Around The World With Beaded Bracelets

Around The World With Beaded Bracelets

“I learned that you should feel when writing, not like Lord Byron on a mountain top, but like a child stringing beads in kindergarten, – happy, absorbed and quietly putting one bead on after another.” Brenda Ueland

That should really be the name of my blog. I don’t know when it started but I buy cheap ethnic bracelets in different countries around the world for myself and gifts. People like them. (temple cedar bracelets – Viet Nam)

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I try to spend under five dollars a bracelet and buy them in markets or from street vendors. A dollar or two is even better. (ceramic – Mexico)

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It is an easy to pack gift and a nice memory for me of a country I have been to. I mix them all up and wear them almost every day. Today I am wearing Argentina, Mexico, Myanmar and Thailand. (Myanmar, Thailand)

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It’s good to buy indigenous jewelry because it helps the local communities. Many countries have stores or markets that feature local artisans. The bracelets are made from wood from local trees, nuts, seeds, glass, silver, tin, brass, bamboo, woven, pottery and even plastic. Sometimes they have religious significance and sometimes only decorative.(Peru)

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My favorite one comes from Panama and is made from a tagua nut which is known as vegetable ivory. Due to tagua’s properties in color, appearance, hardness and feel like those of natural ivory, it is being substituted for the latter one. This helps in the depredation of elephants while at the same time keeps rain forests from being deforested which in turn favors the ecosystems and the environment.

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I also buy ethnic designed bracelets for myself. When I wear them, they remind of the special day in the country where I bought them. (Myanmar, Cambodia, Murano glass – Italy, Argentina, real coral-Croatia)

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Another important factor to consider is that making things by hand provides work to thousands of people in these poor countries giving them and their families a better life and the opportunity of offering their children a better education. (shells-Panama)

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Shopping for bracelets is perfect street consumerism for me.(Coca nut -Argentina)

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There is the thrill of finding the bracelet among the crafts and tourist crap. I know these look touristy but there was a beach in Panama that was covered in these pinkish orange shells so they remind me of that beautiful beach. Yes I brought home a bag of the shells also.  (Panama)

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Then there is the delicate negotiation of getting the right price without insulting anyone.There is the danger of going too low and the stupidity of paying too much. (plastic- Turkey or anywhere that has real Turquoise)

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Finally we have the adrenalin rush of the purchase. (Aborigine – Australia)

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It makes my world better and their world better. It’s a win – win situation.

Fly safe,

JAZ

We are Jews. We Bring Food. We Sit.

We are Jews. We Bring Food. We Sit.

“My feet will want to walk to where you are sleeping, but I shall go on living.” Pablo Neruda

I went to pick up my friend for a movie and her 30-year-old son was found dead in bed minutes before I got there.  I have to process another senseless death. There are orphans and there are widows but there are no words for parents who lose a child.

Senseless deaths always stir up the questions of faith and fate for me. I guess it must help to believe god has a plan in the face of tragedy but that saying never works for me. It helps to have a tradition – a set of rituals to go through at a time when your brain shuts down, a religious structure to follow, to get through the unthinkable.

I am very close with my friend. I knew the son that passed away – but not the other kids or shocked family members who had started to arrive. I said to my other friend who was with me. “I’m not sure that I should be here now.“ She said “We are here for a reason. We are Jews. We sit.” That is our tradition.

This is a pretty religious Jewish family and they will follow the laws strictly. Jewish people believe in a season of sorrow. We take a lot of time to mourn and heal our souls. Normal life seems over and it is a struggle to deal with the new reality. We need time. The mourning rituals are about the great value that we place on the life of each person.

I didn’t grow up understanding the Jewish traditions and the death ritual seemed bizarre to me. After a funeral service you go back to the house and laugh and tell stories about the person who passed away. Everyone is eating, deli platters and dry Jewish pastries. In fact, every Jewish event in Brooklyn, came with a deli platter. – the births, after the bar mitzvahs and the deaths. There was some weird cycle of life familiarity when I saw them bringing in the platters of corn beef, turkey, coleslaw, potato salad, pickles and lox of my childhood and family events.

It is an ancient custom for loved ones and friends to visit the mourners after the funeral.  The mourning period is called shiva and it means seven. The mourners sit and have visitors for seven days. It is a time to remember and tell the stories. They sit in my friend’s house which carries her son’s spirit so  that the memories will come more easily. It is important to do this to let the family know he will be remembered in our hearts always. Bobby  would have wanted us to be laughing. Bobby would have loved the stories.  It is emotionally and spiritually healing to have mourners and friends around for this time. If you are religious, you sit on small stools, to show that something has changed and to be close to the earth.

The first meal after the funeral is the most important. It is brought by friends and family. You must eat now to affirm life. You must eat because it signifies that you must go on.

We have a prayer that we say called the Mourner’s Kaddish. It is not in Hebrew but in Aramaic, which was the language of the people at that time. It has been said for centuries and there is some comfort in that link to the past. Praying is not easy for me, yet I have no problem saying this one since my mother passed away. I say it and talk to her at the same time. We have the same conversation each time. She says ”What are you doing in temple on such a beautiful day?”

But I also say it for other people who have died. I said it last week for the people in Charleston. I said it and thought however painful and unfair life can be, I hope their families can find a way to make their life good again. Not to forget their loss but to go on different than before.

I will say it often now for Bobby and his family, for the HUGE empty space in their hearts and for a sorrow so big it feels like it will never go away.

Fly safe Bobby

JAZ

Black Is The New Black

Black Is The New Black

I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.” Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird

My daughter became close friends in the first grade with an African-American girl in her class. She went to a progressive multi racial elite private school so she was used to many different kinds of kids.

She had also started dancing the year before as the only white child in a black dance community. My daughter has a lot of rhythm, musicality and talent. Twenty years ago it was hard to find good hip hop, tap and Alvin Ailey type modern teachers in a westside LA kids dance school.

One day her African American school friend was coming over and I said to invite her for Passover dinner that night. My daughter said “I can’t,” and burst into tears. “Why not?,” I asked. “Because she thinks I’m black,“ she sobbed. I was trying not to laugh because obviously this was serious.

Now it wasn’t as odd as it seemed.  There were many mixed race kids in this school. The little girl’s mother was very similar in coloring to Rachel Dolezal with blue eyes and had lighter skin than my olive complexion. We both came from NY and had NY accents. I was wearing my hair naturally curly at the time and was usually tan.   My daughter was obsessed with dance and all her friends had been to her African-American dance school to drop her off or pick her up. (me)

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I just thought it was funny when we got Kwanzaa presents that year instead of Hanukah or Christmas ones. Her school was big on Kwanzaa. She was only six so I thought she got the candles confused. They both have eight candles.

I asked how it happened and it turned out that in the beginning of the school year they were learning about slavery.  My daughter went up to her friend and said, “I’m so sorry this has happened to you”. The girl said to her, “I’m so sorry it happened to you too. You are black also right?” My daughter in her six-year-old wisdom said yes and spent the next several months letting her believe that.  I imagine that the minute after learning about slavery in the US for the first time, you probably would not want to have to identify as white.

I said “Well, you are going to have to tell her the truth but I think she might already know by now and not care. Honesty is important in relationships.” My daughter very nervously told her that day and she laughed and said ‘I knew that.“ She stayed for dinner. Six year old problems are pretty easy to fix.

I think my daughter was ok with being who she was after that. She went on to make many real friends in the African-American dance community where she grew up. She did identify with black modern dance and was exceptional at it and received scholarships to Alvin Ailey and Dance Theatre of Harlem.

I believe that Ms. Dolezal has a mental illness. You can champion the rights of people without having to be them. You can enjoy their culture, food, values, religion, music and dance without being them. You can be part of their community and hold them in your heart without being them.

I do agree that it is easier to be a star in the black community if you are actually black. I think that she wanted that kind of fame and recognition, some kind of narcissism perhaps. She put her family in a place to lie and ‘cover‘ for her. She clearly hated her family and wanted to be as different as she could be. The fact that her family felt the need to “out her” and not protect her would lead me to believe that there were serious problems. Maybe she had a good reason for distancing herself as far as she can go. If she wasn’t black, she would have been something else. I don’t think “transracial” is the same as transgender or transJenner as some of the transgender community calls him/her.

We need to spend more time on our inner qualities than our outer appearance. We need to focus on our intelligence, humor, imagination, honesty, integrity courage, tolerance, love and respect. And not on what color or religion or gender you happen to be or want to be. I find it hard enough to just try and be a better human being than I was the day before.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Eating Out Alone When Traveling Or How I Conquered Solomangarephobia

Eating Out Alone When Traveling Or How I Conquered Solomangarephobia

A smiling face is half the meal. —- Latvian proverb

I am the wrong person to be writing this blog. I knew one day I would have to write it and I’ve been dreading it. Eating alone in a restaurant in public terrifies me. Is it a vestige of high school cafeteria days? Is it that strangers will think I have no friends and that no one loves me? Is it the pitying looks from waiters, hostesses and bartenders? There is actually a name for the fear of eating alone in public. It is Solomangarephobia and I have it.

I enjoy being by myself sometimes and I, like many people, learned that while traveling. I get to do what I want when I want to do it. I like museums, galleries, lying on the beach, flying somewhere, touring, shopping, working out, getting a coffee and walking my dog by myself. I can go to the movies and theatre alone with no problem.

It is only my own destructive thoughts that ruin the dining experience. I assume that I know what everyone else is thinking. Why do I have to think that I am pathetic and everyone is staring at me? Why do I jump into the self-conscious state of mind?

What if I was eating alone because I wanted to? Maybe I just wanted to relax or read. Perhaps my friends and family wanted to eat later and I was hungry now. Maybe I was craving sushi and no one else wanted it.

Eating with other people isn’t always so much fun.  I have dined with people and not had a good time. We are having an argument or I’m feeling depressed or bored by the conversation.  Perhaps I talked too much or said the wrong thing. Did I just say something stupid? Did they say something really hurtful or embarrassing about me or caused a scene at the table because they were brought the wrong thing? There are many times when I am out with people and after ten minutes, I wish I was home reading a good book. Once in a while even eating alone would have been preferable.

I avoid eating out alone as much as possible. I book hotels that have spas and gyms and make appointments at night. I stay out all day and have an early dinner in a café. I have a big lunch and just grab fruit, bread and cheese for dinner. I go to night markets and malls and grab something there while shopping. Of course there is always room service.

But I am a foodie so I love to try food in foreign countries. I have had  to go into a restaurant alone. Sushi bars, counters, bars or communal tables are good for people alone. I bring something to read. It feels better for me to look busy. I can’t check my phone because I turn off my emails when traveling to save some money. Reading has saved a lot of people from loneliness and sometimes you get caught up in a good book and you forget where you are. I have my notebook with me so I usually start writing a blog when I am there.

The first time I dined in a nice restaurant alone for dinner, I was at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I had walked up and down the main street of Port Douglas for a very long time looking for a place where I would feel the least uncomfortable.  I was beyond starving and finally decided to go for the one that looked like it had the best food and ambience.  I immediately told the waitress it was my first time eating dinner alone in a restaurant. She had just moved from London and had eaten out alone a lot. I mentioned that I wrote a travel blog. She brought the owner over and he started chatting and bringing me all kinds of food to try. The people at the next table got involved in my food tasting. Australians are overly friendly which is so great most of the time. The next night we all went out for pizza at the owner’s recommendation (including the waitress). We are all fb friends now. It doesn’t always happen like that but it was good start.

I’m not naturally outgoing  but I do meet people  when I’m traveling.  When I don’t, what I tell myself now is -“face it, you are in a fabulous foreign country and you are eating amazing food alone. Don’t attach a story to it. The truth is everyone is much too caught up in themselves to really pay attention to you. It isn’t fun or easy eating alone but do it or stay home” Sometimes you have to be tough on yourself.

Fly safe,

JAZ

30 Songs That Inspired Me To Travel

30 Songs That Inspired Me To Travel

“There must be some kind of way out of here,’ said the joker to the thief..” Bob Dylan

Music is called the universal language. Songs are successful in communicating ideas and feelings to everyone who hears them. I listen to different songs depending on my moods. A song resonates with me when I hear it and I think, how did they know that is how I was feeling?

These songs always took me somewhere else. Sometimes it was the poetry in the lyrics or music that made me want to travel. Other times it was the foreign language and melody.   I picked a few to play. They are in order of my memory of the titles. i have them all on iTunes.  Enjoy them.

America – Simon and Garfunkel

Bamboleo – Gypsy Kings

Marilou Sous La Niege – Serge Gainsbourg

Scatterlings of Africa – Johnny Clegg and Juluka

Leaving On A Jet Plane – Peter Paul and Mary

Guantanamera – Lucca Feliciano

A Rainy Night In Soho – Pogues

One Night In Bangkok – Murray Head

Hopeless Wanderer – Mumford and Sons

New York State Of Mind – Billy Joel

Sorrow (Your Heart) – Trevor Rabin

Jerusalem – Matisyahu

Les Champs-Elysees – Joe Dassin

City of New Orleans – Arlo Guthrie

Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) – Peter Sarstedt

Africa – Toto

Budapest – George Ezra

Carolina Day – Livingston Taylor

Diablo Rojo – Rodrigo and Gabriela

99 Luftballons – Nena

Rubylove – Cat Stevens

Mexico James Taylor

Walking in Memphis – Marc Cohn

Chan Chan – Buena Vista Social Club

Ca Plane Pour Moi – Plastic Bertrand

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Mozambique – Bob Dylan

Here There And Everywhere – Beatles

Fly Safe,

JAZ

Being A Godmother To A Baby Who Lives In Another Country

Being A Godmother To A Baby Who Lives In Another Country

“Babies are such a nice way to start people.” Don Herold

I was asked to be the godmother of a good family friend’s baby girl. I immediately said yes but then I wondered what it meant. Did it mean that I believe in God? Did it mean that I lived my life with honesty, integrity, kindness and did not hurt anyone? I’m not hundred percent in any of these areas but I try.

I looked it up. In the old days, a godmother was responsible for the religious education of the child. Since they live in Israel, and I live in the US and I’m not religious, I don’t see that happening. When people didn’t live as long, the godparent was in charge should something happen to the parents. I think that there are way too many younger blood relatives ahead of me for that job.

Maybe in this day and age a godparent means that you are part of the village it takes to raise a child. It is a place to go when your parents who are human get it wrong. In her teenage years if she slams the door when things don’t go her way, a godmother can take her in, listen to her troubles, calm her down and send her home when she is ready.

Or maybe, when it is long distance, it is a way of saying, “Stay in my life, come visit, baby sit, learn about my country, stay in touch, watch me grow up and be there if I need you. Stay connected. Be my family too”. This I can do.

Fly safe,

JAZ