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These sage words of advice were given to me by a dear friend on my trip to New Orleans in 2008.  I went to New Orleans to visit my friend, Autumn, but to also attend the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, also known as Jazz Fest.  Jazz Fest is the 2nd largest event in New Orleans, Mardi Gras being the first.  Jazz Fest is held over two weekends in late April and early May.  There is a 4-day “weekend” and a 3-day “weekend.”  I went for the 4-day event.

Street Performer near Jackson Square

New Orleans, LA (c) 2008

I arrived in New Orleans on the Wednesday before the party was to start.  Autumn is a wonderful hostess.  She had gathered together all the essentials for someone new to New Orleans.  I had a map of the French Quarter, which was clearly marked with the areas that a 20-something female could wander safely by herself, articles and information on Jazz Fest, a pocket guide to New Orleans and the complete Jazz Fest attendance kit.  For those of you who don’t know, Jazz Fest is held at a horse track.  Flat, no shade and few bathrooms.  So included in the kit was: toilet paper, seat covers and hand sanitizer.  Port-a-Potties far outnumbered the flushing bathrooms. Since I had my own pepper spray and whistle, she didn’t have to add that.

Autumn had to work for most of my visit so she tried to arm me well.  The last bit of advice she gave me went like this: Never date a guitar player, especially the ones you’ll meet here.  They aren’t interested in a relationship or any good at it.  Go ahead and have fun with them.  Sleep with them if you want.  Use protection and don’t bring them home. I thought this was sound, and humorous, advice.  It stuck with me long past that weekend.

If you’re curious, singers are just as bad because many of them are guitar players.  I recall that drummers and bass players were okay.

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Pretty, pretty flowers

A few years ago, I noticed that I took better pictures of flowers than I did people.  I would tell people this but they’d still ask me to take pictures for them.  So when handed a camera, instead of telling people “say cheese!” I tell them “you’re pretty, pretty flowers.”  Amazingly, it worked.  My people pictures started improving.  Probably because they were laughing at my crazy antics but I’ll take it.

Diana's Grove, near Bunker, MO (c) 2007

All this to say, I’m going to start adding some more pictures that I’ve taken over the years.  I thought of starting a new blog for this but decided that would just be a pain.  It’s my blog, I’ll put what I want on it.  I still plan to write more on my travels but I’ve decided to open it up a bit.

I made my first venture out of the country last week. I boarded a plane and 17 hours, 3 plane changes and one misplaced suitcase later, I arrived in Göteborg, Sweden.  Thankfully, my suitcase was only delayed in Helsinki, Finland and not in the Bahamas.  My connecting flight from JFK to Helsinki spent an extra 50 minutes on the tarmac.  Of course, my flight from Helsinki to Göteborg only had a 40 minute layover.  I’m thankful that I wasn’t stuck waiting for the next flight like my suitcase was.

Everyone asks me, why Sweden?  A friend of mine from college is from the area and it seemed as good a time as any to make the venture. A place I’ve never been and a free place to crash.  I was in.

It is true that most Swedes do speak English, I was still surprised by how overwhelmed I felt in the first couple of days.  Everything was a half-step off from what I was used to at home. My host was trying to be helpful when pointing out the differences between our cultures but in a way that was even more overwhelming.  The feeling of almost but not quite was more disorientating than I expected it to be. Even before I got off the plane I felt a little too loud, a little too bright.  A little too American.

The natives tend towards neutral colors.  Lots of white, some variation of beige and black.  And white high-top Converse.   My bright purple and pink were definitely out of sync. As a rule, white is a color I refuse to wear.  I tend to spill something on it, like an entire bottle of Coke.

After the first couple of days things eased out.  A random stranger at the “beach” started up a conversation.  The Amnesty International boys whose faces lit up to talk to a native English speaker.  The girl at the Lush store who taught me to say “my name is Alyson.”  (Jag heter Alyson. In case you’re curious.) I found it easiest to start conversation with a very clear “hello,” there is no mistaking that.  If someone spoke to me I smiled and said “I’m sorry, I don’t understand Swedish.”  Except for the older woman in the yarn store, they were all able to switch to English.

As for being too American, that feeling faded.  My friend shook his head in amusement every time he saw me chatting with some random stranger.  While I am an American, I’ve always been a little loud and a little bright.  I rather like that about myself.

Prompt from the #Trust30 initiative.

If we live truly, we shall see truly. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Not everyone wants to travel the world, but most people can identify at least one place in the world they’d like to visit before they die. Where is that place for you, and what will you do to make sure you get there?”

The Surgeon's Photograph c. 1934

The one place I have always wanted to visit was Scotland.  My father’s family immigrated from Scotland, at some point.  The specifics have been lost in the years since.  That is part of the reason I would like to visit there.  The main reason has to do with Scotland’s most famous inhabitant, Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster!  I have been fascinated by Nessie since I was 8 years old.  I wrote several school papers over the years.  Other kids were trying to get their request in to do unicorns and dragons, I wanted Nessie.  I was surprised that no one else had the interest in the Loch Ness Monster that I did.  Nessie might actually exist, while dragons certainly didn’t.  (For most of my childhood, the jury was still out on unicorns.  Pegasus was a myth but I wasn’t sure about unicorns.)

While it pains me to say that Nessie is likely a hoax, I still want to see Loch Ness.  From the pictures I’ve seen of the area it appears to be beautiful, if cold.  Then there is also Edinburgh and Inverness.  I’m sure I could find a place to listen to traditional Scottish music and a nice meal.  Yes, I enjoy bagpipes.  Authentic haggis would be experienced once.  No, really, I don’t want to know what’s in it.

Who knows, perhaps after a visit to a distillery, I may see Nessie myself?

Military Brat, Retired

Intro posts are the Universe’s way of asking, “are you sure you want to do this?”  If you can get through the first post the rest, well it might not be cake, but the ice has been broken and we can finally get underway.  At least this is how I feel about writing the first of anything: first paragraph of a paper, bio for a new group, the first post of a blog.

I’ve done a fair bit of traveling in my life.  Until I was 15 my dad was an officer in the US Navy.  Like most military brats, I moved when my dad’s tour of duty was over. On average, we moved every 2 years.  Some places we lived longer than other.  The shortest time living somewhere was 10 months in Alabama and the longest being nearly 5 years in Hawai’i.  When my dad retired my family moved back to St. Louis, which is where my folks are originally from.  After graduating from college, I stayed in St. Louis as well.  At least that’s where my mailing address is.

This is going to be a place to put my accounts of either living or visiting a place.  Some details have been lost to the passage of time and some places will be from the perspective of a child.  Not everything will be looking so far in the past.  I have several trips planned for this summer, including my first trip out of the country.  I also do a bit of traveling of traveling for my job.

So what does the picture have to do with anything?  That is the squadron patch for the “Screaming Eagles,” which was my dad’s last flight squadron .  There are many other patches that were on my dad’s flight jacket over the years but this is the one I remember the most clearly.  My father often wears a medallion that was based off of that patch.