My Favorite Band Is Grouplove – Teaching An English Class In Cartagena, Colombia

My Favorite Band Is Grouplove  - Teaching An English Class In Cartagena, Colombia

“Small acts of kindness may or may not change the world, but they definitely change you.”   Nipun Mehta

My tour guide  was on his way to teach an English class at his church. He and his  family volunteer their time to teach English. I asked if I could tag along thinking I would sit in the back. It turned out that I was to be the surprise English teacher.

The students ranged from kids to adults and were at all levels of English. The class was usually larger but because it was a holiday there were fewer people. They are amazingly enthusiastic with a real will to learn – even from someone who sounds as illiterate in Spanish as I do.



While learning  English grammar,  we share experiences and insights.

“My favorite band is Guns and Roses.”

“Her favorite actor is Brad Pitt.“

“His favorite soccer team is Brazil.”

“Their favorite place is this church.”

“Our favorite writer is Marquez.”

You can see with each one of the students that every sentence requires thought. It is not only about how to say it correctly but how to answer the question. It becomes important what we tell each other about ourselves. “But I don’t have a favorite sports team because I don’t like sports.” It is more than just a grammatical exercise.

I believe that those of us who travel  seek knowledge to grow and share with others. What better way then to not only teach but to represent English as something more than a workbook. For people who live in cities where tourism is the main industry learning English will help them get better jobs and have better lives.  I could see in their eyes that I inspired them to work on their English that night and I felt honored to be there. If you happen to be in Cartagena, and have a couple of hours to spare for some conversation in English before dinner, contact Jose Villa Rodriguez ( also a terrific tour guide) It’s a great way to interact with people from a country.

If only someone would volunteer to help me with my Spanish.

Muchas Gracias Daniel, Diana, Edwin, Erdas, Laura, Leidy, Manuel, Muriel, Nini and Salvador.



Viaje con cuidado,





Things That I Have Learned In Colombia

Things That  I Have Learned In Colombia

“Once a year, go someplace that you haven’t been before.”  Dalai Lama

If you don’t come back from Colombia with your suitcase smelling from coffee, something is wrong.


Coffee plants in Colombia are not native to Colombia. Many of the plants come from Africa. IMG_4242

Juan Valdez is the Starbucks of Colombia not the man picking coffee beans for Folgers. (only people my age know what that meant) IMG_3804

Colombia is not Disneyland but it isn’t downtown Beirut either. IMG_3787

There is always music. (Play and continue reading . It will sound like Colombia  - Gracias Kevin)

Colombia has the second highest number of public holidays in the world. Argentina has the first.

Colombians love Juanes as a humanitarian even if they don’t like his music.

Because of its location Colombia is “the door of the Americas”.

In Colombia you dunk cheese in your hot chocolate (my two favorite things together).

There is always fruit.

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Colombia is the world’s second largest exporter of cut flowers after the Netherlands. About 1 billion worth of flowers are exported every year, mostly to the United States. People from the United States buy 300 million Colombian roses on Valentines Day. IMG_4149

Colombia does not have seasons; because it is near the equator, it has sunlight throughout the year. Colombia is the only country in South America to have two different coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. IMG_4812

They still uses coca leaves in the rural villages and for the tourists. But it is not as easy to find as in Peru and Argentina.

Colombia has the biggest theater festival, biggest salsa festival, biggest flower parade, biggest outdoor horse parade and second biggest carnival in the world.

You’re less likely to be kidnapped in Colombia than you are to be eaten by a shark in Australia.

12% of the world’s supply of coffee comes from Colombia which provides 20% of the government’s revenue. Only Brazil and Vietnam export more coffee. IMG_4224

According to someone from Ecuador at the airport, Colombians are the nicest South Americans. I would have to agree.

Colombia produces 60% of the world’s most expensive Emeralds.

In 1975, Colombian women were given the right to vote.

Colombians speak the clearest Spanish with the lightest accents, especially in Bogotá.

There are more fruits in Colombia than days in the year. Guanabana is my new favorite fruit. (Ice Cream, Dulce de Leche and Guanabana)


Shakira is from Colombia. The women are often voted the most beautiful in the world.

There is always juice.


The FARC was founded in 1964. Adopting an anti-U.S. and Marxist ideology. The group attracts the overwhelming majority of its members from the rural poor. Its aim is to overthrow the government. However, the government and the group have been making moves towards peace in recent years.

The decline and fall of the Colombian drug gangs has led to an increase in tourism. Medellin is still the capital of the cocaine trade but with Mexico taking over the American market, they are focusing on Europe and Latin America. Colombians are still often arrested in these countries for drug trafficking. Pablo Escobar never sold drugs to Colombians for consumption but today groups are targeting the outskirts of Colombia as well.

Colombian food is rich, diverse and delicious with a heavy focus on deep-frying. IMG_4841

Colombians do a lot of praying and a lot of crossing themselves. IMG_3754

Colombia is the worlds third largest manufacturer of women’s lingerie.

The Colombian drink aguardiente means fire water and is 60 per cent alcohol. A party is not a party in Colombia without aguardiente.

The name Colombia is derived from the name Christopher Columbus.

Avoid sopa de madongo unless you like intestines , tripe and cow udders, Luckily I have already gone through which organs to avoid in Argentina. FYI they also make soup out of eyeballs.


Colombia has 84 different Indigenous tribes spread out across the country.

It is actually illegal to walk the streets in Colombia without I.D., but a photocopy will suffice in 99% of situations.

Colombia is my most misspelled country. In the past, I always spell it like Columbia the Ivy League University that I did not attend. I won’t be making this mistake again.

Colombia is one of my favorite countries in South America. I am already planning my return trip in my head.

Viaje con cuidado,


Things I Have Learned In Dublin, Ireland

Things I Have Learned In Dublin, Ireland

“I live in Ireland every day in a drizzly dream of a Dublin walk” John Geddes

 Dublin was founded by Vikings, who settled in what they called the “Norse Kingdom of Dublin” in the 9th century.

The average temperature in January in Dublin is 41°F and in July, it is 63°F.  It is estimated that fifty per cent of the city’s residents are under twenty-five years old. Dublin has the youngest population in Europe. My advice is dress warmly and be ready to party. (St Stephens Green)

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Dublin houses Ireland’s National Treasure which is the Book Of Kells sacred manuscript created by Celtic Monks in about 800 AD which features the Four Gospels of the New Testament. It is decorated with metallic gold Celtic style writing and symbols and stunning artwork. This sacred Book of Kells can be found in the Trinity College Library in Dublin.

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In 1759 Arthur Guinness made the deal of his life.  He leased a brewery in the center of Dublin for 45 pounds annual rent and took it for 9,000 years!  It is now where the most famous Irish alcoholic drink is made.  Ten million glasses of Guinness are produced daily all around the world. Dubliners love beer, they drink 9800 pints every hour between 5:50 pm on Friday and around 3 am the following Monday.  Also a donation to the Blood Bank in Dublin is paid with a pint of Guinness since it is recommended to replace the iron lost during the donation.

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Soccer is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen. Rugby is a gentlemen’s game played by hooligans.

In 1816 this  bridge opened  to any Dubliner willing to pay a ha’penny, the exact price of the then redundant ferry  to William Walsh, ferry owner and alderman of the city. He retired his leaking ferries and was compensated with £3,000 and the bridge lease for one hundred years. (Ha Penny Bridge)

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Dublin Writers Museum is a must visit if you are into literature and writing, or if you want to understand Dublin’s literary heritage. You get a truer understanding of Ireland if you get  to know its writers.There are two main museum rooms. Room one traces the roots of Irish poetry and storytelling, and it showcases writers with international status such as Swift, Goldsmith, Sheridan, George Bernard Shaw, and Oscar Wilde.  Room two deals with writers such as Yeats, Synge, James Joyce, Sean O’ Casey, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker Frank O’ Connor, Brendan Behan and many more.

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The title of Bram Stoker’s book “Dracula” is said to come from the Irish words “Droch Ola” meaning bad blood..

Christ Church was famous for the first performance of Handel’s Messiah.

The Abbey Theatre was founded as The National Theatre Of Ireland in 1904 by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory.  Its goal  was “to bring upon the stage the deeper emotions of Ireland.” and that is still true today.

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The oldest pub in Ireland is called the Brazen Head and is in Dublin .

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Temple Bar is one of the oldest areas in Dublin. The modern street pattern of Temple Bar is based on the medieval plan of the Old Viking City.  Today Temple Bar has many newer arts venues, cool boutiques and galleries, restaurants,bars,  award winning cultural and residential buildings. Temple Bar is home to one of Europe’s oldest built theatres (Smock Alley Theatre), one of Ireland’s smallest theatres (The New Theatre), one of the best examples of a Victorian theatre (The Olympia) and one of Ireland’s best know modern theatre spaces and arts centres (Project Arts Centre)

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After Francis Bacon’s death his studio was moved to the Hugh Lane Gallery. You look through a  window at the 7,000 items they shifted: a huge easel, piles of paints, jars, brushes, rags, pots, books, photos, towels and empty boxes of Krug Champagne. A fantastic sight.

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Built between 1220 and 1260  St Patrick’s Cathedral is one of the few buildings left from the medieval city of Dublin. Today St Patricks is the National Cathedral for the Church of Ireland and is still the largest cathedral in Ireland. Its most famous Dean  Jonathan Swift  is one of around 700 burials here.

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Many of U2’s back catalogue of albums were recorded in their home city. Windmill Lane Studios was the place where U2 recorded their early work and first three albums. The site at Windmill Lane Studios is covered in graffiti from fans that have paid pilgrimage from all over the world and is known as the “U2 Wall.”

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Dublin is a city of storytellers. Everyone has a story to tell.  If you happen to be in a pub telling a story, chances are there will be someone there who knows someone in it. So be careful with your facts and if you embellish, disguise your characters well. And if you don’t know any stories, you will by the time you leave.

Fly safe,

How To Annoy People In Los Angeles, California

How to Annoy People In Los Angeles, California

“Los Angeles is a large city-like area surrounding the Beverly Hills Hotel.” Fran Leibowitz 

Leave your turn signal on for ten miles. Drive very slowly in the fast lane.

Talk about how much better New York is and how more real New Yorkers are. Fill in any other state or country here.

Say that the acting business is all about luck.

Ask us about celebrity dieting, gossip, their fitness DVDs or their clothing lines. Most of us don’t care about them on the way up or the way down.

Tell us again that people don’t walk here. We haven’t heard it before.  Add that our public transportation sucks,. We know that is why a lot of us don’t use it.

Which would be another complaint. The traffic is really bad for us also.
Yes we have traffic for no apparent reason at 2:00 in the afternoon.

Complain about the air pollution. We know  because we don’t have good public transportation.

Ask us if we know someone more important who can read your script.

Take up the whole lane with your bike and don’t pay attention to traffic signs.   (that means you Mandeville Canyon riders)

Name drop celebrities or ask us who we know.

Bring up juice fasts, vegan restaurants,  or talk about how  much better your Mexican food is. (unless you are actually from Mexico). My kids who were born and raised in Los Angeles are serious carnivores.

Bring up new age anything, psychic pet healers, yoga, Pilates.  bar method, Scientology , Kabbalah, acupuncture, Tai Chi or ask about mercury in retrograde.   Everyone does not  like to talk about it.

Ask us if we drive to the gym. We do. Sometimes we go to lunch and pick up our kids in our workout clothes. I drive to walk my dog.

Tell us that you think that you look fat when you are thinner and more fit than we are.

Ask if the construction on the 405 affects us. It affects me every day and night.

Tell us there is no culture here.  There is plenty but some of it you have to look for.

Insult our artists. Some of them matter. Some of them you have heard of. All of them are cooler than you.

Leave the movie theatre as soon as the film ends. We like to read the credits and see who we know on the film and we don’t like you walking in front of us when we do.

Talk really loudly on your cell phone in a public place about all the movie business related things you are doing. We know it isn’t true.

Say you haven’t had any work done.  We know that isn’t true also.  We are from LA and we are professionals at being able to see that.

Ask questions about surfing, skating or being blonde.  We all can’t answer those.

Make comments about our weather.  We live here because we like it.

Ask us why we wear jeans in nice restaurants. Because we can.  We also wear boots, scarves, shorts and bathing suits year round.

Ask us why we wear Uggs and flip flops everywhere. I don’t know.

Ask us if we are ready for the “big one”.  If you need to know, go on facebook. Every time there is a tremor everyone reports it – as in “Did anyone else feel that?”

Fly Safe,


Ten Ways To Look Like An American Tourist

Ten Ways to Look Like An American Tourist

“No matter where you go, there you are.” – Buckaroo Banzi

1.Pull out the map in public.   A crowded corner is always good . Nothing says “I am not from around here” like two or more people  staring intently at the colored lines  on a map.   If not the map,  then at least a guidebook.

2. Nothing screams American like walking  around a city  (especially one with old world charm) wearing sneakers -and or a baseball cap, backpack, fanny pack and water bottle.  Wear your University sweatshirt or anything with a logo. Wear any kind of Adventure 16 or travel technical wear in the city. Cargo pants or the pant that zip off into shorts are perfect if you want to say “Oh I thought  this was the wilderness.”

3. Wear your camera around your neck (I confess I do that sometimes, I hate to miss the Kodak moment. I also have to  say I  sometimes do wear a baseball cap in the sun  because it is the easiest to pack)

4. Ask for ketchup or decaf.  Find the Mcdonalds , Pizza Hut and Starbucks as soon as you arrive. There is nothing like finding what you can get at home in a foreign country.

5. Don’t use chopsticks.

6. Leave a big tip assuming all countries expect that.

7. Eat  dinner early –especially if you are in the Mediterranean countries where ten PM is early for dinner. It is a good way to meet  other American tourists.

8. Bring up awkward subjects.  9/11 in a Muslim country,  Palestinians in Israel,  Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma , George Bush anywhere. Etc.

9. Ask for change for a large bill in a taxi. Then complain when you get ripped off. Make sure you don’t understand the money and spend a long time bargaining for fifty cents. (I have to say I have done that – but only once)

10. Speak loudly in public.  There are still people who believe that  if you speak loudly and slowly in English, someone in a foreign  country where they don’t speak English will understand you.  Don’t ask if they speak English first.

When you return home, make sure to complain about the service, being ripped off, the food, the hotels and the flight delays. Sometimes trip descriptions sound like they went in a covered wagon and people died along the way.

Hopefully this is not you.

Fly safe,


Top Ten Reasons For Going To Colombia

Top Ten Reasons For Going To Colombia.

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez

  1. Drugs (Im totally kidding but that is what you were thinking)
  2. I have not been there.
  3. I can practice my Spanish.
  4. It’s the home of my favorite writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
  5. I like living on the edge. (anyone who knows me is laughing right now)
  6. I like going to places not everyone goes to.
  7. I like the Americas –North, Central, South, Ferrara and Vespucci.
  8. I hope I like the food.
  9. I have all my shots and mosquito treated clothes from Burma in case I need that.
  10. I like visiting my friends in Miami on the way  back.

Adios y Seguia con Cuidado


Things I Have Learned In Myajima, Japan

Things I Have Learned in Myajima, Japan

“To be fully alive is to have an aesthetic perception of life because a major part of the world’s goodness lies in its often unspeakable beauty.”  Yukitaka Yamamoto

The most famous site in Japan are the floating Torii gates  of  the Itsukushima Shrine on the island of Myajima in Hiroshima Prefecture. Actually the real name of the island is Itsukushima but people will know what you mean by Myajima (shrine island). 


To get to Myajima you take a ferry from Hiroshima. Anago (sea eel) is one of the famous regional foods of the Hiroshima area. It’s especially prominent around the area of Miyajima, and if you go to Miyajima-guchi where you catch the ferry to Miyajima Island, you’ll find several competing restaurants featuring anago.


I am not the only one taking pictures on the ferry as the Tori gates come into view.


Miyajima is believed to be the island where God dwells. It is said that Itsukushima Shrine is built on the coast because the whole island is  God’s body and is sanctified. Itsukushima Shrine was built at  the end of sixth century and modified to the present building by Kiyomori Taira, who came into power for the first time as a warrior in 1168. It is located in the sea and has a bold structure because the shape changes by the rising and falling tide. The orange lacquered shrine building, green forest  and  blue sea  symbolizes the Japanese sense of beauty.


The island itself has been considered sacred.  In order to keep up its purity, commoners were not allowed to set foot on Miyajima through much of its history. In order to allow pilgrims to approach, the shrine was built like a pier over the water, so that it appeared to float, separate from the land.  It existed in a state between the sacred and the ? Not sacred? Damned? Ordinary? Others?


The shrine’s signature orange entrance gate, or torii, was built over the water for the same reason. Commoners had to steer their boats through the torii before approaching the shrine. When the tide is low, you can walk to it.


Retaining the purity of the shrine is so important that since 1878, no deaths or births have been permitted near the shrine. To this day, pregnant women are supposed  to go  the mainland as the day of delivery approaches, as are terminally ill or the very elderly who are near death. Burials on the island are still forbidden. I’m not sure how they control the birth and death thing.

It is both a Unesco World Heritage site and a Japanese National Treasure site.


Omote-Sando is the main street from the port to Itsukushima Shrine.  There are a lot of souvenir shops on both sides of the street. You can enjoy souvenir shopping for  artwork such as Shamoji, a rice scoop, wooden spoons,   well-known Momiji manju, a bun with a bean-jam filling made from maple leaves, and other crafts.

The deer on Myajima are not shy about asking for food and water and just as cute as the ones in Nara Park.



There are many other temples and Buddha statues on Myajima.  If you visit these spots  you can really feel that Miyajima has been the object of worship for Japanese people throughout time.

Yo I sorano tabi o,