The Traveling Story Teller

‘Belong Anywhere’, My Experience with Airbnb

on September 3, 2015 in The Traveling Story Teller with no comments by

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I remember when I first learned the meaning of the word community. My grade school teacher instructed the class to draw a circle on a piece of paper. Then she told us that our neighborhood was our community, our circle. We each belonged to our own community, while other people belonged to different ones. When I asked the teacher if I could belong to more than one community, she said no, I could not. My friends and I looked at each other sadly. Not one of us lived in the same neighborhood and according to our teacher that meant we didn’t belong to the same community.

Today, I doubt if anyone would define the word community in such narrow terms. We may have a community that looks much more like a Jackson Pollock painting, with dots and splashes of color all over the globe rather than a simple, isolated circle on a child’s paper.

So when I set out with my daughter on a European trip, I wanted her to experience what dedicated, globetrotters already know: our community is as big as we want it to be, and we really can belong anywhere. Staying at airbnb’s seemed like a natural fit.

“Aren’t you nervous about staying with strangers?” my friends asked me. I had to admit that I was and I scoured the airbnb website looking for places that came highly recommended by others who had already been there. I chose locations that were close to the sights we wanted to see. I also looked for amenities like kitchens, washing machines and WiFi.

When I finally made my choices and requested bookings, the hosts and I emailed back and forth several times. Some of them asked me questions about who I was and why I was traveling and I had lots of questions for them too.

Our first stop was Vancouver and we spent one night in Chan’s Richmond home with its immaculate en suite rooms. Chan was a charming host and we enjoyed several conversations with him at his kitchen table. Pleasant encounters like this one were repeated many times with other hosts.

In Dubrovnik, our host, Maro came to meet us at the Pile gate and helped us carry our luggage. We stayed in his ‘sweet, modern studio’ in what had been his grandmother’s home in the center of Dubrovnik’s Old Town. It turned out to be a perfect location to explore the city and Maro and his sister, Kate were the perfect hosts, giving us great advice on restaurants and sightseeing.

In Venice we stayed at ‘BnB Vale’. This bnb is one of my favorites as it is located in a Venetian palace right on the Grand Canal and is close to all the sights. The palace is an elegant building with marble staircases and fresco paintings on the walls. We even had our own terrace and boat landing right on the canal. Valeria, our host was a wonderful person with a generous, lovely spirit. She served us a delicious breakfast each morning and when we lost a passport she helped us fill out the police report. We couldn’t have done it without her!

Our pleasant, two-bedroom apartment in Verona was the largest bnb we stayed in. Our host, Andrea calls his bnb, ‘Maria Callas’ in honor of the opera festival where Maria Callas made her debut. It’s a five-minute walk to the Roman arena where the festival is held each summer. It’s also an easy walk to Juliet’s House and other sights in Verona.

Next we stayed in Marco’s ‘comfy flat in the center of Milan’. Marco even came to get us at the subway stop when we got lost and he helped us with our bags. The apartment was very comfortable and within walking distance of Milan’s Gothic Cathedral and city center. It also had something that I quickly learned was a novelty, an elevator!

Silvia’s ‘Da Baranin BnB’ in Cinque Terre was worth the climb, but then everything in Cinque Terre is uphill! Da Baranin BnB has lovely views, private patios, nice rooms and a fantastic breakfast with homemade cakes and excellent coffee. Top it all off with a helpful staff and it made for a wonderful stay.

The most adventurous place we rented was in Florence. It was Noel’s artist studio with a beautiful, rooftop view of the Duomo. The studio is in a five-hundred-year-old building that must have been newly constructed when Leonardo was painting his masterpieces. This bnb is not for the faint-hearted, (think camping in the middle of Florence). The studio is up six flights of stairs, the floors are dusty from the plaster walls and the bathroom is tiny. It is however, very charming and historic (the kitchen sink is a roughed-out stone slab) and the view is breathtaking. Oh yes, remember to bring your own towels.

In Paris we stayed in Gilles’ ‘flat in the heart of Le Marais’. This location could not be more picturesque and convenient. We loved Gilles’ compact and efficient studio with its exposed beams and winding staircase. Our window looked down on the cobblestone courtyard with its wide doors leading out to the street. Originally the doors were built large enough to allow for the carriages of the aristocratic noblemen who lived in this neighborhood in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

In London we stayed in two different places and the experiences were completely different. Manthe’s Chelsea studio was much nicer but Glenn’s private room with a shared bath in Soho was a better location. The Book of Mormon was at the Prince of Wales Theater just around the corner and it was a two-minute walk to Piccadilly Station. I was initially nervous about sharing a bathroom with strangers but it turned out fine. Be forewarned, the water didn’t always work well in the mornings.

At the end of the day, did we have any negative experiences or safety issues with airbnb? Not one. Would I stay with airbnb again? Absolutely. What I learned was that while the locations and amenities of airbnbs are important, the most important thing by far are the people, the hosts who made us feel right at home. We experienced firsthand that we weren’t just renting a room. We were making local connections, making true friends and expanding our community one bnb at a time.

How Travel Makes Us Richer

on August 22, 2015 in The Traveling Story Teller with no comments by

After many years of dreaming about it, my daughter and I finally take a summer trip to Europe together. For months, this trip has been all I could think about. Along with trying to stuff as many things as possible into a tiny suitcase, I try to cram as many cities and events into our schedule as possible. At some point though, I did stop and wonder, ‘Why are we doing this? Why do we travel? Why pull ourselves away from the comforts of home and familiar habits and allow ourselves to be thrown happily and sometimes recklessly into the unknown?’ On this trip, I hope to find an answer.

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In Italy we are charmed by romantic Venice and we spend a lazy morning feeding the pigeons in the Piazza San Marcos. As I watch the birds surround my daughter, I can’t help but wonder how much history the thousands of generations of pigeons have witnessed. Maybe they saw Casanova escape through the roof of his prison cell or witnessed Lord Byron swim the length of the Grand Canal. They must have seen Marco Polo’s ship sail into the harbor, bringing his exotic tales from the east. Maybe they witnessed Michelangelo’s disappointment as he lost the contest to design the famous Rialto Bridge. They may have even caught a glimpse of Hemingway as he sat writing or drinking whiskey at one of the glossy, walnut tables in Harry’s Bar.

In Verona, the city that inspired Romeo and Juliet, stands a Roman Arena once used for gladiator fights and for throwing Christians to the lions. Walking down the darkened stone corridors into the belly of the Arena we can still feel the overwhelming power that was Rome. We enter the Arena in our finest clothes, just as the Romans must have done to watch their entertainments, but instead of bloody combat, we are here to watch a lavish production of the opera, Aida. Everything is larger than life here: massive, glistening, gold pyramids, blue and gold sphinxes and giant pharaohs tower over the stage with the arches of the arena lit up against the night sky. Despite the sweltering heat of summer, the emotion-filled voices singing of love and despair give me chills and bring me to tears.

Milan is a peaceful, pleasant city. Here, Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper is housed in what was once the Dominican monk’s dining hall of Santa Maria Delle Grazie. The price of our ticket allows us fifteen minutes. I envy the monks who saw Leonardo’s masterpiece at every meal. The painting is serene and resilient but doesn’t give up its secrets easily. As we are leaving, we learn that Leonardo da Vinci had a house and garden just next door and he lived there for twenty-three years. Now on the site of his garden, they are cultivating the variety of grapes he grew five hundred years ago. They hope to produce the very wine Leonardo drank. ‘A good reason to return to Milan,’ I think.

On our way to Florence, we find the five tiny, fishing villages known as Cinque Terre. The houses are built into the sheer rocks and cliffs with thousands of terraces of grapes and olives beyond. It’s a magical, colorful place, a good place to rest.

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Finally in Florence, the rooftop terrace of our five hundred year old building, now an airbnb, offers an incredible view of Brunelleschi’s dome. The seven flights of stairs are worth the climb and I sit on the terrace at night with a bottle of wine. I’m even serenaded from the street below. One night it was carnival music, another night it was classical from a nearby concert, and on the last night it was drunken love songs sung in Italian accompanied by an equally drunk accordion player. Beyond Florence, we love Tuscany with its fields of sunflowers, rolling hills, wine tasting and food. Despite being certain that we will tire of pasta, we never do.

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We take a side trip to visit beautiful Dubrovnik in Croatia. How surprised the medieval builders would be to learn that the city with its massive, sea wall and splendid views has been turned into a giant stage for the filming of King’s Landing in Game of Thrones. From the battles of Blackwater Bay to Queen Cersei’s walk of atonement, the fantasies of today and the historical events of the city sometimes mirror each other. At the end of the day, there’s even a chance to sit on the Iron Throne.

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From this point on our trip is mostly about art (and occasionally shopping).
We try to see it all: from Leonardo’s lovely faces to Botticelli’s fantasies, from Monet’s gardens to Cezanne’s oranges, and from Picasso’s experiments to street artists hoping someone will discover them.

In Paris we visit the rock star of the art world, Mona Lisa. After hurrying down a long corridor of ignored masterpieces, we find her surrounded by an international mob. Some tourists stand and stare at her. Others push and shove to get to the front of the crowd and take obnoxious selfies. A few pull back and look at the painting from afar. I work my way through the crowd and have a brief moment at the front before the overworked security guards, who look more like bouncers at a posh, European nightclub than museum guards, make everyone move. Some visitors refuse to budge. I can’t blame them. After all, Mona Lisa is Leonardo’s beloved creation with a thousand secrets and he carried her with him until the day he died. My daughter and I give up fighting the crowd and move to the side. Reluctantly, after an hour in her benevolent gaze, we leave.

Our trip is nearing an end and I’m beginning to understand why we travel. After five weeks on the road, we are not the same people we were when we left. Travel allows us to fill our lives with adventure. It gives us unlimited opportunities to experience a dream. We have a chance to reap the world’s riches for inspiration and return home to create something wildly different and new. We take the kindness, charm and humor of the people we meet along the way and bring the memories home with us. We leave some of ourselves behind too. And despite the money we spend, we are far richer towards the end of our travels than we were at the beginning.

We still have a few days left, so after leaving Paris, we head to London. We take in everything we can, from a five-hundred-year-old comedy at Shakespeare’s Globe to Sherlock’s fictional haunts, from the gold-encrusted gates of Buckingham Palace to Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs. And London serves to remind us that sometimes, travel is just about having as much fun as possible.
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What Do Writers Have in Common?

on May 25, 2014 in Creative Life, The Traveling Story Teller, Writing the Wave with no comments by

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I attended my first writer’s conference in 2001. I didn’t really know what to expect but I was excited to meet other writers and I assumed that we would have a lot in common. After all, we shared an obsession with writing and we were all trying to get published for the first time. One thing I was sure of was that I would find new friends with lots of shared interests.

That first morning, I put on a new dress and stuffed my manuscript in a shoulder bag which I quickly decided was far too heavy to carry around all day. I took it with me anyway and stood in line to purchase tickets for one-on-one consultations with agents and publishers. The tickets were expensive and the consultations were to last only ten minutes, but we shelled out the money anyway. As I surveyed the crowd, I was sure I would find kindred spirits here.

We entered the hotel ballroom that had been converted into a large waiting area and I was hit with a wall of desperation, the barely controlled energy of a thousand people frantically hoping to be discovered. Some prayed silently for a chance to be in print. One woman fingered a rosary. Others talked nervously to anyone who happened to be nearby. I took it all in, wondering how long I could tolerate this frenzied energy before I passed out.

To keep myself conscious, I asked people standing around me about their writing projects. One nervous man confided that he was writing about a love affair with goats.

“Do you think that’s too much?” he asked me.

I wracked my brain to think of something positive to say. “It all depends on the writing,” I said finally.

He was satisfied with that and left me to find someone else with a different opinion.

An elderly woman with a soft voice tapped my arm, “And what are you writing about, dear?” she asked me.

“My twelve years living in Tokyo.” I answered. “How about you?”

She looked at me with sudden disapproval. “I don’t like foreign books. I’m only interested in my family history. I can’t imagine wasting time on anything else. But I can’t talk about the details of my manuscript,” she whispered. “Someone might steal my ideas.”

“Well, I’m sure no one knows your family history as well as you do,” I said.

She nodded curtly and narrowed her eyes in suspicion before drifting away to speak to someone else.

I can’t remember the topic the next person was writing about, but I do remember thinking to myself that it was the last subject in the world I would ever write about.

That’s when I noticed that the woman in front of me had a small cockroach crawling in and out of her dreadlocks. I contemplated how to handle this situation without making a scene.

Finally I touched her on the shoulder and said, “There’s a little bug in your hair, let me remove it for you.” I brushed the cockroach onto the floor, certain that no one had seen it.

Suddenly the woman’s companion, a pale, nearly hysterical man began screaming, “That’s a cockroach. Oh my God. There was a cockroach in your hair!”

The woman shook out her dreadlocks and thanked me. “Well, now I feel right at home,” she joked.

I laughed and nodded. No one else laughed.

I wanted to talk to her further but it was time for her to enter the consultation room where bells sounded every ten minutes, reminding the writers inside that their consultations were over. She hurried inside, abandoning me beside her anxious companion who was suddenly embarrassed and refused to speak to me.

Later that day, I met a large, muscular man who resembled a drill sergeant. He was writing about his experiences as a recovering psychotic. By recovering, he meant that he still heard voices and saw visions but he managed to cope with them. I was leery at first, but soon discovered that he was the sanest person I had ever met. “I know exactly where my insanity lies,” he told me. “Not many people can say that.”

Next I met a gray-haired man who flirted with me and tried to steal the credit card out of my purse while pumping me for writing ideas. He laughed apologetically when I confronted him. “Writer’s conferences are the best places to steal ideas,” he told me, as if I should have figured that out already.

That’s when I took refuge with the poets. We sat in one corner of the lobby, segregating ourselves from the crowd of writers who were talking loudly on dozens of different topics. A few historical fiction writers sat down with us, basking in the calm of our relatively quiet group.

Since then I’ve managed to find several good friends who are writers and I’ve come to the realization that what writers share doesn’t have much to do with writing at all. What we have in common is the fact that we are all storytellers at heart. We all have an important story to tell. We have an intense desire to be heard. And each one of us has the right to our own unique, creative voice, no matter what topic we write about.

I take my hat off to all published and aspiring writers. We share a unique journey in which we create, inform, entertain and inspire. Like the storytellers of old who traveled from village to village delighting people with their words, we are an extremely valuable segment of society and just maybe, we have more in common than we think we do.

A Tribute to Gabriel Garcia Marquez: How Magical Realism Changed My Life

on April 18, 2014 in Creative Life, Latest News, The Traveling Story Teller, Writing the Wave with 1 comment by

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I didn’t expect my life to change when I entered the sparsely-furnished, literature classroom at the Universidad de Veracruz in Xalapa, Mexico.  The long-haired, political-activist professor who arrived late was a bit of a surprise, but that would pale in comparison to the stories and novels he was about to introduce us to.

We didn’t have any books.  Instead the professor handed out faint, mimeographed pages containing the stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, master of magical realism and literary journalism.  We read them aloud while our professor became increasingly animated in his enthusiasm, pausing only to push the hair from his eyes.  As the stories came alive, we realized that this level of learning could not be contained to a bare and dusty classroom.  Some of us accompanied the professor to a series of cafes around town, drinking beer until we were tipsy, talking for hours and filling our hungry souls with the delicious adventures of shipwrecked sailors, old Caribbean soldiers, ethereal beauties and the ghosts who coexist with the living only because they are too stubborn to succumb to death.

The world of magical realism was an epiphany and I suddenly realized that life was not the black and white, cut and dried reality I had learned in hometown America.  A whole new world opened up in which the supernatural, the spiritual and the physical all coexisted in an exotic mélange that changed my view of life forever.

This epiphany was to set me on a lifelong pursuit for adventure, travel and opportunities to experience different cultures; a continual thirst to see the world through different eyes and to write about it.  For the first time I had been given license to be the person I really wanted to be.  The magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez had given me the freedom to soar.

When I ran home after class and told the senora in the house where I lived about my discovery, she handed me a succulent plateful of carne de res, arroz and the bright red flower petals known as colorin.   I told her how wonderful it was to read about a world that was turned upside down but that made so much sense at the same time.  She looked at me with a dry expression, “Es normal,” she said.  “That’s how we all see the world.”

Her comments made me smile.  I borrowed an antique typewriter and with senora’s blessing, I started writing my first, full-length novel on her kitchen table.  The family’s elderly, maiden aunt, Tia Pilar showed up even before I was finished with page one.  “I will keep you company while you finish your task,” she explained. “We will be like sisters every afternoon.”  True to her word, she showed up each day to sit nearby fingering her rosary, while my own fingers tapped on the typewriter keys.  She only stopped coming when I had finished the last page.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez opened my young mind to the unlimited possibilities of imagination, creativity and diverse cultural experience.  It was one of the greatest gifts I have ever received and in a very real way it changed the course of my adult life forever.  So today, as I pay homage to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I dust off my tattered copies of his books, open One Hundred Years of Solitude and begin to read.  Here once again is the band of ragged gypsies who arrived in the mythical, Caribbean town of Macondo, bringing with them the learned alchemist, Melquiades.  In turn, Melquiades brought the first magnets that anyone had ever seen in Macondo.

The gypsy dragged the enormous magnets behind him through the streets of the town while “pots, pans, tongs and braziers tumbled down from their places,” and followed him down the street.

“‘Things have a life of their own,’ the gypsy proclaimed with a harsh accent.  ‘It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.’”

 

 

Irish Ghosts: Searching for Family in Ireland

on March 29, 2014 in The Traveling Story Teller with no comments by

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My ancestors hail from eight different countries and three separate continents, yet my Irish ties have always held a special fascination.  Maybe it’s because my Irish relatives are so colorful and they tell such good stories.  Whatever the reason, I’d always imagined that my Irish ancestors were somehow bigger than life.  On my first trip to Ireland, I’m hoping to find out if this is true.

Upon arriving in Dublin, the first thing I am aware of is that I am the foreigner here and I’m not comfortable with that.  I wanted to feel at home, to be welcomed by the somehow familiar faces of ghosts.  Instead, I see retired Americans fulfilling a life-long dream and young parents proudly herding their red-headed offspring through museums and castles.  I’m surprised to discover that they have come for much the same reason I have.  They are all a little sheepish and apologetic about it.  They have no explanation for the strong pull that Ireland has always had on them.  Seems my journey is not so unusual after all.

I drive across Ireland alone, something which is viewed as not only strange here, but downright shocking.  In the countryside, the dominant colors are the emerald green of the rolling hills and the comforting blue of the Irish sky.  My eyes ache from straining to catch sight of every thatch-covered cottage and meandering stone wall.  I pass ring forts and round towers, monasteries and castles.

Contrary to all predictions, it does not rain.  The whole country has a clean, smoky smell from the peat fires.  It reminds me of my Irish grandmother’s house.  Am I making this trip for her, I wonder.

I stop to visit the crumbling stone walls of a “famine village.”  A man in a tweed coat and cap explains to me that everyone in this village perished during the great famine.  Even though the potato famine occurred more than 150 years ago, he makes it sound like a current event.

“Many also died on the coffin ships trying to cross the seas,” he recalls.  He pauses, then adds, “We keep their blackened cooking pots, out of respect for those who died.”

I thank him for the information and travel on to the next hotel.  The woman behind the desk seems more curious than most.  She asks me the usual questions: “Why are you in Ireland…and why are you alone?”

She immediately begins talking about the living relatives I must have somewhere in Ireland.  I had not been thinking about the possibility of relatives in the present; all this time, I had only been searching for my past.  She asks question after question but I have few answers.

“Don’t you have any old letters?  Don’t you know what county your family came from?”

“No,” I admit, mumbling something about some letters that may exist with some distant relatives back east.  How can I explain to her that we were the transient ones who moved west and then west again and again, each time leaving behind little trace of ourselves?

“You must find out,” she says.  Finally, she pauses and then continues, “I didn’t want to say anything at first, but you are the spitting image of my great-great aunt.  You even have the same name.  It’s even spelled the same way.  And she had three brothers who emigrated to America.  We may be cousins!”

We exchange addresses and she promises to send me a photograph of my twin who she claims even had similar interests, mannerisms and gestures.  “Your voice sounds just like hers and you even walk the same way,”  she says.  I have to wonder, Is this the ghost I’ve been looking for: a mirror image of myself?

With my trip nearing its end, I reach the Cliffs of Moher.  I stand on the precipice and stare out across the Atlantic.  I think of my ancestors leaving the land they loved, saying goodbye to families they would never see again.  I think of their dreams and their promises to return one day.  In that instant, the reason for my trip becomes clear to me.  Along with my Irish hair and Irish eyes, I have also inherited my ancestors’ unfulfilled promises.  This is a journey I have made for them.

I return to Dublin and spend one final night.  Then on my final taxi ride to the airport, the driver asks me about my trip.  I tell him that I drove around Ireland by myself.

“You must be mad!  A woman shouldn’t drive around Ireland by herself”  He ignores the whizzing lanes of traffic in front of him to turn around and look at me.  “You must be mad,” he says again.

When he’s recovered from the shock, he tells me about all the places I missed, places that do not seem to be in any guidebook.

“You’ll just have to come back,” he says and he doesn’t let the matter rest until I have promised to return.

 

 

An Unintentional Pilgrimage: The Anne Frank House

on March 27, 2014 in The Traveling Story Teller with no comments by

 

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Traveling is often an unintentional pilgrimage.  This was especially true of my trip to Amsterdam several years ago.  On the first day, I went through my guidebook and checked off all the tourist sites I planned to visit: the museums, the flower markets and oh yes, the Anne Frank House.  I had almost forgotten about that.  I made a check by the entry.  Then I underlined it and decided to go there first.

As I set off in search of the house, I realized that Anne Frank’s diary was one of the most important books of my childhood.  I remembered the photograph of Anne on the front cover.  It was Anne’s favorite because she thought it made her look like a glamorous, Hollywood movie star.  And I remembered Anne’s bright, optimistic vision for the future.

The tall, narrow houses on Prinsengracht canal all looked the same, but the Anne Frank House was easy to spot.  A long line of people waited outside.  As I took my place at the end, I realized that most of the people in line were women.  None of us spoke the same language, but all of us had read Anne Frank’s diary and all of us were on this unintentional pilgrimage together.

Finally the line moved.  We entered the building which housed Otto Frank’s business.  He sold pectin for jams and jellies and spices for meats and sausages.  We climbed a steep Dutch staircase, stepped through the revolving staircase and we were in the “Secret Annex” where Anne, her family and four others hid for over two years.

Traces of the family remain but there is no longer any furniture in the rooms.  The Nazis took it all after the family was arrested and shipped it to Germany.  On the day the Dutch police discovered their hiding place, the arresting officer grabbed the bag in which Anne kept her diary and schoolbooks.  He dumped the contents on the floor and filled the bag with money and jewelry.  After the family was arrested and taken away, Miep Gies, the helper who brought them food from the black market, saved the diary, planning to return it to Anne after the war.

In the living room of the Secret Annex there are some faded marks on the doorframe where Anne’s father measured her height.  She grew several inches despite the moldy beans, preserved kale and potatoes, which was often all they had to eat.  A map on the wall marks the advancing Allies as reported over their secret radio.  The space above Anne’s desk is still decorated with her favorite postcards: Hollywood movie stars and a young Princess Elizabeth of Great Britain.  Through a crack in the window we could see the Westertoren clock and a chestnut tree, Anne’s only view of the outside world.

My fellow pilgrims and I huddle around a glass case which contains the original diary bound in red-and-white plaid cloth.  The fragile lock is broken open.  Many women are tearful.  Everyone is moved.  No one speaks.  We feel grief over the tragedy of Anne’s life.  But we are also in awe of the power of a single voice, Anne’s voice to reach countless millions across several generations, and in over one hundred languages with her vision of hope and compassion.

On the wall is a list of “Judentransport,” which names all the people on that last train out of Holland bound for Auschwitz.  Halfway down the list we find number 309: Frank, Anneliese.  Anne and her family were sent to Auschwitz where her mother and the other occupants of the “Secret Annex” were killed.  Anne and her sister were later moved to the concentration camp at Bergen Belsen where Anne died in March, 1945, just a few weeks before the Allies liberated that camp.

My fellow pilgrims and I leave the Anne Frank House trying to comprehend the contrast between the unimaginable horrors of Anne’s final months and her  powerful, unshaken faith in humanity when she wrote, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”  – Anne Frank died sixty-nine years ago this month.

 

 

The Monk by the Side of the Road

on March 9, 2014 in The Traveling Story Teller with no comments by

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This happened many years ago as I was waiting for a bus on a dusty road in Thailand.   It was early in the morning and I’d left two hours earlier than I needed to, hoping that the bus wouldn’t be too crowded at this time of day.  The bus was late, as usual and a Buddhist monk dressed in orange robes sat down next to me on the bench.

 

I had two oranges in my bag so I offered him one.  I wasn’t sure if he would take it from me but he took it graciously.  “One must always say yes to everything,” he said in English.

 

I smiled and nodded.  “Is that really possible?”

 

“Imperative,” he laughed.

 

“Saying yes to life, even to adversity, teaches us joy.  You are learning joy,” he said.

 

“How can you tell?”

 

He didn’t answer my question.  Instead he said, “In the future you will learn to stop worrying.  You will learn to live in the present moment but when you do this, do not forget to bring the beauty of your future dreams into your present moment.  Do not forget to bring happy memories of the past into your present moment.  This combination is the true meaning of present moment and of joy.”

 

I saw my bus coming down the street.  “Why are you telling me this?”

 

He laughed.  “To thank you for the orange.”

I boarded the bus but the monk remained seated on the bench.  “That’s not my bus,” he explained.

 

As the bus pulled away, I turned to the driver and asked if there was another bus on this road.  “No, the driver said.  This is the only bus.”

 

I looked out the broken window of the bus but the monk had left the bench and was walking down the street in the opposite direction.  I never saw him again.

Telling Ghost Stories to Dogs

on January 30, 2014 in The Traveling Story Teller with no comments by

From time to time we all wonder why we were put on this earth and I love the way everyone comes up with a different reason.  From the day I picked up a yellow pencil and scratched out my first sentence, I was convinced that I was put on this earth to write, to be a storyteller. From that day on I scribbled stories and fifteen-page, magnum opus novels.  I terrorized the neighborhood children with delicious ghost stories, until the adults begged me to stop.  After that I only told my scary tales to our partially deaf dog.   At least she never developed chronic insomnia.   I outlined adventure stories in my head when I was supposed to be paying attention in class.  I scrawled notes on everything.  And for the past thirty-five years, I’ve even been writing novels in my sleep.

So after thirty-five years of serious writing, four years of extensive research, loads of supportive friends, five publishers, three, almost successful book deals and one unethical agent whose name I can’t remember, The Wife of John the Baptist is finally published and available on Amazon!   

I know, I know John the Baptist isn’t supposed to have a wife but after all that research, what I discovered was that he probably did have a wife.  As a man of the rabbi class, he was expected to marry before his thirtieth birthday.  And according to Jewish tradition, ‘a wife was necessary to keep a rabbi out of trouble’.  Who can argue with that?  Besides the character of John’s wife in my novel is charming, wonderful and hopelessly flawed and I just love her.

So I’m very excited to announce that The Wife of John the Baptist is finally available at amazon.com in paperback and Kindle.   This book means everything to me and I can’t wait to share it with the world.  Since word of mouth is so important, I wonder if you would be willing to share this information with all the readers in your life.  And if you want to buy a copy, that would be awesome!  I’ll even autograph it for you.   Aloha!  K.

Amazon