Giving Gifts

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Giving Gifts

“Books make great gifts because they have the whole world inside of them. And it’s much cheaper to buy somebody a book than it is to buy them the whole world!” Neil Gaiman

We all grow up with healthy and unhealthy stories about love. When I was growing up, I learned some beautiful things about love. I learned that loving people means treating them with kindness. Loving a person means believing in their potential, cheering them on and celebrating their successes. It means not wasting your time trying to change them. Just try to help them see their own brilliance. 

But I also learned the unhealthy things which weren’t so helpful to me. I learned that loving someone means putting them above yourself and always being available to them. It turns out not to be true. Being a martyr helps no one. Living like this breeds resentment. Another was to  always listen to whatever they have to say – even in an angry voice. That turns out not to be true as well. 

There are many ways of expressing love. There is speech, touch, quality time and special kindnesses. Some people show love through food.  Cooking is a way to bring people together, to love  and to listen. I didn’t grow up in a family that cooked like that so I did not understand  until I was older, that cooking for someone was more about love than sustenance. 

I have always been a shopper. The idea of buying a gift is to show someone you were thinking of them, you recognize what they do for you and you’ve paid attention to their likes and chosen something for them. It is a way that I can show love when words are uncomfortable. A gift says I love you or I notice what you do for me without  any physical touch except the appropriate hug.

When I travel, I don’t have a lot of time to shop. My favorite thing is to find the perfect piece of street art or photograph for my kids. They have pieces from all over the world. I buy beaded bracelets in countries that do that and give them to my family and friends.  When I find something I like that is inexpensive and specific to a country, I buy a few as gifts. I like people to know that I think about them when I travel.

Gift giving should be simple but for me it is complicated. It is hard to figure out what another person might want or need.  It isn’t about a price tag but a way of communicating. I don’t think about what I want to buy. I think about what I want to say to this person. If I do not know the person well enough or I am out of ideas,  I try to think of gifts that most people would like such as scarves, wine, donations in their name or gift certificates    

The gold standard for the perfect gift is a genuine smile on a kid or anyone’s face when they open it.

Happy Holidays and Fly Safe,

JAZ

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What Do You Carry For Good Luck When You Travel?

“You know what luck is? Luck is believing you’re lucky…to hold front position in this rat-race you’ve got to believe you’re lucky.” –  Tennesse Williams said by Stanley Kowalski in Street Car Named Desire

I am a believer in good luck charms when you travel. I never get on a plane without one. There’s a fine line between a bit of harmless (and possibly helpful) superstitious behavior for luck, and developing an obsessive and crippling dependence on some elaborate routine.

My good luck charms vary. For years I had a lucky flannel shirt that I wore on the plane. I convinced myself, it kept me safe from plane crashes, hijackings, robberies and getting caught bringing too much in at customs. I’m sure anything could have happened without it. Now it is all about some talisman or amulet to keep me safe while I travel. It changes but I wear the same one for a whole trip.

A talisman basically brings you good luck, as opposed to an amulet, which is designed to protect you from evil. For me it is an object designed to attract positive things – such as good luck, interesting people, unexpected adventures – and to protect you from negative things while you travel.

When I was briefly into Kabbalah, I wore a red string around my left wrist. It is used to ward off bad luck caused by the evil eye. It was knotted seven times and blessed. I figured if it was good enough for Ashton Kutcher and Madonna, it would keep me protected as well.

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After that I still liked red for luck. When it comes to red in China, you can never wear too much. Red symbolizes good fortune,happiness and joy. A circle always symbolizes wholeness or unity so I sometimes wear red bracelets when i travel.

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In Japan. I learned about Omamori which are used in both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs. They are rectangular pouches and gain their power from words written on paper or wood and sealed inside a cloth bag and can be purchased a temple. . Each omomori has a different purpose so make sure you get the right one. The words could be the name of the shrine, or a section from a sūtra, or some other powerful word. Never open the cloth to see what is inside! It is disrespectful and the omamori will lose its power. Omamori draw some of their power from the concept of the power of enclosed places. The covering of the omamori encloses the sacred words and so puts them in a separate realm where they can be effective, much as Shinto shrines are set within a separate space marked by torii gates. I usually attach one to a carry on bag  if I’m not wearing a bracelet.

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Having spent a lot of time in Mediterranean countries, I’m a fan of the evil eye charm. You will see them all over Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. It is based on quotes from all the ancient religious texts that” the gaze of someone who harbors feelings of envy or jealousy can bring misfortune upon the one who is seen — the one who “gets the evil eye.”Iit is used  as a safeguard against misfortune –  worn or hanging in their house, businesses or on their babies. I’ve had them on necklaces, bracelets earrings, ankle bracelets and sometimes just on a string.

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There are many others you can use. Ancient Egypt is a good place to go for charms. The Ankh and the Scarab are protection from Evil.

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Religion is another great source for superstitions. St Christopher is the patron saint to all people who travel. A St Christopher medal was once compulsory for any Catholic traveler. The Star of David, Hamsa (hand), the Holy Cross, Celtic Cross, Guardian Angels, beads blessed from a Buddhist Temple, written words, from the Quran, Bible or Torah can also be used.

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Folk tales and Myths have many as well. Four Leaf Clovers, Phoenix, Horns, Fish and Dragons are a few. I always buy the local good luck when I travel.

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Good luck charms feed the human need to look beyond ourselves for solutions to our difficulties, while still encouraging us to do our best. They are more like a boosters than a total solution. When things are tough, it feels good to hold a charm in your hand and hope for things to get better. They seem to be working for me. So go ahead, carry that lucky coin, wear those lucky socks or underwear because you can never have too much good luck.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

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