Friday, January 8, 2010

New Zealand 1987





New Zealand 1987

I met Ian in Fort William, Scotland in 1983. He had just traveled through the USSR by himself all the way from Vladivostok to Europe. Whenever I'd ask him about the Soviet Union he would give me an interesting anecdote as a response. For example, I wondered about governmental policies regarding religion and he told me that officially, people had freedom of religion in the USSR but that most churches, mosques, and temples had been converted to museums. Perhaps the communists wanted to portray religion as an outmoded way of thinking deserving of something to remind them of a quaint past.
We kept in touch by letters and the occasional phone call. At one point Ian was in Tibet and had given me a mailing address in Lhasa and I recall sending him a postcard which I don't think he ever received due to his nomadic lifestyle. He was born in England and spent much of his childhood in Sri Lanka but he considered himself to be Australian.


In the spring of 1987 I rang him up and he told me that he'd been trying to organize a ski holiday in New Zealand. Skiing in the southern hemisphere when it was summer in the US was something I'd dreamed of myself so we decided to rendezvous in Queenstown and he told me where he'd arranged for accommodation. Our timing would be a little off as I would arrive two days prior to him.
In Chicago's O'Hare Airport I can remember listening to the Vangelis albums "Mask" and "Soil Festivities" on cassette tape as I made my way through the terminal on the moving walkway under glass and lights. It was a thoroughly wonderful experience.
My layover in Honolulu was six hours long so I decided to have a taxi driver give me a guided tour of the city and Waikiki. My personal tour guide was informative and somewhat proud to show me his city.
When I was back at the Honolulu Airport I met a couple from Buffalo who had just gotten married and were indeed on their honeymoon bound for Japan and other places in the far east. They seemed to be a little sad for me because I was traveling alone. I don't think they fully realized that I would soon meet up with an old friend.
On my flight from Honolulu to Auckland I met an attractive young woman named Robin who was on her way to take up a position at the US Embassy in Canberra. We exchanged addresses and agreed to keep in touch -which we did for some time. A party had developed at the back of the plane because that's where smoking was allowed on our trans-Pacific flight. Even folks who didn't smoke gathered for some socializing.

The journey was beginning to take its toll by the time I got to Auckland because I've never had much success in trying to sleep in a moving vehicle. I still had to fly to Christchurch and Mount Cook before finally getting to Queenstown. One nice thing was that I got bumped up to first class for the flight from Auckland to Christchurch.
Stopping at the small Mount Cook Airport seemed like a waste of time but I suppose there must be some good reason for it. The mountain is the highest peak in the country at about 12,000 ft. The flight over the mountains -called the Southern Alps is quite scenic from Mount Cook to Queenstown and the small aircraft certainly bounced around from the turbulence.
The song on the loudspeakers at the Queenstown Airport was "Take Me Home Country Roads" and it helped to remind me that this was the furthest from "The Mountain State" I had ever been. West Virginia is where I grew up.
The hotel was a welcome sight to finally get to. It was 2 PM and I told myself it was ok to take a little nap. I woke up at 10 PM having just gotten a solid eight hour snooze and I knew I'd have a little difficulty adjusting to a new sleep pattern in a time zone on the other side of the world. Heck, it was winter time, too -in this late July!
Great! Now what was I going to do? Should I just stay in my room wide awake all night? No, I decided to check out the hotel bar and have a few drinks. Maybe I'd feel sleepy again.
The bar was empty except for the bartender named Brian. As it turned out he was from Windsor, Ontario and aside from being the bartender he was also an extra in the new George Lucas movie being filmed there. The movie was to be called "Willow" and Brian described how he'd been spending his days slogging around in the mountains in a soldier costume while the director barked out orders.
I went skiing the next day at Coronet Peak and had a decent enough time even though there wasn't much snow cover and I kept dodging rocks. All too often, though, I would hear dreadful scraping sounds from the bottoms of my new Rossignols as I dragged them across slightly concealed pebbles.
My ski jacket still had a lift ticket from Whiteface (Lake Placid) and the ticket had the olympic rings and said "Olympic Authority". All the lift tickets from Whiteface had those items printed on them. Well, some girl who rode the lift with me saw that and was convinced that I was some functionary from "the Olympics". Looking back, I should have played it up instead of denying it like I did. Who knows where it might have taken me? But of course, I'd be guilt ridden afterwards.
Went out in town after skiing, of course. One thing a person should know about Queenstown is that it is one of the most fun places on the planet to visit. Besides skiing there are hundreds of things to do. Some of the obvious ones are bungee jumping, jet boating, white water rafting and paintball. For people who take having fun seriously there's always a party afterwards -or during -or prior to! Looking back, I'm not sure how I survived it, really. Maybe I didn't completely.
Anyway, there are lots of places to go out at night. I think it was my first night that I ran into Marty and Steve from Melbourne. Marty and I would eventually become very good friends and we still are today. After talking with Marty we discovered that we had some similar tastes in literature -specifically, science fiction.
I went to Coronet Peak again the next day. While on the lift I met a guy from the North Island who owns a business selling full spectrum lighting. I told him that I wouldn't mind relocating to his country but he seemed to discourage it by telling me not to judge New Zealand from spending time only in Queenstown. He had a point, of course.

Ian showed up the next day with his friend, Greg who had recently broken a leg playing cricket but to go to Queenstown anyway. They had flown in from Melbourne as well. I had to ask Greg how a fellow breaks a leg playing cricket but he didn't answer my smart aleck question.


At one point, Ian told me that he ran into a girl from the USA named Terri. When I asked him where she was from he said she was from "Louisiana or Pennsylvania or somewhere like that." It made me laugh but I knew that, as well travelled Ian was, he'd never been to America so I assumed that he meant that she was from a state whose name began with a consonant and ended in an "a". When I met Terri I found out she was from Baton Rouge, Louisiana's state capitol.
We all eventually came to realize that Terri was something of a "free spirit" and was liable to say or do almost anything. She was quite attractive although I never really contemplated a relationship with her do to her rough and volatile nature.
Her family had sent her away on a six month -or more holiday in Australia, New Zealand and Oceania. After some thought I decided to ask her if her family was involved in state politics back in Louisiana. She confirmed my suspicions by saying that yes, they were. I think they paid to get rid of their potentially embarrassing relative long enough to avoid any real damage during election campaign preparations.
She often made me laugh at her impromptu statements regarding food she had been served or other services rendered. Sometimes, though, she had me a little embarrassed -as I usually am when fellow Americans draw attention to themselves in a negative way while travelling abroad.
I had witnessed an American businessman in Rome two years previous scream at the ticket agent because she didn't speak English. I wanted to grab him by the collar and say to him, "Dude, When in Rome ..."

There were others who sort of joined our group. Yanni and Penny from New Zealand latched onto us. Two nurses from Brisbane, Trudi and Sarah, became part of our entourage, as well. Toby and James, two "Poms" (as the English are sometimes called) became friends with us as well.

Most days we would catch the shuttle bus to a ski field called The Remarkables. The first day there Ian told me to stop and take in the panorama and then he said, "Mate, you know, this place is ---remarkable."
Ian pointed out the mountain parrots that are a common sight at The Remarkables. These birds are known as "keas" and are infamous for their tendency to rip cars apart. Anything that is rubber or plastic or not solidly attached to a vehicle is fair game with these creatures. Glen Plake once said in one of his ski films that he'd like to let a bunch of these guys loose on the parking lot at Aspen. They will steal your food from the table you are sitting at if you aren't careful and they are somewhat intimidating due to their size and overall attitude.

Once while at The Remarkables I decided to light a cigarette. Ian, Trudi, Sarah, Marty, Steve, Yanni, Penny, and Terri all watched intently as I lit the filter end and take a couple of puffs . Yeah, that's what my "friends" were like. It was good for a laugh I suppose and I doubt I sustained any permanent lung damage from it.





Coming back from The Remarkables one day there were a half dozen farmers from Florida there on some exchange program. One of them took out his can of Copenhagen and placed a pinch in his lower lip. Yanni had never seen such a thing and asked the farmer what that was and asked if he might try some.
The farmer obliged and after minor instruction, Yanni's eyes began to widen as he experienced his first dip of snuff. I pointed out that no one had given Yanni anything to get rid of the spit. So Yanni asked the farmer what he should do and the reply was, "Swoller it." Yanni's face began to turn green as the boy was destined for sickness on the bus while it negotiated the steep mountain switchbacks. It was hilarious!

There was a mechanical bull in one big rowdy bar in Queenstown. I hadn't seen one of those in the US for about ten years. I suppose litigation or the threat of it had disposed of that bit of fun we used to have. In New Zealand it was more or less understood that the stupid things you may do are entered into at one's own risk.
One particular evening I noticed one drunken Kiwi passed out in the corner and his mates waking him to convince him that he should give the mechanical bull a go. He brushed them away at first but eventually was persuaded to join in. I watched as his buddies walked him to the monstrosity and gently and gingerly perched him upon the saddle. Once he was in place the fellow at the controls gave them the slightest nudge which of course resulted in a face plant into the floor from about six feet up. The crowd roared with laughter.
Next, they talked this very pretty and shapely young lady into riding the machine. Once she was in place the fellow at the controls very deftly made it appear as though she was humping the thing. Again, the patrons cheer and have a good laugh. I was in tears.

There was another place that my group frequented. It was more of a dance place but I never cared much for that particular activity. I can recall once, while standing at the end of the bar, a fellow comes up next to me and whispers, "Mate, do you see that bottle of Jack Daniels on the shelf right there?" I acknowledged that I did and he suggested that -at the count of three that I hoist him up by his boot so that he could grab it and I agreed to it.
He counted one ...two ... and just then the barmaid came around the corner. He looked at me, grinned, and said, "We'll get it later."
At the same club -perhaps the same night I went to the men's room to relieve myself. The toilet had a trough along two of the walls where guys stood shoulder to shoulder and did their business. Suddenly, someone lit up a joint and passed it down the line. Keep in mind that these guys are from all over the world and could be carrying any number of dreadful diseases and their hands had been just touching their-know-what. Your fear competes with another way of thinking. You don't want to seem ungracious or antisocial or to be somehow above taking one little hit. You might tell yourself that the fire and the smoke will likely kill any germs. So you might thank the fellow who hands it to you, take a puff, and pass it down the line.




Being an astronomy buff, I had to mention to Ian one evening that I'd never seen the Southern Cross and I asked him to point it out to me. He did. There had been a huge supernova seen earlier that year called SN 1987A and was only visible in the southern hemisphere. It had first been noticed in February and had peaked in brilliance in May. I didn't count on still being able to see it in late July. But, after I asked Ian if it was still visible he was more than glad to point it out to me. I wondered how many folks would have been able to do that or if I was lucky to have such a knowledgeable friend.

One morning I decided that I was too wiped out to go skiing so Toby, James, and I decided to look for some other sort of diversion for the day. We wondered the streets of Queenstown looking in the shops and things. I found a 175 gram frisbee that had a world map on it that placed the nation of New Zealand at the center and made it larger than the continent of South America.
The three of us decided to try out paintball in the afternoon. We were taken by Land Rover out into the bush and equipped with military style jackets, goggles and weapons and ammo. The three of us fought three New Zealanders for an hour or so. It was utterly exhausting and I looked forward to diving into some beer afterwards.

One evening our extended group decided to get together for pizza and beer at the Pizza Hut. There must have been at least a couple dozen of us. I recall laughing and drinking and looking up to see the newlywed couple from Buffalo that I'd met in Honolulu a week before. When they saw me they seemed utterly surprised to witness me surrounded by so many people with whom I'd obviously forged strong bonds in the relatively short amount of time. I went over to their table to say hello but they appeared as though they preferred to be left to themselves so I went back to my group.

The hotel restaurant served delicious meals and I had been going there for dinner nearly every evening. There was an attractive young lady who'd waited on me most of the time and I always tipped her well. When Ian, Marty, and the others learned of me tipping my waitress they grew angry with me. They let me know that tipping simply wasn't done in New Zealand and Australia and that if I helped to introduce the custom it might undermine their economic system. I guess the waitress must have thought I was rich.

Trudi and I had become quite close and when it came time for me to leave New Zealand she saw me off at the Queenstown airport. The song playing on the loudspeakers was "Leavin' on a Jet Plane." Trudi mentioned that the song may foretell a theme for our relationship were it to continue. That song had also been written by John Denver.

My neighbor, Joe, had suggested that I stop and visit his daughter, Karen, and her husband during my long layover in Los Angeles upon my return to the continental US. At LAX I got a taxi and told him where I needed to go. As it turned out they lived in a gated community and were apparently quite wealthy. Karen's husband owned a line of sports clothing that I was familiar with. I swam in their pool and became somewhat refreshed.

At O'Hare a bad thunderstorm had caused many of the outgoing flights to be delayed. I found myself in the bar chatting with a woman who was trying to get to Dallas/Fort Worth. Eventually we ended up snuggling and snogging out of need for entertainment as much as anything else. After our respective flights departed we never heard from each other again. I should have felt guilty for that since I'd just left Trudi but I could just blame the alcohol.

Trudi and I were an item for the next couple of years and I got to visit her in Queensland a couple of times and she visited me in the US a couple of times as well. The last I heard from her, she and a group of friends spent New Years Eve flying around Antarctica and each hour they entered a new time zone at the stroke of midnight so that they kept experiencing the new year. She was definitely a fun girl. One of the things I'll always remember her telling me was, "For your thirtieth birthday you can have anything you want."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Norway 2009
























-08:50 12 October, 2009 Wilmington, Vermont

Began my day with an omelet and coffee while reading a textbook about the ancient world. The section I’m currently on deals with the near east and the Egyptian, Hittite, Assyrian, Persian, and Chaldean empires. A special emphasis is placed on the Hebrew bible as an historical document and its usefulness in piecing together the patchwork of modern archaeology. One interesting item I picked up is that the Hittites were considered a relatively minor culture as mentioned in the bible but recent discoveries indicate that they had a relatively significant empire at one time.
My trip to Norway begins when I finish here. Driving to Hartford airport then flying to Dulles then to Frankfurt then to Bergen. There is someone at the other end who will show me her city day after tomorrow.
Besides Bergen I hope to see Trondheim, the Viking capitol. As in many of my travels, a dream I had spurs me on. In this case I dreamt of a map of the known world similar to the one referred to as the “Vinland Map” and perhaps in travelling to Trondheim I can recapture some of the senses I experienced in my sleep.

-22:30 EST 12 October, 2009 Somewhere halfway over the Atlantic Ocean

There’s a person onboard my flight who’s having medical problems. The announcement over the PA system asked for assistance from any health care professionals. This would be a terrible place to need urgent attention, that’s for sure.
We are flying in a Boeing 747-400 and it is certainly spacious but nearly filled to capacity. As might be expected, this Lufthansa flight seems to be filled half with German and half with U.S citizens.
There’s an overhead monitor that shows the plane’s position relative to the North American and European continents. It seems like we have been stuck south of Iceland forever. The movie on this flight was “The Proposal” and I caught myself laughing quite a few times. I had seen the beginning someplace recently.
I guess I should put my laptop away because the person in front of me keeps placing their seat in a more reclined position forcing me to collapse the machine into nearly unusable angle. Maybe I should try and sleep but I’ve never been good at that while in a moving vehicle.

-03:57 14 October 2009 Bergen, Norway

I haven’t slept and my bags never showed. They must be in Frankfurt.

The area is very nice but it’s difficult to relax and enjoy it when I’m scrambling to get things in order. Being so tired doesn’t help either, of course.

Ok, I’ll stop whining now. Will send pictures when my camera arrives




-10:34 14 October 2009 Bergen, Norway

Marty in Adelaide writes back: Did you feel a slight change in air pressure on the atlantic flight, probably just the flight attendants getting rid of the body of the person who needed medical attention out a small cargo door.
Never pack your camera, you should always keep it with you just in case. Looking forward to some pictures.
-06:30 15 October 2009 Bergen
I was supposed to meet my lady friend at the tourist information office downtown near the fish market at noon yesterday. I was there for over an hour watching for a woman who resembled the one in the photos I’d seen. Eventually I decided that something had happened to prevent our rendezvous and had the people there to call about my missing luggage. They said that it had just arrived so I returned to the hotel where it was delivered from the airport. It was there! That was a happy moment to say the least.
In checking my email I found that Abby had been waiting from before noon and for over an hour at the tourist info place as well. She included her phone number and when we spoke we found out what had happened –she had been waiting outside and I had been inside. Of course, all one can do is laugh and we made arrangements to meet later and to be more specific regarding place and time.
Soon I contacted a fellow about a room for rent and met up at the place and paid him for two night’s accommodation. This is a place that Abby had learned about and suggested to me.
Abby and I finally met and had a wonderful evening with dinner at an Italian restaurant –both of us ordering the carbonara with bacon with a glass of red wine. It was delicious, we both agreed. The food, the conversation and the lady were all delightful.
We walked around town and admired the lights as she told me about places and events in her life that had special meaning. Eventually we settled into a little spot on the waterfront and had a drink. As we walked to where she needed to catch a bus home we made arrangements to meet again this evening and to also do some things tomorrow when she has the day off.
Ok, now that I have my camera I’ll send some pictures very soon.




-18:34 15 October 2009 Bergen
Abby and I went to the old stave church at Fantoft –a place I’ve wanted to see first hand since I saw pictures of it as a child. When we got there the gate was locked and we could only see it from outside the protected area. Abby had me take a picture of her pretending to climb the fence. She is such a rebel!
I’m sending some shots I managed to get today although it was rather foggy and overcast.
My dad sent this: Thanks. Get some rest as soon as possible and get ready to enjoy yourself and to see some different country. I know you must be excited because you've been looking forward for a while. You'll be able to see where some of your ancestors have traveled but with different modes of transportation. Have fun and be careful.
And Shirley in Portland, Oregon sent this: How is the weather there? Are you in long johns! Sounds like a very nice young lady, and a great evening!
Well, the weather isn’t much different from what I’m used to in Ontario and Vermont. Yes, she is a very nice lady and I found out that when she was a child her father was the Norwegian ambassador to the U.S. She lived for four years in Washington, D.C. as a spoiled little princess.
-17:30 16 October 2009 Bergen
Abby and I took the rail car to the top of the hill overlooking the city –a place called Floyen. We took some pictures and walked about and took in the nice sunny day. I’ve been told that this is usually the rainy season but of the four days I’ve been here it has been sunny three of them and the other one-yesterday-was just misty and cloudy.
After our little excursion to Floyen we had lunch and coffee at an outdoor café and fed the little birds crumbs from our bread. One brave creature actually perched itself onto the edge of our table for a few seconds and another one onto the back of a chair. As we were leaving there was an outdoor fish market where I got to taste some caviar and was very tempted to buy some fresh salmon.
Plans were made to meet this evening for more walking and possibly drinks. It’s Friday night and it might be a good time because it was such a pleasant day that folks might want to celebrate a bit. By the way, I finally got some decent sleep last night. What a relief that is!
I inquired about taking the boat to Trondheim and found that it departs Bergen every night at 22:30 and takes two nights to reach the other end. So I’m considering leaving tomorrow evening and I might be without internet access during that time.

Fred in Richland, Washington writes: How are you man? Thanks for sharing your journal. I look forward to some pictures. I visited Trondheim during a North Atlantic cruise when I was in the Navy. I thought the people were great and the women were stunning. I was too young to appreciate it the way I would now though. You know...youth is wasted on the young!

-23:27 17 October 2009 Bergen but underway towards Trondheim
What a beautiful ship this is! It’s the MS Finnmarken if any of you feel like looking it up. The vessel started moving at precisely 22:30 and I mean to the second! That’s very impressive. We’ll be stopping at maybe a half dozen ports along the way. The internet access is available but very slow. They blame it on a satellite and the distance to it. If it is in a geosynchronous orbit then it’s about 24,000 miles from us –about 1/8 second travel time and another 1/8 second back. The lag is obviously in the processing.
Met folks from Bremerton, Washington and Portland, Oregon.
When Abby and I went to Floyen there were other Americans on our excursion there and she pointed out how we speak nasally in general –and she’s right. Last night while I was out with Abby and her daughter I got them laughing by imitating how Scandinavians sound to us –“Horda gorda horda.”
By the way, thanks, Fred, for sending the picture of you sailing. What a natural setting for you! I can barely remember when we sailed together because of the eventual inebriation. Why did you follow me so close on the way home with your headlights set to high anyway?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVaONqB3lCc

-07:00 18 October 2009 Maloy, Norway
The brochure says that this is a big fishing town. It’s still dark and, even though I plan on going for a little stroll, I don’t think I’ll see much.
-19:16 18 October 2009 Molde, Norway
The day was spent alternately relaxing on board ship and visiting the places where we stopped. I saw Torvik but it wasn’t much more than a place for us to moor to. Alesund is actually quite nice and you’ll see from one of the pictures that there are some substantial mountain peaks nearby that are snow-covered. Next was Molde and it was nice too. I visited shops in Alesund and Molde.
I spent about half an hour in one of the Jacuzzis. My plan was to be sitting in the hot tub when the ship left Alesund. It worked perfectly and I was reminded of how spoiled I’m getting.

http://arctic360.360vt.eu/finnmarken/

The internet available on this ferry exists just enough to be frustrating. It’s very slow and works intermittently. A German fellow and I were kind of joking about it. He was trying to keep up with a soccer game on the web. There’s a sign by the computers to remind people that they are under surveillance and we decided that it’s meant to prevent people from punching the monitors and keyboards.
-07:37 19 October 2009 Trondheim, Norway
My pilgrimage is complete except for actually setting foot ashore. I’m still on the ferry and it doesn’t depart until noon. I’ll have breakfast here and then decide what to do.
A series of events have occurred here in my cabin in the past seven hours that I am reluctant to convey for fear of appearing off my rocker. I actually did describe them but when I was closing the word document it told me that I was attempting to modify a “read only” file but that I could save it by changing the name. So the file is Called “Norway 2009 Trondheim”. I guess I’ll let it go at that.
-20:41 19 October 2009 Rorvik, Norway
This morning I was filled with indecision as I walked around Trondheim but I eventually decided to continue north with the M.S. Finnmarken. I’ve made a couple of friends among the fellow guests. They are Kathy and Alana, both from Portland, Oregon. I had initially met them during a meeting at the start of the trip while we were still docked in Bergen and since them we sometimes dine together in the restaurant or meet in the lounge. I’ve learned that Kathy was a nurse in the navy and station in Groton, Connecticut when I was there. I wonder if she was the nurse who castigated me for climbing the dunes on Block Island just a few days following my knee surgery. I’ll have to ask her.

This evening I’ve been watching a movie that I brought with me on my laptop. It’s called “In the Shadow of the Moon” and it’s a documentary produced by Ron Howard describing NASA’s Apollo program. One of the astronauts being interviewed mentioned that, of all the science fiction stories written up to that point describing man landing on the moon, none foresaw the world watching it on television. I saw it because I was playing in our front yard and my dad called for me to come watch something that I wouldn’t want to miss. I guess it’s typical for people to recall where they were for historic events in their lives. I want thank my father for that. Thanks, Dad!
Very early tomorrow morning we’ll pass the Arctic Circle and I plan on ending my shipboard travels at Bodo. From there I may decide to fly back to Bergen or take a train if one exists. My flight home isn’t for another week so I have some flexibility but Bergen definitely grows on you. Abby told me once that Oslo is really her hometown but she truly loves Bergen and she can’t imagine ever moving from there. I can understand why.


It has occurred to me that you may like to know the names of the places this vessel has stopped along the way. My dad says he’s been using Google Earth to look at the places. Maybe I should send along a map of Norway but I trust that all of you are capable of finding one yourselves. So, by the time we arrive in Bodo, here is the list of places.
Bergen, Floro, Maloy, Torvik, Alesund, Molde, Kristiansund, Trondheim, Rorvik, Bronnoysund, Sandnessjoen, Nesna, Ornes, and then Bodo. The trip continues, however, to Stamsund, Svolvaer, Stokmarknes, Sortland, Risoyhamn. Harstad, Finnsnes, Tromso, Skjervoy, Oksfjord, Hammerfest, Havoysund, Honningsvag, Kjollefjord, Mehamn, Berlevag, Batsfjord, Vardo, Vadso, and finally Kirkenes. Then the ship turns around and heads back south to visit all those places again in reverse order.
Keep in mind that there are about a dozen ships like this one in the Hurtigruten fleet that constantly ply the Norwegian coastline and in summer they reach even more places. Besides being a passenger transport I imagine they are an important part of the economy by moving goods from town to town.
By the way, we aren’t completely out of touch with the world. Each cabin has television including CNN and two or three channels that have entertainment –much of it American shows like “Americas’ Funniest Videos” as well as old episodes of “Scrubs, “Friends”, and “Dynasty” (believe it or not). Hey, what’s up with the “balloon boy”, anyway? Is it reality TV gone crazy or what? Not that I really care. Someday we’ll be amazed at our capacity to have paid so much attention to stupid stuff, I suspect.
-22:34 19 October 2009 underway between Rorvik and Bronnoysund
Something I learned as a lad about Christopher Columbus was that he visited Iceland with his merchant brother. Perhaps he ventured there because he’d heard of the land to the west that the Vikings called “Vinland” and wanted to do a bit of research.
Another thing I know about the Vikings is that they often had to stay away from Norway because they were in legal trouble or were otherwise out of favor with the king. This theme kept reoccurring because Eric the Red wasn’t allowed back in Iceland, either, so he and his fellows were forced to find a place that would keep them out of trouble.
Their dealings with Native Americans (well, Native Canadians or First Nations or whatever) led to hostility as well since they traded some milk to the lactose intolerant aboriginals. Apparently this is what prevented them from maintaining a presence in North America. They wore out their welcome in very short order. They literally made their newfound associates ill. I can imagine Eurasian diseases might have been passed as well –the ones the native Vinlanders wouldn’t have had immunity to.

-07:32 20 October 2009 Underway between Nesna and Ornes
The TV indicates that we are at latitude 66 degrees 35.570 so we are very close to the Arctic Circle and it’s just starting to get light outside. Breakfast started at 07:30 so I’m headed for the restaurant.
-15:18 20 October 2009 Bodo, Norway
The ship will next stop in Svolvaer about six hours from now. Several people have suggested going there and have said it is a very nice place so I’ll get a hotel room for the night. Maybe there will be full internet access and I’ll be able to send this journal along with some pictures.
While In Bodo I visited a public library and was able to check my arcticmail. Thanks for the nice comments, Janet in Whitby, Ontario. Adriel in Zurich wrote and so did Dave in upstate New York –both asking questions about Abby. One asked how I met her and one requested information regarding her physical attributes. You know who you are. Here’s my reply, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”
I’ve forgotten to mention a few things about life aboard the M.S. Finnmarken. For example, when an announcement is made over the public address system they begin in Norwegian, then in English, and then in German. The food is very good and I generally eat in the restaurant but sometimes I just grab something from the cafe –such as a sandwich.
-22:58 22 October 2009 Svolvaer, Norway
Ok, I officially love this place! Of course, there are negative aspects to it such as the isolation and the impending bad weather –of which I’ve been mercifully spared.
Let me try to recap some of what I’ve been up to. Two nights ago the “coastal steamer” , as I’ve learned that locals like to call it, arrived at around 9.PM and, as I had been told, finding a hotel room wasn’t a problem. There’s a brand new Thon hotel near the ferry landing and they took me in. I had stayed in a Thon hotel my first night in Norway near the airport in Bergen. They are a little expensive but also very nice –not a bad way to spend your first night in a foreign country and get accustom to things. The WiFi is good but you have to get little cards with username and passwords that you have to scratch to obtain and they are only good for four hours. So, of you really want to use the web for long periods you have to keep visiting the front desk for new cards.
My first day in Svolvaer was fairly eneventful but I did make it a priority to learn how I was to make my way back to Bergen for my eventual flight on the 26th back to Frankfurt, Washington D.C. and then Hartford. So I asked at the front desk at the hotel how I might do that. They pointed me towards the local travel agency –which I eventually found. It wasn’t well marked.
Of the three flights a day destined for places that might lead me to Bergen I learned that the one leaving just before noon –obviously the most desirable for the casual traveler such as myself was already full on Thursday (the day I was aiming for) but Friday’s flight was still available so I booked that.
Then we got into a discussion about immigrants in Norway and the potential threat they pose to western culture. This may seem unnecessarily alarmist until you look at statistics. For example, western democracies such as the U.S., Australia, the U.K., Norway, France, etc. have essentially zero population growth if you don’t count immigrants. But immigrants come from countries with sometimes vastly different cultures. Many of these people breed like rabbits (a slight exaggeration). And I learned that what really infuriates Norwegians is that immigrants coming as refugees aren’t even allowed to work.

Last evening was more of a good pub outing than what I’ve had in quite some time. Everything is within staggering distance here. And there’s no real worry about getting hit by a car but I suppose a person could fall in the water and die from exposure. None of that happened and I survived more or less.
I was having some dinner at a pub –but just washing it down with water at that point when I struck up a conversation with a local dude sitting by the fireplace. He ended up being a fine fellow named Thor. Then one of his friends showed up and I soon ordered a beer and sat with them. I then left to go back to my hotel when I met a guy getting off the elevator who asked me if I knew of a good place to eat (speaking English straight away although he is Norwegian –I must be a dead give away with my ball cap and jeans). So I told him about the place where I’d just eaten but he said he knew about that place already.
I was looking for my next pint so we walked bit until we found ourselves in a Turkish restaurant and we both ordered some beer while my friend ordered his dinner. I found out that he lives near Tromso, that he is 34 and his girlfriend is pregnant and when he calls her on the phone he never knows what to expect from her exposure to her frenzied hormones. He’s selling and overseeing the installation of heat pumps in homes and businesses. At one point he pointed to a building that’s currently under construction and told me that one of his systems is being installed in it.
He had ordered filet mignon but it looked like what we would call roast beef in the states. He said that it was disappointing to him as well and it also made him wonder what animal it actually was that he was eating.
We decided to go to the pub where I had been earlier. The two dudes who I’d left had turned into five and I learned that they were all local taxi drivers along with the owner of the business. They were having a meeting at the pub. Brilliant!
It was a great night out with the boys and the conversations took all sorts of twists and turns.
Today I had to move from the Thon hotel and I found refuge in the very lovely and well situated Rica Hotel. It is located on an island in the harbor. My little room has its own deck just a few feet over the water. The pub where I had such a good time is a thirty second walk if I want it.
Oh, earlier today I went to the travel agency where we had worked ourselves up in veiled anti-immigration and hinted racist views the day before to ask them about a bus that might be available to see the local area. They said it might be somewhat late in the day (I think it was about a quarter to four). Then it occurred to me that I should just get one of my taxi buddies to show me around. Sure, it would be a little expensive but I came here to see the place and I’d have my own private driver and tour guide. His name was Rolff and he showed me Kabelvag and Henningsvaer.
I really wish I could send all the pictures I’ve taken. Some are better than others, depending on what you are looking for and I have to compact the pictures to make them a more reasonable size –especially when sending several.
The country here is extreme in so many ways. The flat sea crashes against mountains thousands of meters high –and it’s not just in one place but for thousands of miles of coastline.
Voyages to places are often voyages of self discovery. I personally seek quiet and out-of-the-way places but some seek a crowded beach and the hustle-bustle of cities. The way I have come to think is that this might be the only life you have and even if there is a spirit world following this one, wouldn’t you still long for the touches and the smells and the emotions of being alive?
-09:33 23 October 2009 Svolvaer, Norway
I got to see the northern lights last night.
-16:50 23 October 2009 Bergen, Norway
Flew from Svolvaer to Bodo to Trondheim to Bergen.
Thanks for writing Frances in the Shetlands, PJ in northern Florida, and Laura Lynne in southeastern Nebraska.

-18:40 25 October 2009 Bergen, Norway
I’m staying at a hotel near the airport so that I won’t miss my very early flight tomorrow to Frankfurt.
When I was still in Svolvaer I sent some emails requesting a room for the three evenings I would spend in Bergen prior to my departure. I highly recommend this approach to travel because you get a nice clean room in a guest house for about a third of what you’d pay in a hotel. There are other advantages because it’s an excellent way to meet other travelers and you get to know the destination more intimately by actually being forced to find the address. Friday night I stayed at Anne Helen’s and last night I stayed at Sylvi’s. Many times the owners of the guest houses will network and help you find a place. For example, Kristian sent me a list of places to try after letting me know that his place was full.
After I got settled into Anne Helen’s I called Abby to set up a time to meet for more carbonara and red wine. Afterwards we went to Scruffy Murphy’s for another drink or two.
I wasn’t sure of the location of the place I had booked for Saturday night so I stopped by Kristian’s house to see if he knew the street. I had left Anne Helene’s and Kristian lives nearby. He recognized the street right away and pointed me in the right direction.
The evening before I had spoken with Sylvi on the phone and since I had nothing to write with, I made arrangements to call for direction at noon the next day. Kristian’s great sense of things in his city and the use of my handy-dandy Bergen map I was actually ringing the doorbell at noon. Let me tell you, though, you can get quite a workout sometimes –especially in a steep hilly place like Bergen.
At 1PM I met with Abby for some pleasant conversation and coffee. I gave her my Boston Red Sox hat as a souvenir from the USA and told her of the despicable and greatly despised New York Yankees. She had to return to her place for at least a little while so I suggested we get together a little later.
When I rang her later she told me that she felt like resting at home for the evening so I returned Sylvi’s. I was surprised to find that another guest was staying in the room across from mine. Her name is Natalya and she is from the Ukraine. She is working with NATO in Brussels and that provided us with some interesting conversation –given that Ukraine is one of the newest members of NATO and that it is a former Soviet republic.
I had resigned myself to accepting that I wouldn’t be able to use the internet at Sylvi’s even though I counted about eight good strong local signals. All but one were security-enabled and that meant I needed a “network key” to access them. The one that was open-access proved to allow connection but I still couldn’t connect to the internet. Natalya pointed out that just such a code for the WiFi where were staying was written on a piece of paper and thumbtacked to the wall by the dining room table.

When I got online I found that Abby was concerned about her daughter –who has been diagnosed with having swine flu and has been ill for two weeks with it. Abby tried to call her daughter but got no answer. So, she was taking the bus back into town, after all to check on her daughter. So I told her that I’d call her in an hour so that she’d have enough time to get into town and find things out.
When I called I learned that her daughter had slept through the ringing of the phone. We arranged to meet again in twenty minutes. We eventually walked to her bus stop and I told her that I’d call her at 11AM today.
Today was the day that we were supposed to set the clocks back. Abby had reminded me of the fact yesterday but it still took me a while to figure it out. I walked by McDonald’s and noticed that they weren’t open yet even though the sign said that they would open at 11AM on Sundays but my watch said 11:41. Hmmmmm!?!?
Ok, so I had actually called Abby at 10AM and not 11 and had agreed to meet her at the infamous Tourist Info office at 1:10PM where we had originally missed each other by me waiting inside while she waited outside. And now we would be an hour off in our rendezvous time. Obviously, I had to call her back to let her know that I knew what the real time was. It was good for a laugh, anyway.
We met and went through an art gallery that had plenty of silver items –some dating back to Viking times. There was an exhibit of furniture design –of which, of course, Scandinavians are famous for. There was a section devoted to Chinese sculpture and porcelain.
Eventually it came time for us to say farewell and go our separate ways. It wasn’t a sad occasion as much as it was a mutual understanding that we enjoy each other’s company.
Thanks for writing Kate and Bruce in Vermont. I’m glad you liked traveling with me.
-18:13 28 October 2009 Wilmington, Vermont
My return to where I started was fairly uneventful. I got to see a movie I had been looking forward to, “Moon.” It’s not a movie about The Who’s former drummer nor is it about the leader of the Unification Church. I liked the flick.
It’s always strange to return to see the same place and the same people and nothing much has seemed to change while so much adventure filled my life in the past two weeks. I guess a good vacation to a distant land is supposed to do that –wake you up and make you see things from a new perspective.
Thanks to all of you who wrote. It was important to know that people enjoyed my journal and the pictures I took along the way.

Switzerland 2006/2007





Three Dreams of The Jungfrau

Three dreams that I’ve had while sleeping over the past three years have led me to the Jungfrau region of Switzerland. The Jungfrau is one of the three large mountains one can see from the city of Interlaken. The other two are the Eiger and Monch.

The dreams:
1)The family and the Schilthorn.
2)Wengen and where I missed my stop.
3)Slipping down and climbing up to obtain the rings.

17:00 23 December, 2006 Miami International Airport

Alberto couldn’t come get me to drive me to the airport but he said that I could drive to his parents’ house and get a cab –which is exactly what I did. He told me that his mom doesn’t speak English. She actually did wish me a Merry Christmas in English and I did speak some Spanish to her and wished her Felis Navidad.
Man, what a mess it is getting through airport security! They even took my toothpaste because the tube could hold more than three ounces. It was almost empty, though. There’s an item I’ll have to buy at some point in the near future.
Met a married couple on their way to Switzerland to ski –Natalia amd Mitchell.

09:30 29 December, 2006 Ringgenberg Sage, Interlaken

I’ve now been here for six days and since arriving I’ve made dozens of friends.

The overnight flight from Miami to Zurich was choppy but relatively uneventful. Installed into the back of the seat in front of me was an entertainment system that had games (I played mini golf a lot) and movies and music and even an indicator that showed where the plane was located relative to North America and Europe.
I used trains to get from Zurich to Interlaken with a changeover in Bern. The trains are quiet, efficient and on time. First Class cars are quite luxuriant if you can sneak onto one like I did from Bern to Interlaken.
Once the train approached Interlaken I starting getting glimpses of the Alps through the windows. The Alps are always breathtaking and I’m never quite prepared. It was no trouble catching the bus from Interlaken Ost to Ringgenberg Sage where I had prearranged to have someone meet me –a friend of and engineer who I’d worked with in Florida just before I left.
Ann was ready for my arrival by inviting to of her young lady friends over for Christmas Eve dinner Swiss style with meat fondue that included lots of sauces and vegetables, different meats, wine, rice, etc., etc. Went to bed full that night.
I should describe Ann’s place. Someone described it as looking like a cuckoo clock but that would describe half of the homes I see around me. Her property sits on a hill that leads down to Brienzersee Lake with snow covered Breitlauenen ridge in the background.
It’s the view from my bedroom. Can’t get enough of it.

Ann’s son and I have taken to hitting the town and meeting up with his friends. One evening three of us went for a sauna that’s located on the top floor of the Hotel Metropole
and the sauna essentially has four parts: a swimming pool, a steam bath, a small pool of ice cold water, and a relaxation room. You take a swim, then sit in the steam room for five minutes then jump into the cold water, then relax for ten minutes or so. Then repeat two more times. It certainly does wake you up!
Ran into some Aussies the other night from Townsville –Emma and Clayton. They had taken the train and elevator to Jungfraujoch which they said took more time than they had expected but it was still worth the trip. I personally want to go to Shilthorn which played a roll in one of the aforementioned dreams. It’s the revolving restaurant at the top of the mountain in the James Bond movie, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
Have had many pleasant conversations and met some interesting people. On thing that I should mention is that speaking only English doesn’t seem to be a problem here. I think everyone speaks at least four languages -German, French, Italian, and English and they change from one to one of the others effortlessly and fluidly. It’s amazing to me.
Yesterday I went with an English guy to Beatenberg which is a town located on a hillside and has the most amazing views of the Jungfrau, Eiger and Monch.

I’m attaching a rather large picture that I took yesterday. Hopefully it doesn’t overwhelm dialup connections or those of you whose servers have restrictive file sizes.
I think you’ll agree that, once you have it in hand, it was worth it.

-AL SJ

17:29 31 December 2006 Interlaken

Went to a hockey game two nights ago in which Bern defeated Zurich 6-0. After the game I went to a nearby hotel bar with a Martin and Adriel, two guys who I’ve been hitting the town with. While at the bar I met young American lady who is in the US Air Force stationed somewhere in Germany. Her hometown is Manchester, Connecticut.
I bought a ticket for tonight’s party at that hotel. There’s a Red Hot Chili Peppers tribute band playing so I’ll see how that goes. I think I’ll be a harsh critic.
Sat in Ann’s hot tub Thursday night with no light except a half moon and a sky full of stars. I could easily see the snow covered mountains across the lake once my eyes got accustomed to the low light. It was one of those experiences in which time stands still.
Met some American folks while I was out last night. One couple is from Virginia Beach and another were from Austin. I asked the couple from Austin if Leslie still bangs his drum on 6th Street. They knew exactly who I was referring to –a transvestite with long stringy hair and a beard who has become something of a local celebrity.
I’ve been walking around Interlaken taking pictures and trying to somehow capture the beauty of the city and its surrounding mountains. Let me know what you think.
Got an email from Ivana yesterday. Those of you who read my dispatches from Scotland last summer may remember my mentioning a beautiful young woman from Slovakia. Well, she’s back in Oban but she’ll be going to Slovakia January 12th to the 29th. I wrote back to let her know that I’m renting a chalet high in the Alps from the 14th to the 26th and that she should join me. We’ll see if she shows up. It would be nice!
Right now I’m sharing a house in Interlaken with a guy named Andy who is a ski instructor here in Switzerland this winter but he also has a carpentry shop near Boston and his wife is there also. It’s good to have him around to talk to since he is familiar with both the US and his native Switzerland. The same guy (whose nickname is “Yeti”) who owns the chalet in Wengen also owns this house where I’m staying. Yeti emailed me a couple of weeks ago to let me know of this house and that I might want to get in touch with Andy. The house is in a very weird location. It’s essentially in the middle of town but it’s also on a farm. The main drag through town is a one minute walk away but you’d never know this place existed unless someone told you about it. It’s a “Twilight Zone” kind of place by the river behind an old farmhouse next to a big open field but in the middle of town.

16:30 1 January, 2007 Interlaken

Last night’s celebrations weren’t all that exciting. I met up with Adi at the Caverne and watched the band. This evening there are fireworks in the park at the center of the city.
It might be nice to see them from a little distance. Maybe I should figure that out. Perhaps a balcony somewhere would be a good spot.

16:51 2 January, 2007 Balmer’s Interlaken

Thanks Debbie, Shirley, Sean, Mom, Michelle, and Duane for writing back.
The fireworks were pretty good. I watched them from Hooter’s where I was having some wings and a coke. There was a little dog that was fascinated with the show. It was more fun watching him watching the fireworks than actually watching the fireworks.
Ran into some more Americans last evening. Three are in the Air Force statione in Germany (a guy from Phoenix, a girl from Bremerton, WA and another young lady from San Diego) and also a couple of guys who are here to promote the world cup ski races. The Wengen races are from January 12th to the 14th. I plan to be there for sure.

17:41 5 January, 2007 Balmer’s Interlaken

Three nights ago I met a Swedish woman named Yvonne who wants to watch the races in Wengen with me next weekend. She’s been to the races before and said that they are incredible. It is the longest men’s downhill course in the world.
Went to Lucerne the next day with Adriel. His friend, Bruno, drove and so I got to see a little more of the Swiss countryside. Adriel and I walked around and explored the city. It’s a much bigger city than Interlaken. There’s lots of old buildings and interesting architecture. We took the train back to Interlaken and got back around 7PM.

We got something to eat and then sat in the hot tub for a while. Adriel met a girl New Year’s Eve and he had text messaged her the next day and had been a little dismayed when she didn’t get back to him. He’s been asking me advice about women. It makes me laugh to think that I would somehow be qualified to tell someone else what to do. I’ve made a lot of bad moves and haven’t been in a relationship for a long time. She eventually did message him back and it seems like they might be hitting it off.
I’ve been meeting more Americans –mostly college students. Played Trivial Pursuit last evening and had a real fun time laughing and joking around. I just saw one of the girls and she went skiing today. Apparently, she had a very harrowing experience during a fall off a 30 foot cliff. She’s okay, though and is now laughing about the whole thing.
Kaspar, Adriel’s friend told us that he has his parents’ house in Grindelwald next week and we are invited to stay there rent free. That should be a fun time. We plan on staying there from Monday evening to Friday afternoon.
Marty says that I should send more pictures and that’s what I’m going to do. I certainly have a lot of them. I think I’ll just crop then somewhat to make them smaller files. Some folks are using dialup connections so I don’t want to overwhelm them. Thanks to Linda, Christine, and Mark for writing back also.

22:35 8 January, 2007 Ringgenberg Sage, Interlaken

My writing has been sketchy at best and I must tell you that it’s not for lack of events and people who I’ve met. Maybe it’s time to rectify that. I’m now back at Ann’s house and she and Ted are still in France. Adriel had a class in Bern this evening so I have the house to myself. Did a soak in the hot tub and then went back into Interlaken to see who was about. Ran into Kelly and Neil at Buddy’s Pub. Buddy’s pub is a little cozy place owned and operated by an English lady named Rosie. Kelly is from Queensland, Australia and Neil is from the extreme north of England. Had a nice chat with them about a wide variety of subjects and exchanged phone numbers and emails.
Had dinner last night at Hooter’s with a Norwegian guy who I’d met at Balmer’s.
Also met some young ladies from Raleigh, North Carolina because one of them had an NC State sweatshirt on. By the way, I’m listening to a classical music radio station that I discovered when I lived in the Raleigh area.
There’s also a very pretty and bright young woman of Iranian and Pakistani descent who I’ve been talking to. She’s been living near Paducah, KY. My, how people get around!
Still waiting to stay in the place in Grindelwald –if it happens at all. My impression is that the town is infested with rich Germans, British, and Americans. We’ll see.
Adriel has become discouraged with the woman he met New Year’s Eve and is now excited by a Russian woman he met a few nights ago. I suspect this is partly my fault because I showed him one of the many websites showing Russian mail order brides. Personally, I just like to look. Having grown up during the Cold War, I was led to believe that all Russian women are fat and ugly. Pure propaganda as it turns out.
A couple of nights ago I met an American guy who apparently overcame his fear of heights by committing to skydiving –more or less because of peer pressure exerted during drinks the night before. There were three of them involved –a New Zealander and two Yanks. I don’t think any of them would have gone on their own but afterwards they all professed it me the absolute best thing any of them had ever done. I think the local scenery had something to do with the experience as well. I also suspect that the adrenaline rush for the one guy was extra powerful for the dude who had a fear of heights to begin with. The guy from New Zealand was texting his pilot friends back home and now they can’t wait to take him up and push him out.
As for the Wengen races this weekend, Adriel thinks that they are best seen on a TV screen. He may be right but I also suspect that there’s nothing like the atmosphere and excitement of actually being there even if you don’t actually see all that much.
Besides, I’ll have a tall beautiful Swedish woman to watch the races with –skiing from one location to the next.
Yesterday I was walking through town and I saw a red husky and a Samoyed together on one leash. The woman who held the leash was as stunningly beautiful as the dogs. Those of you who knew my dog, Cody, will know why I stopped in my tracks at seeing the Samoyed. He looked just like Cody. I had to ask the woman if I could pat her dogs and she said that, yes, I could and that I could watch them while she went across the street to do something. I feel like such a total idiot because I was so “in” and I knew it but I still blew it when she came back and I could have easily walked with her and her dogs but I just went the other way. My only excuse is that my objective was to get something to eat. I told Adriel about it and now he knows not to ask me advice about women.
Thanks to Karen, Dad, and Brian for writing back. Have fun in Hawaii, Shirley!

19:15 5 January, 2007 Ringgenberg Sage Interlaken

While I was walking through town today I noticed an inordinate amount of smoke coming from a place called Heidi’s Hostel. Being a little concerned, I went into the front office to tell the people and a little old lady came out. When I mentioned all the smoke, possibly from a fire, to her she explained that it was from a place behind hers where a man burns his trash even though he is not supposed to. She said that the neighbors have called the police before and when they come all the trash has been burned and he tells them that he was only burning wood. She said that he is not a very nice man, an Austrian, and he thinks that he can come to Switzerland and do whatever he pleases. Perhaps I should have then said, “Ah, an Austrian, say no more!”

23:06 10 January, 2007 Grindelwald

Got into town kind of late last night. Adriel and I met up with Kaspar in Interlaken and Kaspar drove us to his family’s place in Grindelwald. The view from the front porch is incredible! The Eiger is so close that you feel as though you can almost reach out and touch it. In reality it is a few miles away.
Today Kaspar and I took the Gondola from the center of town to a station called First (pronounced like “fierce” wit a “t” at the end). We hiked a some distance from the top of the gondola as well. Got some excellent pictures.
While we were having lunch at the restaurant at the top we sat outside and I fed some black birds little pieces of my sandwich and my apple pie. It always makes me laugh at how seagulls and other birds interact if you feed them. Seems like there’s always one who feels as though it should get everything itself and tries to fend the others off. Then while it is running a few birds off there’s always one who will sneak up from behind and take the food anyway.
As I was sitting on the deck and looking around I spotted someone I knew from Interlaken. It was Andy, the guy who I shared the house with. I’m glad I saw him because I wanted to get his email address. There’s a good chance that I’ll see him back in the USA.
After Kaspar and I returned to the house we watched some TV including “The Simpsons” in German. By the way, Homer doesn’t say, “D’oh!” He says,”Nein!”



22:29 13 January, 2007 Ringgenberg Sage Interlaken

My last night in Interlaken before going to Wengen for a week. It should be fun up there. Hopefully, I make it there tomorrow while the race is still going on. Also would like to take part in some of the festivities afterward.
Bode Miller won today so maybe I can tip a few pints with him and some of the other homeboys. The Swiss seem to like him for some reason.
Ok, folks, I expect to get a lot more writing done next week because I’ll be in a place with few distractions –a rustic chalet high in the alps.
Thanks for writing back Marty in Australia and Sean in Scotland.



15:50 15 January, 2007 Wengen

The trains from Interlaken Ost to Lauterbrunnen and from Lauterbrunnen to Wengen took only about 40 minutes total. I met a family from Long Island while still at the train station in Interlaken. Maria and Paul are the parents and Nicole and Chris are the daughter and son. Nicole is in college and Chris is probably in his mid twenties. They were just in St. Moritz skiing and are now here for the same thing. They are here for a week like I am. We separated in town and agreed that we most likely would run into each other again before the week is over.
I found the place where I’m staying without too much trouble. It’s about a fifteen minute walk from the center of town. It is a small cabin that requires a steep climb up the mountain after leaving the road. The view is awesome and the peaceful surroundings will make it difficult to leave to return to noisy America. There are no cars in Wengen except for service vehicles. One of the reasons I decided to come here is that I’m sick of cars, trucks, and motorcycles in the US that are modified to be as loud as possible. How do such pigheaded notions catch on and proliferate with the public in America. Whatever happened to concepts like social responsibility and respect for others? I can tell you that such concepts are alive and well here in Switzerland.

After I settled in and took a shower I went back into town in search of a good meal and a walk around. I went to a pizzeria restaurant called Da Sina’s. As I was waiting to be seated I saw Kelly, the Australian who I’d met a few days before in Interlaken. She was having a salad and didn’t seem surprised at all to see me again.
After being seated and while going over the menu I noticed that, seated a few tables away, were Paul, Chris, and Nicole. Only about an hour had passed since I had seen them. I had to go and say hello to them as well.


Kelly told me to stop in the pub after eating and she’d be there. I ordered spaghetti carbonara –which was delicious. In the pub, of course, I saw Kelly. Met an English guy named Nick, a Swiss woman named Esther, an Italian dude named Marco. There was a rock band that was pretty good. Eventually Marco and I went to another place –more of a dance club. There was Bode Miller sitting with one of the guys who I’d met in Interlaken a couple of weeks ago. You may recall me mentioning running into a couple of guys who were race promoters. I got to congratulate Bode on his win on Saturday and tell him that understand that he’s from New Hampshire and that I’ve been living in Vermont. I sat and had a beer with them.


Today I went into town for food again and had a cheeseburger. While walking around I saw a girl walking a black lab so I patted the dog and thanked her then introduced myself and she said her name is Rina and she is from Holland. We arranged to possibly meet this evening as she told me where she is likely to be at about what time. She’s extremely pretty with light blonde hair and bright green eyes. It’s that time and I’m off to see Rina.

It was nice to talk to you yesterday, Brian. I’m sure that you enjoyed your conversation with Adriel and Ann. Adriel told me later that it’s a little awkward talking to someone who you know very little about but seems to so much about you.
Thanks for writing back, Jim in Ohio.



18:30 17 January, 2007 Ledi Wengen

I’ve spent the past few days hiking and generally exploring the beautiful area around Wengen. Have had a good time testing the cuisine in the local restaurants.
The nightlife is good, too. Two nights ago I met Tony from England (not the prime minister) and Olli from Finland. Last night I rand around with a group of four guys –two from Germany, one from Austria, and one from Switzerland. They all work together at a hotel in Hamburg. Also saw Esther again and ran into Rina and she was on her way to watch a movie with friends.
Yesterday I met a woman named Deanna from Germany who served me at a restaur

ant then ran into her last night after she got off work and walked her to the Hotel Belvedere where she’s been staying. She told me that she will be moving into another place this week. She’s also going to Basel this week on her day off to her permanent home.
Had a good hike today up by where the Lauberhorn ski races were held last weekend. From the area there I could look back to the hillside where I’m staying. Didn’t have my camera with me but wished I had. It would have been nice to be able to show how steep the climb to my place is.
Thanks for writing again Debbie in Ohio. You know that you folks are welcome to visit wherever I settle –assuming that I ever do.
Thanks to Jeremy for writing back and helping me to perhaps gain a better perspective on my annoyance with “noisy America.” I did know that you and the some of your kids have spent some time in Switzerland. Thanks for the update, too.
Michelle, the last one I sent got sent back. Maybe you don’t have enough space in your inbox for some of the pictures.
This place really has been a “dream destination” for me in at least two senses of the expression. It certainly is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I know that both Ron and Michelle have plans to visit Switzerland this year. I guess you can consider this trip of mine as a “recon mission” for you. Seems like Brian is mulling it over, too.
I know that in some cases I should respond to your emails more directly and I certainly intend to when I think of it but my actual “online time” is very limited. This cabin is cozy but rustic. It hasn’t been set up for that yet and probably never will be.


17:25 18 January, 2007 Ledi Wengen

I ran into the family that I met on the trains here from Interlaken Ost .last night. This time Nicole wasn’t with them. Apparently she was too tired to come out. There’s an English pub run by a guy named Colin and he has excellent wireless internet and Chris had taken his laptop there so they could use Skype to phone back to the US and talk to his grandparents. It was good to get better acquainted with Maria and Paul and I gave Maria one of my email addresses should they decide to keep in touch.
Watched a soccer match with Tony there, too. Birmingham was playing Newcastle.
Tony told me that it’s karaoke night tonight at Sina’s and he will be singing crooner music like that of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Andy Williams, etc. Might be interesting.
There’s a guy named Freddy who has a little eight week old black puppy that I can’t resist playing with. I’d seen him and his puppy a few nights ago.
Phoned Yvonne today and made arrangements to watch a ski race called “Inferno” with her that will take place near Murren on Saturday. This race is purely an amateur affair and promises to have its own brand of thrills and spills.
Saw Deanna a couple of times today. The first time was when she was walking on the street and talking on her cell phone but she waved and said hello. The second time was when she was in a taxi coming from the direction of the Hotel Belvedere, presumably she was in the process of moving but she waved again when she saw me.
Saw Rina walking the dog again and she also smiled and waved.
Rang up Ann today to see if she’s coming for a visit as she hinted at before I came to Wengen. Seems like she’s perhaps too busy. She put me on with Adriel who may visit on Saturday –which I doubt because his schedule seems to be full, too.
I may take the train over the mountain to Grendilwald to try to look up a lady friend from Germany who I met there last week. I don’t write about the successes with women because that’s really nobody’s business but I’m writing this so that you know it sometimes happens. In fact, there are quite a lot of people who I’ve met and haven’t written about. Some of them have turned into rather good friends such as Philippe from France, Cody from Dallas, Simon from Interlaken, Fabio from Lucerne, Oliver from Germany, Heather from Zimbabwe, Marlise from Interlaken, Monika from Thun, Natalia from Russia, and quite a few more. Yeti’s brother, Fritz, showed up unexpectedly at the cabin a couple of days ago and had a nice chat with him, too.
Some of the food that I’ve been having is quite nice. I don’t remember the names of most of it. Yesterday I had a Swedish roast cooked with prunes served over mashed potatoes and covered in gravy with mushrooms. Had pasta for dinner served in a cream sauce. Today I had tuna with rice that was preceded by a leek soup. Speaking of leeks, Karen are you planning on revealing your “ramp quiche” dish this year? The season is fast approaching!



12:54 19 January, 2007 Ledi Wengen

Talked to Colin, originally from Wellington, New Zealand, last night about what he’s done in the past for work. He said that he’s worked on oil rigs in the North Sea. It was funny because at the same time a soccer match was on with Aberdeen vs. Hibernian. I told him what I do and that I wouldn’t mind working internationally. Gave him a copy of my resume and he told me that one of his mates would be getting into town that evening who actually does work all over the world. I might be hearing from him. Never know.
Karaoke was a total blast! Tony did a very good job with Sinatra and I actually sang three songs myself (Day After Day, Back in the USSR, and Friend of the Devil). Tony told me that I’m better than I think I am. I don’t know about that because I think I’m pretty good. I always say that I don’t sing karaoke because I don’t get paid for it.
Met Alice from Belgium and we exchanged email addresses but I apparently lost it on the walk home when I unzipped the pocket holding my flashlight –and the note.
Finished reading the 13th book in the “Dune” series and I’m considering leaving it for Yeti. If he doesn’t want to read it he can use it to start the fire.
Met a woman named Jana from Leipzig and another named Tanja from The Black Forest. They work with Deanna. I guess all of the people who work at the hotel and restaurant are from Germany.
I leave Wengen in a couple of days and I’m definitely going to miss this town.

AL SJ


20:54 21 January, 2007 Alpenruhe Wengen

Mingling with so many people finally caught up with me. I’ve had a cold for the past couple of days.
Went to the local Anglican church this evening and noticed that one of the hymns is “Morning Has Broken” –the same song that was one of Cat Stevens’ biggest hits and presumably before he converted to Islam. The hymn was written by an Eleanor Fargeon.
Moved into a hotel and delayed my return to the USA by another week. Yippee!


12:17 22 January, 2007 Alpenruhe Wengen

Watched the Chicago Bears vs. New Orleans Saints game last night with Colin. He was definitely cheering for the Saints and I just wish it would have been a closer game. I also watched some of the Colts/Patriots game with Kelly and Neil. Looked like the Patriots were almost certain to win that one when I came home.
I just looked off my balcony to see the family from Perth (Linda, Keith, and Ellie) walking up the hill so I called out to them and asked if they remember meeting me at Sina’s and they said they did. I asked if they are going home soon since that’s what Charlie (from Gold Coast) had told me last night. “Tomorrow” is their response.


15:55 24 January, 2007 Alpenruhe Wengen

Ran into Linda, Keith, and Ellie later that evening at Colin’s place and snapped off a good picture of them all. We were able to pick out their house in Fremantle using Google Earth. I didn’t get an email address from them but I know where their house is.
Ended up playing pool with Charlie and Adam from Ireland. Also met a guy from Vancouver Island, BC but I don’t remember his name. While we were playing pool at Tiffany’s I saw the waitresses from Terrasse -Deanna, Tanja, and Jana.
Last night I met Sue and Roger from rural England. Had a few laughs with them at Sina’s. Saw Nick, Charlie, and Kelly at Tanne Bar. It was slick trying to walk up the hill to my hotel following the arrival of some fresh snow. The tread on my hiking boots is nearly gone but I think I can wait to get new ones back in the states.
According to the original plan I would have already been back but I have no real pressing need to return at any one time. The only thing is that my truck is parked in the front yard of Alberto’s parents’ in Miami. It’s nice of them to watch it for me but I don’t want to take undue advantage of them. Besides, if I don’t go back soon I might find a satisfactory reason to never go back.
At the Terrasse today I had the special (as I usually do). Today Ramona waited on me. I had “Wildcremesuppe mit Kerbelsahne” (game cream soup with chavil cream) –very tasty –and “Gebratenes Lachsfilet unter einer Haselnusskruste auf Topinambupuree” (roast filet of salmon with hazelnut crust and topinandue puree). A nice and satisfying meal. Jana suggested that we meet somewhere tonight.

19:16 26 January, 2007 Alpenruhe Wengen

Went to Schilthorn yesterday with Ann and we had coffee in the rotating restaurant. Later, on the way back down the series of four gondolas, we stopped in Murren and walked around town. Ann said that she had an old friend who runs the post office so we looked in on her. After that we went into a little shop and had more coffee.
We both came back to Wengen and had pasta at Sina’s. We went into The Caprice Hotel where Ann has fond memories of from years gone by. Apparently it has changed somewhat from what she remembered.


Ann ran to catch her train back to Lauterbrunnen and, in doing so, forgot her scarf. I’ll get it to her when I see her again in two days.
Adriel comes to Wengen tonight and we may hit the slopes tomorrow.
Thanks Dave, for writing back.





12:10 29 January, 2007 Ringgenberg Interlaken

Met a bunch more people from South Africa, Ireland, Switzerland, Germany and England. I’m almost ashamed to say that I sang “Longview” on Karaoke night.
Adriel and I skied/snowboarded at Kleine Scheidegg yesterday. It was very sunny and conditions were near perfect. I sent a trail map a few days ago. You’ll find it at the base of the Eiger and it says “K. Scheidegg” on the map.
I’m back at Ann’s and I’m trying to decide whether to travel to Zurich today and stay there overnight. My flight leaves tomorrow at 1PM so I could also just stay here and catch the early train in the morning. Decisions, decisions!
My brother is having a Super Bowl party which also happens to be his birthday, February 4th. By the way, I found out on Monday that the Colts beat the Patriots in one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history. Colin had the repeat of Sunday’s game on in his place. I was able to watch the game after all. Personally, I’ll be behind Manning. He deserves to win this one.
Sorry, Sue in Cologne , for not calling you while you were in Switzerland this week. Believe me, I tried but I just couldn’t get through for some reason. Where did you ski? Did you have fun? Dad, that was a “sad song” wasn’t it? Only country music can truly convey such sorrow!

-AL SJ


17:31 (Swiss time) 30 January, 2007 Somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean

Caught the train from Interlaken Ost to Zurich Flughafen this morning.
The flight left on time at 13:00 and we are now chasing the sun across the sky. The sun should just be dropping below the horizon as we fly into Miami at 17:45.
I’m lucky this trip because I have all five middle seats to myself and am taking full advantage of it. Too bad I can’t sleep on a plane, though. Still, it’s nice to stretch out if I want to.


09:05 (EST) 2 February, 2007 Richburg, South Carolina

I took a taxi from the Miami airport to Alberto’s parents’ house to get my truck. I paid them a little money and some Swiss chocolate. I have a feeling that my cache of sweets will come in handy.
Stayed in a hotel at Saint Lucie, Florida. The next day I drove to this hotel just south of Charlotte. The next morning it was snowing like crazy and so I decided not to try to drive. Stayed another night but now the roads look clear and I’m going to load up and head out. On the road again …!

Scotland 2005


Syracuse 16:09 While Ron was giving me a lift to the airport we got into a discussion about how the world only has a finite amount of petroleum and that we have always known this. He is of the opinion that a new power source will be found to replace oil -that what he called "American ingenuity" will win out and we'll all be just fine. His viewpoint must reflect that of most people since we know we're going to run dry in the fairly near future yet we keep running machines on fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow. I think that it is typical human obstinance to continue doing just what we want without regard for the rights of others. Don’t’ worry, our grandchildren will get along. What if lots of people just starve and freeze? Philadelphia 20:01 Called Sadia from Syracuse to tell her that I’d be in Philadelphia but she sent me a text back to say that she was working and to wish me a nice trip. Stan also lives in Philly so I called him when I got here but he is still in Richland, WA. He answered his cell phone from inside a movie theater. They were showing “The Longest Yard.” Met two women here at the airport. One is on her way to Barcelona and the other to London (then to the northern coast of France). I expect to hear from the one who is headed to London since I gave her my email address. She suggested that we go to arctic regions together someday. All I said was, “Sure!” Getting ready to board the plane in a few minutes. 28 May 2005 Glasgow 11:00 Actually on a train bound for Oban. Just before getting on the plane in Philadelphia I met Andrea. She’s from Tampa and she’ll be jumping around Scotland, too. I’d like to think I’ll see her again. Gave her my email address. Then Theresa was sitting next to me on the plane. She’s an audit consultant from LA on her way to Glasgow for two weeks of work and not much play. She said that she’s jealous. I’ve been hearing that a lot. On this train next to me are two young ladies from Colorado (Steamboat Springs and Denver). They went to college together. I just finished Robert Heinlein’s “Starman Jones” and I gave it to a teenage Scottish boy who started reading it right away. When the train had reached Oban he told me that was enjoying it. Maybe he’ll be a Heinlein fan. I hope so. The world needs more of us. Oban 18:55 Arrived here about six hours ago and after walking around town for a while I settled into the Glenbervie guest house. It is a very nice quiet place situated on the hill below McCaig’s Tower. I have a beautiful view of the town, the harbor, and Kerrera. Had a shower and a nap. I noticed earlier that was once called the Star Inn that was run by Eric and Nan Ross when I was last here 22 years ago has been replaced by an establishment of another name. Haven’t noticedany other changes, though. Well, I’m off to have a wee dram and see what trouble I can get into. 29 May 2005 Oban 19:02 Just consumed a salad, spaghetti and coffee at the Piazza located on the lovely waterfront here in Oban. Was waited on by two very pretty girls –which always seems to make the food taste better. The undulating western coast of Scotland is ever surprising and I believe that you could live a lifetime here and never see all of it. Ironic, isn’t it, that while I was at a fish and chips shop last night three teenage girls who found out that I’m from America asked why I’m not in Glasgow or London. They must feel that their little corner of the world is boring but doesn’t that reflect teenage attitudes the world over? Thinking about that makes wonder if I ever grew up. Here I am still trying to get out of town.When guys in pubs ask me where I’m from. I answer with, “West Virginia …and don’t start singing!” But they can’t help themselves, “West Virginia, mountain mama. Take me home, country roads.” It’s been that way since I can remember no matter where I go. John Denver must have made a ton of money worldwide from sales of that song. Oh last night was excellent. I met some folk who remember The Star Inn and the Rosses but they told me that the place closed shortly after I was last here. Eric and Nan were in their sixties then. I don’t think I’ll run into them again in this world. Anyway, I met Kenny, Moira, Robert, Keith, Debbie, Hazel, Dennis, and folks with names I couldn’t be sure of both because they were odd and the music was too loud. Debbie has my email address and it seemed like she is going to play matchmaker. She and her husband have been together for thirty years and she is my age. 30 May 2005 Oban 11:19 Sitting out on the veranda at the Piazza. It’s a wonderful sunny day and lots of folks are about. Scots know to appreciate such a day. Last night Kenny asked me if I’m here on business or for pleasure. I told him that I’m here for fun and that I’ve never seen Scotland in the summer. He said that would occur in the first two weeks of July. I’ve heard that before but it stills makes me laugh. Met four nice people last night. Three of them are siblings –Helen, Angela, and Andy. There was another Andy, Helen’s husband. We started out by having drinks outside but were asked to come inside once it started getting dark outside. This far north the sun sinks below the horizon an hour later than back in New York. At summer solstice in three weeks there may be even more of a difference. Saw a man in a kilt last night. I think he was part of some show. The bagpipes that I presently hear in the distance reminded me of seeing him. I know that most of these things are staged for the tourists but it still reminds me that this is a distinctly different place with its own history and culture. It’s kind of funny that when I’m immersed in a foreign place and then I hear an American speak it is amazing how odd we sound and how obvious it is that we are in the area. Oban 18:00 I forgot to mention that I met a fellow named Alec on my first night here. Ran into him again last night. One of the girls who waited on me yesterday at the Piazza was out and I she told me that her name is Leann. There is a young lady from Slovakia whose name is Ivana. Last night she told me that she understands American English much better than the British –especially the Scots. When she was working at Mackie Dans (where I had a very nice chicken barbeque dinner) a Scotsman was ordering drinks but I could tell what he was saying. Ivana and I glanced at each other and traded knowing grins. There are three cars that are driven around and around town here for the purpose of showing off how loud their owners have made them. They have what I call “coffee can resonators” instead of mufflers. How comforting is to know that Americans don’t have a monopoly on rudeness! We are much worse, though with our dual pipes and our Harleys that can me heard from miles away. In one way, because of this, I can look forward to our running out of petroleum. The world will be a quieter place, at least, and maybe we’ll have grown wiser than to behave like spoiled brats. Look at me! I’ve learned that those who make the most noise are usually the ones you least want to hear from. Let’s just give a megaphone to the village idiot. Same thing. It’s not that I care what people are into but I don’t like it forced on me –and everywhere I go. Staying at the Invercloy guest house tonight that has, perhaps, an even better view. It’s higher up the hill and has a less obstructed vantage point. 31 May 2005 Oban 01:14 My goodness! Eastern European women! First Ivana from Slovakia and then tonight Elena from Belarus and Patricia from Poland. Ivana is a professional model and it’s not hard to see why. I’m trying not to get too worked up. Looks like I’ve stayed one day too long. I might have trouble leaving now. Besides those ladies, I also met Louise, who has family on Lewis. I’m almost convinced that I need to visit the Outer Hebrides and see the standing stones at Callanish. Hmmm …? Met the second Andrea of the trip. She’s from Glasgow but has been living here in Oban for several years. I also met Stuart and his brother, Scott. I think that Stuart resembles Ewan McGregor. He said that I’m not the first person who has told him that. Seems like a really nice fellow. Easy going and easy to talk to. We seem to have some similar interests. He may become a good friend. Oban 23:05 Staying at the Sutherland Hotel tonight. Met an Irish fellow named Sean who is a professional dive instructor. More precisely, he is a dive instructor for professional divers. We talked for hours about such diverse subjects as the continuing religious intolerance masquerading itself in football colors here in Britain and why the same side of the moon always faces Earth. He offered to let me stay at his apartment and sleep on his folding sofa. Might just take him up on that tomorrow. Besides his phone number, he wrote this on my notepad: "haggis & strong beer @ 7:30ish" Here is what Bernie in Raleigh sent me. He brews his own beer. and sometimes he wears a kilt at highland festivals. So, he is an expert these matters. If you want to try a truely wonderful beer (among the many there), try the Traquair House Ale, a Scotch (wee heavy) Ale. It's not going to be as hoppy as you usually prefer, but it is a perfect example of a traditional Scotch Ale. Sip it with a sweet Lass under your arm while the cool evening breeze teases the kilt off of your knees, reminding you why you decided to "go regimental" beneath your man-skirt. Taste: Full-bodied with a fat chewy malt backbone, low carbonation that leaves a nice smoothness throughout. Lots of flavour dancing around ... ripe fruit, sweet alcohol, a heavy hand of malt and a touch of butterscotch. A perfectly balanced hop bitterness leaves a small bite towards the end. Mocha, toasted malt and carob are in the finish with a fading hop character and a mellow earthy / oaky flavour. Perhaps later, when you get the chance, have a wee dram in honor of our brothers and sisters in arms that have gone before us and those that will follow. Then, back to the Lass you go... 1 June 2005 Oban 11:47 Having breakfast at the Café Caledonian -sausages, ham, eggs, black pudding, tomatoes, toast, mushrooms, and coffee. They call it “The Crofter’s Breakfast”. I was hungry this morning. Today the weather is not good -unless you are a duck. Speaking of ducks, the little feathered fellows here are just about the tamest things I’ve ever seen. Two days ago I walked by a duck pulling my wheeled suitcase and all and he didn’t so much as flinch. I must have passed within six inches in front of him. Yesterday I met an Australian guy named Tim and his Czech girlfriend, Ivana. Yes, that’s the second Ivana of my trip. Tim showed me a very funny bit of video he captured on his digital camera. Apparently he had been taunting a duck and it attacked him and all you could see was this very agitated duck snapping at the camera lens as Tim backed away. He has my email address so there’s always hope that, if nothing else, I can get him to send it. Met a fellow from Granville, Ohio yesterday. He has an insurance business back home but he’s here taking a break much as I am except that he’s also working with a construction crew. They are renovating a structure in order to make it a seafood restaurant. The man who is having it done owns a seafood shop here in town and the restaurant is a new venture but a fairly reasonable one, I would suppose. Sean told me about how, on a dive yesterday, an octopus enveloped his hand. It turned the color and shade of his glove then it left him and shot some ink at him as it shot away. It was the first dive for the folks who were with him and he’s afraid that they’ll expect such an experience every time. 3 June 2005 Oban 12:09 Didn’t write anything yesterday but I had a very good time. I’ve forgotten to mention meeting Lindsey and her dog, Stitch. And I also forgot to write about meeting Jo from Leeds, a friend of Andrea’s. I told Jo about how when I tell people that I’m from West Virginia I also ask them not to sing. She said that she knows what I mean because her name is Jolene. I had to laugh. I was sitting out by the waterfront in the middle of town having some fish and chips and Jo strolled by with her dog. She said that she might be out later. So I had something to look forward to. Then a minute later Lindsey came by with her dog. She asked me how I was liking my fish and chips. I replied that they were great. When I finished I ran and caught up with her and then walked with her to the war memorial. She let Stitch off his leash to let him run. I chased him around and had a ball. When I was finished Lindsey asked me if I was knackered. I answered that I was. Then I asked her what Knackered meant. She laughed and remarked that I had answered in the affirmative without even knowing what it meant. I guess figured it out from the context. I left Lindsey to walk Stitch some more and walked back towards town. Stopped in at Markie Dan’s to visit with Patricia and have a bottle of orange juice. Then I went by the Piazza where Scott was working. Said hello to him and then he pointed to where Stuart and Ivana were walking so I ran over to say hello to them. The three of us tried to find an internet café that I was told about. We never did but we settled into The Lorne for a couple of beers. Sean’s place is right by there so I came back to his apartment. We listened to some music and watched some of the movie, “Snatch.” We laughed about some of the lines that Brad Pitt has like, “Do ya like dags?” I told Sean that Jo said she might be out so he and I decided to go to Markie Dan’s. When we got there Elena was there and I introduced them. Sean told her that he’d never met anyone form Belarus before. Scott was there playing pool and eventually Ivana and Stuart showed up. Sean and I met Anna from Holland. Then we talked with a couple of guys, Christian and Eric, who had just sailed from Stockholm. Then talked to a guy from Denmark –don’t recall his name. I think he was in town on business. We were invited to Stuart’s house so a half dozen of us walked up the hill to his place. His place is very nice –a three story home with a great view of the city. Met one of his friends from Norway whose name is Astril, I think. It was a very pleasant time just sitting and talking. Ivana was sleeping on the couch and it seemed like a cue. When Sean and I left there we went by a youth hostel and looked inside and saw that they were having an enormous party. We sneaked in and tried to act like we belonged there. Met a young woman from Toronto and one from Vancouver. One guy from Australia was playing a guitar with a missing third string. He kept playing tunes that he thought I might recognize but I never did as much as I strained to hear them. When we decided to leave one of the Canadian girls had to hug both of us. We walked back to Sean’s flat and talked about the evening. He served some chili that he’d been taking a few days to cook up. I was very good and it hit the spot. Lights out. 4 June 2005 Oban 12:05 Yes, I’m still in Oban –but not for long. I’m having lunch at the Caledonian and then I’m planning on getting on a bus bound for Fort William. I remember some really good times there. Met Ian from Perth, Australia there and Karen from Timmins, Ontario. Both of them became long term friends and we visited a lot. Fort William is at the foot of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain. It draws hikers and sightseers from all over. Said my goodbyes to the friends I made here last night. All Stuart said was, “You’ll be back.” That’s probably an safe prediction to make. There are a few people who I should mention before I forget them. While I was here I also ran into Cory from South Africa a few times and Roddy, the fellow who owns Markie Dan’s who showed me a great amount of hospitality. There was Spike, Patricia’s boyfriend and Chris, Elena’s boyfriend. Fort William 18:17 Talked to a young lady who sat near me on the bus from Oban. Her name is Kirstie and she is a friend of Andrea’s. In fact, while we were riding she sent a text message to Andrea to say that she met me. She also knows Stuart, Scott, and Jo. There’s a guy named Scott from Nova Scotia who’s going to Inverness this evening and I decided to go there too. I’m writing this from the bus. Ben Nevis is off to the right in the distance. Unfortunately this bus has a bunch of loudmouths who are probably drunk. I saw them get on and promptly gave up my seat to them and moved toward the front. I have my headphones on and I’m listening to some light classical music in an attempt to drown them out. It’s not working all that well. It’s because of guys like them that public transportation has never been popular in the U.S., I think. Scott is a maintenance supervisor at some industrial plant and he seems somewhat softspoken and intelligent. His plans are to continue north tomorrow and he might become a traveling companion for a couple of days as I make myway toward the Orkneys. I just noticed that some of the mountains still have snow on them. Very pretty with the contrasting greenery here at the lover elevation. There’s lots of light purple rhododendron lining the highway and the pinesare a nice touch. The weather today has been varied, going from a fairly heavy rain when I left Sean’s to bright sunshine at times and now it is more mist than anything else. I like it all. Fort Augustus 19:04 The bus stopped here at the southwestern end of Loch Ness. According to the schedule we should be here for about ten minutes. Looks like the loudmouths left the vehicle but maybe they are just having a smoke. Not optimistic enough to think we’ll be rid of them for the rest of the trip. Uh, here they come back onboard again. Just as I thought. Oh well. We’re underway again. I must keep my eyes peeled for a certain large reptilian creature in the water to starboard. Maybe I should have my camera cocked and ready. In video mode even. 5 June 2005 Inverness 00:55 Scott was forward thinking enough to reserve a place to stay before he got here. I figured that I’d help him find his B&B and, hopefully, there would be a vacancy either at his place or maybe nearby. He and I figured out where we were from a map at the bus station and saw that we needed to get to the other side of the river. When we did so we found the place in fairly short order and I was in luck –they had a room available for me and for only 20 pounds. I was paying 25 to 28 in Oban. Scott and I deposited our things in our rooms and hit the town. The lady who checked us into the B&B told us where we might find some live traditional Scottish music so we headed there. It is called “Hootenanny”. I had always assumed that it was an Appalachian term but I was told by Carolyn, one of the girls we met tonight, that it is a Celtic word. She is from Glasgow and she was with Cath (from Inverness) and Claire (from Wellington, NZ). They are all psychiatric nurses and hadn’t all gotten together in seven years. One of the girls who was supposed to be out with them is sick from a cold that she must have caught from Cath. What a shame! 6 June 2005 Kirkwall 09:07 Made it to Orkney last evening. Spent the night in a B&B that looks out overthe harbor. I mentioned to the couple who own the guest house that I have ancestry here and they asked of the surname. When I gave it to them they corrected my pronunciation. That was sort of humorous. I left Inverness yesterday about noon and Scott was on the same bus until we reached Brora where he disembarked. He was off to visit ancestral land, too. I was interesting to watch him step out and gaze around so as to gather an impression. When the bus reached Thurso I got off and hauled my things to the ferry landing at Scrabster. The bus driver had told me that it wouldn’t be as far as it seemed. Easy for him to say. The sign said two kilometers but pullingmy wheeled suitcase made it seem like ten. Those wheels will eventually wear out. There was nobody else at the ferry landing when I arrived at about 15:45. Or so I thought –there were two guys walking around and, at first, I thought that they worked at the dock. They turned out to be a couple of Australian travelers. Michael is from Canberra and Paul is from north of Sydney and the two of them are occupational therapists working in London. We thought that the ferry schedule had indicated a 19:00 departure time so we decided to get something to eat and jumped into Paul’s car and headed into Thurso –right back to where I had left the bus. I had a nice pork chop dinnerand it was a satisfying meal. When we went back to the ferry landing there were more cars and more people.The three of us bought our tickets and passed the time by looking at the various brochures and conversing. I had been taking photos of the countryside along the way from Inverness. I think I got some good shots of the North Sea coastline. Toward the end of the ride Icaptured an image of a line of cliffs jutting into the sea and a minute or so later I saw another wall of cliffs appearing in the distance from behind the first. I later learned that second line of cliffs is actually the island of Hoy –thesouthern and westernmost of the large islands in the Orkneys. The ferry wouldmake landfall at Stromness situated to the north of Hoy at 20:30. The ferry ride was pleasant and the ferry itself was very classy with an elaborate restaurant and comfortable lounge. It also had a gift shop and children’s play room. At one point I used the video feature of my new digital camera as theship passed by “The Old Man of Hoy”, a rock outcropping that I’d seen photos of when I had taken the time to look at websites aboutthe Orkneys. I’m looking forward to see how it plays on my laptop. When the ferry arrived at Stromness we decided to try for accommodations in Kirkwall, on the opposite side of the main Orkney island. We settled into the B&B and went out to see what Kirkwall would be like at night. Found a pub that was lively and full of friendly people. After striking up a conversation with one of the women I found out that they a tour group comprised of people from all over. The lady who I’d originally spoken with, Rosslyn, isfrom the western coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Ben is from Sydney. Otherswere from Houston and Montreal. We’ll meet up with them again tonight. Stromness 13:22 After breakfast, Paul, Michael and I went to take a tour of Maes Howe. It is a structure built around 5,000 years ago and deliberately buried under soil. Apparently, it was used for ceremony and the deposition of skeletal remains. After it was abandoned by the Neolithic people who constructed it the site appears to have been undisturbed until the twelfth century when Vikings discovered it and used it for shelter during a particularly bad winter storm. According to my dad, one of my ancestors was among them. They left runes on some the walls inside. After Maes Howe, we went to Skara Brae, a village from the same period as MaesHowe. Skara Brae was exposed by a storm in 1850. Took lots of photos of that site. Makes you ponder on who those people were, how they might have lived, how their concept of the universe might have been, and what ultimately happened to them. Michael and Paul are taking a boat tour around a bay in which several German ships were sunk here during World War One. I’m having lunch in a nice little café in downtown Stromness and we made plansto rendezvous here at 16:30. 7 June 2005 Stromness 12:44 First, let me clarify something that I wrote and sent out in yesterday’s dispatch. I don’t think my father ever told me that he believed that I had ancestors who carved the runes in Maes Howe. It was more that, once I told him the story when I learned it a year or so ago, he let me know that he learned it himself from doing his genealogical research. I think I jumped to that conclusion at the time myself. After I met up with the Aussies we drove to the Ring of Brodgar and walked among the stones. Took plenty of pictures. The Stenness standing stones are right by the road on the way to the ring. I need to tell you that, on our tour of Maes Howe yesterday, we were taken inside the mound and the structure itself. We saw the runes left by the Vikings and were given extensive information by our tour guide. I asked him I could take photos of the interior and he replied that no, I could not. I don’t know the reason for that restriction. Perhaps those of you who are curious can do a web search to findphotos. I can assure you that they indeed exist. I have a booklet with them in it. Michael and Paul left on the 11:00 ferry to Scrabster and I’m seriously considering taking the ferry to Shetland that leaves Kirkwall at 23:45. It’s an overnight trip to Lerwick that arrives at 07:30 tomorrow morning. From there I may decide to gotto Bergen, Norway or to Torshavn. The summer solstice is coming up and it might be fun and interesting to be as far north as possible in order to experience thevery late evening. The sun is setting at about 23:00 and rising at, maybe, 04:00. In two weeks the situation will be even more dramatic. I remembered a concept that came to me about twenty years ago when I was traveling here and noticed such large numbers of folks from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. I think that there might be wanderlust gene that we inheritedfrom the people who left northwestern Europe for the new world. Paul thought it was an interesting concept when I told him the other night. In my case, my original immigrant ancestors arrived in present day Virginia in 1640 and the last of them arrived in America from Ireland in 1811. That might explain why I am so restless. All of my people left when it was far riskier to relocate than it is today. They only had the vaguest notions of what they were going to find across the AtlanticOcean and they almost certainly would never see their home country or theirfamilies again. A story is told about one of my ancestors who emigrated to America from Germany in the 1750s and then returned to Germany in order to arrange for some commerce only to be lost at sea during his subsequent sea voyage back to America. One toomany chances taken, it would appear. A nice little orange and white cat just paid me a visit as I have my laptop placed against a sloping wall facing the bay in Stromness. It didn’t mind being patted but it didn’t want to be held. There seem to be plenty of cats here in this town and so far they’ve all had very different coloration. I’ve yet to see anythingclose to a recurring pattern. That’s surprising to me given that it’s an island and the community itself is rather isolated. In the Caribbean I remember noticing that the dogs on Tobago all looked the same. So much so that a friend of mine and I kept saying, “There’s the dog.” In fact theywere all different dogs but we’d see one along the road we’d wonder how that creature could have traveled so many miles since we had last seen him. Kirkwall 19:39 Booked a cabin on the overnight ferry to the Shetlands. I was a little anxious because there’s no ticket office open anywhere near th epier here in town. I located the office but it closed at 17:00 then I noticed thatthere were people still inside so I jiggled the handle on the nearest door to them. One of the ladies opened the door and asked if she could help me. She explained that the ferry actually berths at a different pier located about three miles away.Then she booked me and for the trip. In other words, I was extremely lucky –nobodyhad been able to provide useful information about how to get the Shetland ferry. I looked at the local newspaper, The Orcadian, this morning. I had to keep it because there was an article about how a local woman’s cat is terrified to go outof doors. Seems that gulls have been attacking it. Poor thing has fur missing that was plucked from it. There was a photo of the owner and the unfortunate feline. Maybe the birds zeroed in on this cat to exact revenge for the injuries and deaths to birds due to tabbies over the years. If that seems quaint then think about how you wish that your neighborhood was so free of crime that such a story would make the paper. It was on page three but there was a bullet for it on the front page. The Kirkwall library has welcome tiles on the floor as you enter that read, “The Kirkwall Library –Since 1668”. It’s a super nice library for the size of thevillage and so is the one in Stromness. I found some Smashing Pumpkins and Red Hot Chili Peppers which I sent to my hard drive and I’m listening to at this moment.The music collection there was so extensive that I’d be lifting music there all daybut I had internet work to do and I wanted to recharge my batteries but there wasn’t a power point near the terminal. 8 June 2005 Toft 12:50 I’m on a ferry that is taking me from the main Shetland island north to Yell andthen I’m planning on going to the next island north called Unst. It’s a foggy day and the hills here have no trees that I can see. When the ferry from Orkney arrived this morning at 07:30 an announcement was made that we were welcome to stay on board until 10:00. I had some breakfast and went back to my cabin and crawled back in bed until 09:30. I picked up some brochures at the ferry terminal about the Shetlands and the transport available to Norway, Iceland, the Faroes, and Denmark. Upon investigation I found that you can catch the ferry to Norway once a week and the same goes for the one to the Faroes. Looks like I’m not going to either of those places on this trip. I could still do it ifI wished but I think I may just spend a couple of days in the Shetlands and return to Scotland then the Outer Hebrides Yesterday I was writing about the cats of Stromness. After I sent that out I wentto the post office and there was a black cat sitting on the front steps. I was scratching its neck and a lady opened the door. The cat darted inside. Nobodyseemed to pay it any mind. As I was placing some things in a padded envelope to send to my parents the cat jumped up onto the counter and walked all over my things so I patted it. Then it jumped down and the next thing I knew it was behind theglass and on the postal employee’s desk begging for attention from her. Obviously the beast felt perfectly at home in there and must do this every day. Uyeasound 23:31 I arrived at the ferry landing for Unst at about 14:15 and I toted my things for the next 45 minutes to the Gardiesfauld hostel. One of the wheels of my suitcasefinally seized up but luckily it happened just as I got here. When I arrived the place was empty but there was a note board that had the warden’sphone number. But the phone here is out of order and there’s a note that says thatthe local shop has closed so the nearest store is in Baltasound (too far to walk). I decided that I needed to shave before going back in public so I took care of that and then I went for a walk down by the little harbor. There were two women leaving a little building and getting into a van. I explained my situation and the driver asked if I might like a ride. Of course I did. She introduced herself as Frances and took me to the grocery shop and told me that she’d be back to give mea lift to the hostel. It’s getting scary because of my string of good luck. I got some groceries and waited for her outside. Some young mother who had beenwrestling with her children in the store came out in order to imprison her kids inher van. They were screaming as if they were getting sentenced to Alcatraz. Shewalked by me and muttered, “Kids.” Frances arrived and she took me back to the hostel and told me that I’m welcome to stop by for tea any time her van is parked out front. That was a generous invitation from a person who has already shown their generosity. This might be a good time to tell you about the ghosts of the Shetlands. I would but I might scare myself given that it is now midnight and the sky is still lit enough to see the distant horizon. Enough light to let my imagination run away with me. One of my taxi drivers told me to do a web search for “wind house legends”. We were going by the Wind House on the island of Yell at the time and I saw the house. He told me that “wind” in Norse means “ridge”. When Frances was giving me a ride back from the grocery she told me about the stretch in the road that we were passing through. Story has it that youngmale drivers are visited by a ghostly female passenger from time to time. I just looked outside to see that I can still tell that the flowers are blue and it is ten minutes past midnight. While sitting in the empty hostel and taking in the spectacular view from the sunroom the front door opened and closed. I turned to see who had come in and it was a young woman. I said hello and she said hello. I could tell that she was either an American or a Canadian. We introduced ourselves. Her name is Emily and when I asked her where she is from she said that she is from upstate New York. She is from Saranac Lake. All I could say was that I was there in her hometown two weeks ago. Emily is studying neuroscience at Colgate University and I remember that Franceshad mentioned that her niece is in college in New York doing work from the Christopher Reeve Foundation. Hmmm…I think. A short time later as I went for a walk down by the pier I saw that Frances’ van was there again so I stopped in to say hello.There was a couple who were seeingFrances in her pottery shop. The man and I had a nice conversation. When they left Frances asked me if I’d like some tea and I told her that I would. Then I thought of Emily. I asked her if it might be alright if I go get her and she responded, “Only one other person?” I assured her of that and I told her that I’d be right back so I went right next door to the hostel. Emily was excited about the prospect of having tea with one of the local artisans. 9 March 2005 Uyeasound 10:17 Continuing from what I was writing about Emily, Frances, and me, we had a verypleasant visit at Frances’ pottery shop. The products that she sells are underthe name of “Spindra” and I would buy some now except for the fear of breaking it on my travels. Besides, they plates I looked at would be heavy additions to my already cumbersome belongings. When Emily and I returned to the hostel we were met by Nicole, who Emily had metearlier in the day. Nicole is from Switzerland and attends college in Iceland.For some time the three of us sat in the sunroom that looks out over the loch, Emily knitting, Nicole writing her journal and I playing on my laptop. I did manage to get some photos of the Shetland pony who resides next door. He has taken to eating grass that I give him. Well, I’m off to go on a walk with Emily. 10 June 2005 Uyeasound 01:35 Blue skies all around and the sun is just below the horizon to the south. A group from Oslo blew in this evening –about a dozen I think. They had been out all day fishing and they had a huge load of mackerel. Emily and I had a very nice feast of very fresh fish. We saved a bit for Nicole but when she arrived from her walk se reminded us that she’s a vegetarian. Good for her and good for us. Weate her portions. Emily and I walked an hour each way to reach the Atlantic Ocean side of the island from the hostel. We are invited to join the Norwegian group tomorrow to go to the extreme northwest corner of the island. Emily and I are excited because we were planning on going there tomorrow anyway. To catch a lift here is a special thing. There are only about 400 people on this entire island. I think I could live here all of the time. It’s wondrous! Visited the fellows who are trying to work out the wind power to fuel cell thing here and I let them know that I had worked with fuel cells for a while. They asked me some chemical stuff and I responded that I only did the automation side of things. Sorry, but I can’t get past having blue skies at 02:00. It’s astounding and it’s still a week and a half until the solstice. Uyeasound 21:45 The trip to Herma Ness was incredible. It was the North Atlantic full on and there were thousands of birds there -gannets, puffins, gulls, skues (which we were toldwill fly at you and peck at your head, just like in Hitchcock’s “The Birds”). The shore is rocky. The wind is gusty. The fields are sheepy. Emily and I had to walk/hitch back. It’s not hard to do here. You never have to wait very long to get a lift because it’s understood that they all have to rely on each other for assistance from time to time. And, for us here at the hostel, the closest store is in Baltasound because the shop that used to be near here closed. Emily is leaving tomorrow and I’m really going to miss her. She’s smart, articulate, and a good hiking partner. Did I mention that she’s also pretty? Nicole is pretty, too. It’s been a pleasant two days here at the hostel because of them. Frances is driving to Lerwick tomorrow and I had almost forgotten to tell Emily. Luckily I did remember and they are traveling together. A fellow named Dan showed up a little while ago. He’s from Yorkshire. Seems like a nice guy. He told me that he has over 2000 music cds. That’s astounding! I think that I have maybe 400 –which is way more than most folks. He must be a serious collector. It’s dark and stormy here tonight. No blue skies, I’m afraid. 11 June 2005 Uyeasound 01:56 I found out ysterday that the pony next door has a name. It is “Apache”. TheNorwegian boys were trying to befriend him at around midnight –I watched all of this from the lounge. Since Apache has discriminating taste, he decided to avoid the adolescent humans who had invaded his field. One of these hominids was seen by myself to drop his pants and moon the pony. This is similar to what I think the pony thought, “Whatever.” Uyeasound 21:11 Maybe if one were attacked by a skue (the locals call them bonxies) they would know how Olga’s cat on Orkney feels. I said my goodbyes to Emily today but she’ll be in Lerwick and I’ll be there soon, too -possibly tomorrow or the next day. We exchanged email addresses which is very cool. Her friendship is important to me. Patrick gave me a lift to Baltasound this morning so I could mail the box that contains the coffee mug that I bought from Frances yesterday. She told me that it’s her first sale of the year. After I sent off the package I walked up to the windmills north of town where the fuel cell company is. It’s also where I get online to do my internet stuff. Sandy Macaulay was there and we had a nice conversation. He actually drove me allthe way to the hostel to get my laptop and things and then took me back to hisoffice. He has a wireless system but I didn’t know it. The lady who sat me up twodays ago gave me a dialup connection which was painfully slow. If I’d know thatthey had wireless I’d have taken my own laptop there and just sat outside their building. Sandy showed me that they were in TIME magazine last week (June 6th edition). He and his rock band are cited as being the first hydrogen powered group in Europe since they use fuel cells to power their amps and things. His company also has the only licensed fuel cell car in the U.K. Emily had bought a cd by an Unst fiddle player whose name is Steve Spence. I mentioned this to Sandy and he smiled and told me about a secret track on that cd that is at the tail end ten minutes after the last song that’s listed ends. I had recorded it onto my laptop last night and I found it and we listened to it. It is a song called “I’m Just Knackered” and it was obviously recorded at late night in a pub sung by at least a half dozen men. Some of them are even in key. Sandy was one of the singers that night and he grinned all the way through our listening session. So, dear readers, you’ve read the word “knackered” twice -sent by me from two different locations. Emily, if you are reading this, don’t turn your cd player off at the end of what you think is the last song. The best is yet to come. I also found out that one of the people who was recently visited by the White Wife was Steve Spence, the fiddler. I’m told that, upon his arrival home that evening, he was white as a sheet and greatly disturbed by something. That comes from his father. Apparently, Steve was driving along when suddenly there was an old lady sitting in his passenger seat. She turned to him and gave him a toothless grin and then vanished. I asked Sandy if he ever worries about being visited by her when he’s driving at night and he said, “Not really. It seems that she only rides with bachelors.” That would be a good reason to get married if ever I heard one. I asked Steve that, since I’m a bachelor, should I be concerned if I were walking the road at night. He told me that she’s always reported riding in a car or wagon. I asked him that if she’s been reported as riding in a wagon then have the sightingsbeen going on for hundreds of years? He said at least a hundred. I told him that it gives me the shivers. Sandy told me that the folks he works with think that their office building hasghosts and nobody will work in the corner where his desk is because it seems to be where odd things happen. He said that he’s never experienced anything. I responded that maybe it’s because the ghosts don’t like him or because they do like him. We went back to his office after I’d retrieved my laptop. I was sitting by his desk and working away online and he said he had to go away for a few minutes and left me there alone. As soon as he left it occurred to me that, given our recent conversation, I wasn’tsure I was comfortable being there alone. And I have to admit that I looked over my shoulder a few times and felt goosebumps. But that was just me –or was it? Tonight at the hostel there are people from New Zealand, who I’ve talked to a good bit. There is a couple from Holland and Monday is her birthday –she said that she can’t think of a better place to spend her birthday because it is so beautiful and peaceful. Aye, ‘tis. There is a family here from mainland Shetland with a sweet little girl about four years old. We fed Apache grass and sugar cubes. There isanother couple here who I haven’t heard a peep from and I have no idea where they are from. I have to assume that they don’t speak much English. Something Sandy told me to day is somewhat poignant. He told me of a Faroese poet who had supposed that people go to locations on the fringe for spiritual reasons. I would have to say that I agree with that. The “civilized world” seems to either push you around or try to suck you into it. It will tell you what to think, how to feel, and what to buy. It will tell you what is cool this week and make sure thatyou spread the word. Memes used to be ideas that passed between people by word ofmouth or other forms of human to human communications like body language. Now there are things that I think of as “dangerous memes” that seem capable of infecting the minds of humans very much like computer viruses can spread and, like computer viruses, they can now proliferate at nearly the speed of light. I truly pity the person who doesn’t have the ability to take some time to stand outside of society and evaluate their true core values and then see if that matches what they do and how they live. Obviously, we all have to conform in order to live together to some degree. The individual has to decide for himself or herself whether a calibration is necessary. Do I really like the people I hang with? Am I really one of them? Can I somehow change them to fit into my ways? How can I distance myself from them? Can I leave? Please!? I’ve decided that I don’t like what much of what America has become. People seem to have forgotten that with freedom also comes responsibility. You can’t have an all night party with the sound system blasting and not expect your neighbor to do thesame thing to you the next nigh when you are trying to have some quiet time. It’s called social responsibility. It’s also known as being considerate of others. And in some circles it’s known as “The Golden Rule.” Ever heard of the term “the ugly American?” Well, it comes from Americans beingabroad and thinking that everyone should bow to them. I’m deeply afraid that theway we act is contagious because it’s easy to sink to the behavior of the lowest common denominator. If everybody else is doing it then it must be okay. We have way more influence on the way the rest of the world sways than we realize back home. Americans tend to be very introverted as a nation. We generally don’t even think about the rest of the world in our daily lives. That is one of the biggest ironies that I can think of. We want to stay down on the farm and be left alone and yet much of the rest of the world sees us as a swaggering giant consuming resources and ready to stomp anyone who might get in our way. I know that international affairs are sticky and interests are difficult to satisfy.But how has it come to this? How could a country so opposed to empire from the beginning end up with this monstrosity? Nobody wants to call it the E word. In Riyadh and Tehran kids want to live just as they perceive Americans. And American kids just want to get off the farm. It seems that the dream depends on the lens you view it through. Uyeasound 00:26 Daniel and I spent some time telling jokes but he rode his bicycle around the island all day and I’m used to staying up until at least 02:00 so I left the bedroom we now share and came to the sunroom where it’s the darkest I’ve seen it at this time due to the dense cloud cover. It’s still beautiful and I can see out over the water and see the small island called “The Ward.” Beyond I can see the much larger island of Fetlar. I walked to Muness castle this evening. That may be about three kilometers away. Along the way I was accompanied by plenty of birds and sheep, some of which I’vecaptured on my camera in both still and video modes. I got rained on a few times but that passes. The Columbia raincoat that I wear is something I bought in Lincoln City, Oregon because I thought I’d be working and living near there in Newport –butthat’s another story. When I reached the castle and I was taking some photos I looked to my left andthere was a beautiful border collie. She has sneaked up on me. I patted her and then she walked with me down the road toward the sea. She is one of the videos that I took while on my stroll. I guess she went too far with me on my way back because a guy in a van stopped just in front of me and scolded her. It must have been her master. I felt bad in a way for being so nice to her because maybe she isn’t always treated so well by him, her owner. I get the same impression from another border collie (they are everywhere here) who is close to the hostel. She barks and makes a lot of noise because it’s her job but when I get closer she becomes very submissive and then she always rolls onto her back and becomes a licking machine when I pat her. I suspect that she has been abused. It’s become a daily thing to visit Apache and the collie nearby. I think that they are largely neglected. Neither of them have any shelter that I can see. My sensibilities might be skewed, however. Something that seems to be interesting and pervasive to me is that when I come upon young lambs and their mothers, the lambs instinctively seek protection and refuge behind their mothers. And the mothers seem to be trying to run further as if they are preparing their young for independence. I’ve never had kids but I imagine that raising them is the most challenging thing one could ever undertake –if you care at all. Some people seem not to care. How can they not? Maybe parenthood came upon them unwantedly. That’s their own fault. Control your hormones people! No, wait, I’m guilty of that myself. Maybe I wasn’t planned. That may make me a minority even though I’m a W.A.S.P. but I doubt it. I mentioned visiting the fringe but I didn’t expound. From where I’m sitting at the moment and to where the northernmost point of Britain is amounts to about 15 miles. It is where Herma Ness is located. Emily and I were there yesterday. As I took a photo off the northern edge I told her that here’s a photo of the end of theworld. The only thing from there is the north pole. Tomorrow I may hike a little further on from where Emily and I walked along the Westing road. Supposedly, there are some Viking relics there. If nothing else it will be a nice stroll. Lerwick 17:54 Decided to return to Shetland’s capitol for a couple of reasons. I think I’ve seen about all of Unst that I need, Daniel was riding his bike here today, I’ll be nearer to the ferry terminal if I decide to get back to Orkney or go somewhere else, I haven’t seen much of Lerwick, and Emily is here. Lerwick 21:38 It’s after dinner and we are gathered round the piano. A young lady from Sarnia,Ontario, and a woman from Sydney are taking turns playing classical pieces from memory –Chopin, Mozart, etc.. They are doing a pretty good job. Lerwick 23:08 Daniel and I left the hostel in Uyeasound at roughly the same time in the early afternoon, he on his bicycle and me hitching. Today was rainy, windy, and cold. We wished each other luck and happy trails. See you in Lerwick, dude –with any luck. We arrived at the hostel within five minutes of each other. I kept seeing him on the road when my ride passed him and at one point I was concerned that he wouldn’t make the ferry only to see him standing next to me, grinning, onboard. If it was a race then I won but I expended way fewer calories in the process. I’d had my eyes on them from when I left Unst. They boarded the ferry at Belmont and I saw them at the Wind Dog café at the ferry terminal at the north end of Yell.Noticed the Faroes flag on the license plates on both of their vehicles. Saw them again on the ferry from Yell to the Shetland mainland. And I saw them again when Iarrived at the hostel here in Lerwick. I struck up a conversation with them in the dining room as the Australian andCanadian ladies, Emily, and I were having drinks. They came and sat with us. I hadmy laptop and, luckily I had a map of their country in a file of the places that I thought might eventually end up on my itinerary. That sort of broke the ice alittle and I found that the Australian woman (Joann) had been thinking of going there too. Emily and Joann have to stay in the same room as a woman who snores so the two ofthem were hoping that, by drinking tonight, they might be able to sleep through it.I also gave Emily some ear plugs that might come in handy for her tonight. I can remember being on a ski trip and being assigned to a room where there were three other guys, one of whom snored loudly. The rest of us were miserable and at one point I shook the guy and yelled, “You need an operation!” The next night we tried to barricade him out but he broke in anyway and when he started snoring all three of us just gave up and slept in the living room floor. Emily told me that she tried to do something similar last night but she couldn’t find a comfortable spot. Sweet dreams, Emily. 14 June 2005 Thurso 13:21 From the hostel in Lerwick I summoned a taxi to take me to the ferry terminal. Iknew that the B&B on Orkney would want cash and not a credit card so I asked thetaxi driver to take me by a bank machine. I collected the money from the ATM and was getting back into the car when someone called out my name. I turned to see Frances standing there in the center of Lerwick, smiling at me. I had to get out the car and hug her and give her a quick peck on the cheek. The meter was running so I didn’t elaborate about what I was doing and where I was headed. I have to email her soon. My, how things in the islands seem connected! On the ferry between the Shetlands and the Orkneys who did I run into but Sandy.He must have seen me walking through the ship because I had found a place on one of the lower passenger decks that had a power point near some comfortable seats in a quiet location. I needed to recharge the batteries for my digital camera and my laptop. I turned around and there he was grinning and saying hello. He asked if he might use my laptop in order to transfer something from a cd to his memory stick. His cd drive wasn’t working. Of course he could use my computer. We were concerned that he might not me able to fit all that he needed onto the relatively small memory on his stick but it turned out that he could. He is on his way to Indonesia for some humanitarian work for Save the Children. He’s to be gone for two weeks. We decided to go to the bar and have a pint. Whatdid he order? The Unst beer called “White Wife” produced by the Valhalla brewery –where Steve Spence works (owns?). Sandy and I actually had two of those togetherwhen he said that he had to get some work done and then he went to another locationon the ship. We saw each other again just before I disembarked the ferry at Kirkwall. On Sunday I had called the B&B in Orphir to reserve a room for Monday night butthey told me that they’d be full up. When I told them I’d called them because I knew that they had the same surname as my ancestors from Orkney the lady said that she may be able to fit me in after all. She did. Margaret and Eion and I sat and each had a beer in their kitchen after my arrival. I showed them some of the photos and videos I’ve taken while on my trip. It was a nice visit with them and they seemed genuinely interested in keeping in touch and working out where our ancestries might be connected. I gave them my mom’s email address. Took a photo of them outside their B&B and shot a short video of Margaret speaking to my parents. She then gave me a lift into Stromness so I could catch the 11:00 ferry to Scrabster. There’s my family’s connection to one of the places our ancestors passed through on their march through time. My objective at the moment is to get to Ullapool tonight by way of Inverness. I’m on the bus between Scrabster and Inverness. There is about a two hour wait in Inverness before the bus for Ullapool departs. That should still put me into town early enough to get a room in the hostel, if nothing else. Tomorrow I want to go to Stornoway on the island of Lewis, one of the Outer Hebrides. Then I’ll head south through Harris, North and South Uist and, ultimately back to Oban. Looks like Stuart will be proven right. As if there was ever any doubt. 15 June 2005 Inverness 13:46 Stayed at the same B&B as a week and a half ago when I was here last. Went to Hootenanny again. Met a guy named Ian and we had a good time talking and having some drinks. We met two women –one from Lewis and one from Finland. I had been concentrating on the one from Lewis and Ian on the one from Finland and then, suddenly, the women decided to switch. I ended up talking to the Finnish girl and Ian to the Lewisian. We were getting along fine with them and, at one point but I left to go back to the B&B in order to sleep and catch the 08:05 bus. My eyes opened at precisely 08:10. D’oh! Ian gave me the name of his work place, a book shop, so I went there at about noon and the first thing I asked him was, “So, what were their names?” He couldn’t remember, either. It had been a good night out, though, we both agreed. I’m at the bus terminal awaiting the 14:35 bus for Ullapool. I’m not going to miss this one. Not going to miss the ferry for Stornoway, either. Ullapool 19:02 I just remembered something that happened to me in Lerwick on Monday. I was ata fish and chips shop and I when I was paying for my food I accidentally gave the girl a US quarter instead of a 10 pence coin. She looked at it and said, “I’m sorry but we don’t take money from New Jersey.” I had a private chuckleover that. I guess that only Americans will understand why that’s funny. 17 June 2005 Castlebay 19:02 A few minutes ago I boarded the ferry for Oban. We are supposed to reach our destination at 23:45. Tried to contact Sean a couple of times today only to get his answering machine. When I was in Inverness this week I emailed him to tell him that I’d be in town this weekend. This is Friday evening. When I got into Stornoway two nights ago I looked at two of the three hostelsand I wasn’t impressed. The third one was a hike but it was worth it. It is called the Laxdale bunkhouse. Went into town and ran into some guys having drinks and when that bar closed wewent on to one that they knew would be open. Had a pretty good time and some laughs. Took a taxi back to the bunkhouse but I could have walked. Yesterday I took the bus to the Garenin Village on the western coast of Lewis not far from Carloway. It is a group of reconstructed crofter homes situated on a bay that looks out over the Atlantic. When I was getting off the bus there was a young lady also exiting at the village. There was a Canadian flag flying from the pole. I thought, “Oh great, the Canucks have taken over.” The girl from the bus is Swiss and her name is Lydia. After a quick reconnoiter of the village and meeting some of the folks there (from Kitchener, Ontario having a family reunion) Lydia and I struck out on a hike. We went all the way to a beautiful sandy beach on the ocean. The hike was steep at times but it was along steep rock cliffs and grazing land. Lydia scared and chased some of the sheep at one point. The beach was pleasant and Lydia and I took off our shoes and waded into the water. It was readily apparent that swimming would be out of the questionso we just sat in the sand and relaxed. Upon returning to the hostel, we met Peter from Holland, Lauren from Seattle, Janek from Germany, and three young women from Aberdeen University. Lydia and I walked to the rocky beach in the cove nearby where she knitted some and I tookpictures and videos with my digital camera. There were thousands of dead jellyfish washed up for some reason. The glittering waves that reflected the sinking sun was intoxicating and it wasone of those times that you wish could somehow go on forever. The only sounds werethose of the birds in the sky, the sheep along the hillside, and the surf. Later, when the people in the hostel had settled in for the most part, I decided to capture some photos of the sinking sun from a vantage point on the cliffs. I found a pretty good spot and enjoyed the serenity and the solitude. The golden light splashed against the ancient stones around me much like the waves splashed the cliffs hundreds of feet below. A half moon hung in the darkening sky. I arose this morning in time to shower, dress, and wait for the 09:15 bus to take me away from the village and to points south. Caught the ferry to North Uist then the bus to the southern tip of South Uist then take the ferry to Barra where I caught the ferry that I’m on now. Met a fellow that I’d seen on the ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway two nights ago. His name is Joe and he’s from London. Very interesting guy who claims to know many of the giants in the art world. Here in the ferry lounge bar I saw him get a pint and stroll over to where I sit. Then he said that he was going to gather his things but that was a good fifteen minutes ago and the ship isn’t that big. He must have gotten waylaid. 18 June 2005 Oban 10:24 I used Joe’s cell phone to ring Sean last night about an hour prior to arriving in the harbor. Sean told me that he’d leave the key under the mat in the event that he wasn’t home. Sean was watching TV when I arrived but was preparing for bed. I told him that I was going to Markie Dan’s to see who was out. He mentioned that I needed to get there by 00:30 or else I’d not be allowed in. I’d forgotten about that. The lawstates that you must be inside a pub by half past midnight in order to stay there following that time. Well, I made it there at about twenty past and as soon as I walked in I saw Ivana and gave her a big hug. She seemed verey happy to see me. Roddy got me a pint and then I saw Stuart who also seemed glad to have be back, fulfilling his prediction. Saw Scott, Cory and Elena, too. Then I made the mistake of leaving there as soon as my pint was done in order togo to O’Donnell’s, forgetting the law that I mentioned. Couldn’t get in, of course, so I just went back to Sean’s. Checked my email and found that Ian sent me a note telling me that he ran into the girl from Lewis again and he still doesn’t know her name. We’re hopeless! He told me that I forgot to mention the Japanese film crew that was at Hootenanny the night we were there. They were filming the musicians performing traditional Scottish tunes.I had remarked that the title of the Japanese TV program might be “Primitive Culture of the North Atlantic.” Oh well. I’m just looking forward to tonight so I can spend some time with my new old friends. Sean said that he will probably go out tonight, too. Should be fun. Dear Dad, Happy Father’s Day! I forwarded the information about our ancestors on Orkney to Margaret and Eion. Margaret wrote back to say that she’d be looking into any ties that we may have. It’s nice to have made acquaintance with them and to be able to email. 19 June 2005 Oban 11:36 The bus leaves for Glasgow in about an hour. I’m having breakfast at the Café Caledonian. My vacation to the Scottish highlands and the islands is coming to an end. Yesterday afternoon I saw Andrea and she told me about a huge party that was taking place about ten miles north of town. I was invited. Makes me feel like I’m one of the “in” crowd. What a great town and a great bunch of folks! They treat me as though I’ve lived here all my life. I ran into Bob from Ohio again yesterday. He was walking to the train station to greet his brother, Scott. I decided to walk with him and meet his bro. I told them the story about the New Jersey quarter because I was dying to relay that to a fellow American. They thought it was pretty funny, too. It wasn’t hard to talk Sean into going out last night. I had told him about the party and he said that he wouldn’t be going because he had to work today. So wejust ran around in town. While at Markie Dan’s, Sean looked around and decided that we should go to Mondo’s where there were more women. When we got there we sat with two young women –one from London, Ontario and the other from Northern Ireland. They left us for the dance floor.Sean then told me that he’d gotten a phone call telling him that Ivana and Elena would be coming to Mondo’s to join us, apparently, because it was my last night in town. 20 June 2005 Philadelphia 15:15 My flight for Syracuse leaves in less than an hour. Madeline is picking me up at the airport. I don’t think I’ve ever met her but she is one of Ron’s friends and she is one of the folks who got on the borealis email list by request while on my journey through Scotland. She sent me a note thanking me for adding her and telling me that she enjoyed reading my stuff and seeing the pictures. Looking forward to meeting her. Called my parents to let them know that I’m back on my native soil. They seemed glad to know that and to finally hear my voice again. 24 June 2005 Manhattan 21:42 Got back to Central New York on Monday. Stayed at Ron’s. Spent Tuesday night at Sandy Pond. Watched the weird Yankees/Devil Rays game in which the Yankees scored 18 runs in the eight inning. That was a strange one. Stayed at Tyler’s at Greek Peak Wednesday night. Went to see Kirsten Thien’s band in Albany on Thursday night.. I used to see them perform on Ocracoke Island and became friends with Kirsten and Robbie Seahag. Kirsten was surprised to see me in Albany, for sure. Came to Manhattan to visit Lauri and her daughter, Angi. We strolled down Broadwayand got some Italian Ice treats. Helped set up an inflatable pool on the roof for the Angi and the neighbor kids this afternoon. I have to admit that I jumped in and got cooled off, too.