Gypsy's Travels

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Our New Refugees

Round Rock Christian Church (DOC) joined forces with St. John’s Methodist Church in Georgetown, Texas, to sponsor another refugee family - a mother (age 46), her son and daughter (ages 9 & 14), and another, unrelated, young woman who will be arriving later and living with them.

There is scant information on the family. We understand the mother and children are from the Karen Tribe in Burma (now known as Myanmar), and lived in a refugee camp in Thailand for about 10 years. They arrived in Austin on 27 February, just before midnight, an hour later than expected, after somehow missing their connection in Denver. Luggage, between the three of them, consisted of 2 coarsely woven, shopping-style bags about the size of large rolling suitcases. The tops were taped closed. These were all their worldly possessions. They speak no English.

Working together, members from both churches readied the family’s apartment. The generosity of church members, combined with donations from Refugee Services, provided comfortable, well-appointed living quarters for the four refugees to settle in and begin the task of making America their home.

As we introduced the mother to her new home, we had a glimpse into the life they must have left behind. Her excitement at the simplest things was unrestrained. We showed her how to pull the chains to make the ceiling lights and fan work, and then showed her the wall switch. There was a look of awe on her face as she timidly touched the light switch, gently pushed it down, then turned her head to look in wonder at the lights that responded to her touch. Our minister provided a microwave oven demonstration; they explored cupboards, pantries,and cabinets, but there is more for them to discover as they settle in. After 10 years, most likely in a tent with dirt floors, the family is home and ready to begin a new life.

Daughter, mother, and interpreter with Minister.
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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Happy Birthday

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Wordless Wednesday - Chuckwagon

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They strive to make it as authentic as possible.
Check out more photos on Wordless Wednsday.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Driving, Missed Crazy

I was perusing the post of ABW's Friend. She addressed some interesting points on driving in this country.

An 80 mph speed limit in West Texas, coming out of El Paso, was a welcome surprise. I-10 is a major highway but it is not well traveled, at least I did not see many cars when I was there. Of course, the few I did see felt they could go faster than the posted speed anyway. Like ABW's Friend, I just seem to be sitting still when people pass me, even though I am doing, in this case, 80.

ABW's Friend has to pump her own gas up north. We ran into the same problem in Oregon. When we asked why they had to do it, there was no real answer. One attendant told us it was to make sure there was no gas spilled into the environment. We watched as he stared into space and ran the tank over, spilling gas onto the ground.

Speaking of gas, I am well aware the price is rising but have you noticed how much of the price is TAX? Check it out some time.

One of my pet peeves when I am driving is changing speed limits. ABW's Friend says they have signs that can change the speed limit as desired. That is really far out. We only have stationery posted speed limit signs that change from 35mph to 65 mph to 45 mph to ????? Sometimes these changes occur within a few feet of each other. I don't even have time to reach 65 mph before I see the 35. Sometimes they are posted in a row so all are visible at the same time. Is this a conspiracy?

Speaking of conspiracies, how about the small town PDs that lower speed limits dramatically on lonely stretches of highways through their towns so they can make their money on the tickets. I was caught in one of those "scams" and received a ticket that advised me it would not be reported if I just paid the ticket by the due date. I made sure the check was made out to the PD, but wondered if it went into a "pool" to pay off the officers. But I was guilty of cresting the hill and heading down at 7 mph over the limit.

Last, but not necessarily least, why do we have to pay tolls on some stretches of Interstate Highways? This seems like a double whammy - paying for something we have already financed.

In spite of everything, I am one of those independent Texans who keeps driving.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Odd Shots on Monday - Quilting Tip

When cutting fabric with a plastic template, it is difficult to keep it from sliding. Here we are putting hot glue dots on the template about 2" apart, 1/2" in from the edge. This helps hold the template in place for cutting.
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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Learning to Love My Cell Phone

I watch the faces of drivers in cars that pass by me as I wait at red lights. It is amazing how many of them are talking on their cell phones. I was horrified the other day as I watched an 18-wheeler make a precarious turn into the lane beside me. He was turning that big rig, in a tight turn, with ONE hand on the wheel, the other hand holding his cell phone up to his ear, and his mouth going a mile a minute. If he had hit something or lost control, he would have said it was an "accident."

Have cell phones freed us or enslaved us? Just a few years ago when I was on call many hours each day and night, I had to be close to my home phone or rely on a "beeper." The cell phone absolutely liberated me....if it had a signal where I was.

I recently found an old GTE MobileNet Newsletter (Winter 1990-91) that touted the headline "Cellular Subscribers Top 4 Million." Some information excerpted from this newsletter was rather interesting:

The new milestone comes less than 7 years after the first cellular system was activated.
You are not restricted to using your cellular phone just around home. When you visit another city, you can dial local calls just as you do at home.
Try to answer your cellular phone promptly since most cellular companies bill for ring time.
Cellular is not a perk and it is not a luxury.

By the middle of 2005, there were 2.4 billion cell phone subscribers.

The numbers continue to grow. A service that was considered primarily for business people or the elite, is now often used in place of regular home telephone service. As for me, the cell phone has become an essential. I guess that happened late one night when my car broke down.

It was late when I left my shift at the hospital and drove through the dark streets of an "unsavory" part of town. My car died in a really dark area next to an abandoned building. I don't know if I were more worried about someone stopping or someone not stopping. I locked the doors, whipped out my cell phone, which I had previously considered a luxury, and alerted DH to my dilemma. It seemed like a long wait, in the dark, vulnerable to possible predators lurking in the shadows. My fears seemed well founded as a man emerged from a hidden spot near the building and walked in my direction. I watched with trepidation as the indistinct form materialized. Then I noticed he was pushing a grocery cart overloaded with all his worldly possessions. He was afraid of me and was getting out of there! I have had a cell phone ever since then.

Friday, February 22, 2008

PhotoHunt - Wooden

Tile and painted wood of Palace in Seoul, Korea


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A Night Out

I had a big night out tonight in Jonah, Texas. Friends and I attended the annual chili bash to benefit the old school in Jonah. The school was built in 1921, but has been used for various purposes since it was closed to student education. Now the school rooms are rented to various people / organizations and the annual bash helps rehab the old building.

A delicious, but mild chili was served accompanied by rice, cornbread muffins, crackers, and small packages of Fritos. This chili was full of meat, but beans were available to top it off. Sliced jalapenos, chopped onions, and grated cheese were also available as toppings. Water, coffee, iced tea, brownies, and banana pudding were served.

The real fun was in the surroundings and the people in this town with a population of 60. A Czech band provided music and several couples looked very much at home dancing to one side of the long tables set up in the auditorium. The rest of us tapped our toes, clapped our hands, and occasionally sang along to the traditional style music provided by 2 guitars, 2 accordions, and a keyboard.

We arrived early, but I had the distinct impression the party was just getting started when we left. What a great group of people in a really small town. If you ever visit, be sure not to miss the "Jonah Maul[sic]."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Words for the Photos - Pristina, Kosovo, 1999

Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership declared independence after internationally mediated talks with Serbian negotiators on the province's future fell apart last year. Kosovo, where the population of 2 million is more than 90 percent ethnic Albanian, insisted on statehood. Serbia, which considers Kosovo the ancient cradle of the Serbian state and religion, pushed for wide autonomy. Kosovo has been governed since 1999 by the U.N. and policed by more than 16,000 NATO troops since NATO launched air strikes to stop a Serbian crackdown on ethnic Albanian separatists.

Independence for Kosovo!

The photos for Wordless Wednesday are a few of the many I took when I visited Pristina, Kosova, in 1999. The city was still recovering from the recent bombing, but I did not have a feeling of insecurity as I walked about the city alone. The only warning I had received was not to be out after dark.

Back in Skopje, Macedonia, I received a concerned phone call from DH back in the States. The War Memorial in the Plaza in Pristina, had been bombed. I had stood in that very spot the day before. I don't even have any photos of the Memorial itself, because it was overgrown and not particularly interesting at the time.

I am thankful the people of Kosovo have an opportunity to be free. I heard so many stories while I was there. I don't know how they can live together in peace as long as there are people who agitate and refuse to allow everyone a voice. Please pray for the people of Kosovo.

Two groups of young boys in Pristina, One group playing with toy(?) guns. The other had been playing in the woods, gathering berries. The first group tried to hide the guns and watched me sheepishly. The other group, clowned for the camera and offered me berries.

Wordless Wednesday - Pristina, Kosovo 1999

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Odd Shots on Monday - Italy

I was looking for inspirations for quilt patterns. I think this one would be great! Found the tile floor in a church in Florence.
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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Life in the Back Seat with K & L

Need a laugh? There is always one available from children.....

My 3 year-old grandson, L, and his 1 year-old sister, K, were being driven home from their morning activity by their dad. K, in the back seat with her brother, was crying and inconsolable all the way home. L has been taught to reason things out and approach problems creatively.

L: "Why won't she stop crying, Dad?"
Dad: "Because she is hungry."
L: "Well, let's feed her."
Dad: "We don't have anything to feed her right now, but we will get her something as soon as we get home."
L: "She needs something right now."
Dad: "I know, but we don't have anything and we are almost home."
L: "Well. I can find something!"

L proceeded to put his finger up his nose and pull out a big booger. Fortunately, although he tried very hard, he could not reach K. Dad went from horrified to relieved to doubled over in laughter.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

PhotoHunt - Free

We gave up buying dust catching souvenirs a long time ago when I had to dust them all. We began instead, to collect small items to put on the Christmas tree. So each year, it is a trip down memory lane as I recount where each item originated. This year I began to document all the Christmas ornaments and write their stories.
These very small wooden shoes (about 1" long) were freebies from a trip to Holland.
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Friday, February 15, 2008

From the Memory Box - Pillbugs

I did write a well-thought out post yesterday but somehow it disappeared into cyberspace. it had a photo and everything. I am not too keen on repeating my efforts from scratch, so it may be awhile before I attempt that subject again.

Meanwhile, here's another thought from The Memory Box:

One day we collected tons of pill bugs and built a maze out of Legos with ham as a reward and tried to train the pillbugs to complete the maze.

I think they gave up on training pillbugs, but since they were plentiful, the children played with them a lot. One day DD was holding one in her hand and called our attention to it. The pillbug was walking along the palm of her hand leaving a trail of translucent babies in her wake.

Yes, it amazing what children dream up when they are not allowed to sit in front of the T.V. Our children came up with several different "experiments." I observed DS coming to the front door several times each day and lifting the outside doormat.
"What are you doing? I finally asked him.
"Looking for bugs, " he told me nonchalantly.
"Well, why do you look so many times each day?"
"There is always something new," he explained.

Besides the pill bugs in the maze, there was the incident in the bathroom. I smelled a terrible odor but could not find the source. Several days later the odor was even stronger so I took everything out of the cupboards. Way in the back I found a bowl with molding navy beans. I called a conference.
"Where did these beans come from and why are they here?" I demanded.
"We were doing an experiment," the children explained.
"Why did you leave the beans in the cupboard?"
"Because the experiment didn't work," they explained with great logic.

Such was life in the household. One experiment was "cooking macaroni" with hot water out of the tap. I found that one in the bathroom cupboard as well.Then there were the snakes, but I will leave that for another time.....

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday - Florence, Italy

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Click on photo for a closer view.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

From the Memory Box - Trips to Oklahoma

Drawn from the Memory Box:

Trips to Oklahoma
Blue Lady
Yellow Dot
Running around the car at roadside parks
Welch's soda

My parents lived in Oklahoma for several years, about an 8 hour drive from our house after we moved back to the U.S. Eight hours can be a daunting time with three young children, but we made the trip 2-3 times each year to visit them.

"It is so much easier for you to come visit us that for us to drive down to visit you," my mother said.

"For whom?" I answered, but she had moved on.

After the fourth child arrived, we could no longer fit everyone into our little, blue Volvo. We had to take two cars. This meant I could no longer catch up on my sleep all the way to Oklahoma; I had to drive. I drove the blue Volvo station wagon; DH drove the yellow Datsun pick-up. Loaded to the gills, we began our journey, DS in the yellow truck with his dad, the three girls in the blue car with me.

CB's (Citizen Band Radios) were the rage at this time and fit our purposes exactly. We had a radio for each car which made it relatively easy to keep one another informed and made sure we remained together during the trip. Talking on the CB required the use of a different language, at least in concept. It was difficult for us to transmit over the radio because we knew there was a whole world out there just listening. We were such neophytes and the strange codes of the airway were foreign to us. Nevertheless, if we wanted to communicate, we had to join in.

First, we coined our "handles," the names by which we would be known on the air. On past trips, listening to the CB to monitor traffic, weather, locations of the "Fuzz" (police), and just to while the miles away, we would attempt to match the "handles" to the cars and trucks sharing the road. I don't think it would have been difficult to match us up to our "handles" - "Blue Lady" for me in the blue station wagon and "Yellow Dot" for DH in the yellow Datsun. Not really innovative but adequate for our purposes.

Since the baby, DD#3, was still nursing every three hours, we added that time onto our travels - potty stops, gas stops, feeding stops, and one meal stop. We made a concentrated effort to combine some of the activities, but the eight hour trip morphed into 12 hours. As the children became more and more restless, I decided they needed to run off some energy. Every time they became too unruly, we stopped and made them run laps around the cars. I started with 10 laps. If they were still feisty and energetic, I added more. I don't know if it was terribly effective but it made me feel better and I got a brief rest.

I had to ask DD about the Welch's soda because I didn't remember it since they were seldom allowed to have soda or sugared drinks. She said I would buy Welch's fruit juice and water it down so the four of them could share it as a treat. That sounds like something I would do and probably accounts for the fact that they all water down their children's fruit juice now.

We all enjoyed our visits to the ranch in Oklahoma, where the children could run free and not get into too much trouble. Over the years we traveled the roads many times, later allowing the older children to invite their friends. One year a teen age girl from Italy who stayed with us for a while, put the trip into perspective. She had lived in the Lake Como region of Italy all her life so even travel out of town would be a relatively short distance. Three hours into our journey to Oklahoma, I heard her quietly ask "Does the road never end?"

Indeed, the road does, but the journey does not.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

PhotoHunt 96: Heavy - Longhorn

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It is estimated there were approximately five million longhorns in Texas by the end of the Civil War.These Texas cattle had long legs, lanky bodies, with legs and feet built for speed. It took a good horse with a good rider to outrun a Texas Longhorn. Their narrow faces, sullen expressions, and horns that swept out horizontally, gave these cattle a sinister look and they could be mean. A century or so of running wild made the longhorns tough and hardy enough to withstand blizzards, droughts, dust storms, attacks by other animals, and Indians. They did not require great amounts of water to survive. Their horns served for attack and defense. A strong sense of smell made it easy for the cow to find her calf and she would ferociously defend this calf. There was probably no meaner creature in Texas than a Longhorn bull. The slightest provocation would turn him into an aggressive and dangerous enemy. The bull's horns usually measured six feet or less from tip-to-tip, but could measure over eight feet long. In addition, the sharpness of horns of any length, the speed and muscle power of the bull, and the ease with which he could be aroused and enraged, made him a dangerous and uncontrollable animal. When two bulls met, there was sure to be a fight, often to death. Only a very well-armed cowboy had a chance against a Longhorn bull.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Waiting for the Primary

Well, the political race is heating up....

Hillary is getting frantic and promising more to the extremes....she even wants to undo some of Bill's follies.

Thompson bailed....Romney is giving up.

Where does that leaves us? Here we are with the Presidential candidates almost chosen and lining up for battle and some of us have not even had the opportunity to vote yet!

I wonder if we ought to have all the primaries at the same time.


I have had to delete a much-loved blog from my list. Sendai-Shi was taken off the net by its owner, Abe Lincoln. No, I am not making this up, his name really is Abe Lincoln. Sendai-Shi Blog was a wonderful stroll back in time. Although it is a small town in Japan, it reminded me of a similar time in Okinawa. The photos were great! Add to that the fact that they were taken by Mr. Lincoln when he was yet a young man stationed near Sendai. When a young man spends his time taking photos while he is stationed in a foreign land, rather than just carousing around, it shows a definite strength of character. Of course, he indicates in his stories that he was not immune to a bit of carousing.

So, the bad news is that Sendai Blog has been deleted from the list. The good news is that I have added another of Abe Lincoln's blogs, Brookville Daily Photo, in its place. Take a moment to visit and enjoy the magnificient photos, memoirs, and a little home-spun philosophy thrown in for free. Leave a little comment for Mr. Lincoln and let him know what you think.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Wordful Wednesday - Thai Silk

I guess these need a little explanation....

These photos were taken about 1969 in Thailand. The top photo shows a room full of young women sitting on the floor winding the silk threads used in making lengths of Thai silk fabric.

Silkworm cocoons are gathered and placed in a boiling cauldron. The pupa is removed and three or four fibers are gathered together and attached to an overhead roller. Northeasterners are particularly fond of this stage of the process, as the boiled pupa is savored as a tasty delicacy; it tastes like corn and is very rich in protein.
The silk fibers are slowly unraveled from the cocoons, wound onto wooden spindles, and then spun into thread or yarn. The silk fiber of Thailand's silkworms is a natural gold in color, and one cocoon consists of a single fiber that is often as long as 500 meters.
At this stage, the silk yarn is washed and bleached until it is creamy white, and is then ready to be dyed any color. Originally, only vegetable dyes were used, but the Thais' love of vivid colors soon led to the use of synthetic dyes, which are colorfast and more permanent than vegetable dyes. After this, the threads are washed and stretched, and when dry are
wound onto drums ready for the weavers.

The bottom one shows beautiful blue fabric drying in the sun after coming from the dye bath. This may be cotton fabric.
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Monday, February 4, 2008

Learning about Lolita

ABW's Friend wrote today about beds made for six year old girls. The beds are named "Lolita Beds."

I would venture to guess that the Brits' lack of information on Lolita was directly associated with censorship. I have never read the book, or seen the movie, about Lolita, but I have seen enough news stories to know what it is about. When we lived in Australia, "Portnoy's Complaint" was banned. Even though I had never had the desire to read, or had even heard of, the book, I couldn't wait to buy it and read it when we vacationed in the outside world. It was not something I ever would have sought out otherwise.

I think the U.K. does a better job of allowing their children to be children, well-behaved children. Maybe there is something to be said for, .....loss of our Freedom of Speech would be too high a price to pay.

The sad thing about the suggestive clothes and styles for children these days, is that there would not be a market for them if the parents just refused to buy. Why are young children even familiar with "worldly ways"?
Turn off the T.V.!
Monitor their reading and their friends!
Say "NO!" to inappropriate behavior / media / language.
Model appropriate behavior / morals / principles / language.
Make children responsible for their actions and discuss the results, good and bad, with them.
Spend quality time with your children so you know what is going on in their minds,
I guess the fact that we seldom hear of a little girl being named Lolita, is a good thing.

Friday, February 1, 2008


Read the updated version of "Prove It To Me," a post from 1/27/08.

Headscarves and Kidnapping

Women Rally for US Aid worker
KANDAHAR - 500 Afghan women gathered in a rare mass protest against the kidnapping of an American aid worker. The women called on officials to find the captured American and urged the kidnappers to release her. Cyd Mizzell lived in Kandahar for 6 years, working on educational projects, women's development, and income generating projects for a foundation. She spoke the local Pashto language and, while travelling, dressed in a burka, the head-to-toe shroud most Kandahari women wear in public.Women had to ask their husband's permission to attend the rally. Many, giving only their first names,said the kidnapping underscores the danger facing all women in Afghanistan.

ANKARA - A bill that would lift a decades old ban on women wearing head scarves at Universities was submitted to Parliament. Critics say the plan is a "threat against the Republic."
The ban on headscarves, imposed when Mustafa Kemal Ataturk carved the modern republic out of the Ottoman empire in 1923, is regarded as one of the most divisive issues in Turkey today. It is a source of friction between the Islamist government and the secular establishment.

13 Oct 2006
The Madani High School in Leicester will be required by law to accept 10 per cent of its 600 pupils from a non-Muslim background. Girls who are not Muslim will still have to abide by a rule insisting all female pupils cover their heads as part of the uniform.

Dec 2003
A commission report favoring the banning of Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses in public schools, prompted remarks by Chirac in an address to the nation: "I feel that wearing any kind of symbol that ostensibly shows faith, is something that should not be allowed in schools and colleges."

Islamic dress is one of many rights granted to Islamic women. Modest clothing is worn in obedience to God and has nothing to do with submissiveness to men. Muslim men and women have similar rights and obligations and both submit to God.

Women are still chafing under the rule of men in the guise of religion. Religious symbols are banned even as a minority of the population cries out for their demise - no prayer in schools; no mention of God in our workplace, schools, or legal system; rename the holidays; trust in no one on our money; no crosses, skullcaps, or headscarves.

One of our interns in a big city hospital wore a headscarf every day wiithout any incident or comment. We attempted to provide female doctors when women requested them for religious reasons, although it was often the husband making the request.

Now one of our American women who attempted to follow the approved customs, has been kidnapped. It is, most likely, the work of a radical group, but it is it having the desired effect? Amazingly, the Afghan women are speaking up and speaking out, calling for support for this American. True, some had to seek the permission of their husbands, but is gaining that permission not also a step into freedom? Bravery begets bravery.

I wonder how brave I would be.