening that Spirit is now charging for bags going in the overhead compartment while SouthWest and Jet Blue have resisted many of the extra check in charges.
Arthur and Pauline are both gifted speakers and are consummate professionals in the travel industry. Their website is one to definitely bookmark while waiting for the 2014 show date to be announced!

Stay tuned…much more information is forthcoming!

The Women of Villa El Salvador and Ways For Us All To Touch




















There are some things that we just instinctively know. For instance, I know that I will NEVER drive a car through the streets of Lima. Four lane highways, people moving from the far right to the far left, often never attempting to let anyone else know their intentions. It makes New York driving seem like a day at the beach! So, I took in the sights from the back seat of a stick shift, missing one windshield wiper “classic” red volkswagen while the woman who was driving was one of the most amazing people I have ever met…Claire Dawson! A women who not only meets everything head on but she does it with unbounded energy and incredible Irish joy ( with a few good” oh feck it” s along the way!) People just gravitated to her…I know I did hoping something would rub off! Claire is a member of the Passionist Sisters and has been working in Villa for over 10 years. She is one of the dynamic and dedicated women working to bring about positive changes for the families. One of the visits Claire and I made was to Maxi’s home. She generously offers a spot for the women to gather and work on their beautiful art. Here, the walls were brown. The light harsh and the few chairs were made of plastic but laid out across the table were cards, stockings, tapestries, Christmas trees etc. All hand done with such care. Each woman working throughout the week and then coming together to share in their collective vision. All contributing to the community rather than their own individual gains. The vibrant colors energized us all. There in that room, each piece held the hope of medical facilities, (they are so in need of the equipment for ultra sounds and mamagrams), educational programs capable of being competitive with larger cities, nutritional programs so that the children will have a place to go and receive a hot meal each day. Irma, Julia, Lali, Luz, Maxi and Amelia formed “Llamkag Warmi” (Women Who Work). Claire then took me to meet Aurora, a small woman who has such an enthusiastic presence. As soon as we got out of the car, she was there to greet us. In ancient times, “Aurora” was the Roman goddess of dawn and here, centuries later, is her namesake certainly bringing new light and new life into the town. She is one member of “Mujeres por la Vida Digna (Woman for a Dignified Life). She, along with Juana, Terodocio, Maria and Alberta, besides working in the day care program, create beautiful traditional Peruvian dolls, again with all the proceeds going to support their program.

A WIN WIN FOR US ALL!
Here is my vision and my hope…that together, we can be a supportive presence for these dedicated women… that even though an ocean separates us, we can all hang a hand made, colorful tapestry in our homes reminding us of how beautiful life can be and how connected we all are. The women sell the following:

Arpilleras (tapestries) – $20.00
Bookmarks – $2.00
Peruvian Doll – $10.00
Christmas cards with Nativity scenes hand stitched – $2.00
Christmas Stockings/ trees for $12.00

If you would like to purchase any of these items in order to support these women, please e-mail me at:
francesanne@msn.com
I would also ask that if you know of anyone who may be interested in joining with us and purchasing items, please pass along this blog posting. MUCHAS GRACIAS!