Tag Archives: international

Photo Friday: Frankfurt

The European Central Bank – I like the reflection of the historic building in the windows
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We arrived in Frankfurt by train from Berlin bright and early. We thought this would just be a quick stop on our way to the airport.

We were exhausted from all of our adventures, so we thought we would finally step foot on a tour bus for the first time this trip. We realized that we had not been in a car during the entire journey! How refreshing!

We took the train from our hotel near the airport, to the main train station, with the idea of hopping on a tourist bus. But when we got to the tourist information center, the woman informed us that Frankfurt is small enough to walk.

So, we set out on foot to explore the city. And we loved it!

We were too tired to go into any actual museums or anything, so we spent the day like locals.

We ate bratwurst from a stand outside the train station, walked through the city taking in the mix of old and new, ate pastries by the river, and finished the day in a residential neighborhood with one of the most authentic meals we had the entire trip.

The Bratwurst stand outside the train station where we had lunch
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We did not consult a guide book for the first time in weeks, and just enjoyed exploring the city without plans or agenda. It was decadent.

What struck me most about Frankfurt was the contrast of history and progress. Castles stand side by side on the same street with sky scrapers.

An Occupy Frankfurt demonstration outside the Central European Bank illustrated the ongoing debate about the European Union and Germany’s role in the Union.

It was delightful to experience the city without feeling like tourists. My favorite part had to be simply sitting outside in a residential area we discovered and watching the world go by. I hope we get to return and do more of that.

I feel so fortunate to have been able to take this trip. It was an extraordinary opportunity to visit places with such rich history. The museums and cafes and food and lifestyle were simply seductive. I must go back.

But for now, I will have to survive by looking back at some of my favorite photos. Here are my favorites from Frankfurt.

Castles next to skyscrapers – A great reminder that we don’t have to tear down the old to make way for the new
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The Occupy Frankfurt demonstration
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A cafe outside the Opera House
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One of the signs from the Occupy Frankfurt demonstration. I don’t know what it says, but I figure that anything with Millionaire and Democratic on the same sign is probably something I would be interested in
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The view across the river
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The Beer Garden where we had our last meal in Europe. It was a charming neighborhood restaurant where everyone knew each other. Such a perfect ending!
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Flowers from a neighborhood shop
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What do you think? Have you ever been on a trip and just decided to skip all of the tourist attractions and live like a local? When and where? What was that like? If not, does that sound like something that appeals to you or do you feel like if you are going to go somewhere, you have to see the most famous destinations in that location?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.      

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Business, Culture, Economy, Food, History, International, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government, Technology, travel

AMIGOS: Leadership Through Experience

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For one year, from 2008 to 2009, my husband and I lived in Houston, Texas. We lived through Hurricane Ike, which was directly over our house for about 7 hours; finding a copperhead in the bathtub; and a torn pup-ACL. It was not our best year.

But I also found Amigos de las Americas (AMIGOS) when I lived in Houston. I worked for this unique organization for about two years, fundraising to support their international youth leadership programs. This organization really touched me.

The people I met doing this work, from the dedicated and passionate staff at the office in Houston, to the parents and former volunteers who now serve on the board, were some of the most thoughtful and hardest-working people I have ever met. And don’t get me started on the young people who were participating in the programs.

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I had the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua to see the programs in action, which was a special treat. I have shared some of the photos from that trip here and on my new photography website.

This organization is truly unique. When I worked there, we received letters from parents all the time saying that their child left home as an unruly teenager and came back a grown up. This was a consistent refrain from the parents.

Young people came back and talked about how much their world view had expanded from the experience and how it was going to influence the trajectory of their future pursuits. And I have met many former volunteers for whom the program did just that.

I was skeptical about AMIGOS in the beginning. I asked a lot of questions ranging from “Does AMIGOS have a religious bent?” to “Is there government involvement in AMIGOS?” The more I learned about this organization, the more impressed I became.

The intensive training that young people are required to complete in order to participate in the program should be a model for any organization or person doing international development work. The training requires kids to work through issues of cultural awareness and distrust of volunteers from the United States.

One very unique aspect of the AMIGOS program is that it is youth led and driven. Projects in Latin America are run by teenagers and college students who have been volunteers in the program. The training provided to the volunteers who work their way up the ladder to become project staff covers topics that I did not learn about until I was around 30. Topics include critical conversations, supervisory skills and budgeting.

This organization simply does it right.

I thought I would dedicate a post to this inspiring organization, in the hopes that there may be some of you out there with kids in high school or college, who might benefit from this program. Or perhaps you are in high school or college yourself and would like to learn  more.

AMIGOS just came out with a new video that illustrates the great work the organization does year after year. That is what inspired this post. But I encourage all of you to check out this organization’s website to learn more about the organization.

What do you think? What is your favorite non-profit organization and why? Have you heard about AMIGOS and considered sending your child through the program? Would you have fears or concerns about doing this? Did you ever participate in a program like this? What was the best part and what was the worst part?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Education, International, Parenting, Photography, Photos, Poverty, Religion, Stereotypes, travel, Youth Leadership

Photo Friday: Berlin

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Border between East and West Berlin, where the Berlin Wall used to stand. Most of it is torn down now.

After leaving the quaint, but bustling Amsterdam, we took an overnight train to Berlin. We stayed in East Berlin, just down the street from Alexanderplatz, which was really the heart of East Berlin.

After all of the beauty of France, Spain and Holland, East Berlin was striking for its lack of decoration. It was a fascinating place to visit for its history, but the sadness and anger were palpable.

From what we observed, the division between East and West Berlin still exists to this day. We spent the vast majority of our time in East Berlin, going to what we were told was the trendiest neighborhood for dinner and visiting the historic sites.

But it is striking to stand where the wall used to stand and to look to the East and to the West. The East is full of cranes and development, but I couldn’t help feeling that the West kept moving forward while the East was stuck in time.

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Construction in East Berlin

East Berlin feels like a savagely damaged city, just now showing signs of rebirth. The evidence is everywhere, showing a city devastated by war, and then severely restricted and terrorized during the Communist occupation. It is simply tragic.

There is a solemn beauty to the city, however, even in the midst of the melancholy. I share some of my favorite photos here.

For those who would like to read more of the history of Berlin, this 1963 speech by President John F. Kennedy is a powerful denunciation of the communist occupation. When you visit Berlin, you understand this speech much more.

What do you think? Have you been to Berlin? What was your impression? Do you think that East and West Berlin will ever truly integrate? What kind of impact do you think a history like this would have on a culture?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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This has to be one of my favorite photos from the whole trip! I snapped this shot at a metro stop.

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A watchtower over Checkpoint Charlie

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The view from our hotel. You can see the Soviet TV Tower in East Berlin and the tall hotel in West Berlin. The hotel staff told us this was done intentionally by West Berlin to show their strength and contrast.

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An old car in East Berlin

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A powerful holocaust memorial

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A pretzel seller

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Berlin Cathedral

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Chairs in an historic East Berlin Cafe

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You can see the bullet holes in the old buildings

 

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Checkpoint Charlie now

 

 

 

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Filed under Culture, Economy, History, International, Photography, Photos, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Terrorism, travel, Uncategorized, violence, War

Hunger Knows No Borders: Poverty at Home and Abroad

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There is an article in the New York Times this week about the increasing number of people living in poverty in Spain.

The article references the fact that the unemployment rate in Spain is over 50% for young people and that over 20% of families in Spain live in poverty. It tells the stories of people who find themselves forced to search for food in trash bins in order to feed themselves and their families.

It is striking to read about how dire the situation is in Spain right now, especially after having just visited the country. We were blown away by the food and the beauty, but this article makes it clear that there is another, much more tragic, story to be told.

As I read this article, I felt like I was reading about the United States. The article spoke of people who had never been on government assistance who are now accessing food pantries or searching through dumpsters for food.

So frequently, we read an article like this and look at it as an interesting, but sad anecdote from a foreign land. But the truth is, we can see the same thing here in our own back yards every day.

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The recession has had far-reaching implications across the globe. The number of people in the United States who are accessing public benefits has sky-rocketed.

Some people complain about the number of people who are accessing government assistance, including food assistance. I don’t understand this.

If jobs are not available and people are hungry, why would we not be grateful to live in a society where people who have hit rock bottom have a place to go to feed themselves and their children? How can we be so sure that we will not be the next family to come upon hard times, through a loss of a job or through a medical emergency that leaves us financially devastated?

I am honestly baffled and saddened by the lack of compassion in much of the United States during these difficult economic times.

What do you think? Why do you think people are so critical of government efforts to support low-income families? Why do you think people are so quick to judge families who have come upon hard times? How can people be so sure that they will not be the next person to need a little help? And how can we reduce the stigma associated with accepting government assistance so that more people can have a bridge to survive their current hardship in the hopes of eventually getting a job and escaping poverty?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Culture, Economy, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, International, Photography, Photos, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, Role of Government, Stereotypes, travel

Make new friends, but keep the old: The Champs-Elysees

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Arc de Triumphe – Paris, France

There is an article in the New York Times this week about the Champs-Elysees and since, as you will read on Friday, Paris was my very favorite city on our European tour, I felt that I had to write a little bit about this article here.

The article discusses concerns that the Champs-Elysees is becoming too commercialized and mainstream and losing the Parisian joie-de-vivre that defines French culture.

We visited Paris last week and it was love at first sight. Our first tourist destination was the Arc de Triumphe and the Champs Elysees. We walked the entire length of the boulevard and were mesmerized by the luxurious shops and cafes.

We ate the most delicious pastry I have ever tasted – or seen. I wish I had a photo to share with all of you, but this gallery of sweets, which has been in operation since the 1800’s was off-limits to photographers. The word pastry simply does not do justice to this decadent delight.

The New York Times article examines the influence of new chain stores like H&M and Banana Republic opening on the boulevard.

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Champs-Elysees: Paris, France

We did a Rick Steve’s walking tour down the Champs-Elysees and learned that there was a lot of concern when McDonalds opened.

Steves notes that McDonalds was only allowed to open as long as they agreed to paint their arches white and maintain a café feel, including sidewalk tables.

I understand the concern over losing the artistic and luxurious energy of this iconic avenue. And I certainly saw some signs of this deterioration firsthand. But I also saw the future compromising with the past in a way that held some beauty.

It is hard to explain, but as an example, I was absolutely blown away by the Abercrombie and Fitch store. The outside of the store – we did not go inside – was as beautiful as any museum. We did not learn the history of that building, but I have no doubt that it is a place with great historic significance.

Frankfurt was another incredible example of the old meeting the new, where sky-scrapers share a block with castles, which I will share on my Photo-Friday about Germany.

I find myself wondering how I feel about this. It was wonderful to see historic buildings being preserved and put to use rather than destroyed like we are so quick to do here in the United States.

But is it OK to have a McDonalds in a place with such a rich history? Something doesn’t sit well with me about that. Perhaps it is the desire to slow down the rapid pace of change. But can we do that?

What do you think? Do you have issues with historic buildings being put to use for modern-day services? Would you have a problem if a castle turned into a Walmart, even if it maintained the architectural integrity of the original structure? Have you seen any positive examples of old things being repurposed for new uses that could serve as a model for others?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Business, Culture, Economy, Ethics, History, International, Photography, Photos, Politcs, Privatization, Role of Government, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, travel

Photos Galore! Travel Photo of the Year Contest, Travel Theme – Silhouette, Weekly Photo Challenge – Urban

I love the juxtaposition of the photo challenges this week, at least in my photos.

Where’s My Backpack’s Travel Theme this week is Silhouette. You should really go check out her spectacular photos. She has definitely inspired me to take more photos of silhouettes. My silhouette photos are mostly found in nature, but after looking at Ailsa’s photos, I may need to change that.

Here are some of my favorite silhouette photos:

Patagonia, Argentina
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Patagonia, Argentina
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The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge this week is Urban. Most of my photos are of nature, but I was able to unearth a few urban ones, a few of which which I am sharing here:

Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Buenos Aires, Argentina
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Baltimore, MD
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Baltimore, MD
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Please don’t forget to vote in the Bucket List Publications Travel Photo of the Year Contest! There are 18 finalists and I have some stiff competition. I would love your help!

Perito Moreno Glacier – Patagonia, Argentina
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You can vote every day for the next few days. All you have to do is go to see all the finalists and click on this picture and click “like” or share to mark it as your favorite! You can send it to friends and family to encourage them to vote though Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and lots of other ways. It would mean a lot to get your vote!

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

Other Interpretations of the Theme Silhouette:

Travel Theme: Silhouette | Wind Against Current

Travel Theme: Silhouette | Lucid Gypsy

Travel Theme; Silhouette « So where’s the snow?

Travel Theme: Silhouette « East of Málaga

Travel Theme: Silhouette | rfljenksy – Practicing Simplicity

Travel Theme: Silhouette | Autumn in Bruges

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Silhouette | Stephen Kelly Creative

Travel theme: Silhouette | tahira’s

Travel Theme: Silhouettes | Spiritual World Traveler

Travel Theme: Silhouette | mothergrogan

Travel theme: Silhouette | thirdeyemom

travel theme: silhouette | catbird in america

Waiting « primo piano

Travel challenge: Silhouette – dawn in the mist | Have you ever…

Travel theme: Silhouette « Healthcare Updates

Travel Theme: Silhouette | The Retiring Sort

Silhouette in Piazza San Marco | Beyond the Brush

Travel theme ‘Silhouette’ | Campanulla Della Anna

Travel Theme: Silhouette « A year in the Life

Travel Theme: Silhouette « Hunters Holidaying

Urban Silhouettes « Ink.

 

Other Interpretations of the Urban Theme:

 

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Filed under International, Photography, Photos, travel

Travel Photo of the Year Contest and Weekly Photo Challenge – Merge

Perito Moreno Glacier Calafate Argentina (Patagonia)
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Travel Photo of the Year Contest:

Bucket List Publications has chosen this photo as a finalist for their Travel Photo of the Year Contest! There are 18 finalists and I have some stiff competition. I would love your help!

You can vote every day for the next week. All you do is go see all  the finalists and click on this picture and click “like” (with the yellow star under the picture) or share to mark it as your favorite! You can send it to friends and family to encourage them to vote though Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and lots of other ways. It would mean a lot to get your vote!

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge

This week’s weekly photo challenge is a complex one. The topic this week is “merge.” The idea is to show items that don’t quite fit together. Here is my best attempt at this theme:

Deer in Boulder, Colorado
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Baileys on a glacier in Patagonia
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Other interpretations on the theme:

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Awards, Colorado, Photography, Photos, travel, Travel Challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Travel Photo Theme: Signs

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Remote border crossing between Argentina and Chile – Patagonia, Argentina

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign! I have to combine my weekly photo challenge with some Tunes Tuesday worthy lyrics this week. Ailsa at Where’s My Backpack has issued a weekly travel challenge about signs.

I love taking pictures of signs to capture where I have been, so it was hard to choose which photos to include, but here are some of my favorites, followed by the lyrics of a great oldie but goodie song.

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Chalten, Argentina – Trekking Capital of the World

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A famous road stop on the way to Chalten – Patagonia, Argentina

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Rockies Game – Denver, CO

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Pearl Street Mall – Boulder, CO

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Boulder, CO

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Small Village Outside Granada, Nicaragua

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Fells Point – Baltimore, MD

And now, for the Tunes Tuesday worthy lyrics:

Signs
Five Man Electical Band

And the sign said “Long-haired freaky people need not apply” So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why He said “You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do” So I took off my hat, I said “Imagine that. Huh! Me workin’ for you!” Whoa-oh-oh

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

And the sign said anybody caught trespassin’ would be shot on sight So I jumped on the fence and-a yelled at the house, “Hey! What gives you the right?” “To put up a fence to keep me out or to keep mother nature in” “If God was here he’d tell you to your face, Man, you’re some kinda sinner”

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Now, hey you, mister, can’t you read? You’ve got to have a shirt and tie to get a seat You can’t even watch, no you can’t eat You ain’t supposed to be here The sign said you got to have a membership card to get inside Ugh!

And the sign said, “Everybody welcome. Come in, kneel down and pray” But when they passed around the plate at the end of it all, I didn’t have a penny to pay So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign I said, “Thank you, Lord, for thinkin’ ’bout me. I’m alive and doin’ fine.” Wooo!

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign Sign Sign, sign

What do you think? Do you have any funny travel stories about signs? Have you ever been grateful to see a sign?

I hope you will share your thoughts! Thank you for reading!

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Filed under International, Music, Photography, Photos, Travel Challenge

What is the Price of an Educated Child?

Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What are we willing to pay for? That is the question that comes to mind for me when I read Thomas Friedman’s opinion piece in the New York Times called “Average is Over: Part II.”

The article discusses the disconnect between what politicians espouse about keeping jobs in the United States and the current realities facing CEOs whereby, through necessity, work is becoming more globalized every day.

Friedman argues that parents in the United States believe that their child is simply competing with her neighbor or with other kids in the United States, but that that is simply not the case today.

He argues that in a globalized society, kids compete against their peers all over the world. He goes on to say that this insular view of the United States education system is one reason that investment in K-12 education has suffered, because parents are content with the quality of education in their child’s school as compared to the school down the street.

He points out that soon there will be a way for parents to easily compare their child’s school with schools around the world, which he says will enable parents to advocate for better schools with policy-makers.

Photo Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Friedman has a point, but he is missing a significant contributing factor in this discussion – namely, our unwillingness to raise our taxes to invest in our infrastructure. Once we are able to compare our schools with schools around the world, we must also find a way to compare the tax rates between countries.

It is a commonly held belief by many in the United States that our taxes are too high. A blogger friend has written extensively on this subject and you should check out his thoughts when you have a moment. I have also written about this previously.

The fact is, you get what you pay for. Educating our children comes at a cost. Taxes are the price we pay to educate our children, protect our streets from crime and pave our roads, among many other things.

And,really, what price can you place on our children’s future?

What do you think? Why do you think people are so vehemently opposed to higher taxes for better schools? Have you seen your schools suffer as a result of this lack of investment? Do you think that there is a better way in which our tax dollars could be invested?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Business, Campaign Finance, Education, International, Policy, Politcs, Role of Government

Running of the Bulls: Would You Do it?

The Running of the Bulls is this week in Pamplona, Spain. Once again there have been a number of injuries.

The Atlantic reports that this event has been held every year since 1591. A quick search in Wikipedia finds that there have even been 15 deaths since 1910 in this annual event.

The photos are terrifying, yet somehow also alluring.

 This experience is on many bucket lists. And it certainly does seem to be one of the world’s great spectacles and an intruiging cultural event.

I would love to see the event from an apartment above the corridor, but I can confidently say, as someone who has bungee jumped and gone sky diving, I would not have any interest in participating in the actual running.

I am sure my family will be relieved to read that last line, as I have been known to take a risk or two over the years. Maybe I am getting older…or wiser.

What do you think? Would you do it? If money for travel were no object? What makes this event so compelling to so many? What is it that makes people willing to take such enormous risks for an adrenaline rush? Would you want to see it?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

If you liked this, you might also like:

Around the World In 80 Days: Would You Do it?

Is There Room At The Inn? The Eternal Quest for the Perfect Getaway

Romance In Paris: Why Do French Bookstores Continue to Thrive?

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Filed under Culture, Ethics, International, Photography, Photos, social pressures, Stereotypes, travel

Weekly Photo Challenge: Movement and Travel Theme: Night

I thought I would use one post to respond to both the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Movement and the Where’s My Backpack Travel Theme: Night.

First, movement:

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
– Muhammad Ali

Coyright JC Politi Photography

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Next, night:

If the stars should appear but one night every thousand years how man would marvel and stare.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lucerne, Switzerland
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Patagonia, Argentina
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Granada, Nicaragua
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Venice, Italy
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Filed under Culture, International, Photography, Photos, travel, Travel Challenge, Weekly Photo Challenge

The Power of Strengths and Weaknesses: Giving Kids Permission to Just Be

Photo Courtesy of Danny Brown

The old man pointed to a baker standing in his shop window at one corner of the plaza. “When he was a child, that man wanted to travel, too. But he decided first to buy his bakery  and put some money aside. When he is an old man, he’s going to spend a month in Africa. He never realized that people are capable, at any time in their lives, of doing what they dream of.”

“He should have decided to become a shepherd,” the boy said.

“Well, he thought about that,” the old man said. “But bakers are more important people than shepherds.”…

“In the long run, what people think about shepherds and bakers becomes more important for them than their own Personal Legends.”

The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

 

A New York Times article, “Redefining Success and Celebrating the Ordinary” has been on the list of the most e-mailed articles for some time now. This topic fits with the theme of the last few weeks on this blog, so I thought I would explore this issue further.

The article discusses the tendency, at least in the United States, for people to push their children to excel at all levels, filling their time with activities and events which provide further opportunities to compete with their peers.

I am sure many of you read about a commencement speech earlier this year where the speaker told the students that they were not exceptional. The reactions to this speech were heated.

But perhaps the speaker was just trying to give the students permission to find value and define success differently than their parents and society prescribe. Perhaps the speaker was trying to help students understand that it is OK to have both strengths and weaknesses.

The constant drive to compete is positive in many ways. It can lead to innovation and progress.But at what price? Where is creativity encouraged?

What about the artist who is not strong at math or writing, but can compose a symphony or paint a beautiful landscape? Where is the encouragement for this type of success?

Where is the recognition of people who may not be academics, but build and maintain personal relationships better than most?

Part of the stress many of us feel, where people run themselves ragged at all times and fail to disconnect from work, even when on vacation, seems to come from this drive. People think, “If I don’t stay connected, will people think that I am not a hard worker? Will I appear to lack ambition?”

What are we teaching our children with these messages? Are we teaching our children to develop the same neuroses that we have developed, where the prioritization of work over relationships is sorely misaligned?

This problem has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. It is striking to me, how every speech by a major politician is peppered with statements that the United States is the best country in the world.

There are many areas where the United States excels and there are also areas, like healthcare, where the United States has much to learn from the rest of the world. The US has strengths and weaknesses, just like any person or child. And is there really anything wrong with that?

What do you think? What do you think accounts for people’s relentless drive to be the best and to push their children to be the best? Have you dealt with these pressures as a parent or an employee? Do you have any tips for others who would like to readjust their priorities and goals? Do you feel that this drive alienates potential teammates in a workplace or a social environment? Why do you think this issue has gotten so much attention lately? Do you think the intensity of the pressures have increased recently? And if so, why do you think that is?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

 

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Filed under Books, Business, Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, Health, International, Parenting, Peace, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, travel, Women, Youth Leadership

Weekly Travel Theme: Parks

Where’s My Backpack has offered another irresistible photo challenge. This week’s theme is Parks. As an outdoorsy type who lives in Colorado, I have a soft spot in the center of my heart reserved for parks, most specifically for national parks.

Nature’s

Amazing

Triumph

Inspiring

Observant

Notions

About

Life

 

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Peaceful

Awakening

Rejuvenated

Kingly

Spaces

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Filed under Culture, Peace, Photos, Poetry, Role of Government, travel, Weekly Photo Challenge

Does Anyone Care About the Lack of Women in Leadership Positions?

Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An article in The Atlantic magazine entitled “Why Women Can’t Have It All” has spread like wildfire through my Facebook and Twitter feed, and with good reason. The article is long, so give yourself some time if you decide to read it, but it is a chilling account of the difficult choices that women face when deciding where to focus their energies between career and family.

Some might say that chilling is too strong a word to describe this issue, but I would bet that people who would say that are not 40 year old females. This article raised more issues than I can describe in a short blog post. But I will give it my best shot.

It seems that my generation of women has been set up in some ways – entirely unintentionally, but set up for failure nonetheless. Whatever choice a woman makes about where to focus her energies, she pays a price in other areas of her life. And she frequently feels guilt regardless of which choice she made.

Many of my friends focused on establishing themselves in their careers in their 20s and early 30s, which are prime child-bearing years. By the time these women turned their focus to starting a family, after becoming more established in their careers, their biological clocks have frequently run out.

I cannot tell you the number of women I know who have had to turn to medicine to enable them to have children. Aside from the financial expense of taking this route, the emotional toll on a woman and her partner is substantial.

This article argues that if companies and organizations want to have women in leadership positions, things have to change. In addition to the author of the article, who held a high-level position in the State Department, it highlights several other prominent women, including Mary Matalin and Karen Hughes who both made the decision to leave high-level positions because they could not achieve the work-life balance they needed. I applaud the author for her courage in choosing to speak out on this complex and highly-charged subject.

I remember applying for a high level, stressful job several years ago. When asked how long I would expect to stay in the position,  I told the interviewing panel that I would likely stay for a long period of time if I could achieve a good work-life balance in the position. I was the last of two candidates – guess who did not get the job?

This is a fundamental cultural issue. We must begin the conversation now. Perhaps if we start the conversation, younger women will not be faced with the same choices that women of my generation have faced. Companies will have more women in leadership positions and be able to take advantage of the human capital that comes with this. Sounds like a win-win to me!

Some highlights from the article:

The best hope for improving the lot of all women, and for closing what Wolfers and Stevenson call a “new gender gap”—measured by well-being rather than wages—is to close the leadership gap: to elect a woman president and 50 women senators; to ensure that women are equally represented in the ranks of corporate executives and judicial leaders. Only when women wield power in sufficient numbers will we create a society that genuinely works for all women. That will be a society that works for everyone.

Ultimately, it is society that must change, coming to value choices to put family ahead of work just as much as those to put work ahead of family. If we really valued those choices, we would value the people who make them; if we valued the people who make them, we would do everything possible to hire and retain them; if we did everything possible to allow them to combine work and family equally over time, then the choices would get a lot easier.

What do you think? If you are not from the United States, do you feel like women face these same pressures in your country? If not, why not? What ideas do you have to change this dynamic? How can we make corporate and organizational leaders think differently about the lack of female talent in leadership positions? How do we help people understand that there are options that will keep talented individuals for longer periods of time if we just allow for a little more flexibility? Have you or your family faced these challenges? How have you handled them?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Thank you for reading.

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Filed under Career Planning, Culture, Economy, Education, equality, Ethics, Health, Income inequality, International, Parenting, Policy, Politcs, Poverty, Relationships, social pressures, Stereotypes, Technology, Women, Youth Leadership

The Illuminating Blogger Award and Some Illuminating Quotes from the Alchemist

Earlier this week, In Blue kindly nominated me for the Illuminating Blogger Award. I love the Illuminating Blogger image, with a single candle flame burning brightly. Personally, when I stare at a candle for long enough, I find that I am usually illuminated in some way.

Thank you so much to In Blue for the nomination. If you have not checked out her blog yet, please do so. It is a true feast for the eyes and the soul.

The rules for this award are simple. I just need to tell one random thing about myself. One random thing that seems somewhat related to the Illuminating Blogger Award is that Paulo Coelho’s, The Alchemist, is the first and only book I have ever read in one sitting. Many years ago, I read the first few pages of the book and realized I had found a jewel. I turned off my phone, sat on the floor and read straight through, start to finish.

Copyright JC Politi Photography

I thought I would share some of my favorite quotes from this special book (which sits dog-eared and full of underlines on my bookshelf):

Everyone seems to have a clear idea about how other people should live their lives, but none about his or her own.

At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate – that ‘s the world’s greatest lie.

[A Personal Legend is] what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.

When a person really wants something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.

When each day is the same as the next, it’s because people fail to recognize the good things that happen in their lives every day that the sun rises.

The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never forget the drops of oil on the spoon.

We have to take advantage when luck is on our side, and do as much to help it as it’s doing to help us. It’s called the principle of favorability. Or beginner’s luck.

Making a decision is only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he never dreamed of when he first made the decision.

He had loved her before he even knew she existed.

Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way…That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one dies of thirst, just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon.

There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.

That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to be better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.

What do you think? What is your Personal Legend? What books have you read in one sitting? What books do you return to again and again to read what you have underlined or dog-eared?

I would also like to pass this award along to some illuminating blogs. I have recently found most of these and have truly enjoyed their work. I hope you will take a moment to visit each of them:

Blogging on the Bright Side

Writing Your Destiny

Real Women’s Health

Make the World Better

The Quiet One in the Corner

Beyond PR

Truth Warrior

Postcard Intellect

Thank you again to In Blue for the nomination. I am truly honored. And thank you all for reading.

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Filed under Awards, Books, Culture, International, Peace, Photos, Poetry, travel