Working On My Bucket List

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 Working On My Bucket List

 “You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy a plane ticket.” unknown

Truthfully, anywhere in the world that I have not been before is a bucket list place for me. Life is short and we have to remember to live it to the fullest. Sometimes I visit places that should have been on my list but I did not know till I got there. Most of them come from books I have read throughout my life. I want to experience a place in the way an author has. My list makes me stop and think of what I want to experience in this lifetime. Having a bucket list gives you hope. There are places on the list I may never go to but the goal of a bucket list is to never finish it. The best lists are constantly changing. So, start writing.

Machu Picchu, Peru 

Moia, Easter Island, Chile

Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain  – soon

Camino De Santiago, Basque region, France and Spain – soon

Canary Islands, Spain

Faroe Islands

Grand Canyon, USA

Angor Wat, Siem Reap,  Cambodia

Ferry from Gibraltar to Morocco (which i think doesn’t go anymore) 

Auschwitz, Poland

Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Pizza in Sicily and Naples, Italy

The Algarve in Portugal

Church of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain

Greenland

Punta Del Este,Uruguay

Bahia, Brazil

Medellin, Colombia

Ushuaia, Argentina

Tigers Nest Temple, Bhutan

Taj Mahal, India

Terracotta Army, Xian, China

Faukland Islands

Boulder Beach, Capetown, South Africa

Gorillas, Rwanda

Viet Nam

Borneo

Sri Lanka,

Nepal.

Ethiopia

Fly safe.

JAZ

 

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Pay It Forward

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Pay It Forward

“The level of our success is limited only by our imagination and no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.” Aesop

Do you remember that emotionally manipulative movie Pay It Forward  based on networking good deeds? I have been trying to counteract a bit of the hate in the world by doing one small unexpected act of kindness for a stranger every day. Many times, situations present themselves and I do it without thinking,  but some days are harder.

I’m not an especially kind person so it does not come naturally. I grew up in New York so I don’t smile at strangers. I eat meat so I’m not kind to non-humans.  I speak without thinking and often start a sentence with no offense. The random act of kindness keeps me in the present moment and makes me hopeful about the possibility of paying it forward. 

If someone is helpful to me on a service phone call, I take five minutes (Apple or American Airlines etc) and I ask to speak to a manager and tell them how great the person was.  I write a recommendation on the site.

When I am especially messy in a hotel room, I leave a thank you note with a tip. (often)

 I take a walk on the beach and pick up some of the garbage.

I give all my foreign coins to UNICEF.

 Before credit card car regulated parking meters. I would leave extra money in the meter for the next person. Now many of the meters go to zero when the next car pulls in. 

Wherever I am in the world, if I am in a cemetery or site of a tragedy, I leave stones for the people who no one remembers.

Most of my deeds involve buying coffee or food for someone – a stranger, parking or gas station attendant, receptionist, manicurist, the person on line behind me etc. 

I write a positive YELP or Trip Advisor review often.

I buy trashy gossip magazines when I fly and when I’m finished reading,  I give them to the stewardesses who are always happy to have the latest gossip to read on their break.

Once in a while, I let someone in front of me at the grocery store with only a few items. I hate doing that from my childhood of old women always getting in front of me “on line”. You have no idea how many old women in Brooklyn jump in front of a twelve year old kid at the grocery store. “Age before beauty’, they would say. If one got through, more would follow.

It is the same with letting someone in front of me, in heavy traffic when I am driving and usually late  – so annoying.  I have perfected the hyper focus stare at the car in front of me.  There has to really be no other options for stranger kindness if I have let you in. 

I bring pencils and stickers, toothbrushes and small toys when I travel to third world countries to give out to the children or leave at a school or orphanage. I teach English for a day as well when I can. 

The internet helps. If I haven’t done anything, I go online and give money to some random Kickstarter or Go Fund Me student project that looks interesting to me.  I like the idea of a stranger believing in your dreams. You never know how that will turn out.

Kindness works a lot better than unkindness.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

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Some Of My Favorite Tour Guides

“To let life happen to you is irresponsible. To create your day is your divine right.”Ramtha

A great tour guide is one that creates an experience that you will remember. The best guides I’ve had have left me wanting to go back to the destination or have left me feeling like I’ve made a new friend. I have had many amazing tour guides but I picked ten in no particular order.

Ogus Kaya, Turkey

Ogus is such a warm, friendly and truly motivated guide. He is organized and punctual. We traveled for a few weeks in Turkey with him. He taught us a tremendous amount about the history and architecture. I was obsessed with the Mosque architecture of Sinan. We felt that he wanted us to love Turkey as much as he did and i think everyone did.

One of the highlights of the trip was the balloon ride over Cappodocia. I like my feet on the ground and was not going to do it. He finally said that he would go with me. He reminded me that he had two small children and one on the way. This balloon ride became one of my most cherished travel memories which I would never have done without him. ogus 51@yahoo.com

Petar Vlasik, Croatia

Petar was my first internet tour guide. After a land tour and small boat tour both cancelled, I decided to take my kids and plan a trip through Croatia by myself with Petar. This was the first time I had ever done anything like this without a husband. It was before Trip Advisor. He was recommended by Rick Steves  (so i knew he wasn’t a serial killer). Petar was smart, funny and so knowledgeable about his beautiful country.

We had a wonderful trip. Croatia is still one of my favorite countries for those who have not been there yet. I did not listen to him about hotels and I was sorry. I learned from Petar that a good tour guide always knows best and to trust my instincts about internet tour guides. http://www.dubrovnikrivieratours.com

Dvir Hollander, Jerusalem, Israel

Dvir’s knowledge, insight, humor, non judgmental world view and kindness made touring this amazing city with him a special experience. We met at lunchtime and we were hungry. When Dvir recognized that we were kindred spirits about food, he described himself as a “ friendly dictator” when it came to where we should eat.

If you are going to Jerusalem, I highly recommend hiring him – not just for the delicious food, but for how much you will learn and experience. He has the unique ability to figure out just what you want to do and then he casually adds in what he feels you are missing. The trip was perfect. Contact him at hollander2000@gmail.com.

Guide Gift Bangkok,Thailand

Gift was another guide that I found online before trip advisor. I read the reviews on her page and went with my gut. She is knowledgeable, kind, and fun to be with. I felt like I was seeing Bangkok and Ayuthetta with one of my friends.

She has her plan but is always ready to change if there is something you want to do. She also knows a very good place for Thai Massage. When you are in a part of the world that feels very different from yours, Gift can make it feel like home.
http://www.privatetourthailand.com)

  Do Sy Quy “Buffalo Joe”Hanoi, Viet Nam

My guide in Hanoi  was Mr. Do Sy Quy. He was my first guide in Viet Nam  and set the tone for an amazing experience. “Buffalo Joe” is kind, friendly, funny, intuitive and very knowledgeable about Hanoi and Viet Nam history.

I connected with him immediately and feel like I have a friend in Hanoi. i will always remember our drive to and from Ha Long Bay and everything we did –  especially the Thanh Chuong Viet Palace. http://www.incensetravel.com

Andres Miguel, Buenos Aires, Argentina

i have had a few great guides in Argentina but I had to pick Andres Miguel because he is a tango dancer.  Everything we did that day was related to tango  –  a boat on a river, good food, shopping, a milonga and always tango stories. He changed things around and went with what interested me.

The boat ride was an impromptu surprise as was eating at a family restaurant on Sunday for the best empanadas. He was the perfect tour guide for me and gave me a gift of the perfect Buenos Aires day.  tango@culturacercana.com.ar

Jose Villa, Cartagena,Colombia

The hot, sleepy city of Cartagena is such a special place and seeing it with Jose is the way to go. Being alone he let me tag along to teach English at their church and visit the music school his son Kevin attended..They were both knowledgeable and fun.

We saw the old city, beaches, markets, took a private boat to the islands, visited a fishing village, paddled a canoe through the mangrove tunnels and strolled the streets of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I stayed an extra few days because I loved this city and felt so safe and taken care of. http://cartagenadestiny.com

Carolina Velasquez Obreque, Santiago, Chile

Carolina was our tour guide in Santiago and Valparaiso. She was funny, knowledgeable and organized. She came to us through Vaya Adventures. We spent a beautiful day with her exploring the Casablanca wine region between Valpo and Santiago.

The trip was seamless – except when I lost that paper that they give you at customs when you land. Apparently it’s very important in Chile. She went with me to get a new one before driving to Valpo which is why I am home and able to write this. I highly recommend spending some time in Chile with her. https://www.vayaadventures.com

Michai Bojanowski , Wroclaw, Poland

Michai is a wonderful guide who loves his country. With knowledge and humor, we spent a long day in Wroclaw exploring the beauty of the city. He incorporates the darkness of the past as we explore the Jewish quarter. He has such passion for passing on the truth.

Before lunch I saw a street art drawing of man looking out the window. I ask about it. He tells me it is Poland’s most famous poet and playwright Tadeusz Różewicz.

After lunch, he has brought copies of a beautiful poem that he thought would go with what he was speaking about.He made sure we learned a little extra. I love that.  michal.bojanowski@chidusz.com

Wayne Thomas, Aukland, New Zealand

I usually don’t write  about a half day group tour of a city but I learned and retained more information with Wayne Thomas of Bush and Beach Tours http://www.bushandbeach.co.nz/, then any day tour I have ever been on.

He has a way of passing on knowledge that is sometimes funny and sometimes personal  that makes you remember it.  This is a wonderful welcome tour of New Zealand. I highly recommend him.

Fly safe,
JAZ

9/11 Memorial

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9/11 Memorial

“What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.” David Levithan

Maybe it was from a sense of obligation, to pay tribute to the lives lost; or a need to see the site of the World Trade Center tragedy to try to comprehend something that 17 years later is still hard to grasp. Maybe it was because I had just come from seeing Auschwitz in Poland. Maybe it was because I worked in Lower Manhattan when the World Trade Center was being built. But while planning a visit to New York, there was never a moment I considered not going to the 9/11 memorial and museum.

Inside this immense expanse of the museum, you’ll find various artifacts on display such as pieces from the planes that struck the Twin Towers, one of many fire trucks which assisted in rescue efforts, a three-story metal beam covered with missing posters, photographs, and messages of resilience named the ‘Last Column’, as well as a retaining wall that survived the destruction of the original World Trade Center.

There are the smaller but just as significant artifacts like damaged fireman’s helmets, World Trade Center ID’s, faded subway cards, police uniforms, and dust-covered shoes.

The museum is thoughtfully divided into several exhibits, with the main two being the Historical Exhibition in the North Tower and the Memorial Exhibition in the South Tower.

The Historical Exhibition is filled with artifacts, photographs, first-person accounts, and archival audio and video recordings. This exhibit is made up of three sequential parts: the Events of the Day, Before 9/11, and After 9/11.

The Memorial Exhibition is situated within the original footprint of the South Tower, and contains portrait photographs of the almost 3000 people who lost their lives in result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and the bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.

The Memorial is located where the Twin Towers once stood. There are now two large grey chasms in the ground from which water cascades down all four sides before gathering in a pool and finally plunging into a dark void in the middle.

On the brass rims around these twin pools you’ll find stencil-cut names of every person who died in the terrorist attacks of February 26, 1993 and September 11, 2001.

you are encouraged to touch them.

I did not know anyone personally who died that day. My son had just been dropped off for his freshman year in college in Boston. His father had taken that flight back to LA on American Airlines the week before. My mother who lived nearby had gone to a concert at the World Trade Center that Sunday. On September 11 at six am Los Angeles time, I was in the airport at American Airlines (three hours earlier than New York) waiting to get on a seven AM flight from LA to Boston because I had gotten a call a few hours before that my son was in the hospital about to have his appendix out.

“There but for fortune go you or I” Phil Oaks.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Countries Are Easier Than People

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Countries Are Easier Than People

“Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger than someone you know. Why is that?”“Probably because a stranger sees us the way we are, not as they wish us to be”Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Every day I miscommunicate something to someone.

The only time I realize there is a miscommunication is when something bad happens. Almost all conflicts are caused by poor communication.

Countries are easier. When you visit a country, seeing is believing. Here is the Eiffel Tower, Machu Picchu, Colosseum etc.  With people our realities are based on our perception. Depending on our experiences, moods and thoughts each person focuses on different things at the same event.

When I visit a foreign country, I am well aware that people speak a different language than I do. The miscommunications are cute and charming.  In America, if I assume that just because I am speaking English and the other person also speaks English that we are  both speaking the same language, I am usually wrong. The meaning you give to words come from your environment and your experience with that word.  We all have unique life experiences and just because we use the same words, your definition of those words may be very different from my definition. Speaking the same language often interferes with my communication.

I have always believed it’s the thought that counts. As long as my intention is good, that is all that matters. That philosophy works well in foreign countries. I teach English and bring pencils and stickers for poor children. I behave in a respectful way and ask questions about the country. People in foreign countries seem to understand my message. What I am learning  is that if friends and family  are not open to my ideas, it does not matter how good my intentions are. It matters how well and effectively that I can communicate them. I am a work in progress.

Certain countries fit our personalities better than others. You have to travel to find out where you belong. Some people fit better with me and so I make fewer mistakes with them.  I learn from being wrong  and sometimes you have to get lost in a place to find your way back.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Dead Sea, Israel

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Dead Sea, Israel

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps.” Frank Herbert

If anyone tries to tell you that floating in the Dead Sea is overrated, don’t believe them. Floating in the Dead Sea is truly an awesome experience and a must-do when traveling to Israel.

The reason why it is so easy to float in the Dead Sea is because it is the second saltiest body of water in the world, with a 33% salt content.  The high salt content makes anyone buoyant and actually makes it pretty impossible to swim or do anything other than float.  The Dead Sea, which is actually a large lake, is so full of salt and minerals, nothing can live in it.  For being so salty, the water is pretty clear You can literally sit down in the water and float in a seated position. You can recline, you can lie flat, you can do sit-ups, you can do leg scissors, or pretty much any other  thing you can possibly think of. The water feels thick-almost oily.

The other popular thing to do at the Dead Sea is to slather black Dead Sea mud all over your body.  Dead Sea mud has many health benefits.  The rich minerals accelerate exfoliation and restore pH balance.  Dead Sea mud can improve elasticity.  The drying of the mud draws out toxins from skin cells.  There is an added benefit of looking really scary and seeing what your skin might look like when you’re 120 years old as the dried mud makes your skin pucker and move in very odd ways. It is really funny to see everyone on the beach like that. (selfie before the mud)

We stayed at the  Herod hotel in  Ein Borek. It is the only hotel with a private beach. The mud is not on this beach so they give you mud to use. It works. There are other beaches that have mud, but I opted for privacy,  ease and comfort. 

You can get “Dead Sea mud treatments” all over Jordan and Israel, but here you’re actually at the Dead Sea getting it straight from the source. There are many other health and beauty spa treatments to do. 

Don’t shave for a few days before floating in the Dead Sea. Have you ever had lemon juice on a cut?  That is the kind of pain you’ll experience. I did it when I was here and eighteen years old and I still remember that pain. Also, beware that any cuts or abrasions are going to sting.  Your skin will start to tingle after spending some time floating in the Dead Sea even without any cuts .Don’t get the water in your eyes.  If you do, it’s going to hurt l and you’ll need to get your hands on some fresh water . Wear an old and/or dark bathing suit.  The mud is dark and it can stain or make colors fade. I know that now.

Leave enough time to take a long shower. You can try to rinse off all the mud in the Dead Sea, but it’s pretty hard to get it all off.  Also, as soon as you leave the water you’ll notice deposits of salt stuck on your body.

People came  to the Dead Sea many years ago, because the water was supposed to be magical. It’s said to heal all kinds of problems like psoriasis and osteoporosis. There is not only a lot of salt in the water but many other minerals. Along with soaking in mineral rich water, you are very far below sea level (in fact, the lowest point on earth!) so that you aren’t getting the sun rays that will burn you. For that reason it’s a safe place to lay in the sun and let the mud and salt water work their magic. People come from all over the world on medical trips to help their health, while looking for alternative cures. (view from my window- bathers at sunrise).

The Dead Sea has been rapidly shrinking in recent decades due to the diversion of incoming water from the Jordan River. Large sinkholes have recently started appearing, and while Israel and Jordan are trying to save it, there’s no certainty that it will last for much longer. The sooner you come,  the more water will be here for you to enjoy. The Dead Sea is nothing short of amazing.

If you want to take photos while covered in salt and mud  or floating in the sea use a cheap waterproof camera. I did not have one.

It is a  happy, tiring day ( asleep with an ice cream cone,).

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Countries That Drink The Most Alcohol

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Ten Countries That Drink The Most Alcohol.

“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.” Edgar Allan Poe

“Are you over 21 yet””why?“I wanted you to buy me some beer.’

Not all countries have this problem. According to the World Health Organization (where I get a lot of my information for these lists) here are the top ten countries to get drunk in. The best way to measure alcohol consumption anywhere in the world is through the per capita consumption of pure alcohol within a given country.

10. They start drinking young in Slovakia. The average age of tasting your first drink is around ten years old. Fifteen to eighteen year olds are drinking less and men drink more than women.

9. In the Czech Republic people take pride in their drinking and their beer. They have the highest consumption of beer per person in the world, bur for some reason rate low in drunkeness.

8. Hungary is a little more voracious about their drinking than many other countries. It is one of the leading countries in liver cirrhosis mortality in the world.

7. Unlike many countries with high levels of alcohol consumption, Andorra’s economy is fairly prosperous. Andorra is located between France and Spain in the Pyrenees mountains and has an exceptionally strong tourism industry. Wine is the drink of choice.

6. Drinking on various festive occasions is a large part of Ukrainian culture.Heavy alcohol consumption at any occasion in the Ukraine possible. Fourteen is the average age to try alcohol.

5. There is a much higher incidence of alcohol abuse in the villages and rural areas than in the larger cities of Romania. Most of the alcohol in these areas is of the homemade variety.

4. The high number of early deaths in Russia is mainly due to people drinking too much alcohol, particularly vodka. Causes of death include liver disease and alcohol poisoning. Many also die in accidents or after getting into fights.

3. In Lithuania, people use alcohol to feel better and relax. Most beer drinking is done at home. Lithuania scores highly in countries with binge drinking and ten per cent of the population have alcohol related disorders.

2. Citizens of Moldova are some of the world’s biggest drinkers. Moldovans drink nearly three times the global average. The country is poor and a major wine producer, with many people drinking cheap homemade wine, vodka and other spirits.

1.Belarusians are the heaviest drinkers in the world. Alcohol is a major reason of crime, suicide and health problems in Belarus. The idea of a healthy lifestyle remains unpopular especially for older generations and village dwellers. Alcohol remains a profitable business for the state and it has its own influential lobbyists who are actively a work promoting their interests.

Fly and drive safe,

JAZ