Reflections on an Ancient Land

When I talk with people about Islam, ISIL, terrorism and Arabs, I usually feel frustrated and inadequate to the task of expressing my thoughts and opinions. I lived on the Arabian peninsula for 3 years, and in Bangladesh for 2 years. I grew to love the cultures and the peoples. I know in my heart that most Muslims, as most other people in the world, have no interest in harming others and only want to get on with their lives unmolested. As with all things, when it comes to what most people know about Islam and the Middle East it is that which has the loudest effect. Unfortunately, most of us have little experience upon which to judge the reality of the situation.

The following are pictures from Oman. Click on any image to get a slide show of the shots. I just wanted to share some love and harmony from Arabia.

Visit Cambodia as a Respectful Traveler

Cambodia, especially Siem Reap, has become a very popular tourist destination in the last 10 years. I’ve traveled there many times over those years: the changes have been monumental, and not all good. It is always best to be well informed about a place’s cultural norms before visiting, and it is especially important when visiting a place that is only recently experiencing the best and the worst of western visitors.

My first trip to Cambodia was in 2004. That year there were about a million visitors, which was a 50% increase over the previous year. In 2014 it was 4.5 million.* People speak of their culture shock when they travel some place “exotic”, but imagine the culture shock to the people who live there, having just been through wars and genocide, and now millions of people from western countries have started arriving.

How do you travel in Cambodia respectfully? The following is personal advice and some gleaned from various websites:

Greetings: 

  • When you meet a Cambodian, the general greeting is a bow, or “som-peah.” Some Cambodians will want to shake hands. The best thing to do is to wait and see what they do, and then follow suit.
  • Speak quietly and don’t go straight into business talk. Exchange pleasantries. You may ask about their work or their family, but mostly just listen and take your cues from them.
  • Show genuine interest in the process, it is not just a formality.
  • If handed a business card, take it with both hands and look at it carefully and remark about it.
  • get-your-business-card-right-in-chinese-banner

Body Language and Touching:

Cambodians are reserved people, and touching is very limited.

  • Never touch a person’s head, including small children.
  • Especially for woman, don’t touch monks at all.
  • Physical affection between the sexes is especially frowned on.

Left hand:

  • Keep your use of your left hand limited. It is used for certain hygienic purposes and is better off not touching things.
  • Hand someone something with the right hand, supporting your elbow with the left hand.
  • Use two hands, as with the business card above, to receive something from some one.

Feet:

  • The bottom of your feet should never be pointed at someone, especially in temples.
  • Remove your shoes before going inside, unless you see that the Cambodians are doing otherwise.
  • You will be barefoot a lot, so keep your feet clean and fresh smelling!

Food:

There are a few things to pay attention to with meals. People are always sensitive about food and want you to like it. Most people quite like Cambodian food, but some find it a bit challenging.

  • Politely refuse food that you think you will have a problem with. It is very insulting to taste something and make a bad face. Rely on your interpreter to help avoid this situation.
  • Don’t eat until it is clear that the eldest person has started eating and that the status order is respected. You are youngest? You start last.
  • Don’t touch food with your left hand.
  • If there is a fork, do not put it in your mouth! Use it to push food onto your spoon and eat with the spoon. Make a valiant effort with chop sticks. Don’t put chopsticks in your rice bowl. When you have finished, lay them across your rice bowl or on the chopstick holder beside your plate.
  • As with all situations, observe first if you aren’t sure.
  • Try to finish what you have put on your plate.

Visiting homes:

  • Take off your shoes at the door.
  • Bring a small gift of candy or flowers.
  • Follow the lead of your interpreter and your hosts as to where to sit and how to behave.
  • Speak to the eldest first and show interest in everyone.

Dress:

Cambodians take appearance seriously. From the tuk tuk driver to the business executive, all present themselves as well as possible. This means your clothes should be neat and clean, from tee shirts and jeans to more formal dress.

  • Adult Cambodians do not wear shorts.
  • Women should have their shoulders and knees covered, especially in temples. Modesty is the rule. Cleavage should be avoided.

Face:

There are books written on this topic. Face is important everywhere in Asia. Face is a matter of maintaining honor in front of other people. We westerners tend to be teasing and glib at times at other peoples’ expense, this is offensive in Asia.

  • Listen carefully and respectfully.
  • Contain your emotions.
  • Try to be genuinely kind in your assumptions and expectations – Cambodians can read your emotions easily, even if you are constrained.
  • Give a little rather than try to get the most from someone in a negotiation.
  • When receiving something, do so with both hands. If it is a gift, accept it reluctantly but appreciatively.

Photography:

Of course you want to take lots of pictures. I personally have thousands of pictures from my travels, and have learned, sometimes the hard way, to be careful and respectful of how I photograph. Here is a short essay I’ve written on the topic:

http://joannebretzer.com/category/photography/

Main Points:

  • Ask permission to take someones photograph, even of small children who are on their own.
  • Include yourself in the picture if possible.
  • Don’t take pictures of people struggling and suffering. This is a sort of poverty porn that is too often done by tourists.
  • Some people don’t want to be photographed because of their beliefs- respect this!
  • Simply be respectful. Think about how you would feel about being the subject of your photographs.

All of this sounds like a lot to be remembered. Cambodian people are kind and hospitable, and they are also quite forgiving of our mistakes. I’ve been told that we westerners are sometimes viewed as naive children and our violations of social norms should be tolerated as one would abide a silly child. Good intentions and respect are recognized and appreciated. Relax and enjoy your visit.

Sources:

*http://www.tourismcambodia.com/ftp/Cambodia_Tourism_Statistics_2009.pdf

Websites and Posts:

http://www.1stopcambodia.net/culture/etiquette

http://guide.culturecrossing.net/basics_business_student_details.php?Id=7&CID=35

http://twenty-somethingtravel.com/2011/04/tourism-good-cambodia/

http://globaledge.msu.edu/countries/cambodia/culture

http://backpackerbible.org/dos-donts-when-visiting-a-rural-village-in-cambodia/

http://goseasia.about.com/od/cambodiaculturepeople/a/etiquette_cambodia.htm

http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/cambodia.html

Real Neat Blog Award Nomination

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I have been nominated for the Real Neat Blog Award by Being Me Presently

Thank you so much for the recognition.

The Rules:

  • Thank and link the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the seven questions the person who nominated you provided.
  • Nominate seven other bloggers.
  • Create seven new questions for the people you nominate.
  • Display the logo somewhere on your blog.

The Questions for me to answer:

1. Do you have any bad habits? If so what is stopping you from breaking them?

I suppose I have quite a few, but one is taking my computer to bed and then not sleeping well. It’s a habit because I do it constantly and mindlessly. I suppose stubbornness keeps me doing it. Tonight I will quit.
2. If you could develop a new talent, what would it be and why?

I would love to be able to play a musical instrument – probably the drums. The primal nature of drums always relaxes me and sort of resets my personal rhythm, like a tuning fork, or the sound of the tide.
3. If you could travel to anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

I pretty much have traveled a lot, but I would love to be able to go to Tibet and the Mustang range of Nepal. They are really hard to get to, and require a lot of hiking in mountains. I would also include Afghanistan.
4. If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be and why?

I first would love to be more able to have better, closer relationships with my family and loved ones. If I could be greedy and have two wishes, I would add 20 more years of physical fitness for travel.
5. What did you enjoy doing as a child and do those things still bring you satisfaction.

Reading, traveling and being alone. Yes, they do.
6. What can you do well, what are your unique traits and strengths?

I teach well. I communicate well and lovingly to groups of students and have a lot of patience with them. I am deeply and sometimes annoyingly curious. I’m physically strong, though now I must add, “for my age.”
7. Who is your biggest influence in life? What qualities do you admire in this person?

As the question is not, “who was the most positive influence”, I would say my father. His positive qualities were that he worked hard and took responsibility for his family. He had a great sense of humor, though corny at times. He never gave up, right to the end. He had a hard life, and he was sometimes a brutal man with a fierce temper. He has given me challenges in my life as I try to maintain his good qualities in myself, and overcome the bad ones.

Passing the Baton:

Life of Mon ❤

Rantings Of A Third Kind

a cooking pot and twistedtales

Mind Without Walls

Mel’s Mouth

arpitablogs.wordpress.com

Garth Meaney Author

My Questions:

  1. What was one event that you might consider a turning point in your life?
  2. What one thing do you think would make your community a better place?
  3. What is your favorite bad character trait in yourself?
  4. What sort of thing makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning?
  5. Who is your hero?
  6. What would you love to be able to do?
  7. What would you like to live long enough to see happen?

 

 

Near Death Experience

Well, at least “wishing I was dead” experience.

Every country has a story… of food borne illnesses. Wrenching, draining, exhausting, spirit killing cramps and body clearing diarrhea and vomiting. My sister says I’m an extreme eater, which isn’t entirely true, but truer than not.

But that day at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club on the river in Phnom Penh, I was trying to be mindful.

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Iced beer with lime – and an overhead fan. A view of boats over where the Tonle Sap and the Mekong meet. Soon I’d be out on the river, too, heading downstream on the Mekong to the delta and Vietnam. Nice relaxed afternoon before heading on. Beer with lime and ice, according to the person who introduced me to it, is a southeast Asian trick best performed with a crisp lager, and Bia Lao is my personal favorite. One must ask, as I did, if the ice is good, meaning made with clean water. This was the Foreign Correspondents’ Club and they had been not poisoning journalists and pretenders for many years, in, during and after the wars. So I was assured.

That afternoon I squeezed into a small boat that would meander down the overhung narrow passages of the lower Mekong, across the malarial and still disputed frontier. The first few hours passed with lots time to daydream and watch the water go by. As we neared the border, the shores came closer and in the late afternoon the village children played, swam and washed in the dwindling daylight. We stopped first at the Cambodian border stop. Stamp Stamp. No problem. We then pulled into a small dock at the Vietnamese border. We all struggled ashore with our packs and bags and checked in with the immigration agents. There, on a dirt path up from the river, beneath the enveloping growth, was a 10 ft. long conveyor belt baggage scanner. The stop took about an hour, and evening was deepening.

The river narrowed yet more, and we pulled up into the dock at Chao Doc – the first town in Vietnam, and a much fought for territory by the Khmer Rouge*. Definitively a rural frontier town, at the time I was there, little English was spoken and few visitors seen.

DSC02263

I found myself a cheap motel and headed out for some dinner. All of this was done with no English. It is so much easier than most people think to get by in the basic things without the local language. About 2 or 3 in the morning, in the small room of the hotel, the pain started and I was running to the bathroom. By about 5, I knew I needed a doctor. I went downstairs and communicated the need for help. The clerk’s friend rode into the hotel from outside on a motorbike and I got on the back. We set off across the waking town in search of medical help. The driver pulled up to one store front, but the image of dental plates on the window didn’t promise a doctor.

As I felt like falling off the back of the bike, we pulled up in front of an unmarked little storefront. There was a flat wooden bench-like examining table and a few bookshelves in front. A woman came out from the back and motioned me to the table. Having delivered me to someone else’s care, the bike driver took off. I settled back on the bench and she started talking to me. I pointed, she poked, I groaned, she nodded.

I needed the toilet desperately and she pointed me to the back. I found a squatter in a closet off a kitchen. From a crouch, I stared at a week’s worth of dirty dishes stacked against the wall about a foot from the hole. All of this was foggily resonating  in my brain, but any alarm bells were deeply muted.

I dragged myself back to the table, and my attendant was rifling through a drawer of plastic wrapped pill samples. She pulled out a few and had me swallow them. Meanwhile a man showed up who I think was a doctor: he was wearing a button up shirt and slacks with a belt. He started to ask me questions, which of course I couldn’t answer, or understand. Then he asked me again in French. That I could, very marginally, deal with. That got me off the table and on to the next van to Ho Chi Minh City.

The 8 hour ride was spent with my head out the front-seat passenger window, getting rid of what was left in my stomach. We crossed the river by ferry, heading north through small villages and trailed by hundreds of motorbikes who followed in my noxious backwash. The main road was pretty much a straight shot from Cantho to HCMC, so we barely slowed as we passed through communities. As we pulled into one, there was a bus on one side of the road, and people lined both sides, pointing and gaping at something in the road – the body I stared down at as we drove past it, as my head hung out the van. A road casualty of the bus, we gathered, his motorbike scattered wreckage nearby. We didn’t hit him, but skimmed past and kept on going. I’d looked death in the eye that day.

Making it to the SOS hospital by evening, I survived on a week’s rations of Pho and bed rest. I’ve had worse cases of food poisoning, but not more memorable. I later learned that the good restaurants in Phnom Penh did buy ice manufactured with purified water in nice big blocks.

july2004 275 (1)

The ice is then smashed on the ground behind the restaurant and hosed off, before it’s used for drinks. Is the ice made with good water? Yes! No problem.

 

 

*”Aside from its river scenery and hilltop vistas, An Giang province, in the heart of what Cambodians consider to be Kampuchea Krom, bears many of the same war-time scars as neighbouring Cambodia. During the Khmer Rouge regime, Pol Pot’s forces made a number of bloody incursions along the border with An Giang. In April of 1978 a massacre took place in the hamlet of Ba Chuc, some 50km southwest of Chau Doc, with over 3,000 people killed.” http://www.travelfish.org/location/vietnam/mekong_delta/an_giang/chau_doc

 

 

 

Bangladesh, Chapter 1

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In the fall of 2013 I moved to Bangladesh to teach at the Asian University for Women. I had been told about the strikes (hartels) and political problems. Having been in India and other poor parts of the world, I though I understood about the poverty. I’d lived in conflicted Muslim countries. I’d worked for wanky universities. I was tough enough. Or at least arrogant enough to think I was tough enough.

When I arrived at the airport in Dhaka, all seemed fairly normal and in order, except that I had to swat away thousand of mosquitoes and feral cats roamed the airport terminal. As I waited in the immigration line, passport and paperwork in hand, I saw three men in military type uniforms, one of whom was wearing an officious looking beret, cut diagonally through the lines and approach me. They asked for me by name and took my passport. “Come with us.” I did, of course. I wasn’t at all nervous, but I had been flying for many many hours, so I was a bit dazed, anyway. They said they were sent by the university to help me through the airport. This part was actually a bit alarming. I have traveled through a lot of airports, and never needed an escort. I knew there was a strike going on, but I didn’t really understand about such strikes yet.

http://primenews.com.bd/en/?p=3377
http://primenews.com.bd/en/?p=3377

As we walked through the airport, I felt the eyes of those around me following us. Unlike anything I would experience again in the next couple of years, people generously yielded to us. The officers got my overweight bags on the small plane flight to Chittagong and stayed with me till I left.

The flight to Chittagong took about 45 minutes. When I arrived at baggage claim, I was mobbed by men wanting to take my bags, I panicked a bit as I tried to keep my hands on everything. They trailed me as I left to the front of the airport, only to be put upon now by potential drivers. I was quite overwhelmed, when a man jumped out of the driver’s seat of an ambulance and held up an A4 piece of paper with my first name scrawled across it. He grabbed my bags and thrust them in the back of the ambulance and pushed me in the side door. “Keep down.” The driver and the assistant pulled out of the airport quickly and we were immersed in the densely populated outskirts of the city.

I had been kidnapped was my first thought. Damn. Now I am a person who can react too quickly when I shouldn’t, like when I get pushed at the grocery store, or cut off in traffic, but in really threatening or serious situations, I stay preternaturally calm. I actually thought, really I did, this will make a good story if all goes well. I watched all the traffic around us, which, due to the strike, consisted mostly of tuk tuks, rickshaws and ambulances. And people, and animals live and dead, and garbage – lots of garbage. The streets were lined with fruit, veg and meat stalls, as well as most anything else you might need. Maybe it was just sensory overload that kept me from freaking out.

Photo Joanne Bretzer
Photo Joanne Bretzer
Photo Joanne Bretzer
Photo Joanne Bretzer
Photo Joanne Bretzer
Photo Joanne Bretzer

The phone rang for the assistant and he handed it to me. It was Omar Sharif. Yeah, that’s what I thought, too. Omar is one of the main administrators at the university, it turns out, and he was calling to reassure me that my housing was ready and I would be fed after the meeting at the university. Overnight flight, military escort, kidnapping, bad enough, but now a meeting before my head would hit a pillow.

Things would become somewhat normal in a few days. Ambulances are supposed to have a right of passage through the most violent of strikes, though the truce sometimes fails, and they are often used to transport people from the airport. Inside the campus of the university, spartan and limited as it is, it is hard to remember what is going on in the streets. The violence is sporadic, and we know about it from reports from the head of security and from the news. Our own neighborhood is largely untouched by it. Over time almost anything can become normalized, but a certain level of tension and unease simmers beneath the surface. It remained there for two years, and would betray me under pressure.

Home and Homelessness

The other day Chacalit posted a story about being homeless. Actually, it was a thank you note to those who helped her. I replied to her post that I have feared being homeless.

This started me thinking. I have spent most of my life more or less homeless, or transitioning between temporary homes. I have been extremely fortunate in that I have always found a bed and a warm place indoors to sleep. That has been enough to be more home-full than those sleeping on the streets. This makes me grateful to a lot of people who have been there for me in ways I have too often overlooked. It also leaves me very humble in the face of those who haven’t had my advantages.

My parents were always one step ahead of the street. My father would gamble the money away, work hard but often not be paid enough, and sometimes not at all, as contractors would run before payday. But there was always a roof over our heads in the next town or next state. Sometimes grandma would come and feed us eggs and toast, but I don’t remember ever being hungry. We always stayed ahead enough. As a child, I don’t think I ever consciously realized how precarious our situation was. We just moved a lot. As a young child, we moved to Florida, following the post-war building boom. We had beaches and even a neighbor with a pool. I knew the pain of being bullied at school for my second hand clothes and my questionable grooming, but that was not in my mind related to poverty, at least as far as I remember. All of our direct neighbors were poor, too, which makes it less notable.

Family photo
Family photo

So I grew up to be comfortably itinerant, which has been a real advantage. It’s a long and twisted tale of adventures and misadventures, but I have always stayed a step ahead. I’ve lived in campers and tents, warehouses, basements, log cabins and geodesic domes, I have enjoyed the hospitality of friends and family, even past the expiry date – certainly testing some patience. I’ve actually owned a couple of homes, but not for too long. I even built one, which my ex and I sold so we could go back to school.

So home has a deep meaning to me, but it has not been something that has driven my life to the point of bad choices and too many compromises. I know how to live on the precarious edge, but I’m now ready to try again to find a home. I don’t have the task of tearing up roots so I can retire abroad.

Pros and Cons of Living on an Island

I found this today on the Reader, and it is just the sort of blog I want to read and promote. It feels honest and direct – not flowery like some live abroad blogs can be.

Rewired and Retired in Nicaragua

“Every man is an island, and every heart seeks the ferry to cross the main…”
― Mykyta Isagulov

Sunday evening, I was invited to speak with a group of women fromFinding My Place, a travel agency for women who want to explore living abroad. It was a lovely gathering with well-traveled women who are exploring Nicaragua as a place to hang their hammocks. Many of the questions they asked revolved around the pros and cons of island life. Below are some of the things we discussed, which may be of interest to you, too.

Islands are slow and far away from many distractions. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua is no exception. Island living is not for the faint of heart, yet the rewards are many, tranquility is abundant, and our lifestyles are simple.

Pros of Island Life

View original post 891 more words

Change!

“Can’t say it often enough — change your hair, change your life.” Thomas Pynchon, Inherent Vice*

If only life were so easy to change. Then again, would we want to be able to change our lives as quickly as changing our hair? Can we change our lives? If is it possible, would it be desirable?

Damn, I got this quote from a list of absurdist quotes on Twitter, and it seemed reasonably absurd at the time. Not quite surreal, but absurd. But the more I look at it, the more it seems like something we think fairly regularly. We only need to; change our hair, our weight, our job, our economic circumstances, or some other alterable feature of our lives.

From Brazil
From Brazil

This is a question we all struggle with, I think. We are told we can change, we can “better ourselves”, “pick ourselves up by the bootstraps”, have a complete makeover. Then when the new wardrobe, or the new boyfriend, leads to the same cul-de-sac, we feel we have failed somehow.

We of the modern age are driven to improvement – both social and personal. We, and the world, are never enough. We must advance along a line of progress, the culmination of which is what? This drive for change is the very heart of the modern era, and the very soul of our discontent.

The following is from Dr. Bob Zunjic’s syllabus for a course on THE IDEA OF MODERNITY:

 Everything in the modern era seems to be in motion, change and transition toward the future. Our age is by far the most complex period in human history and the most dynamic one. While Modernity is just a small fraction in the whole history of mankind it is certainly the age that has brought more rapid change in human life than any previous in human history (this relentless acceleration is both its essence and fate). There is a strong feeling of advancing and speeding up in the constant search for renewal. The perpetual transformations that supersede every achieved stage of development affect everything, from life style and the way how we work and govern ourselves up to the way how we think and express ourselves.

It has driven us to destroy the earth in our quest to perfect it, and it drives us insane as we try to perfect ourselves. Maybe that is the absurdist core of the quote. And perhaps the hardest thing of all to change is a world in which change is the perpetual demand.

*http://flavorwire.com/546683/30-totally-relatable-quotes-from-absurdist-fiction/3

Twitter Quote: https://twitter.com/penguinrandom/status/663755187861987329

The Dignity of Working Class Life

“The Master said, “A true gentleman is one who has set his heart upon the Way. A fellow who is ashamed merely of shabby clothing or modest meals is not even worth conversing with.” (Analects 4.9)” ― Confucius

When I look at popular culture today, I’m constantly amazed at how little poverty and working class life is included. It’s as if it doesn’t exist.

Frankie and her adopted sons
Frankie and her adopted sons

I’m watching Grace and Frankie. What’s not to like? It has gay husbands running off together. Black adopted children, and a black boyfriend for Frankie. Oh, and perhaps most significantly, the two stars are women in their 6th and 7th generations. And there’s drug addiction and childbirth and women struggling with dry vaginas. Which are all handled with the élan of the well born, well led life of the lawyerly class. Divorce conflicts occur over who gets the mansions, and who gets the beach house. In San Diego. It hits all the important topics, except poverty.

When I think of the series I watch, they almost all involve rich and powerful people who have problems with dinner parties and affairs with presidents. Mainstream cinema is pretty much the same.

In the fifties one of the top shows was The Honeymooners. It would certainly get no points for its social progressiveness, but when I watched it as a child I recognized my own working class family, and the dignity of the struggle. The same with I Love Lucy. Yes, there were the brushes with fame, but there were the little apartments and the money problems- the struggle that was just a part of life, not the star of the show.

honeymooners

lucy

By the 70’s, working class life became politicized and problematic. The Bunkers struggled with the head of the family who was anything but dignified. Being working class implied racism and intolerance. Archie Bunker is a punch line.

Archie Bunker
Archie Bunker

Roseanne is the last hit show I remember that really dignified the working class. The poverty and struggles made sense and all the characters contributed to the family economy when necessary.

roseanne

I don’t think it is coincidence that as working class life has become the fate of failures and not a path upwards for the children of farmers and industrial workers, we see fewer of them portrayed in media. Roseanne was a factory worker and her sister a waitress. Archie Bunker worked in a loading dock. Ralph Cramden, of the Honeymooners was a bus driver, who used to go bowling with his friend, Ed Norton. Lucy and Ethel are working in a chocolate factory in the above photo, and also do a turn stomping grapes. These fates weren’t embarrassments, they were life as the majority of people knew it in the post WWII days. Those were optimistic times, when, as history now shows, working class families could strive for a better living for their children, when the economic boom allowed for that sort of thinking.

The paucity of working class heroes in the media and in song reflects the reality of our society. We/they are an embarrassment. After having risen through the economy for some generations, too many people are backsliding, or at least stagnating. The blended/merged family on Grace and Frankie represents progress and aspiration. It is the Horatio Alger story for the 10%.

Blogger Recognition Award

bloggerrecognitionawardblogger

Vibrant continues to brighten my days, this time with a nomination for this award. Appreciation can be hard to come by and so welcome. Thank you, Vibrant!

Rules for this award :

1. Select 15 other blogs you want to give the award to.

2. You cannot nominate yourself or the person who has nominated you.
3. Write a post to show your award.
4. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
5. Give a piece of advice or two to new bloggers.
6. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
7. Attach the award badge to the post (right click and save, then upload.)

8. Comment on each blog and let them know you have nominated them.

9. Provide a link to the original post on Edge of Night.

My Blogs:

My own blogs started when I quit teaching in Bangladesh and settled in to a friend’s house to sort out what would be next. I started up a blog I had begun back in Vietnam, and determined to stick with it this time. I started a second blog, birdwithwings.com, to use as a place to sort out the burning question in my life: where to create a home, or at least a home base while living on a small pension and my wits.

Advice for new bloggers:

Stick with it. I have found the WordPress University courses excellent for this. Habits take a long time to form, and the courses keep you focused on forming the habit of writing daily.

Reach out. Connect with other bloggers and follow other blogs. Beginning blogging is rather like jumping into the middle of the ocean. You can’t see the ships around you at first, but then your eyes adjust and you can see little flickering lights all around you. Go to the light!

I would like to pass on this award to:

Abhayaka– Who blogs about Buddhism, or is beginning to blog about Buddhism. I want to encourage him, so he will keep blogging and tell us more.

Vagabond251 Traveler– Whose “3  favorite categories… Travel, Photography and Retirement”, happen to be 3 of mine, also.

elizstein– This blog focuses on photography with real clear and useful advice.

Chobe Paz– Because this is the first Spanish blog I’ve come across, and I would like to be able to converse in Spanish a bit. Thanks for bravely sitting in with us English speaker!

Culturally Curious– I love your writing style and stories of Tunisia.

melhpine– It is just one beautiful blog from a deep-hearted writer.

throughopenlens– Funny stories! Thanks!

Sarah’s Attic of Treasures– Every wise and helpful.

gunroswell– A model of endurance, and good entertaining writing.

Carol A. Hand– A wonderful perspective, as well as poetry, prose and art.

jacquelineobyikocha– I love your stories!

Victo Dolore– Inside the musing of a medical doctor.

amiezor– More spiritual thoughtfulness. Her posts inspire me.

lovehomeroam– Another newbie who deserves lots of reading and encouragement.

Laduchessederat– To thank her for her encouragement!

There are many more, but like Vibrant, I have chosen to acknowledge some of the new writers at WordPress University.