Tag Archives: friend

Carnival southwestern Germany style!

Germany 2012 comes to a close . . .

Bringing Things Full Circle

Part of the impetus of this trip was to explore the tiny town of Krefeld, Germany with my Mother.

Why Krefeld?

In 1684, Paul Kuster, an ancestor on my maternal grandfather’s side, left that area of Germany (near the Rhine river) for the “free world.” One of thirteen families, the Kusters were part of the original emigrants to Pennsylviana, best known as Pennsylvania Dutch. Why Pennsylvania Dutch and not Pennsylvania German? Not sure. I googled it and found a site with a l o n g explanation of all the why and what-fores. All I DO know is that my grandfather fought for the United States in World War I and did not want to be associated with Germans at all!

How would he feel about his youngest granddaughter becoming enamored with the German language? No idea. He died when I was 6-months old.

My hostess during this final phase of my solo-trip found me through homeexchange.com. She wanted to visit Kauai and accessed the site through her girlfriend in Freiburg who was a member (and who btw has this lovely family you’ll see in the pix below : ).

“Krefeld?” my new friend thought, “Who wants to visit Krefeld????”

Incredulous that someone wanted to visit this tiny town near the border of the Netherlands, she contacted me anyway. One thing led to another, and in December 2011, my mother, husband, and I found ourselves in her COOL apartment in the Median district of Düsseldorf.

If you want to experience the Mother Chronicles, visit: the next couple of posts. : )))

So . . . at the end of my solo-trip, I found myself staying with and getting to know this incredible woman who I met through exchanging homes!!!  A woman who shared her apartment in Düsseldorf, just minutes away from our ancestors old stomping grounds, making it possible for my Mom to have an 80th birthday celebration full of dreams fulfilled.  Lucky us!

Thanks Christiane for your generosity and hospitality!!!

German Lessons Via Skype

Sj with her Mother making dreams come true. : )

Valentine's Day 2012 . . . went to vist a dear friend who lives in Italy. No, we're just good friends.

After visiting Henry & CERN, I flew to Italy!

Girlfriend time!

After devoting MOST of my time to increasing my German vocabulary, I found I needed a girlfriend fix. Women, you know what I mean. Nothing like girl-girl time to laugh, eat, and just plain enjoy each other’s company.

Thanks so much Glenn for sharing your home and hearth!!!

Without further ado, fav photos from this part of my trip:

le creuset orange

Cern, I got to go to CERN !!!

Years ago, a young Jewish man left Yugoslavia just in time.

It was 1943, and in the words of Henry, the then almost 16-year old boy, “I just made it.”

A Quaker group was helping children (up to 15-years old) escape Eastern Europe. Once they arrived in the United States; it was up to other organizations to take over. Luckily for Henry, he was introduced to Joachim Prinz, an infamous rabbi who had stood up to the Nazis in Berlin. Now living in New Jersey, Rabbi Prinz introduced young Henry to the Michael Stavitsky family. Soon Henry was living with the Stavitskys and continuing his education.

Fast forward to February 2012. Henry, now in his 80s and a Professor of Physics at NYC, invited this lucky traveler for a visit to his home outside Geneva. One of the scientists working on the ISOLDE project, Henry periodically spends time at CERN.

How in the heck did this Southern-born and Southern-Baptist-raised woman receive this invitation?

Marriage. Purely a connection by marriage. I just happened to marry one of Michael & Evie Stavitsky’s two grandsons.

In 1986, Henry generously flew to Tennessee for our wedding. Towing a heavy flaming-orange Le Creuset cooking pot, he and his wife Norma gave us one of our all-time favorite wedding gifts. (We’ve used it almost EVERY day of our over 20-year marriage!)

Though I saw Henry only once after our wedding, we maintained contact. Being a good Southern gal, as well as a proper Kappa Kappa Gamma, I made sure to include our distant aunt and uncle in our annual holiday missives. Good thing! Because this trip to CERN and my visit with Henry will remain one of my absolute solo-travel HIGHLIGHTS!

Thanks Henry for your generosity, good company, and yummy-yummy meals!


Friends met and made along the way . . .

Aloha Thailand!

Aloha my friends,

Thanks for hitching a ride on this leg of my journey. I’ve enjoyed having your company.

Where am I writing this? I’m in Tokyo’s modern and amazing Narita airport at a lovely and free internet access “cafe.” (That’s in quotes because the only way I see to get coffee, or any other beverage, is via one of those automat machines–like you see at rest stops along France’s highways where I drank many of them with Dad back in our month-long trip, with Mom and sister Hannah, in the Fall of 1999. And I don’t have the local currency for making a purchase . . . but of course they’ve thought of a solution for that, I’m sure, but coffee’s not on my list of beverages right now. The next plan of action is to sleep and try and get in sync with Hawaii’s time and day zone . . . )

After about a 5 hour layover, I’ll hop on the next flight to Honolulu. When do I arrive there? 10:20 a.m. on Sunday. What time and day is it here now? 7 p.m. something on Sunday. Cool how that works. Due to my frugal and practical nature, I don’t arrive on Kaua‘i until Sunday evening (using HAL miles). So, I reckon I’ll take a bus to the beach in Honolulu for a dip and a shower. At least that’s the plan, I’m open to however it unfolds. This “live-in-the-moment-and-keep-my-eyes-and-ears-open-to-all-possibilities” (or litmakmeaeotap®) form of travel has served me really well the past many months.

In moments of daydreaming, I’d imagined that I’d write a “*SJ’s streaming consciousness thoughts and rambles about SE Asia” kind of something. But, at the moment, I’m not feeling it, so I’m not going to. (Okay, some of you are groaning that I already have with my long going on about coffee machines in France and the trip with my family ages ago . . . ) Granted, I may change my mind (or not : ). That’s part of the beauty of following my heart; when it comes, it just flows. If it doesn’t, then I do something else. There’s always something else.

Kay den, ’nuff of that.

Love and blessings to you all. May the light always shine on you; may you always be surrounded by friends (even when you’re “alone”); may you feel peace and happiness from the top of your head to the tip of your toes; may you enjoy each and every day on your journey of life, the best darn gift each and every one of us has been given.

***Sat Nam.


With my gal pal, Chela, who gave me a ride to the Kaua‘i airport early one morning at the end of May.
I had a long layover in Taipei. Prospective English lesson clients? Maybe.
Class #100 at the CELTA English language teaching school in Bangkok.
During the horrible third week (while passing through and/or over the CELTA wall), we couldn’t calculate how much to pay at lunch! And it was easy math!!!
A smart and friendly student from Japan on my right; Isky, the talented actor from Kuala Lumpur, on my left.
The winners of fellow CELTA student Suelin’s very original and unofficial awards (SJ, Alvin, and Isky, short for Iskander).
Moi with my Bangkok Kundalini yoga instructor, Sunderta.
The 12 trekkers from Denmark, France, Taiwan, Spain, and the United States, who first met in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
My first pals at FLO: Rick, the cameraman; Emily, the troll; and Kate, the giant.
With one of my students while at the beach with FLO (Future Light Orphanage). Recognize him from the dinner out in Phnom Penh?
And with another wonderful FLO student (who recently graduated from high school and started her advanced education course this month).
The fun summer gang of FLO-fans one evening in Phnom Penh.
One of my favorite students . . . okay, who am I kidding, they were ALL my favs!
Dani and Andrew, fellow FLO volunteers, returning “home” after a fun “getaway” to Phnom Penh.
Some of my younger friends at FLO. (Enjoying an apple, thanks to many of YOU !!!)
She’s the most natural teacher . . . and she’s a talented artist; she gave me a cool going away card that she made.
My friend Dani stopped over in Phnom Penh for one night (after visiting Siem Reap and before heading to Ho Chi Minh). FLO’s wonderful chef, and my dear friend, Chancy, and I dropped everything to join Dani for dinner. That was how I found the perfect restaurant for when I would later accompany eight FLO students to dinner in the city. Look up the Friends restaurant in Phnom Penh for more info.
Remember when I wrote about that amazing last day at FLO when many of us went to the Pagoda? The little guy on the right is the boy who took my hand during our walk to and from the temple. : ) Aren’t ALL three boys vibrant!
Oh, what a special day that was!
And I love this shot too much to not include it in my “wrap-up.” It embodies so much of what FLO is about.
Did I tell you about the storybooks that my older students made? They were as varied and as fascinating as the Ss. “Were there recurring themes?” you ask. Yes.
Making friends (or the wanting of friends). Giants (fighting giants, killing giants, running away from giants). Poor people (who need help, who I want to help but can’t, who I hope to help someday, who I want to come to school with me, who have no food). And magical animals or people (who do all k i n d s of things!).
Yes, I think the storybook project was a success.
We ended up doing the second of two scavenger hunts early on the Saturday morning when I bid FLO adieu.  Why? There was a powerful monsoonal rain the previous afternoon. It worked out well; I was able to pass out all their learning materials (their notebooks, storybooks, tests, etc.) AND give them lots of prizes which I’d gathered. There were even enough lollipops for all the little kids who were hanging out with us. (Thanks Dani, Sean, and Kai!)
How very special it was to look these dear human beings in the eye and know that our bond is eternal. Just the right number gathered for a very personal, unhurried, and precious farewell.
And then I began my “travels” . . .

My new friends from Australia (by way of Ireland) and Canada (Laura, Nick, and Leta respectively). We biked together and shared a tuk tuk in Siem Reap (when visiting the many ancient temples).
Here I was with a beautiful young lady from Laos who was taking her visiting parents on an excursion.
The beautiful young couple from Israel (who found me in Hanoi somewhere and somehow early, early one morning) with our trek guide.
The lovely lady on the left made my delicious (and expensive by Vietnamese standards : ) coffee; she was the only “game” in the market (and she’ll do well)!
I had planned to meet Nat (and her friend, Gerry) the previous evening for dinner, but I went to the wrong restaurant (I initially met them on the boat trip to Ha Long Bay). “If I’m supposed to see them, I will, ” I thought to myself. And sure enough, I did! Yeah, I love those synchronistic moments too. : )
On the boat with the “cook” who made my dinner one evening in Hue (with her son).
Remember the “locals only” café in Hue I told you about? Here we are again.
I met these friendly childhood friends from London while touring Ha Long Bay; we ran into one another in both Hue and Hoi An. While in Hoi An, we decided to share both delightful conversation and a delicious dinner.
A few evenings ago in Bangkok, I met up with some of my fellow CELTA graduates; we ate at a place called Cabbages and Condoms. Yes, condoms. Look it up on-line; it’s a cool place with a good cause (and a tasty restaurant). Yes, it was great to see them again. They’ve all gotten good jobs (yes, teaching) in Bangkok!
Michele, my longtime friend who with her husband, graciously shared their Bangkok home.
I spent all day yesterday at a Kundalini yoga retreat doing white tantric yoga; it was amazing. The exercises are done with a partner. Meet my new friend, Japnan; she’s a beautiful young lady (my nephew Jo Ryan’s age) from Taiwan. Being a self-motivated person, she has her own business and is able to work from her home. Good for her! And she has the most beautiful dark brown eyes. It worked out perfectly that the retreat took place on my last day in Thailand (and SE Asia).

That’s me looking up at the ceiling of Bangkok’s Sunvarabhumi airport early this a.m.; or am I really looking down? What do you think? : )

Aloha Thailand!

*One entry was going to be: Vietnames Airlines, the Big Save of SE Asia, i.e. short line, long wait (thanks Tones for that tag line : ) ; it’s one of his classics.

Another? Cheapest place in SE Asia per my informal survey? Vietnam
(Also, didn’t see nary a McDonalds or Starbucks in **Vietnam, did see one KFC there though, in Hanoi, right in a major tourist area and intersection. There are a zillion KFC’s in Thailand and Cambodia btw; they L O V E KFC in those two countries!)

And another, it’s very L O U D in SE Asia, even in the countryside. Sometimes at FLO (in the middle of nowhere really), it would be SO loud as the neighboring communities blasted out their this’es and thats with the wind. (That was one reason I loved Luang Prabang so much; it was quiet there; it felt so much more restful than in other cities.) “Okay, what about LA?” I can hear you ask. “And NYC? And Detroit?” (Detroit? I’ve never been to Detroit. lol Always thought it’d be nice to visit Augie and Rose though.) Alright, got it; we Americans have very loud places too.

Things like that is was I had been imagining that I’d write . . . but not now, maybe another time (or not . . . I’m not making any promises one way or another).

**Didn’t see one KFC or chain restaurant in Laos, but I was only in Luang Prabang. Don’t know about Vientiane and other areas.

***Sat Nam is similar to namaste, which most of you know.
The following was copied from a website I found: http://www.kundaliniyogablog.com/-2006-11-12-sat-nam-definition/

“The Mantra Sat Nam

Sat Nam is a mantra commonly used in Kundalini Yoga and amongst its practicioners. It is frequently repeated three times at the end of a yoga session. But what is the importance of Sat Nam, what does it mean.
I’ve heard the following interpretations for Sat Nam via my Kundalini Yoga instructors:
  • Truth is my identity
  • My identiy is Truth
  • My True Self
  • Truth is our identity
It has been called the process of naming ones self Truth. It can be used similar to Namaste, (the divine in me aknowledges and pays tribute to the divine in you.) Where the “Truth” is the divine.
Being one who likes to get to “Source” info, I decided to do some further research into the nature of Sat Nam. I made an assumption that Sanskrit is a rather root dialect and that “Sat Nam” in Sanskrit would provide supplemental information on the nature of Sat Nam.
I found this Sanskrit Dictionary, and looked up the words, Sat and Nam.
  1. being
  2. real
  3. that which really exists
  4. the real existent truth
I’ve seen it written that Sat means Be, or more apprpriately Be-ness. Which would be the essence of being. (HPB’s Secret Doctorine) I suspect some careful analysis would find an interesting correlation between Be-ness and emptiness. (For those of Buddhist faith)
but onward to Nam.
  1. To bow
  2. To submit or subject oneself
And so one is bowing to Truth, to Be-ness the essence of being.
And the active interpretation of Sat Nam emerges.
Sat Nam
And for those of you who read this far, this just came in today’s “calendar” email from Julie Redstone:


To experience God one must live in the present, 
for it is in the present that new experience arises.
Let go of thinking and be in the moment.
It is in each moment that God may come to you.

Fresh inspiration from my new friend, Dan Hatch

Aloha Everyone,

My new friend, Dan Hatch, just wrote the most beautiful lyrics to sing to the Doxology. I did one little bitty edit at the end to make it fit better rhythmically, and voila! it ended up showing more clearly how WE are responsible for our actions . . . I think you’ll like it. : )

You can also adapt it to your belief system; change the words to suit you.

Share it with your friends!

With warm Aloha and sending you peace in the light,


Great Spirit source of love and life

Help us seek an end to strife;

Fill all our hearts with peace and grace.

May we enhance the human race.


First day in Bangkok or a study in electric lines

Aloha my Friends in all parts of the world,

Happily, I can say that I arrived in Bangkok safe and sound. Met by a friend at 2 in the morning is surely something to be celebrated. Who’s the friend? The husband of a former college buddy, who I met while studying in Bonn, Germany. Her work is in Singapore at the moment, but we’ll meet up as soon as possible.

They’re generously putting me up while I study here for a month and are letting me use their home as “base-camp” during my subsequent travels. Yes, my sister told me already, and I agree; I’m a very lucky girl.

Their spacious apartment has beautiful views of the city,

and, perhaps best of all, a swimming pool ! : ) I already checked it out today, swimming lap after lap working out those sitting-on-a-plane-for-hours-and-hours and jet-lag cob webs. I think it worked because I seem to be fairly well “switched over.” Okay, you just wait and see, I can hear some of you experienced travelers saying. Perhaps, but for the moment, it feels like I made my first date-line crossing all in one piece.

I’ve pretty much been just taking it easy today, unpacking and getting used to the fact that I’m far, far away from my Kaua‘i home. But I did venture out for lunch and managed to snap a few shots of this area. Not sure how often I’ll actually add to my glob once school starts, so for now, this gives you an idea of what it looks like here. Enjoy!

lunch place

Veggie curry & papaya salad at table 10

Yum! (though I don’t think you would have liked it Mark)

Mango sorbet from another place down the road . . . Delicious!

Lots of vendors like this with assorted food items

Scooters galore! That’s the sky train above; I’ll be exploring that soon.

Now comes the study of electric lines . . .

stay pau for now : )


Blessings can come from the most unexpected places. A smile from a stranger. A friend’s warm caress. A plumber who’s free right when you need him. Blessings. They make up so much of our day, if we just take the time to notice.

Two months ago, I received one of the most extraordinary blessings ever. My husband and I had just arrived in Idaho, where we were going to spend several weeks honoring our 25th wedding anniversary. “Boise,” I thought to myself as I rode the short escalator to the lower level, “Never thought I’d be going to Boise.” He went to the right to the rental car counters, and I to the left to baggage claim. In only a few minutes, I had our bags and was completely alone in this quiet little airport. In the waiting area was a wall of photos, a display of the most important people in Idaho’s history of aviation. After reading about some fascinating women, (yes, I chose to just read about the women : ), I glanced to my right and noticed the most classily dressed business woman I’d ever seen. Black jacket, slacks, briefcase. She had the crispness of a well-put-together-woman, without any air of pretension. Doing a double-take, I realized I knew her; it was Liz, one of my absolutely best friends from college. (And now, as I think about it, I realize probably my best friend from college. She’s who I think of first when I think of those days, *first after my older sister, who resides in that special place in my heart reserved for blood sisters—I have two.)

“L i z. Liz is here in Boise. In baggage claim. Liz!”

“Susan!,” she called out, “It is you! What are you doing here in Boise?”

“I think I’m here to see you,” I replied.

She gave me that “get real” look and asked again, “What are you doing here? Well, I can see that you’re going skiing by your luggage,” she replied in answer to her own question. “But what are you doing here? And where’s Tony? Is he here with you?”

“Yes,” I nodded in reply, “He’s getting our rental car.”

And with that we hugged, and hugged, and hugged.

“Oh, now I know why I just had to bring Dad’s quilt!,” I said as I pulled it out of my backpack.

Less than one year after my Dad died (and at Thanksgiving), my oldest sister presented me and my two other siblings each with a one-of-a-kind quilt made from Dad’s favorite shirts. Yes, I cried too when I first saw it and felt it against my skin. Liz had known and loved my Dad. Being from out of town, she would join our family for Easter practically every year while she was in college. She too remembers Dad’s bear hugs and laugh-out-loud enthusiasm for life. She too would appreciate this quilt.

Liz. I ran into Liz in Boise, Idaho. At baggage claim. I’d just received an email from her earlier that day. She hadn’t mentioned where she was. The last time I’d seen her in the flesh was approximately 11-years prior. And here she was in Boise, on business, on a short day trip, and leaving in two hours. My husband and I were there to honor our 25th anniversary and draw this chapter of our life to a close. Why to a close? Because we are taking a break from our “work” life and beginning our personal journeys into our heart-selves. Journeys to explore the deepest parts of ourselves. Journeys to parts unknown.

The next week as I was skiing in beautiful Sun Valley, I remembered something important. Something that added even more meaning to running into Liz the week before.

Twenty-five years ago, newly married and excited to start our life together in Hawaii, my husband and I traveled across the country in our 1971 VW bus. And when we landed in California, we stayed with Liz. She had recently moved to Long Beach to begin her life after college; she had just started dating a former high school friend who would eventually become her husband. It was Liz who picked us up that auspicious day as we were walking down a desolate road at Matson’s vast shipyard; we had just left all our possessions behind to be shipped to O‘ahu. We were moving to Honolulu to begin our video production company and business life together.


And here we are, starting another phase of our life. And Liz magically appears.

I called her an angel that day at the Boise airport, and she laughed.

And now, as I begin my journey with a first-stop in Bangkok, I realize that she indeed is an angel. And that her unexpected appearance that day was the perfect Blessing on which to launch our solo-yet-not journeys.

Please join me on this adventure. My glob will be exactly that, a glob of this-and-that. I too will be observing how it unfolds. I too will be expecting blessing after blessing, as I give thanks for one after another, and for all of Y O U wonderful beings who are joining me on this ride. May the Light of God guide each one of us on our solo-yet-not journey.

: )

*Yes, lots of firsts. It’s actually possible to have several firsts that happen at the same time. Fun to think about, isn’t it?