Mary Clark, Traveler

Sounds of Tunisia

Call to prayer

Dogs barking

Traffic horns commanding cars at intersections

Click of shoes on cobblestone streets

Coffee houses, hookahs, men’s idle talk

Women murmuring with arms entwined

Call to prayer

Policemen’s whistles

Cell phones ringing

Ocean and desert winds

The buzz of tour buses arriving

Construction machines groaning, cranes clanking
Call to prayer
Mediterranean Sea banging against stone walls and beaches

“Madame, Madame” shopkeepers cry

Steps on marble floors

Languages in surround sound

Call to prayer


Arab music

Lightning, thunder, storm winds

Call to prayer

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Waiting for Ho Chi Minh

It’s not easy to see Ho Chi Minh. He has been dead for thirty-six years. His last will and testament asked that a grand funeral should be avoided in order not to “waste the people’s time and money”. This direction was ignored by over a quarter of a million Vietnamese who attended his funeral And despite a request to be cremated, his body has been preserved for all to view. A visit to his mausoleum in Hanoi, though, requires patience.
The mausoleum is only open for three hours in the morning. It’s located on Independence Plaza where Ho Chi Minh read from our very own Declaration of Independence in 1945, as he declared the Democratic Republic of Vietnam a sovereign nation separate from France. He had hoped to have the support of the United States in freeing Vietnam from the French rule. But he didn’t. Vietnam then spent the next 30 years fighting for its independence.
We arrived in the front of the plaza and walked the length of a very long block to the entry. Over 2000 Vietnamese were already waiting in line to pay their respects to “Uncle Ho”, a large percentage of them schoolchildren in matching black and white nylon outfits. A guard sent us to check our back packs and a later guard required the cameras to be also checked, thus mandating a later pick up at two different places. The Vietnamese graciously allowed us back into the line each time. Guards were posted at very regular intervals. In the far back of the line, old and young were casually talking. Behind us was a group of giggling high school students who were eager to try try their surprisingly fluent English with us. “Hi, Where are you from? How do you like Vietnam?” They lived in Hanoi but had never been to the mausoleum. As we moved closer, the serious guards silenced us completely and required all to walk in pairs.
Tucked deep inside the austere granite and concrete government temple is Ho Chi Minh’s body. The building is modeled after Lenin’s mausoleum in Moscow. Ho has been preserved for these many years primarily through the efforts of the Russians. His body travels annually for maintenance to Moscow.
We climbed stairs and wove through corridors to reach the inner sanctum. Four guards were posted at each corner of Ho Chi Minh’s sarcophagus. There was absolute silence as we entered and turned eyes left to observe Ho’s body with its surprisingly natural looking face and hands, lit with soft orange lighting. The famous goatee was perfectly trimmed and he was dressed in peasant fatigues and sandals. The reverence of the visiting countryman for the father of Vietnam’s independence was reflected in their faces. We weren’t allowed to tarry as we made the horseshoe turn around the body.
We exited in the rear of the building and there was an immediate relief from the intensity of the tomb. Suddenly, it was a Sunday afternoon in the park as families and children explored the surrounding gardens and grounds and Ho’s simple home on stilts. He had no use for the nearby French Colonial Presidential Palace and during the war lived in this country style home. Influential Western and Communist books and writings rested in his library as well as his bulky phone and walking stick. In front of the home was a large carp-filled pond circled by strolling paths and fruit trees from around the world. Nearby, his garage displayed “HoChiMinh’s Used Cars”, a Russian Pobeda and a Peugeot 404 – surprisingly modest cars for the head of a country. As Frances Fitzgerald discussed in his book, “Fire in the Lake”, there was no distinction between Ho’s public and private behavior. He exhibited “correct behavior” or living simply as a peasant, with a sincerity that endeared him to his countrymen.

Also on the grounds were an art museum and a history museum, all built in the same bulky, modern architectural style as the mausoleum. It would be easy to spend a day in this cultural park and many Vietnamese were doing just that. After 65 years of colonial rule by France, a 30 year war of Independence, and some difficult years under strict communist rule, the Vietnamese were clearly enjoying the loosening of the government’s reins on the economy and on them.
While the United States does not preserve its leaders for viewing, we have enormous respect for our “founding fathers”. A visit to see our Constitution and Declaration of Independence can require a similar queue. And it is possible to appreciate the commitment of a great leader without agreeing with his philosophy. For these reasons, I found the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and grounds more moving than I expected and was glad to have spent a misty Sunday morning with a crowd of Vietnamese as they paid homage to their Uncle Ho. And so, until the next column, remember “Waiting in line with fellow travelers is often part of the experience”.

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What Is There To Do in Paris, Texas?

Tourists in Paris, Texas are often referred to the Eiffel Tower with its jaunty, red cowboy hat or the lovely downtown Italian marble fountain or possibly the statue of Jesus in Cowboy Boots in the Evergreen Cemetery. But tucked here and there are other treasures, some requiring timing but most are readily available.

1. Swaim’s Hardware. Swaim’s pulses with anything anyone ever wanted from a hardware store -bolts, wires, pipes, hunting equipment, and ny cooking gear imaginable. Started in 1932 and still at its original location, the store is on its fourth generation of family employees. Old time fire buckets and a car seat from the 1940’s hang from the ceiling and unreachable Radio Flyer wagons and sleds perch from the top of the shelves. Employees may disappear while looking for your request but they always reappear with the product. Stash Dad here while Mom shops downtown on the Plaza.
240 1st SW Street. 903.784.3321
2. The Lamar County Courthouse. They just don’t make them like this anymore. Built in 1917 from the same Texas Pink granite used in the state capital, the courthouse has marble floors and brass chandeliers. Restored in 2005, the district courtroom on the 3rd floor has a 26 foot ceiling and a balcony maintained in its original concrete form. Enter and feel the drama of trials a century ago.
119 North Main. Call County Clerk’s office for hours 903.737.2420
3. After exploring the courthouse, cross North Main to discover the Paris Bakery, where baker, Kit Lindsey, produces fresh European breads daily. Croissants, brioches, scones, and the best cinnamon rolls ever are offered for breakfast. At noon, sandwich and soup specials complement the regular offerings of salads and sandwiches. And gourmet coffee drinks are always available. Just leave your diet at home.
120 North Main. 903.784.1331 Closed Sunday and Monday
4. Friday night football games. It’s easy to have the Friday Night Lights experience here. Texas is famous for its devotion to football and Paris is no exception. With three football stadiums within the city limits, you can catch a game any Friday night in the fall. You’ll also discover that football is not just about the game. With bands, cheerleaders and dance squads, much of the action is off the field. Half the town is there so you may as well be also. Call for a schedule.
Paris Independent School District. 903.737.7473. Or
North Lamar Independent School District. 903.737.2000. Or
Chisum Independent School District. 903.737.2830. Or

5. The public library can be easily overlooked on a tour of Paris but it shouldn’t be. Inside the Paris Public Library are a set of panels by the well known Texas artist, Jerry Bywaters. The paintings were created as part of the New Deal Post Office Mural Program. A native of Paris, Bywaters rose to prominence as the leader of a group of Texas artists in the 1930s and 1940s who were inspired by the Texas landscape. While you’re at the library, ask to see the wonderful piece by the African-American muralist, John Biggers.
326 S. Main. 903.785.8531
6. When in Texas, dress Texan! At the well-stocked Crazy House Western store, choose your boots from over 6500 pairs of all colors and sizes (try pink for a fashion statement). There’s also western garb for kids and adults, jewelry, and western gifts. Check their map to see if others from your hometown have visited the store. If you’re lucky enough to be here in December, drive through the Christmas light show available at night on the premises.
6655 Lamar Avenue. 903.785.2100

7. Rails to Trails / Trail de Paris. Paris has joined the network of rails to trails with its recent opening of a four mile, paved path that flows through neighborhoods and into deep woods. Early morning joggers or bikers can enjoy a cacophony of songbirds and if lucky, an occasional deer. A tributary off of the main path wanders into a delta of dirt trails for those with an interest in more natural habitats of the area’s birds and animals. It’s a perfect place to unwind at the end of the day.

Enter on Collegiate Street or on 24th street between Jefferson Road and Clarksville Street.

8. Paris Community Theater. If a show is on during your stay, you’re in for a treat. Begun in 1976 by the talented amateurs of Paris, the Paris Community Theater has produced plays and musicals for over 30 years. A children’s theater has also trained young thespians. It all takes place downtown on the square in the renovated Plaza movie theater.
30 N. Plaza. 903.784.0259. Or

9. Hayden Museum of American Art. What’s a Winsler Homer painting doing in Paris, Texas? And is that really an Ansel Adams photograph? Dr. and Mrs. William Hayden collected American Art for years (before it got so expensive, they say) and have built a private museum for its display. Be prepared for a walk through American art starting with early children’s embroidery and ending with a Robert Rauschenberg. The chair collection is also a treasure.
Call for a tour and hope they’re home. 903.785.1925
10. The Paris Municipal Band. Since 1923, Friday summer evenings in Bywaters park have been filled with the sounds of the oldest municipal band in Texas. Their theme song of “I Love Paris in the Springtime” begins every concert. A July 4th performance in the Paris Junior College stadium draws thousands for the music and the fireworks. Bring a blanket or chair and enjoy the free music.
Bywaters Park is located on South Main Street across from the Library

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Unintentional Medical Tourism

It was not my intent to outsource my medical care to Honduras. Actually, the trip was to visit our niece, a Peace Corps volunteer. The itinerary was well planned with stops in the mountains and the beaches. Hotels and a jeep were reserved. The Copan Mayan ruins had long been a desired destination. My sister-in-law from New York City and our son joined my husband and me and we were ready for the adventure.
Susanna was there to greet us at the airport in Tegucigalpa and to regale us with her stories of life in the Peace Corps. She casually described the weirdness she lived with every day, including the damage machete knives can do to sugar cane and people. Gently, we changed the subject to food.

The next day, we drove to Susanna’s small town of Villa de San Antonio. She led us on a walking tour and introduced the workers at the town orphanage. Several Europeans volunteers were working with these beautiful children. We also explored the teen center where Susanna worked.

The tour ended at a friend’s home who was celebrating a birthday that evening. The house was bursting with people and food but I wasn’t hungry. Early in the evening, I excused myself to return to Susannah’s house. It was then my physician husband knew something was wrong. His exam and questions led to only one diagnosis – I had appendicitis. It was 9 p.m. and we were in a small village in Honduras.
An interesting discussion ensued on the next step. Susanna called the Peace Corps which had two suggestions. In a nearby town, there were Cuban doctors and a small hospital. Cuba has well trained physicians which they have shared throughout Central America and you are considered fortunate to have one. The other suggestion was to return to the capital, Tegucigalpa We hesitated. ALL of our guide books and EVERY person we talked to echoed the same mantra, DO NOT DRIVE IN HONDURAS AT NIGHT. Bandits were known to appear suddenly. We decided to take the chance and entered the dark road to the capital.

The good news is that everyone there avoids driving at night and no one was on the road except an occasional cow. We arrived in Tegucigalpa in record time with no idea where the recommended hospital was. And there are literally no street signs. A taxi had paused at a service station and we stopped to ask his assistance. He agreed to lead us to the hospital. (Susanna tried to bargain the price with him until we told her we could spring for the 50 cents she was trying to save us!) Off we sped to the “Honduran Medical Center”, a lovely, clean, modern hospital with an armed guard at its entrance and no one in its emergency room. Soon Dr. Herbert Lopez arrived in his leather jacket, clearly surprised to have me as a patient. “Que barbaridad” was his response to my situation. Two hours later, the surgery began with two surgeons and an anesthesiologist. I woke up in my own private room without an appendix but with a relieved husband at my side.

If Spanish weren’t being spoken, it could have been a room in any modern American hospital. The cable TV carried the Mavericks game. When a male nurse entered, he stopped to comment on the still unfortunate trade of Steve Nash by the Mavericks and admitted that his favorite team was the Boston Celtics. There were some quirks. The phone rang with calls from strangers asking for certain patient’s rooms. Some were not too friendly as I explained I was a patient, too, and had no idea where their patient was. Now, I was indeed fortunate to have a Spanish speaking physician husband, especially on some of the recovery decisions. But the doctors and hospital staff provided very considerate care. Dr. Lopez even offered to write a letter confirming I needed four weeks to recover.

The trip was, obviously, cut short. After a couple of days recovering at Leslie’s Place, a pleasant bed and breakfast, we returned home. there were some positives. My sister-in-law swears she was saved from dengue fever since we never had to spend the night in rural Honduras. AND the hospital accepted Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance. They should have been happy to pay the bill. Compared to U.S. prices, the company saved at least $3,000. But the Copan Mayan ruins remain unseen and we’ll just have to try again. So, until the next column, remember to always carry your insurance card!

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The Marable Family Chorus

The First Presbyterian Church of Clarksville is 175 years old this year, earning the honor of being the oldest continuously operating Protestant church in Texas. A celebration was in order and I traveled to Clarksville in June to attend its anniversary choral service. The combined Presbyterian and Methodist choirs performed with smiles and great energy. But inserted into the middle of the program was a performance by the “Marable Family Chorus”, a name that invited comparison to the Von Trapp Family singers from “The Sound of Music” . When it was their time to sing, the chorus emptied the right one-fourth of the church and moved forward. Five generations stacked themselves before the crowd and leisurely sang “In the Garden” a cappella with eight part harmony. As their director said afterwards, ” We often get so captured listening to ourselves, we slow down.”

I was curious to know what induced this family to journey from all parts to Clarksville for the anniversary. It turns out they have sung in East Texas for a very long time. Their ancestor, Sam Corley, was known as the “Sweet Singer of Israel” and was the first Presbyterian minister in Clarksville. He died in a Civil War battle in 1863 but his oldest son, A.P. Corley, raised his children in Clarksville. The Corley Chapel at the church is dedicated to Sam Corley. The last of his descendants still living in Clarksville died in 2004.
The participants in the anniversary chorus were primarily descendants of A.P. Corley’s daughter, Mattie Corley and her husband, F.F. Marable – hence the name “Marable Family Chorus” . From this pair and their seven children came generations of singers, performers, musicians, speakers, writers, and hams. Their daughter, Ruth Marable, (Miss Ruth) studied under Fred Waring and generously used his arrangements with her choir students at Clarksville High School. She was a known taskmaster but fair and fun. Her speech students learned the hard way that the word, ‘think’, is not pronounced ‘thank’. And she had advice for other choral directors, “always dress from the back” and “always leave them wanting more.”

Ruth’s brother, Paul, played the mandolin. Their sister, Mary, who was known to have ‘played the piano on the radio’, accompanied her siblings as they sang at countless funerals and other performances. At home, the brothers would beg the sisters to sing at the Christmas gathering. Acting and singing “Knock and the Door Will Open” brought smiles of contentment. Since small town culture often rests in church choirs and school plays, Clarksville’s patrons of the arts were the Marables, donating talent where needed.
Though not residents of Red River County, the next generations of cousins continued to gather in Clarksville for summer and Christmas vacations through the 1950’s and 1960’s. As one cousin reflected, they would do anything to get to Clarksville for Christmas. A new play was penned each year to be performed by the cousins for the family and neighbors. Chairs were borrowed from Jolly Funeral Home to accommodate the crowd at the house. And at midnight on Christmas Eve, they always caroled (in harmony) with “Silent Night” as the favorite.
Interestingly, there were no music lessons, no formal voice training and no assignment of parts. Children harmonized by simply singing the same part of the person next to them – the classic learning by example. They were often short of tenors and some of the women would pick up the first tenor part. If asked about favorites, family members will hum a few bars of a spiritual to be sure you know the piece. The chorus continues to sing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” directly to the bride at every family wedding. And if you’re fortunate, brothers Sparky and Allen will play “Way Down upon the Sewanee River” on their cheeks.
The family also takes pride in telling and retelling stories. The story belongs to the person who tells it best. Great Aunt Susie’s dog, Trubador, marched with the Clarksville High School band and bayed at funerals – rich fodder for the raconteurs. F.F. Marable, Jr.’s act of preaching at his own funeral was famous and began with “had I known the price of flowers were so high, I wouldn’t have died at this particular time.”
So, there they were in Clarksville, Texas, on a hot, summer Sunday afternoon. Members had traveled from Austin, Waco, Dallas, Buda, San Antonio, and Springfield, Missouri, to gather once more in the family church. None of them would claim to be professional musicians, but they recognized music and laughter had kept their family together for generations. And each of them felt the need to pay homage to their ancestors where it all started – First Presbyterian Church of Clarksville. The Sweet Singer of Israel would be proud. And, so , until the next column, remember “Austria’s not the only country with singing families”.

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Traveling With My Column

I may be wrong ,but I suspect no readers of this column clip my article and send it to their mother like I do. That means most of my columns (as well as Mary Madewell’s editorials and Toni Clem’s film comments and Sam Craft’s photos, etc.) end up in the trash! Thanks to Christians in Action’s recycling program, my husband and I have been able to donate our old newspapers to them. Out of curiosity, I decided to “arm chair” travel with my thrown out column, starting with the outdoor containers behind Christians in Action in downtown Paris.

According to Don Walker, director of Christians in Action(CIA), their first step is to bail the papers and compress them into a cube weighing between 1500 and 2000 pounds. It takes about a month to accumulate enough for a truck load. His operation is relatively small and he works through Vistafibers, “the largest recycler in the Southwest”. Vistafibers puts CIA in touch with a broker who sells the paper to an “end user”. The bails of paper are loaded onto a semi-truck and sent to an “end user” or mill selected by the broker. It’s curious that their code name in the industry is “end user” since it’s really just the beginning of the recyling process. For the most recent load of newspapers from CIA, the broker was Fiber Horizon, who sold the load to the end user Enviromate, a cellulose mill in Moulton, Alabama, near Huntsville. If this mill were not available for some reason (for example, a hurricane hit), the paper could be sent as far away as Cartones Mill in San Juan del Rio, Mexico! So, now my article has been bailed, loaded onto a truck, traveled to Alabama and unloaded at Enviromate.

The CIA load has the distinction of being “very clean and dry,” an honor in the paper recyling business. Because of these characteristics, the CIA paper will be shredded and mixed with boric acid until it is broken up. A fire retardent is blown into the mix and then the mix is bagged for sale. At this point, the recycled paper can travel down several paths. It can be sold to residential contractors and blown into new homes or mobile homes for insulation or I could keep watch over chicken houses! According to Wesley McCains at Enviromate, the Paris News is probably insulating homes within 500 miles of Moulton, Alabama.

If the load had been “wet”, it could have been used for organic roofing material, cartons for cereal or toothpaste or the paper on the outside of sheet rock. Or, it could be smashed, heated, compressed, rolled out and wrapped into huge rolls of newsprint and possibly sold to….. The Paris News! My article would be back but with a clean slate. Newsprint can be recycled seven times before it is too small to be strong enough to use. It will fall out of the system at this point and become fuel.

Were The Paris News printed on cardboard, our articles could have had an even more interesting trip — the slow boat to China. Actually, I don’t know if the boat is slow but China has been a voracious purchaser of used cardboard and it is a cheap product to fill ship containers returning to China. Cardboard is the easiest to recycle as it has the strongest fiber. However, according to Fiber Horizon, there is a shortage of containers available for waste paper products going in China’s direction. Because of the weak dollar, other countries are buying more sophisticated, processed American products, and there are fewer containers available for newspaper and cardboard. Cardboard is reprocessed in China and used to box merchandise coming back to the United States. This Pacific crossing can go on for six times before the fibers in paper and cardboard have been broken down too much to reconstitute.

All this seems pretty complicated and a lot of roads to travel to simply recycle. Because of the demand from China for recycled products, the price for recycled paper products has doubled over the last several years. This may be the reason so many publications are going online. Online editions don’t require much paper at all. But then I can’t clip an article online to send to my computerless mother. So, until the next column, remember to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”.

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Independence Day in Chimazat, Guatemala

July 4th is not celebrated in Guatemala except by expats, Peace Corps workers, the Marines at the American Embassy and a few wandering tourists. But Guatemala has its own “dia de independencia” which is observed on September 15th. Guatemala and Mexico share the same Independence Day as they separated from Spain together in 1821 with Guatemala breaking with Mexico in 1823.

Their fiesta has the good fortune of occurring while school is still in session. In the indigenous village of Chimazat, where our son lives, the independence day celebration is combined with their feria (a fair derived from a saint’s day). The Queen of Chimazat had been crowned the day before we arrived. She will represent the town for a year and will travel to other competitions.

We attended an evening grade school performance where queens are selected to represent the school. The children in the younger grades dressed in various native garb. Shy bows by young boys were matched by demure curtsies from the young girls as they began a traditional dance. Words were swallowed and hurried when a child spoke. As the grades progressed, the old lost out to the new. Costumes and performances became looser and stranger. The 5th grade Snow White wore a Santa hat and a yellowish squirrel outfit while the dwarfs’ beards were cotton balls taped on the face. Sixth graders disguised themselves in Halloween masks and danced wildly, without form.
At least three hundred parents attended. The mothers wore their ornate, flowered, traditional huipils (or blouses) and slyly acknowledged the modern world with high heels. Dads lounged at the back. We could have been watching a performance at Aikin Elementary as parents crouched in front of the stage to photograph or film their child. At the end of the evening, all of the queens were presented – the Sports Queen, Independence Day Queen, Miss Congeniality, a queen for each grade, the Queen of the School. There was a crowd of crowns.

Every village and town in Guatemala had parades on Independence Day, primarily centered around school children. Each grade marched with a different indigenous or school outfit and played instruments such as flutes or xylophones. Our favorite marching band was seen in a nearby town where the Salvation Army equipped the children in their school with sharp uniforms and serious drums and bugles. Mothers and teachers walked along with the classes. And, in Chimazat, each newly crowned queen reigned from a large arm chair in the back of a pickup filled with balloons, carnations, roses, and daisies. (We could have had a small wedding with the flowers used for the queens’ carriages.) These diminutive members of the royalty took their position seriously and didn’t smile or wave with their glove covered hands.

Fuegos were popular. These were groups of school children who ran from town to town with the lead child holding a burning torch. Each school had a destination. Even traffic on the Pan American Highway slowed for the determined students who often ran miles. A school bus followed for any stragglers.
Independence Day itself had a familiar feel. Fireworks exploded throughout the day. Flags flew from homes and businesses. Most families had a large (late) lunch and were joined by out of town guests and family members. We dined with our son’s friends, Josefina and Antolin, and their extended family. Tables were moved outside to the courtyard and every available chair placed around them. The household’s cats, dogs, baby ducks and geese joined us as well as some fairly friendly bees. The food had simmered for hours in enormous pots over wood fires. After a blessing, large bowls of pepian, a Guatemalan favorite, were served. It’s a steaming caldo (or soup) filled with rice, turkey, green beans, and potato and flavored with pumpkin and sesame seed. As we finished, another round of 20 relatives arrived and replaced us at the table.

There were also soccer matches and games such as catching a greased pig or climbing a greased pole to grab a 100 Quetzal bill (worth about $12). The latter was much harder than it looked and the clever, successful team was a father whose child climbed on his back. For those who partake of alcohol, it was also an accepted day of indulgence.

But there is a political edge to the celebration. Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchu, explains in her autobiography, ” I, Rigoberta Menchu,” that Independence Day is a ladino celebration, only for those descended from the Spaniards or of mixed heritage. She believes the indigenous of Guatemala were not liberated in 1821 and they continue to struggle for equal rights and freedom from discrimination. Sadly, there is a long history of such treatment.
Whatever the date, Independence Day is important to acknowledge. It indicates a transition and a connection to the courage of our ancestors. Fireworks, food, family unite us regardless of country. So, until the next column, remember “All the world loves a parade.”
A wonderful authentic tour of this beautiful area of Guatemala is conducted by Walker Clark (our son) with the help of his many Guatemalan friends. His web site is

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The Temples of Ankor Wat – More Than Just Ruins

Bhong was at the hotel early, waiting for us. It was still dark and surprisingly cool for a jungle morning. I was traveling with Paris friends, David Kennemer and Sharon Schneider. An elderly woman was already selling her fresh baked french baguettes on the street. We happily spent 75 cents to purchase three as we climbed into Bhong’s rented “tuk-tuk”, a motorcycle that pulls a two wheeled, modern day surrey without the fringe on top. Off we sped through Siem Reap and into the countryside where we passed the Cambodians walking, biking, and riding motorcycles to work. A quick stop at the Angkor Wat gate gave us a three day pass complete with our photos. The sun was rising as we arrived, the very first tourists that day.

The Temples of Angkor are the Kingdom of Cambodia’s number one tourist attraction. The temples were built from about 950 to 1220 A.D. by a series of Cambodian kings. During the centuries of construction, the emphasis was on the king as god, who resides in the temple after death as an intermediary between man and god. Each of the temples are constructed as a microcosm of the world, the temple as the central holy mountain, surrounded by a moat or ocean. The bridge was the rainbow connecting men and gods. The earlier temples centered on the Hindu Siva but as Buddhism spread, the later temples used Buddha representations. Even today, there are still Buddha statutes (covered by orange silks) attended by male and female Buddhist monks who will pray for your good luck when you purchase and light incense.

The surprise was the size of the complex at Angkor. It is an enormous park with temples spread over 40 miles . Transportation is required and you have choices – bicycles, motorcycles, tuk-tuks, cars, buses, minivans, and even elephants. Most tourists were on tours and were motored about in buses. We had hired Bhong and his tuk-tuk for three days. He was very attentive and eager. To pick us up close to a temple’s entrance, Bhong had to pay “extra” to the guards to park nearby.

Our schedule was to first visit the more popular temples such as the Bayon before the crowds arrived. We then paused for a breakfast at stall number “16”, one of many open air restaurants available. But this one was owned by Bhong’s mother-in-law (or so he said). The menu included slightly altered favorites such as pineapple pancakes but also offered fried rice with ginger and vegetables and topped with an omelette. Only the coffee was undrinkable. Next were visits to some of the smaller, out of the way temples that didn’t have lines of buses waiting in front. It was common as we approached a temple to hear live music played by a band of paraplegics, victims of land mines still scattered from Cambodia’s recent war past.

Each temple enjoys its own aura. The actual Angkor Wat temple has a working moat around it and is almost perfectly restored with lovely bas relief carvings of battle stories of demons and goddesses in the sea.

Other temples such as Ta Prohm are maintained in their discovered form with spung tree roots growing through rooms and roofs.

The rose colored Banteai Srei demurely reveals the most delicate sandstone carvings, perhaps a reflection of a queen’s influence.
But the most enigmatic and spiritual temple was the Bayon.

Unless prepared, the enormous smiles from the ten foot high Buddha faces peering down from 54 towers may shock you. As you wander, the faces become your companions and you wished they could tell their stories of the processions of kings and elephants and acrobats that paraded by in celebration of battle victories.
By 2 p.m., the heat was too great and we would return to the Bequest Hotel where we had the option of hiring a blind masseuse. (We declined but found the idea intriguing.) The evenings were spent on Bar street, an Asian Bourbon street scene, where you could dine al fresco at the Temple Club, Lucky Sian or Angkor Burgers. The Red Piano was our favorite restaurant as it had been for Angelina Jolie when she filmed “Tomb Raider”. For seven dollars, we had a taste of the colonial era with drinks, a meal, bamboo chairs, overhead fans and friendly geikos climbing up the nearby walls.

On the third day, we ended our time at the ruins of Angkor with a late stop at the Bayon and a last look at the moon faces. These were the visages of Cambodia’s past time of glory. After a devastating internal war in which at least one fourth of the population died, Cambodia is recovering and using its past to support the future. Bhong’s face is that of the new Cambodian – hard working, solicitous to please, and desperately hoping to earn enough to buy his own tuk-tuk. I would like to think we contributed to that goal. So, until the next column, remember tourism is a powerful industry for developing countries.

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Greer Farm – Improving on a Texas Tradition

Scattered throughout East Texas are locales offering farm stays, berry picking, log cabins, grass-fed beef, and gourmet cooking. But at Greer Farm, located just west of Daingerfield, you can enjoy it all in one lovely location.

Sid and Eva Greer are the playful owners of Greer Farm. Eva grew up in Belize with her Polish parents and Sid is a proud Texan and UT graduate. While in the employ of BP Amoco, they traveled the world, lived in Tunisia, London, and Madagascar and retired to a farm purchased in 1979.
The farm itself has been a Texas family homeplace since 1850, earning the distinction of being one of Texas’ first farms. The white clapboard home took two years to restore and is now an inviting respite with rocking chairs on the porch.

Sid’s energy and inquisitiveness are obvious. On a tour of the grounds, he could name (if you really wanted to know) all of the 10,000 bulb flowers and their origins, point out the Nigerian pygmy and Spanish goats, acknowledge the value of their Guinea Hens in controlling fire ants, and explain his unique method of replanting pine seedlings to significantly shorten the harvesting cycle. He promotes the farm as sustainable which is not the same as organic. This approach is a recognition that “there are lots of bugs in East Texas” but also a commitment to good stewardship of the land for future generations. Sustainable farming also includes social responsibility such as good working conditions for laborers. As a trustee for Northeast Texas Community College, Sid is proud that the college has committed to a program to teach sustainable farming.

Always the businessman, Sid prepared a business plan for the farm that continues to guide them. It included raising Maine-Anjou cattle, planting berry orchards, and developing some of the land for timber. When I asked if the goat cheese from our meal was made from their herd, he replied “Cheese making is the last item on our business plan and we’re not there yet”.

Eva is a culinary school graduate of the Art Institute of Houston and enjoys incorporating her native Belizean spices into some of her creations. A lifelong cook, she finds herself in the best of worlds. The farm provides her with hand- gathered eggs, beef, chicken, cabrito on occasion, fresh herbs, and vegetables. Her fine cuisine is available through her catering business and for reserved lunches and dinner and special occasions in their home. To enjoy her prix fixe gourmet meals, she requires a minimum of 12 guests, which is understandable after reviewing the choices for the four course meals. You can learn some of her secrets by attending one of her cooking classes. Eva also stays busy developing chicken recipes for Pilgrim’s Pride and supervising the 100 varieties of antique roses in one of the farms’ many gardens. She has achieved her goal of year round flowers.
Visitors can choose among other offered activities at the farm. The blackberry and blueberry patches are now in “full bloom”. You can pick your own and take them to the main house to be weighed. Down at the lake, paddle boats, kayaks, and canoes are for hire as well as bicycles. Children would also enjoy the animal feeding time as the goats, chickens, hens, sheep, and horses eagerly approach without inhibitions.
The most recent addition to the farm are the log cabins which face the lake. From the outside, they appear to be built with pine logs as they were 150 years ago. But inside are luxury hotel amenities – high definition TV, WIFI and computer hook up, and Ipod players. The kitchen area is well equipped for cooking meals. Homemade bread, jam and fresh eggs are delivered for breakfast. With screened windows on all four sides and three interior ceiling fans, you can sleep without air conditioning even into the summer. The front porch soothes you with a fourth ceiling fan. Rocking chairs are provided as well as garlic based organic spread to ward off mosquitoes. I get sleepy just thinking about it.

Over the entry doors of the main home are these words, “All Because Two People Fell In Love,” an anniversary gift from Sid to Eva. The Greers continue to expand and build their lives together. The difference now is that life is shared with people who can enjoy and appreciate their efforts to sustain and promote farm living. So, until the next column, remember the Greers’ philosophy, “life is simpler when you plow around stumps.”

The Greer Farm website is

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“The Cabin” , Cowles, and the Pecos Wilderness

“The Cabin”, as it was always referred to, was one of the first time shares. My father and some of his friends built it in 1956 as a hunting cabin in Cowles, New Mexico, one and a half hours northeast of Santa Fe. They dubbed it ” Plainview”, named for their hometown and for its open location in a mountain meadow. A classic log cabin, it originally was just a large room and a kitchen with a scary outhouse up the hill. When the families of the hunters started coming for annual summer trips, a bedroom and bathroom were added. Our next door neighbor was the Pecos Wilderness and the Santa Fe ski area was just over the mountain. All of the summer homes in this area were constructed on a 99 year lease from the National Park Service.
Across from the cabin is Winsor creek, a part of the headwaters of the Pecos River which eventually flows into Texas. Wildflowers line the banks and are wonderful to gather, being careful of the nettles. As kids we would occasionally fish off the bridges for the rainbow, brown or cutthroat trout. But we spent far more time dropping sticks and flowers on one side of the bridge and racing to the other to watch them float by on the other side. When I was growing up, Cowles was actually a little community with Mountain View Lodge, a bar and restaurant, dance hall, and horse stables. We could rent horses for the day, ride them (without guides) to the cabin and literally tie them up at the porch. Those amenities are all gone. Only Los Pinos, a small dude ranch, remains as well as ample camping areas.

After a 20 year break, I started going back to The Cabin with my husband and children. The road from Pecos was now paved but still passed by the wooden planked Tererro General Store, a staple since 1940.

The high country air, suffused with the aroma of Ponderosa pine, spruce, fir and aspen, was as clean and wonderful as ever. The cabin itself seemed smaller and the trees larger than I remembered. There was still no television or telephone but plenty of mice. Feeders placed on the porch continued to attract droves of hummingbirds who would helicopter in, occasionally landing on a patiently waiting finger.

Our new emphasis at this stage was on hiking. I had never really explored the Pecos Wilderness on foot. It was designated a wilderness in The Wilderness Act of 1964. With 15 aspen lakes and 150 miles of streams, it is full of wonderful trails that climb steeply to ridges or meander up valleys to waterfalls. Day hikes are our favorite. Hamilton Mesa and Winsor Ridge Trails offer the best views that can easily be had with a packed lunch. The Jack’s Creek trailhead is equestrian friendly with corrals for the packtrips and hunters. Actually, the picnic tables at Jack’s Creek provide a 360 degree look at the snow covered Truchas Peak and Pecos Baldy with a safe view of late afternoon summer thunderstorms entering the Pecos River valley. You can always jump in the car when the storm finally arrives.

Once we attempted to backpack in for an overnight stay with our kids and the Swasko family. A brush with a mountain lion considerably shortened the goal of Stewart Lake. We did spend the night out but in a meadow directly above our cabin rather than miles up the mountains. We didn’t really need the second tent we carried as all four members of our family slept in the same two man tent. When we told the forest rangers about the mountain lion sighting, they were excited – not exactly the reaction we had!
The joy of returning many times to the same vacation spot comes from the familiarity and comfort of knowing your surroundings and the anticipation of discovering something new each year. We realized the flora of the cabin area completely changed after visiting in June rather than our usual August trip. Mountain irises only appear at that time of the year and snow remains on the high paths. The trails at Holy Ghost Canyon (what a wonderful name) were most recently tried for the first time with our friend, A.W. Clem. And we were thrilled to spot Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep at Pecos Baldy Lake on a backpacking trip with local Paris guide, Bob Bush.

Yet with all those fabulous surroundings, the very best memories came from the night time, inside the cabin, after we ate dinner around the faded kitchen table. We acted out charades, played poker into the night and told stories in front of the fireplace. Common pleasures were somehow made even more satisfying when surrounded by the dark, silent forest and the star spangled heavens. So, until the next column, remember, “memories can be built from the simplest of vacations.”

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