Things to pack, clearing customs, and the story of the most expensive Princess Diana plates in the world!

When traveling, some of the most IMPORTANT things to pack are not things, but attitudes. Some of the most valuable are: A sense of humor Patience A positive attitude Charm Courage In my second blog entry I left off in my first journey to Africa, to Zimbabwe in 1997. I will pick up where I left off, which will begin to explain how I cultivated these attitudes as I went. Sunday November 23, 1997 630am Zim time On Air Zimbabwe flight headed to Harare where I saw lots of carved out pieces of land, green, beige, or red like Georgia clay. Mostly agricultural looking but as we approached Harare, I saw more buildings and ... [Read More]

Mormons, Beer, Sundance and Snow

Many know Utah only as the mountainous area you cross to get to California. Others know it merely as “that place with all the Mormons.” In the days after my Utah trip a half-dozen otherwise sophisticated friends asked me if “the Mormons” (gasp!) had managed to convert me. Their eyebrows crawled heaven-ward when I said the subject never even came up. So prevalent are the misconceptions of this place that when I mentioned I was attending the Sundance Film Festival, few could believe it was actually held in Utah, convinced that the world’s top indie film showcase must surely be held someplace more hip, like Colorado or New Mexico, right? ... [Read More]

What Soo Won’t Do in Boracay

My wife is one of those rare people who will bravely keep pace with whatever lunatic idea I concoct, unhesitatingly jumping off cliffs, plunging into water teeming with sharks or cuddling live king cobras. It’s one of the reasons I fell for Soo, and I’ve never found anything she wouldn’t do. Until now. We’re in Boracay, one of the 7,000+ islands in the Philippine archipelago. We’re here because I’m occasionally insufferable. I recently read a Travel & Leisure article rating Boracay as the “World’s Best Island.” That such a title had been bestowed on a place I’d never even heard of, much less visited, annoyed me to no ... [Read More]

Wine, Waves & Flies

  Eight centuries ago the Spanish town of Girona had to choose between being infested with flies or infested with French. They went with flies. It was in the year 1285. The story goes that during the Aragonese Crusade Girona fell to French forces, who immediately set off for the collegiate of Saint Felix, where lay the uncorrupted body of the city's patron saint, St. Narcissus. Legend has it that to celebrate their victory the French soldiers desecrated the body of the revered holy man. Suddenly a horde of flies appeared and swarmed the French. According to the graphic description by Bernat Desclot, a monk from Ripoll who "jotted ... [Read More]

Hit by a Tram in Prague

I recall stepping out into a Prague street. I recall lying on my back, staring up into the underside of a tram as pain seared through my body. I just don’t recall what happened in between. It turns out that just before strolling out onto Vyšehradská Street, a one-way thoroughfare near our hotel, I looked right, into traffic, to ensure the way was clear. Being a one-way street I didn’t look left. An unfortunate oversight since next to the three one-way lanes there was a tram lane, heading the opposite direction, with a huge tram bearing down on me at full speed. I stepped  directly into its path. My ... [Read More]

Cancun – Setting Your Senses on Fire

  Once you’ve soaked up enough of the Cancun sun that your burned skin begins to bubble, it’s probably time to go home. Fried skin aside, there was little about this trip we didn’t enjoy. (And Soo even enjoyed my sunburn. Ever sympathetic, this was merely a new toy, something irresistible to play with, like an unused roll of bubble wrap.) That I am lousy at sunbathing is no surprise; I’m not good at very much. Drinking, however, is a strong suit. When a friend repeatedly moans “What did you do to my husband?!” you know you’ve accomplished something meaningful. Such was the case our first night on the Mayan ... [Read More]

Bowing in the Dark

The protocols for bowing in Asia are far more complicated and confusing than most Westerners, me included, can possibly understand. In Japan the meaning of a bow totally depends on the situation, depth, and length of time you hold your bow. Types of bow include the “Nod Bow,” which is about 5 degrees, the “Greeting Bow,” which is about 15 degrees, the “Respect Bow,” about 30 degrees and the “Highest Respect Bow,” which is an uncomfortable 45 degrees. When you’re born into a culture that’s been working out these details for a couple of thousand years, it’s all pretty clear. When you’re born in a Baptist hospital in ... [Read More]

Chicago Wins

Sarah Bernhardt referred to Chicago as the “pulse of America.” Frank Lloyd Wright mused that “eventually Chicago will be the most beautiful great city left in the world.” And Dan Quayle once called Chicago one of America’s “greatest states” (really). Whatever your take, it’s clear the metropolis anointed “the most livable big city in the US” may also be the most likeable. Unless, of course, you’re a Braves fan. Go Cubs Go, the official “Cubs Victory Song” written by Chicago folk legend Steve Goodman, includes the lines “They got the power, they got the speed, to be the best in the National League!” Well, not so much. But they ... [Read More]

Sarawak, Telok Paku, and other places you’ve never heard of

Yellow pants are rarely a good idea. In fact, I cannot recall a single occasion in my life at which I’ve paused and thought to myself, “Dear me, if only I had some yellow pants.” I suppose they’d come in handy were I to be possessed of a sudden urge to pee myself or if I wanted to sit on a park bench during Atlanta’s pollen season. But on all other occasions, I’ll pass on yellow pants. Residents of Sarawak, Malaysia’s easternmost state, disagree. Yellow is the royal color, and locals apparently believe the very best way to show national pride is to cloak your bum in ... [Read More]

Penniless in a Hong Kong Typhoon

I arrived in Hong Kong to notification from American Express that there had been fraud on my account (unsurprisingly as a result of my recent El Salvador trip) and they had helpfully cancelled my card. This was irritating, but in typical AMEX-efficient fashion they promised to have me a new card within days, and I could survive until then on my debit card. SunTrust cancelled the debit card the next day. Since I only travel internationally every single month, SunTrust decided my Hong Kong usage must be fraud and blocked my card. The mindless twits at SunTrust didn’t trouble themselves to notify me of this, or even to ... [Read More]