It’s hard to know when to time your visit to Fulton-Rockport. If you miss the whopping cranes, you can catch the migrating birds from across the Gulf of Mexico who arrive in May or enjoy the hummingbirds who pass this way in September on their way back across the gulf. Anytime you go, you’ll enjoy meeting birders from around the world who appreciate all that’s been done to save the whooping cranes. So, until the next column, remember “birds and birders know no borders”.
At Lao Chi, we stopped at a restaurant where our guide was to cook us lunch. It was there, two hours after the start of the trek, that we finally looked at the women’s goods. They had invested much of their time getting to know us and we them, hoping we would buy something. Obviously, we did. It helped that they had some nice selections of the embroidered purses, pillow covers, and wall hangings that we had seen in Sapa stores. But we would have bought something anyway, simply because we were now on a first name basis and had shared so much personal information. After hugs, Yen, Coo, Zoa, Lillie, My and Zaa left and we had lunch seated in an open air restaurant overlooking the river and dormant rice fields.
After lunch we discovered that this marketing system was not limited to one walk. As we continued on, twelve new Hmong women joined us. “Hi, what’s your name? Where are you from? How many children do you have?” I don’t know if the word got out that we were generous buyers, but more women continued to join us. When we finally stopped at our destination, 22 women were walking with us. We couldn’t buy from all of them and actually we bought very little from the second group. But they candidly said that was okay, “there would be other visitors.”
From our walks with the women (there were more walks), we learned that the men are too shy to sell. Because the women are now selling, the men have assumed extra chores, including minding the children. The villages have even brought in English teachers to help them with the vocabulary they need. There is a system among those selling in the villages. Only one sale per person is allowed until all in the group have made a sale. They share goods among themselves to be sure everyone gets a sale.
During the next couple of days, we would see some of our new friends in the marketplace or on the streets of Sapa. They always smiled and said hello but did not ask us again to buy. Not all of the Hmong women were so disciplined as we were often approached on the Sapa streets to buy. It is certainly a risk that this new found industry could seem like begging. But we were impressed with the self-imposed rules that the village women used to protect both us and them.
The business schools in our universities could learn some lessons from the Hmong women. After all of the business, marketing, and financial plans, the decision to buy is an individual one. And being on a first name basis can tip the scale. So, until the next column, remember each culture has its own way of closing a sale.
Turquoise stones come in three colors – white, green, and blue. American Southwest mines used to produce significant stones, but now less than thirty mines are still operating. If you are a true collector, you know which mine produces the most beautiful stones. But here’s the shocking truth – 80 % of turquoise stones used in jewelry today are from (sigh) China! There are natural stones and stabilized stones. White turquoise is too soft to work with and is stabilized by injecting liquid plastic into the stone, which brightens the surface and hardens the substance. Most stones are waxed, oiled and lacquered. Only 10% of the stones used in turquoise jewelry are natural stones.
Semuc Champey – Two hour drive from Coban, Guatemala. Their web site, http://www.semucchampey.com, has lovely pictures.
Kan’ Ba Caves – located immediately downriver from Semuc Champey.
Hotel La Posada in Coban – a private residence that became a hotel in 1939. 1a calle 4-12, zona 2, 502-7952-1495;http://www.laposadacoban.com
Casa D’Acuna – wonderful restaurant and home of the best waiter in Guatemala – extensive menu. (It’s also a budget hotel.) 4a Calle 3-11 Zona 2, 502-7951-0482
Oklahoma City National Memorial – 620 N. Harvey Avenue, 405-235-3313; http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org
National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum – 1700 NE 63rd, 405-478-2250; http://www.nationalcowboymuseum.org
Super Cao Nguyen Grocery Store – 2668 N. Military Ave., 405-525-7650; http://www.caonguyen.com
Pho Hoa Restaurant – 901 NW 23rd, 405-521-8087
Saturn Grill – “Eat Great Food on a Cool Planet” – wonderful sandwiches, salads and slogan – 6432 Avondale Dr., 405-843-7114; http://www.saturngrill.com
Cheever’s Café – Great for a special evening out. (We saw a wedding proposal here) 2409 N. Hudson Avenue, 405-525-7007; http://www.opentable.com
After two hours of hiking through nature’s vertical gardens in the Canadian Rockies, we parted from the rest of our group and watched them continue an even steeper climb over a mountain pass. The brothers kept up their jaunty walk and soon disappeared.
Since there were three members of the Holy Cross Episcopal choir in our group of four, we were able to sing many of our Lessons and Carols pieces, most of them British. Anything by John Rutter came easily to them. None of these stumped the brothers. But while Betty, Paul and I would forcefully sing the first verse of a piece, they also knew the second and the third and even the fourth verses. I’m sure we were quite a sight to other hikers as one of the twins dramatically directed his small chorus in our Alpine cantata. We even caroled on the path back and heard stories about giving tours at Windsor castle and performing in England. Nothing could slow down our brothers.
Suggestions for Lake Louise, Banff, Canada:
Hiking in the Lake Louise area is glorious and should include the glacier walk on the far side of Lake Louise and any of the walks in the Lake Moraine area
Deer Lodge, 109 Lake Louise Dr, Lake Louise, Banff – 800-661-1595 – http://www.deerlodgelakelouise.com. Wonderful location but some rooms are very small.
Post Hotel Dining Room, P.O. Box 69, Lake Louise – 800-661-1586 – http://www.posthotel.com. A member of the luxury group, Relais & Chateaux properties, it has the best food in the area if you want to splurge.
Walliser Stube Wine Bar – located in the Chateau Lake Louise – 403-522-1918 – Wonderful Swiss food
The tradition began in 1979, our first year in Paris. It was December and we were just learning our way around northeast Texas. My good friend, Toni, suggested that we take a day and Christmas shop in Dallas. Twenty-eight years later, we continue to make that yearly pilgrimage to the land of boutiques, malls and late hours.
Some Parisians travel to Dallas so often they don’t consider it a trip. But it is. When you stop and think about, it is 100 miles. In the northeast United States, you could be across the borders of three states. As with all traveling, you have to think about what you’ll need for the day (or week-end). Who’s driving? Do you take the north or the south route? Should you throw in your tennis shoes in case your feet wear out? How about an umbrella for possible rain? You have to map out your stops and plan your meals. The salesclerks and waiters are strangers. It’s truly a travel experience.
The first years of our Advent journey were intense, especially after having children. The shopping list seemed to get longer and the stores bigger. We started going on a week-day to avoid some of the crowds. Our pattern is to start south, sometimes in the Knox-Henderson area, but always including Northpark Mall. Shopping with a woman is different than shopping with a man. If you ask a man his opinion on a possible purchase, you get a hurried “sure, that’s fine” or a shrug. Only a woman friend will tell you if that chartreuse colored sweater is really that cool or that weird. A woman will help with the analysis needed to determine quality and value This is true whether you’re shopping in Dallas or Hong Kong. Women don’t tap their feet while you detour into one more store. And women also see things that are not on the list, which is actually the very best part– finding something you had never considered and loving it. I still sing in the shower with this corny plastic sing-a-long book Toni found once and we have never seen again.
After the run through Northpark, we always head to a book store, Borders being the favorite. It’s easy to lose yourself and time in this store. After a coffee break, we hit (interesting shopping term) the Container Store for wrapping goods. Originally, the Galleria was the next stop. The houseware department at Macy’s always has great bargains and Nordstrom’s lovely piano music distracts you from the headache you get breathing mall air. In all those years, we’ve only had one scare– in an almost empty Galleria parking lot at night. As we emerged, loaded down with shopping bags on a vacant second floor of the parking garage, a car sped towards us, stopped and some menacing guys started out of the car. We ran awkwardly, throwing things into our van, and then another car rounded the corner and they sped away. After that experience, we learned to take advantage of store security guards who will accompany you to your car if you are out late.
And, finally, the last stop– Toys ‘R Us. We once arrived at this toy mecca at 10 p.m., a very good time to be there. It was almost empty and we could seriously play with any toy we were considering. I think that was the year that we got stopped for speeding at midnight in Melissa. The highway patrolman asked where we were headed and why we were out so late. After our reply, he flashed his light into the back of the car because he couldn’t believe we were just coming home from a shopping trip. The sea of shopping bags must have impressed him as he let us go with a warning.
The trip has changed over the years. Toys ‘R Us is out for the moment. There are more stores at Northpark and we don’t always make it to the Galleria. Our lunches and coffee breaks are longer as we talk more and shop less. We look more for stocking stuffers than big items. And we are usually home by 7 or 8. Being glad to get home is the final reason a drive to Dallas is truly a trip.
We continued the tradition this year. Expanded choices in Paris have increased our purchases here. And the ability to order and mail items over the internet to our spread-out families has shortened the Dallas shopping list. But we will always go, even if it’s just to have the time to visit on the way there and back. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it. So until the next column, remember “a friend you can shop with is a friend indeed”.
Guatemala is a lovely country, especially in the mountains during the rainy season. Yes, it rains most days but usually for only a part of the late afternoon. The view for the rest of the day is of lush, deep green fields filled with vegetables, coffee and fruit supervised by puffing volcanos. Because plots are small, there is a checkerboard effect that is missing in the large farms in the United States. Farming sustains two-thirds of the population, but only at a very basic life style. When the family outgrows the production of the family plot, something has to give. The first move is to the cities of Guatemala. When work is not found there, the next move is to the United States.
During a two-week stay to study Spanish in Quetzaltenango (known as Xela), I had the opportunity to speak candidly with my teachers and host family about the immigration problem from their perspective. Everyone has a relative in the U.S., but the stories are seldom happy. A typical scenario came from my first teacher. Rosalba was young, in her 20’s, unmarried and living with her sister. Slender and wide-eyed, my instructor smiled readily and was an organized, fun teacher. Her family had initially consisted of her parents, two brothers and three sisters. They lived in a community outside of Xela. About 15 years ago, her father immigrated to America in search of a job. Initially, money was sent back to her mother and her father visited once or twice a year. The last time he came, he wanted a divorce as he had met someone else. This was devastating to her mother. The payments stopped after that visit. One at a time Rosalba’s brothers also crossed the borders and never returned. Her mother worked to support the girls, but later developed severe diabetes and died. Rosalba was tearful speaking of that time. What was a family of seven was now a family of three girls. Her brothers cannot visit because of the difficulty in crossing the borders to return to their lives in America. Immigration has taken away Rosalba’s family with no financial benefit to those left behind.
Rosalba’s stories and those of others were a surprise. It was expected that many families had members working in the U.S.. What wasn’t expected was the gradual cutting of the bonds that hold families together despite separation. As in Rosalba’s situation, money often comes at first but there’s no guarantee that it will continue over the years. Many children are growing up in female-headed households. The homes that took in English students at The Minerva Language School were all led by women, most with young children. My host family consisted of a grandmother raising a granddaughter, a teenage son, and another daughter who had a baby boy. The teenage boy was the “man” of the house.
My second teacher advised me that immigration and the long war had torn apart the close Latino families. Guatemala suffered through an internal war for 34 years, which slowed economic development. Whole villages of indigenous people were destroyed during this time. Carmen told of a terrifying experience when her bus was held up by guerrillas, the driver shot and the passengers left on the side of the road after being robbed. However, in 1996 , a negotiated settlement between the government and the guerillas was signed and Guatemala has been able to concentrate on living peacefully.
The tourist industry is booming. Many indigenous farmers, weavers and artists have formed co-ops to directly market their products. Korea is investing heavily in textile factories. Agricultural exports have grown from the traditional sugar, bananas and coffee to include broccoli and flowers. The United States is its major trading partner. Yet more than half of the population lives in poverty including 17% who live on less than $1.00 per day. The exodus for better paying jobs in the United States continues.
In Guatemala, the war has been resolved but immigration still divides families. Countries on both sides want what is best for their people. Jobs are the key to the solution and local jobs keep Guatemalan families together. But until there are enough jobs paying livable wages, there will be immigration pressures. Both sides need a resolution that will keep the immigrant’s family unit intact. Their economy and ours depend on it. So, until the next column, remember “there’s always two sides to every story.”
Minerva Language School – 24 Avenida 4-39, Zona 3 – Quetzaltenango, Guatemala – 502-7767-4427 – http://www.minervaspanishschool.com – $135 per week for course and homestay
Escuela de Espanol San Jose el Viejo – 5a Av. Sur, #34 – Antigua, Guatemala 502-7832-3028- http://www.sanjoseelviejo.com – $220 per week for course and homestay