Traveler’s Block

Traveler’s Block

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
Charles Bukowski

Today I have nothing.

I have written about packing and not packing, carry on luggage, check in luggage, travel clothes, travel companions,  souvenirs, my bracelet collection, my Starbucks collection, my good luck charms, LA – where I live, Manhattan and Brooklyn where I am from, places I love, places I hate, my mother, my dog, people who have died, animals that have been killed, airports, airplanes, stewardesses, airport security, things I’ve learned from traveling and not traveling, hotel rooms and things Ive left behind in them, travel addiction, people who think they are black, superstitions, proverbs and quotes from around the world, movies, books, children’s books and songs that have inspired me to travel, food, restaurants, turkey burgers, acting like a tourist, not acting like a tourist, tourist traps, tourist attractions, holidays, traveling alone,eating alone, random photos, being a godmother, travel etiquette, third world countries, countries that have changed names, countries not to travel to, misspelled countries, auto-correct, photography, art, urban art, music, world affairs terrorists and should you blame your parents if you are one,  philosophy, spirituality, religion, prejudice, meditation, things to say and not say to a world traveler, places I haven’t been to, bucket lists, top ten everything, travel problems, imaginary places, movie locations, trip planning, weddings, World Cup, Olympics, first world problems, blogging, Nellie Bly, touching strangers, things i like, things I dislike, the 100th monkey, coffee, sunrises, how to avoid the paparazzi, travel tv shows and people in the world.

I don’t know why they call it writer’s block. I have idea block. I could start reblogging pieces, post other writers, post more instagram photos, read more books and think about writing. I could hope that this is only a temporary setback, go out and do something and then write about it – like move to Spain, go to a wedding in Africa or perhaps the new Broad Museum in LA.

Fly safe,

Cities Without Hunger, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Cities Without Hunger, São Paulo, Brazil

“To create a garden is to search for a better world.  Whether the result is a horticultural masterpiece or a modest vegetable patch, it is based on the expectation of a glorious future. This hope for the future is at the heart of all gardening.”  Marina Schinz


Nothing says hipster in a trendy city neighborhood more than an urban garden plot. Twenty to forty somethings who work in technology, startups or hedge funds are out there on the weekends digging in the dirt.

But urban organic gardens are showing up in some surprisingly unhip neighborhoods in countries around the world. People who don’t have access to a nearby Whole Foods and weekend farmer’s markets are growing food for themselves and their communities. It is changing their lives and the lives of the people around them.

The favelas (slums) of Brazil started after the ‘Guerra de Canudos’ (Canudos War) in Bahia (1895-1896). Government soldiers, who had lived among the favela trees, marched to Rio de Janeiro to await their payment. They settled on what is one of Rio’s hills and renamed the hill ‘Morro da Favela’ after the shrubby tree that thrived at the location of their victory. The government never paid and the soldiers never left and so the first favela came to be. The freed slaves in the late nineteenth century had nowhere to go so they built shacks and were squatters on public and private land. Urbanization in the 1950’s brought mass migration from the countryside for opportunities and employment. The favelas became settlements for the urban poor in the hills of the cities.(Rio)


The poor people began to erect hundreds of shantytowns without sanitation, police or electricity. The shacks were made with what they could find, wood, corrugated aluminum and if they were lucky bricks and concrete blocks. Problems of drug trafficking, gangs, crime, disease, government and police corruption, malnutrition, overcrowding, housing and land safety were rampant. Favelas in Rio are easy to spot. It is a word you will hear during the Olympic coverage because they are very present in the city.


In São Paulo they are on the outskirts of the city. Eventually the Brazilian government stepped in and though the land that most of the favelas are on are considered illegal and unsafe for housing, the city put in electricity and sanitation. They are trying to clean them up and build better housing and public programs but with so many people living below the poverty line it is an ongoing process.


How does change happen in communities like these? It happens by creating programs that teach problem solving, teamwork. financial responsibility and job training. Programs need to be focused on physical health and well-being. You have to involve the local community. The people who live in the favelas have a build your own mentality and a do it yourself community spirit so the right kind of help can make a difference, .

Cities Without Hunger is building community organic gardens in the favelas in the East Zone of São Paulo. They developed community gardens, school gardens and greenhouses on public and private unused land. The gardeners are selling their fresh vegetables to the residents in the favelas at a fair price. Some restaurants have bought as well but the community comes first. I was lucky to be given a tour of a few of the gardens by Hans DieterTemp, Jonas Steinfeld and the people in the favelas who proudly and successfully run their gardens and produce business. Jonas Steinfeld came as a volunteer from Germany and has stayed on as an employee. We were glad to have him translating.


We saw three gardens The first was Horta Sao Mateus. Four families take care of it. It is run by Genival de Farias who spent a long time explaining how the garden worked.


Senhor Genival was talking about the fact that no one wants to use the land under the power lines so that is where they put their garden.


They grow mostly leafy green vegetables which I was told grow fast which makes them a good thing to plant. They also have a variety of medicinal herbs and organic bananas.


The second garden  was Horta Fazendinha Imperador.


This one was run by Jose Vieira Aparecida and his family. (Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love that pot).



It was his mother who started to plant herbs on this abandoned area and Cities With Hunger helped them turn it into an urban farm. (happy customers)


They plant lettuce which they say sells best in the neighborhood. Señhor Jose told me that he used to be very fat and unhealthy until he started working in the garden.


We had lunch at the third garden Horta Da Tia Bela. First we went to their home where they were cooking lunch.


Dona Florisbela Azevedo Silva  and family cooked a beautiful healthy meal with fruit and vegetables from the garden.



I loved the green papaya dessert.


Dona Florisbela and her husband Senhor Valdomiro work in the garden everyday. He is 92 years old.


They transformed a garbage dump into a working farm complete with chickens. (It’s an egg tree)


It is said that the one quality necessary for success is persistence, to persevere in the face of all odds. That is what these people and these gardens represented to me. The self-esteem, pride, laughter, friendliness, sense of humor and confidence they have all come from working hard, building something that was not there before and knowing that they are doing a good a job.


It seems like such a good solution to ease some of the poverty in the favelas. Brazil has a good climate for agriculture. It isn’t as easy in Brazil as it is in the States to set up and get funding for these programs. There is a lot of government red tape and corruption and changes take a long time. It is hard  watching them spend so much money on building for the Olympics when programs like this could really make a difference. The gap between the rich and poor in Latin America has always been a big problem with Brazil leading the pack. This is a great organization to get involved with and if you want to help or have any questions you should definitely  contact them.
The website is Cities without Hunger and twenty-eight dollars will buy seeds for a year.


Thank you to all the people who opened up their gardens and made the delicious lunch. It was my honor to spend some time with you.

Tenha Uma Boa Viagem,



Things I Have Learned and Loved at the 2012 Summer Olympics

Citius, altius, fortius”  (Faster, Higher, Stronger)

motto of the Olympic Games:

Things I Have Learned  and Loved at the  2012 Summer Olympics

I love the Olympics. I love the Opening Ceremonies with the spectacle of creativity and tradition. I love the Parade of Countries. I love the events. For seventeen days I watch as much as I can. I don’t really like sports so I don’t understand where this obsession comes from.   No event is too insignificant for me to watch if I am home. After seventeen days, at the closing ceremonies, I am emotionally exhausted from all the pressure.  I am just as  happy  as the host country  is,  that they are going home.

Every host country has the cutest and most children performing. Who knew there were so many adorable childrens’ choirs in the world? (  China  didn’t and decided to have their cuter child lip sync a less cute child with a better voice.)

Any  Opening Ceremony  directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting), that starts with Kenneth Branagh quoting from The Tempest, brings the Queen Mum in with James Bond, and ends with Paul McCartney singing  Hey Jude is my kind of sporting event.

I love those 81 countries who have never won a medal and really are “just pleased to be nominated.” They are the happiest and proudest people walking in the Parade of  Nations.

Mr Bean  can play Chariots of Fire on the piano.

I learned several new countries in that parade – Djibouti, Dominia, Burkina Fasos, Comorros, Kiribati, Lesotho, Nauru, Moldovo, Sao Tome and Principe and Turkmenistan.

There were nightmares at the Olympics-  a weird and dark element that doesnt really make any sense unless you are Charles Dickens.

I enjoy seeing the countries I haven’t been to because it gives me a taste of the people who live in them. I love how they are all taking video of themselves , each other and the stadium as they march in. Their excitement  is so contagious, that I root for all of them.

I am suddenly interested in the Olympic Trivia.   Denmark is the most competitive in badminton. Some of the Muslims will fast because it is Ramadan. The others will fast later. A few will fast except on the days they compete.  It is the first time that Saudi Arabia sent women athletes. Bangladesh has the largest amount of athletes of the countries who have never won.  The United States has won way more Olympic Gold Medals than anyone else. China has thousands to catch up with. The NBC Pavilion has a Wolfgang Puck Café.

My favorite Olympic commercial is United Airlines “We move them before they move us.” It’s a true Hallmark card moment. ( and they play George Gershwin’s American in Paris)

It is a great Olympic Ceremony that includes  Clash, the Rolling Stones, Queen, the Sex Pistols and David Bowie .

“Its kind of a cool thing to do the best gymnastics of your life at the Olympics” – quote from the TV commentator…… uh,yeah.

Its very hard to medal in the swimming competition if you are in lane 8. It rarely happens – sorry Michael  Phelps. But congratulations on winning the most Olympic medals ever.

I tear up at the back stories and the medal ceremonies. I love watching their faces when they play the National Anthem of the winning country. None of them ever know all the words to their National Anthems.

I hate the nerves. There was a lot of slipping and falling  in men’s gymmastics by a lot of world champions. Women’s gymnastics was an emotional roller coaster . I cried with Jordyn Weiber . I cried with the Russians.  I was jumping up and down when the Americans won the gold. I am a wreck.

I love the crazy parents. Its the ultimate Reality TV.

I get caught up in the mystery surrounding who will be the last person to carry the flame and light the torch.  I usually have no idea who the person is, but it doesn’t matter.  I knew who David Beckham was.   I did not know Steve Redgrave, a five time Olympic Gold Medalist in Rowing.   There are no media scandals surrounding him. It is an event that is not televised in the US (unless it is at three in the morning)  .

The British added humor and wonder to the Chinese spectacle that no one thought they could top. (apparently there are many people who thought they didn’t)  I love the Opening Ceremony competition. So, bring it on Brazil.

Fly Safe