Archive for the ‘travel’ Tag

THINGS I REMEMBER — not an outtake   6 comments

I remember my student tour of Europe in 1951. Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, England, Holland, Belgium. Eveywhere we met people like us. And everywhere except Switzerland we found bombed out buildings. I remember Germany especially, men without arms and legs making their way by new businesses trying to get a foothold in any corner where temporary buildings could be erected. Most of all I remember thinking “all these people are just like us” as we communicated through gestures and what minimal knowledge we had of the language of the country we were visiting. I remember our twenty cent packs of cigarettes were worth 60 cents for just one cigarette. It was our medium of exchange for tipping. Let me repeat. I remember the people we met were just like us.

And I remember the student guide who said to me as we tried to understand what had happened, “This will come to you someday in the United States.” Yes, more than remember that, I have never forgotten it.

I remember an 8-year-old Mona (me) in 1937 thinking Hitler must be a nice man, because I saw a picture of him smilingly accepting a bouquet of flowers from a little girl my age. I remember practicing a speech I would deliver to him explaining why he should be nice to other people.


Years later, I remember a client whose family was left behind in a country cruelly dominated by the USSR. In her distress over their situation she wondered, “How did they let this happen to them?”

I love traveling, and everywhere I go I meet people who are just like me – trying to make a good life.

I remember wondering how people could let it happen to them.

How could it happen? Could it happen to us?

I remember, and I wonder.

Four weeks in Europe   4 comments

I’ve just returned from four weeks in Europe: Portugal, Austria, France, and Bulgaria. I’ll be sharing stories and photos beginning in a few days. Right now I’m busy getting my photos labeled and organized while finding time to continue the editing of Mrs. Job — whoever she is to become.

Just one initial comment for my fellow inhabitants of Minnesota. All four of those countries impressed me with their roads — black, smooth, clear white lines. Not a single pot hole.

On the other hand, no place had the competence and clarity of signage that we enjoy here. Not even in their native languages.

I’ve met some wonderful people, enjoyed some amazing adventures, sights, and stirring emotions. And I’m anxious to share all that with you.

I’ll be back.

Shanghai Day Two   8 comments

The trip is almost over. I’ll try to make our way through the rest of it with a little more speed. In between I’ve been working on something called “My Father’s House: Torsas, Kalmar, Sweden 1907” I hope someday it will be the first chapter in the fictionalized memoir of my father– oops, biography, I guess, since I wasn’t around yet in 1907.

For now, it belongs to Writer’s Digest because I entered it in a contest. Come October, when they announce the winners (one of whom I don’t expect to be) I’ll be free to begin submitting it to agents. along with the outline for the rest of it.

It’s a really fun project. I have a number of sources to work with. My sister has more recollections than I do, because she’s been around longer than I have, but I also remember some of my Dad’s stories, and I did take a trip back to Sweden with my parents in 1955, so I have pictures — some in my head, some more tangible — of where he came from. I also have my son-in-law’s discoveries in his work on genealogy and a paper my niece wrote when she interviewed her grandfather back in her high school years. There are also the recollections reported to me by a woman who was essentially adopted by my Swedish grandmother sometime after my father, the youngest, left to join his five siblings in America.

Probably the most fun is googling to fill in the details. It’s amazing, actually. Google “Swedish food in 1907” for example, and up comes a blog by someone with his/her great grandmother’s recipe book from 1907. Try to figure out how my father at age seventeen got from Torsas to Solvesborg and up comes information about the new railroad that reached Karlskrona in 1907 -about half-way between Torsas and Solvesborg. Google “Swedish musical instruments in 1907” and up come photos and descriptions. There’s lots more, but you get the idea.

In a way, it’s as if I’m visiting Sweden again as I get involved in the atmosphere. I giggled when I found a site telling business folk what to expect in dealing with Swedes. They are very punctual, it says, so much so that, if a party is scheduled for 6:00 p.m., they will stop up the street if they are early and move on to arrive just on the dot. I giggled, because that’s what my father and mother used to do when they came to visit me after my marriage.

It talked too about the large amount of personal space Swede’s expect. Imagine me — from that heritage — meeting my Italian family with a much smaller expectation of personal space.

Well anyway. That’s what I’ve been spending time on, keeping me away from finishing this trip with you.

So now, on to our second day in Shanghai.

Two tours filled our time that day. First there was the visit to ZhuzjaiJaio, translated “Watertown” for us language-limited Americans. At some point, the Chinese government realized that Chinese heritage was in danger of being lost as the country grew and modernized. Dare I say Westernized? So some communities were set aside for protection to continue functioning as they traditionally had.

No, they are not the Chinese equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg. They are families living as their predecessors had. In fact, we were told by the guide that it would be impolite to take photos of people who were going about their business, unless they indicated with a smile or gesture that it would be OK. In a sense, their hometown was being invaded by us tourists. Clearly it was not an unusual event for them. They did indeed just go about their business.

We rode sampans down the waterway. Oh my, how strong the men had to be to manipulate those boats with their one long pole.

So, here are some of the photos I took on that trip. I hope it may give some of the feel of our experience. A partial view of the sampan driver (I don’t know if that’s the right word) can be seen with his long pole at the rear of the vessel. Notice the red decorations for the Chinese New Year. I’m quite sure the guides told us the holiday lasts for three weeks.


And Here they are. Folks going about their daily business.



I found this bridge particularly beautiful

Watertown 2P1070226

The second part of that day’s tour was a visit to the silk shop. The Chinese were particularly anxious for us to see the beautiful things they make. And, of course, to sell us something. Believe me, if I had that kind of money, I would have bought something even though it wouldn’t fit into my minimalist home.

the initial “Oh My” experience was seeing this piece in the process of being created. Working from a pattern, the craftsperson manages to finish five rows a day, payment depending, I believe, on the number of rows completed.


Now you are about two see two completed rugs. The one in the center is about 12×24 inches (smaller than the one you see being created above.) Priced at $2400, it did seem worth the price. Think of what went into making it. the design, the long process of completing it.

Rugs from other side

Now, here comes the second “Oh My!” experience. Take a look at the banner heading today’s entry. There you find the same three rugs viewed from the other side. I don’t mean turned over. I mean, just walk around and view it from the other side (like where those two feet barely show about this photo).

Or just see them below from the other point of view. ‘Nuff said?

Nap viewed from opposite angle - Version 2

Some of the work they do is with silk and cotton mixed. Those rugs get sculpted, as seen below with a very experienced artist working on one of them.

Sculpted silk on cotton

I believe one or two of the tourists is our group did buy a full size carpet. There was also silk bedding available, but I failed to get good photos of that. I didn’t even get a good photo of the silk being extracted from the silk worms. Sorry.

And then we returned to the ship. During dinner I took a photo of the decorated dining room-still celebrating Chinese New Year.

(Remember, you can enlarge any photo by clicking on it.)

Rotterdam dining room


From lush green nourished by a summer of rainfall to the heights of the Cliffs at Moher to the depths of a cave carved by ancient waters to barren land strewn with glacial rock deposits, the senses were caressed with calming gratification. One week in Ireland was not enough.

Either we were very lucky, or we brought with us the gift of sunshine to folks longing for an end to the rain. Whatever the reason, we enjoyed perfect temperatures in the 60s and 70s. And relaxation. I’ve come to realize that there are three factors that make traveling so restorative.

1)    We leave behind the stress of daily negative news. (I learned in a course in journalism that good news doesn’t sell.)

2)    The people tourists meet are all employed, resonating contentment.

3)    While the news of joblessness in Ireland, as elsewhere, is tragic, we can take in the information without the pressure to feel responsible for casting and/or encouraging the corrective vote.

Our excursion guide was about the best we’ve every experienced, informative, fun, filled with enlightening stories about the country – the kind one might get sitting at the kitchen table over a cup of coffee.

We were directed to restaurants and pubs where we enjoyed delicious food – always accompanied by potatoes in at least one form. Yes, Gordon, I did have a glass of Guinness or two. And music, classical Irish and traditional.

The economic news was not good, reminding me, as always, of my gratitude that I can travel and enjoy such happy experiences. My joy would be complete if I knew such pleasurable calm were the world’s norm.

Mostly, it’s true what they say. Ireland is a wonderful place to visit.

I haven’t had time to download my photos. Eventually I’ll have something to post here.

Posted September 10, 2012 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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