Leap Of Faith

“Sometimes  your only available transportation is a leap of  faith “

Margaret Shepherd

I am  the first one to get on a plane to go anywhere I have never been. But sometimes you can travel without ever leaving your hometown.  Every big city has its ethnic neighborhoods with interesting restaurants,  markets, specialty shops, massages, acupuncture, threading,  henna ,fortune tellers , museums, theatres, music and dance programs,  herbalists, houses of worship etc.  There is always an opportunity to learn something new.

That was the experience I had  with the New Grounds Muslim Jewish Fellowship put together by Temple Emanuel and King Fahad Mosque.  In our first meeting a group of women walked in wearing hijabs  (head coverings) and traditional blouses in beautiful colors. The men came in with somber faces . ( I probably had one as well) We stopped to have a break  for them to pray .  It felt strange to stop a meeting to pray. Prayer isn’t so easy for me anyway.

We got to know each other through special exercises. We had to really break down our own barriers to talk about issues.  Slowly, we became friends. Our last meeting was in the mosque. All the women wore the hijabs and everyone had to leave our shoes at the door.   I was inspired to put together a beautifully colored outfit with matching head covering as well. (not my usual black) .

I had seen the blue dome of the King Fahad Mosque in Culver City many times.  As I pulled into the parking lot, a man approached me. He was wearing a black skull cap  and  a long-sleeved white cotton shirt  that came below his knees.  He said,” Are you  one of our guests today?”  He directed me to the women’s entrance.  I watched the men greet each other as they prepared to pray.   It didn’t look strange at all .  It wasn’t  a scary place filled with terrorists.  It was beautiful and welcoming and peaceful.   The blue and white tiles reminded me of the Alhambra in Spain.   I remember learning that blue is a protective color and I look forward to seeing the Blue Mosque in  Istanbul .  I understand more about praying now. Praying five times a day doesn’t seem weird to me anymore. . It is about taking time during your day to think about  something bigger than yourself – to step back and remember what is important.  I am trying to find the time to meditate everyday – also to step back.

I know that we are all Americans. If we had met in a mall, a museum or at a UCLA class, we would have been brought together by similar interests.  This time, we were brought together by our differences.  This is what happens when you travel. The differences are obvious. The similarities are later revealed.

I have learned that a complete stranger in a country so different from yours can become your friend.  If you spend five minutes getting to know someone from another culture, chances are you will find much more in common than you thought.

Leaving the mosque felt exactly like leaving a foreign country.  It feels strange when I arrive and it feels comfortable when I leave.  I ‘m always leaving new friends, and I always want to return.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

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My Top Ten Sunrises

“ Living on Earth may be expensive but it includes an annual free trip around the Sun.”

My Top Ten Sunrises

Sunsets are easy.   You are usually awake and can make a  plan.  “Lets  have a drink and watch  the sun set over the Ocean, the River,  the Volcano, the Old City,  the Rainforest  etc.”  They are usually social.  Sunrises in my life  are fewer,   accidental and  sometimes seen alone. My goodbye to a city  is often at sunrise.  I  take a lot of early morning flights .

1. Machu Picchu, Peru   My plan was to meditate at sunrise on Machu Picchu.  By 4:30AM , the road into  Machu Picchu becomes Disneyland on a crowded Sunday. .   It wasn’t easy to find a quiet place .  Machu Picchu is in the clouds. The sunrise is cloudy and rainy most of the time.  Still, the eery light hitting Machu Picchu  in the morning  feels very spiritual.  We will never  know why  Machu Picchu was built and who lived there but we know that every morning they saw this same sunrise.

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2.  Mount Masada, Israel   When I was in college,  we climbed   Mount  Masada.  It was very hot and very dark. At the top,  there was  water and a ladle that everyone drank from (I know we didn’t have Aids then, but we did have germs!!) It is still the best water, I have ever tasted.  We sat down to watch the sunrise .  The guide told us the story of the Jews  surrounded  by the Roman army. We reflected on their choice to kill the women and children themselves before the Romans got up there.   It was a somber sunrise.

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3. Venice, Italy    My kids and I were taking a boat to the airport  in the dark as the sun quickly rose over Venice. The colors change with every light and shadow and it is truly the most beautiful city in the world .

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4. Havana, Cuba   Leaving Havana in darkness, thirteen years ago,  I was filled with a lot of emotions.  My daughter had performed at the Cuban Ballet Festival. We had no information going in and had no idea what to expect.  It turned out to be one of  the most amazing experiences of our lives.  The dark streets were filled  with humanity going to work.    They were crowding the bus stops to get on the few running buses .    People were selling snacks.   The sun rose over  the busy streets and faded colors of the buildings. It sparkled off the water hitting the  Malecon ( sea wall) and shined on the old cars from the fifties.    I took an imprint in my memory because I knew when I came back and Fidel was gone it would be different.

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5. Barcelona, Spain   was the opposite experience.  It was summer and the city was crowded with tourists. As I drove to the airport at sunrise, the streets were filled with students and young people  who had been out all night, dressed in their club clothes. They were all  on Las Ramblas, trying to keep the evening going.

6. Perissa Beach (black sand), Santorini, Greece   I also had been out all night and now we were sitting on  the beach .  A large Pelican stood next to us, waiting for the restaurant to open for breakfast, as the sun rose over the black sand beach.

7. Gamboa Rainforest, Panama   We came into the hotel at night and everything was very dark .  At sunrise,  I saw and heard the sounds of the  amazing rainforest for the first time.   The sunrise is nature’s alarm clock.  I got up every morning  to lie in my hammock and have a  coffee (best room coffee called Puro –I brought some home) and listen to the sunrise .

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8. Cervina, Italy    Sometimes a sunrise involves a decision.  I was seventeen and it was my first trip to Europe. I  had gotten up to ski from Cervina to Zermatt, Switzerland.  We had to bring our passports. (it was so WW2) As the light of day broke,   all we could see was the white of a  huge snowstorm.    I went shopping in Milan instead.  I can be flexible.

9. Bangkok Thailand   The sun rose just  as  we pulled up to Suvarnabhumi Airport.  There was no one  outside  except for two monks wearing saffron robes and sandals. They were leaning up again the modern steel and glass building of the airport. The sunrise reflected them in the glass.

10. Yufuin, Japan    It was our last morning and we wanted to use the onsen (mineral baths) . I was the only American in the ryokan (probably in the town)  I decided not to wear my kimono and just go in my pajamas and a jacket. It was outside and very cold.    To my surprise, the pre dawn bathhouse,  was filled with Japanese women in kimonos  or showering. It was 32F degrees and I just  couldn’t shower outside.  .I jumped in as the sun rose in the sky.  I made so many cultural mistakes that morning (including coffee before breakfast)   Luckily, the Japanese are  very polite.

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Brooklyn, NY    When I was growing up,   my favorite place to see the sunrise was to go to Kennedy Airport and watch the planes take off .  After the sunrise, we would have breakfast there.   I wondered when I would be a person, going to some exotic location on an early morning flight.

Fly Safe

JAZ

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Things I Have Learned In Berlin

Many small people, who in many small places, can alter the face of the world.”    A quote from the  Berlin Wall

Things I Have Learned In Berlin

Checkpoint Charlie is the Cold War Security point between East and West Berlin. This is not the original one  in Berlin. The original one is fourty kilometers away. This is the one they set up for the tourists because it is closer to the wall.  There doesn’t seem to be anyone who knows who  the American soldier is, in the very large photograph in front of Checkpoint Charlie.

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In 1996 Berlin became  the center of Germany’s commercial and underground art movement. The galleries quickly moved from West to East Berlin forming the East Berlin Art Mile on Auguststrasse in Mitte.

If you are a fan of “form follows function” (as I am)  visit the Neue Nationalgalerie designed by Mies Van Der Rohe (twentieth century paintings)  and the Bauhaus museum designed by Water Gropius ( they used his building plans) The Bauhaus school  was closed in 1933 because the new National Socialist government was afraid of their “subversive ideas and degenerative art.”

Kandinsky had a problem with the color green when teaching at the Bauhaus.

The German born artist Joseph Beuys had a big exhibit at the Hamburger Bahnhof –(old train station) Museum of Contemporary Art.  I love contemporary art but I have never gotten him or his fascination with fat and felt.

Fredrik the Great of Prussia ordered that potatoes and cucumbers  be the staple of the German diet because it was cheap.The portions are usually large and filling. Berlin has the largest immigrant population of any German city so there are may types of food –most common are Russian, Turkish, Vietnamese and Dutch.

“Berlin has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to the treatment of its Jews but anti-Semitism was around long before Germany” (from the Scottish tour guide)

The Holocaust Memorial in Berlin occupies a large outdoor space near Hitler’s bunker and the Brandenburger Gate. It is made up of 2,711 gray stone slabs of different heights and shapes. They have no markings such as names or dates.

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The Adlon Kempinski Hotel in Berlin has had Presidents, royalty and most recently Obama staying there, but it is most famous for being the place where Michael Jackson put his baby out the window.

Bebelplatz (where they burned the books in 1933) in East Berlin, is now the location of one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever stayed in (Hotel de Rome  was originally the Dresdner bank building. They kept a lot of the building intact.  ).

There is a parking lot over Hitler’s bunker because they don’t want it to become a neo Nazi shrine.

The Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament, is one of Berlin’s most historic landmarks. It is close to  the Brandenburger gate and was located right next  to the Berlin wall. You have seen it in many movies.

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I should explain the Brandenburger Gate since I keep mentioning it. It is the only remaining gate to the city, rebuilt in the eighteenth century and again after World War 2.  It is one of the landmarks of  Germany. It is the entry to Unter den Linden –the boulevard of Linden Trees . King Frederick of Prussia had the trees planted as a sign of peace leading up to his palace. It was on the East Berlin side of the wall and inaccessible to the west until the wall fell.

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World War Two has had more books and papers written about it than any other period in history.

Kaiser Wilhelm the Second said, “More enemies, more honor”.

There is as much security at the Jewish Museum in Berlin as there is at the airport (except for the pictures of Terrorists of the week at Passport control)  The new section designed by David Leibskind is based on an exploding Star Of David. The spaces disappear into angles. It  is more about space  than what is in it.

The Resistance museum is housed in the building where the attempt was made on Hitler’s life by his generals.

It is illegal to have a swastika out in the open in Germany (except for historical purposes)

The Berlin Wall was built after WW2 to keep the East Germans from escaping to the west. It was a symbol of the “cold war.”  Most of the wall has been taken down in 1989 but some places still  stand. The East Side gallery which has 106 graffiti paintings painted in 1990 as a memorial to freedom is the most interesting.

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East Berlin is now the trendy part of Berlin – first the artists, then the galleries,then the gays, followed by trendy restaurants, bars, boutiques and hotels, and then the yuppies.

In 1870, Rosa Strauss left Germany with her young son Levi.  He teamed up with a tailor to make a kind of  material that would be good for the men going to the gold rush.

Berlin has no famous industry except culture.(and now its history – sorry, I loved Berlin but  between the Nazis and the Communists it was hard to make jokes. )

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Also see Things I’ve Learned In Munich

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/things-i-have-learned-in-munich/

Going To Neuschwenstein

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/going-to-neuschwanstein/

Haben Einen Sicheren Flug

JAZ

The Suitcase

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” – Jack Kerouac

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The Suitcase

Sometimes, packing takes me a long time. I would like to take my suitcase out the week before and see what fits but I  can’t because of my dog. I have to wait until the last possible second.

Dogs live in the present moment.  I spend a lot of time and money learning how to live in the present moment. Here is the bad thing.  When my dog sees the suitcase, all he knows is that I am leaving. He doesn’t remember what will happen to him.   In his mind, he will be alone  and there will be no food.. He has forgotten that he might be sleeping with my son,  playing with Olga’s kids,  going everywhere with Julie or hiking  all day with KT. He is not locked up in a kennel.  He gets a lot of attention when I am gone.  He has forgotten that when I return,  he will sit at the front door for three days waiting for these people. He has forgotten that after a big welcome back, he will ignore me for those three days.

He walks into my bedroom  with his tail wagging and  sees the suitcase. His whole body droops. He lies down and puts his paws over his eyes. If that doesn’t work ,  he sits on my clothes as I am packing them.  He  rolls  around on them to leave his smell so I remember him.  When he can’t stand it anymore, he leaves the room . He walks slowly with his head down and his tail between his legs.  He looks back every few seconds to  see if I  understand the severity of what I am doing to him.

He returns an hour later. He is running  with a toy and wagging his tail.  He has forgotten.  He stops short . “Oh no, it’s the SUITCASE ,” and the drama begins  again.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

Things I Learned In The U.K.

“From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!”

Dr. Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Things I Learned In The UK

There is nothing the Brits love better than musicals where they already know the songs, drinks that light up in the theatre,  and drag queens,  as in Mamma Mia, Thriller, Dirty Dancing,  We Will Rock you and  Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

The UK did a composite of the worst drivers in the UK. The worst woman would be a hairdresser from Gloucester, driving a BMW. Hairdressing must be lucrative in  Gloucester.

An ATM is called a hole in the wall.  As in, the hole in the wall is not working.

Buckingham Palace seems to be a lovely place to grow up.

If you are starving and you don’t know what you would like to eat, the food department at Harrods would not be the place to go. ( so big and overwhelming. )

The guards at the  Tower of London  are called Yeoman Warders or the “Beefeaters”. Their job description is to look after  the prisoners in the tower and guard the crown jewels.  Their actual job is tour guide. They are called Beefeaters because up until the eighteen hundreds, they were paid in part with chunks of beef.(life seemed a lot easier –no vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians – just beefeaters)

I love watching the news on the BBC. It is much less stressful than CNN.  If it rains a little more than usual  here,  we are on Storm Watch.   An engine shuts off on a plane in the air and they have “ a bit of a problem”.

If you have no sense of direction, then walking from the National Gallery in London to Harvey Nichols is probably not a good idea, unless you have done it before and for some reason, your feet go in the right direction and you get there

There are no sales in   Edinburgh or London when I am there.

In the UK, they say sorry instead of excuse me, which does make it better when they bump into you.

In London, you can be engaged just by closing a bathroom door.

In the Uk, everyone says  no worries. We have recently taken that one. I still worry.

If you are walking down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh and you see men on stilts, Vikings, people  in animal costumes, a lot of Elizabethans, mimes, magicians  and assorted costumes; and they happen to be begging, cajoling, pleading, persuading, enticing, sweet-talking you into seeing their plays, you have arrived in August at the Fringe Festival .It is one of the largest and most popular theatre arts festivals in the world.  My daughter has performed there and my son has worked there.  It is one of my favorite places to be in August.

The Edinburgh Tatoo, which has been sold out in advance for the last two decades, plays every night in August.  It is a ceremonial performance by military musicians. There are military corps from all over the world playing bagpipes and drums. It has turned into quite the extravaganza and like nothing else I have ever seen. I have to say I teared up at the end when 8000 people linked arms and sang Auld Lang Syne with correct pronunciation.

Not everyone in Edinburgh speaks like Sean Connery and sometimes understanding the Scottish brogue can be a bit of a problem.  I just smile and nod and I hope I didn’t agree to anything important.

In Heathrow Airport there is a sign with a picture of a woman and two men. It is not the international symbol for menage a trois,  It means elevator(?)

The Saatchi Gallery is always closed when I get to London.

The Tate Modern is always open when I am there. I love to walk from there across the Milennium Bridge to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Heathrow Airport has the best sales in July.

The British Museum houses all the antiquities that the British plundered from other countries. It probably would have been great to see the Rosetta Stone , Elgin Marbles and ancient Egyptian statues in their own countries instead of the Hall of the Stolen Goods.

If you have no sense of direction in Scotland, it doesn’t matter because when you ask one person for directions, everyone on the street will stop and give you their opinion as to the best way to get there.

Traditional British food is anything high in cholesterol and fried in grease.  They have names like Bubble and Squeak ( some left over mashed potato and cabbage pancake  -no bubbling or squeaking), Bangers and Mash (sausages and mashed potatoes), Haggis (pork guts cooked in sheep stomach, ) beans on toast (Brits are obsessed with toast) Yorkshire Pudding ( not pudding –bread),Cornish Pasties (meat in a pastry almost as good as the many different types of canned meats),  black pudding (sausage? Is everything edible called pudding?) Scotch eggs (hard boiled egg fried inside a sausage inside a pastry).  Dessert can be Sticky Toffee Pudding (yum)  or (yes) Spotted Dick. (yellow cake with raisins) followed by digestive biscuits  .(need I say more here?)

The most common phrase in the UK seems to be “Is this the queue?

For more info read London with a little help frim my friends

https://havefunflysafe.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/best-things-to-do-in-london-with-a-little-help-from-my-friends/

Fly Safe

JAZ

Things I’ve Learned In Spain

“ When Columbus started out he didn’t know where he was going, when he got there he didn’t know where he was, and when he got back he didn’t know where he had been. “                               anonymous

Things I’ve Learned In Spain

Two out of the three bullrings in Barcelona have been converted to shopping malls.

Don’t eat fish in Barcelona on Mondays because the fishermen don’t go out on Sunday.

Rebaixes and rebajas mean sale in  Spanish.

The security at the Alhambra was not the best. Twenty-one out of the twenty-two ruling Sultans were murdered.

When a bull kills a bullfighter, both the bull and his mother are killed. (bad genes).

Olive oil cures everything. If you are sick, it will make you well. If you are fat it will make you thin.  If you are short, it will make you tall.

Ole comes from the Moslem Allah is great and Hola comes from the Moslem come with Allah.

If you have no sense of direction, trying to find the Beaux Arts Museum in Seville during siesta time in 107-degree heat, is probably not a good idea.

Christopher Columbus was quite the wild and crazy guy.  Today, he would have been in the movie business.

Many great cities in Europe have a Jewish Quarter, where they have killed the Jews but saved their buildings.  Spain has them.

Las Descalzas Reales is a working monastery in the center of Madrid near the Gran Via and Puerta Sol. A large number of wealthy women seeking refuge from bad marriages in the sixteenth century joined the convent. It became one of the wealthiest convents in Europe with an amazing art collection. Despite the wealth, the sisters had taken a vow of poverty and by the mid twentieth century they were living in starvation among a sea of art. The state intervened and opened it as a museum. The tours are in Spanish and given by the nuns who still live and work there.  You can figure it out and understand words like Titian and Brueghels, while watching the nuns  tend to their vegetable garden. It is a very tranquil place in the midst of a very busy city

The effects of inbreeding can easily be seen in the Velazquez paintings of the royal family in the Prado.

No one really knows why Goya painted those “black paintings.”  No biographer really knew Goya. He was the painter of the court and the painter of the people. He had no rival in life. Were the paintings a result of the Spanish Civil War – a decade before? His deafness or serious illness?

It is always my first stop at the Prado.

Bullfighting can be watched on TV in Spain . The close-ups and slow reenactments of the bull being tortured and killed are quite gruesome.  I have questions about the Spanish culture. (Of course, the thick hot chocolate with churros for breakfast does make up for it)

El Rastro is the oldest and most crowded  flea market in Spain (Madrid).  Once home to criminals and rogues  , now it is just pickpockets. The Nineteenth century writers Hilario Penasco and Carlos Camabronero wrote “There in muddled heaps, appear side by side a militia uniform and a chipped crockery set, a portrait of the Duke of La Victoria, a carnival cape, a mantilla and an eighteenth century swordsman. Therefore, the father of the household, the amateur actor, the industrious wife and the antiquarian will always find  at the Rastro something that answers their needs to satisfy their pastimes.”

My thpanish is tho much better thinthe I have been here. (they lisp because the King of Spain had a lisp so they all had to speak like that-it stuck!)

You can make a meal of tapas ( best with Spanish sherry or red wine (tinto).   You can go around eating tapas  and then have  a big Spanish meal at 10:30 at night. If you walk into a restaurant before 9:30 you are the only diners and  clearly  tourists.

I love  going to La Boqueria in Barcelona ( the big fruit and vegetable market  ) on Las Ramblas for a light lunch  ( they do breakfast but i cant eat like that for breakfast) at Bar Pinoxto.

Antonio Gaudi was very short for someone with such a huge imagination.

The Church of the Sagrada Familia has been under construction since 1882 so don’t complain about your renovations.

Gaudi’s influence is all over Barcelona and if you are walking down a side street and see a house that looks like his, it probably is.

They have Museums of Ham in Madrid.  You eat ham even when you don’t know you are eating it or expect it.

One of my favorite modern art museums in the world is the Reina Sofia in Madrid.  If you only have time for one museum in Barcelona go to the Joan Miro Foundation on Montjuic and skip the Picasso (his early works) and MACBA.  I tell you this because I already made this mistake.

There are no words to describe the Mexquita in Cordoba and pictures don’t do it justice. It was originally the second largest Mosque in the world. In the twelfth century it was reclaimed by the Spanish and turned into a Roman Catholic Church. The blend of architecture is confusing and amazing. My personal opinion is that it is sad that both religions can’t use it because it is a history of two religions.

There are way too many Corte Ingles in Spain ( a department store like Nordstroms) as in, turn left at the Corte Ingles and then turn right at the next Corte Ingles.

Grathiath,

Viajen con cuidado

JAZ

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Tell Me How Much You Have Traveled

“Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you have traveled.” — Mohammed

I’m sorry to start this blog on a sad note but one of my close friends died this morning unexpectedly.  He was a world renowned geneticist .  His vocation  gave him the ability to do what he loved  –  do good work and see the world.

Besides medical questions,  you could go to David with any travel question you had and he  probably had the answer.  He was his own travel agent. He was an expert in the field of airline savings (his specialty was business and first class) and was a mileage savant . His area of expertise was finding the best websites  for travel deals. His  forte was five star hotels.

He lectured and treated patients all over the world,.  His patients and colleagues became his friends.  Therefore his own travelogues  were filled with personal recommendations and interesting people.  I’m particularly jealous of his trip to India.  ( where he was treating one of the princesses)

I’m also in awe of the packing skills of David and his beautiful wife Ann. I happened to be staying at their house on the morning they were leaving for India for a few weeks.  It was their first trip  to that country.  They hadn’t started thinking about packing till the night before. They were still packing  in the morning as the car pulled up to take them to the airport.   I am not that casual   a traveler.

David loved to tell his travel stories and I loved hearing them.   Whether he was driving through Yugoslavia, trying to get to the airport in China, seeing the cremations at Varinasi,  meeting friends in Red Square, or  visiting Annie in Africa, it always sounded like an adventure.  He went to more places than most of us will ever go in our lifetime.  Ann, Lauren and Michael were always ready to join him.

My last travel question to him was two weeks ago. (My last medical question was one week ago) Should my son stay on the Hong Kong or Kowloon side?  Of course David had been to that country  many times and had the answer.  I will miss him. Fly safe David.

JAZ