Christmas time is filled with family traditions. We loaded up and went to a local tree farm to cut our own evergreen for the season, ready to be decorated! OK, that’s not true; I sat down and ordered one on Black Friday, pre-lit, to be shipped for free.
Once our towering pine was placed, we began the task of placing our heirloom, hand crafted family ornaments on the tree. OK, that’s not true. We do have some ornaments that might be considered vintage and handcrafted if we count the popsicle stick sled that Matt Roberts made and gave to son, Caleb, in the second grade. Or the wad of pacifiers that dangle from a limb. That same boy wouldn’t take any binky I offered although I bought every brand. What to do with all those rejects? I was determined not to waste them and declared I would hang them on the Christmas tree. And they have been there every year for going on thirty years… including the mousetrap. Wait… what?
A travel friend gave me the nickname “Waldo” would just throw out a random note asking me, “Where’s Waldo?” Maybe you remember the books; Waldo’s image is hidden in his postcard from scenes all over the world. I would respond with my location.
You may have opened your paper and looked for the She’s Good to Go article with the same thoughts, wonder where she is this time? At least, I hope so! It is more fun to read a travel column written by someone who actually travels. I’ve been doing some “Waldo” in 2017 and reporting in from near and far. Let me tell you about a recent long weekend in New York City.
We are still packing around Peru. It’s hard to describe the changing landscape as we wind throughout the country, but I’m going to try. The big bucket list check-off is Machu Picchu, of course. We all want to see that majestic mountain shrouded in clouds and we will get there. But there is a way to approach this world of high altitudes and thin air and the key is: slowly. Getting acclimated is the toughest part and tourists are wise to work their way up the altimeter and then come down to do the strenuous mountain for the sake of adjustment. We did just that and spent some fantastic days seeing lesser known areas in this remote part of South America.
Houston, We Have a... Solution! That’s right, instead of “Houston, we have a problem”, thanks to you, we can now confidently say “Houston, we have (had) a solution!” Thank you so much to all the wonderful Good to Go Gang that answered our emergency email asking for donations to help those negatively affected by the hurricane that hit Houston around Labor Day this year. The generous, immediate response helped in ways we can’t fully explain, so we reached out to pastor Donny Garner for an update. Donny is one of our favorite motorcoach drivers, and we have enjoyed sharing with him the activities of their church in Pearidge, Arkansas. Here are the words from Pastor Garner:
I’m in the same time zone with you, but I’m worlds away. Son Caleb and I are on a long overdue trip together. We have stamped a few passport pages down though the years and this time it was his pick of destinations. So we landed in Lima, Peru and joined other travelers on a two-week discovery tour in Peru. Yes, it’s true, even when I’m on vacation, I do what I do for a living, that’s how much I believe in the value of group tours!
While in Lima we visited one of the top museums in the world, the Museo Larko. Started by a young man of 25, his personal collection of over 45,000 artifacts is impressive. The items were recovered from his family’s land and the discovery led to the development of a timeline of history from the Incas. I know a lot of people don’t get too jazzed over museums, but the sheer number in this collection is overwhelming. On display in a glass case was several ceremonial items that were used in the belief it would gain favor with their Inca gods. It’s a bit hard in the 21st century to think of a culture that believed in the cult of the dead.
They communicated with the underworld and the world above where the gods lived. Elaborate funerals included offerings and sacrifices. Rites for the passing must be performed in order to ensure that their dead leaders would be transformed into ancestors that would secure a better life for them. Fancy drinking vessels and woven fabrics were placed with the dead. Of course there are many cultures that practice preparing their deceased with “stuff” they might need in the afterlife. The Chinese included an army (Terra Cotta Warriors), the Egyptians packed a lunch (Pyramids). I stared into that display and realized the only ones that benefited from the lavish send off were the grave robbers that looted the tombs.
Another fact stirred my imagination. Looking at ancient dress of a wealthy ruler, the garment was covered in squares of gold the size of business cards. There were golden earrings, and a nose ring, and mouth piece that hid expressions. A huge impressive headdress topped it off. We’ve seen images of these great Incan gods, but the small description placard noted something I’d never considered before. It said that in our present day, brightness comes as no surprise to us, we are surrounded by things that shine like lights and mirrors.
Over two thousand years ago, the only shiny things to be seen by an ordinary person was the moon and the stars. With the discovery of gold and silver, the governing elite took control of the mining production. Jewelers enjoyed a very important place in the society as they were commissioned to decorate the ruler to look like heaven. Addressing the people in a shimmering gown from the top of a pyramid must have been very awe inspiring. Only the stars in the heavens did this, and the ordinary people couldn’t understand how one could shine so brightly, they must be gods on earth. They bowed to their power. Throw in the element of sound like pounding drums, and it demanded attention.
Fine metals and precious stones went from being things dug from the dirt of the earth to status symbols. The placard stated the European inhabitants have (and still do) place a great value on precious metals in the terms of economic importance. But if we can put aside our western world understanding to see how in Peru, in this ancient time, natural elements that had no economic worth, they were shiny and bright, came to be valued.
I’m way over simplifying, but it seems we still make gods out of the bling and bright, the ones that pull our attention and get us to bow to their perceived greatness. Deep thoughts huh? Tomorrow I’m going to go look at llamas.
Wow! Good to Go just finished our annual “Willamae Branson Trip” and what a hoot it was! We spent a couple days visiting Branson in which we laughed, ate, saw some shows, laughed a bunch more, ate even more and saw even more shows! As I reflected on the genuine friendship, kindness and helpfulness of the 54 travelers that joined us, I paused several moments thinking how thankful I am.
Let me fill in the blanks, just in case you’ve never been on a Branson Christmas trip with Willamae. Our tours depart the Grove Senior Center where the good folks there allow our travelers to park their vehicles for the trip duration. We then take off for Branson Miz-er-y, a three-hour trek to a favorite, group-friendly destination located in the Ozarks. Long-time travelers know the drill and after some homemade goodies, then it’s time to deck the halls or in this case, the bus, with tinsel, garlands and Christmas ornaments. This year’s theme was “Willamae’s Star Gazin’ Christmas in Branson” so we made our own big stars for decorations. The Good to Go Gang was laughing, taping, and working on the stars. It’s fun to make new memories with new friends, and of course, remember stories from years past. I’m thankful for a great group of travelers we call “friends” but really are more like our travel family.
I spent last weekend in Scotland with some time in Paris. The weekend before that, I camped out with my new friends in the highlands of Scotland. OK, I have been binge watching “Outlander” on STARZ subscription channel. If you know me, then you will get how this isn’t like me. Husband and I unplugged about eight years ago and announced we were done with television. We weren’t going to pay to have people talking and acting like that in our living room. We kept the TV for movies, travel shows and documentaries about world destinations or discovered some wonderful ways to use our time besides flipping through channels and griping about the choices or lack thereof.
Our tour of Peru ended too soon. The camera in my mind and my physical camera are overflowing with images that I will enjoy revisiting. Though I won’t remember a hundredth of what I’ve experienced, I will forever remember how I felt. The majestic beauty of ruins of ancient Machu Picchu, the bizarre life of living on floating reed islands in Lake Titicaca, the simple, sweet gesture of a momma opening up the outer folds of her wrap to show us her tiny babe. The people are always what I remember. The passion they exhibit when showing us their city or corner of the world makes me wonder if I could display the same emotion for a foreign visitor.
I have a jillion pictures of me or some of my travel friends posing in front of some iconic piece of art in a city. I have pictures with the Chicago Cows, which led to animals all over the USA including Bartlesville Buffalos and Tulsa Penguins. I can flip through snapshots and know exactly where we were by the statue, such as Molly Malone with her cockles and mussels in Dublin, and the bull on NYC Wall Street. In today’s age of a camera in every phone and a phone in every hand, the insatiable need to take selfies and post to the world where in the world one is, makes it important that tourist destinations have something iconic. We all wish we had an Eiffel Tower, but until then, what can we create, support, endorse? (Oh no, here she goes again….)