Travel Tuesday: When the King of Fools Foils His Own Plans

We discovered cruising

One of the delights about living in South Florida that we discovered when we relocated from upstate New York is the easy access to cruising. Barely an hour’s drive door-to-ship is all we’ve had to do to gain access to multiple Caribbean cruises and the delicious world of warm turquoise waters in Aruba, stunning caves in Curaçao, Mayan ruins in Cozumel, a walk through Old San Juan, colonial history in Colombia, a day on the Panama Canal, and lunch at a coffee plantation in Costa Rica. We even crossed the Atlantic on out last cruise.

Stopped by my illness and the pandemic

My close call with a serious illness during our trans-Atlantic cruise put a damper on our passion for travel far out to sea, and then came the pandemic. The world watched as the infected Diamond Princess was turned away from port after port, and the notion of climbing back aboard a confined space with thousands of people simply doesn’t seem like fun anymore.

Vaccines allowing cruise resumption

However, the vaccine has begun to change the landscape, and cruising will commence slowly this summer. Not for us — though maybe a river trip at some point — but the industry that has made Florida its headquarters is on the comeback.

Thanks in large part to the successful rollout of vaccines, the world of adventure is beginning to open up, and we are all excited to start delivering great vacations to our guests.

Royal Caribbean International President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Bayley

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mandates that at least 95% of crew members and 95% of passengers be vaccinated, but two leading cruise lines are taking it a step further. Carnival and Norwegian will require all passengers to vaccinated when they commence sailing in a few months.

Governor makes vaccine passport illegal

However, a Florida law signed on May 3 by Governor Ron DeSantis makes it illegal for any company to ask for proof of vaccinations, the so-called vaccine passport.

Scarecrow, The Wizard of Oz
Scarecrow, The Wizard of Oz

The notion that producing proof of immunization is to submit to some sort of oppression is lunatic enough, considering the life-and-death stakes. But the cruise industry is one of the most important in this state. And having long fought the stigma of noroviruses and then the COVID horror of the Diamond Princess, no other industry could be more anxious to keep itself virus-free.

The Editors, The Palm Beach Post

Governor DeSantis has both sued the CDC for preventing the cruise industry from sailing, and made safe sailing impossible under the law. Like the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy first sees him —with one hand pointing one way and the other in the opposite direction — he has made himself a prisoner of his own arms.

Cruise to nowhere solution

My favorite snarky newspaper columnist has an equally insane solution.

I say, if we’re going to do this, let’s do this right. The cruise ships should embark the unvaccinated Floridians, and then immediately quarantine them on the ship. Then, once the ship leaves port and reaches international waters 3 miles offshore, the unvaccinated could be rounded up on deck and sent by helicopters or motorboats back to Florida.

Frank Cerabino, The Palm Beach Post

Governor DeSantis acts as if, Cerabino concludes, there’s no harm he is unwilling to impose on Floridians if it helps him carve out a niche for himself as the King of Fools.

If he only had a brain, as the song goes.

Embassy Kid: Preface

I am completing a memoir about my childhood, which I spent in Latin America, Europe, and Washington DC during my father’s career in the Foreign Service. Here is the preface from Embassy Kid: A Memoir, which I hope to publish within the year.

Jane Kelly Amerson López

Alone in America

I watched the tail lights of the rental car vanish down the elm-lined street on that August afternoon in 1973, taking my parents and my sister back into the Foreign Service landscape without me. I should have been in that backseat, eyes forward, hands folded, as America vanished behind us, the self-contained, four-person unit jetting back into our Real World.  Instead, here I was, stranded alone in America, astonished to find myself broken apart from the family unit with which I’d negotiated 18 years in Latin America, Europe, and the even stranger land of the Washington DC suburbs. 

Most American kids leave home to go to college. My home had just left me. I was an Embassy kid. 

Finding My Way

It would take me the better part of a decade to sort myself out. While my family completed my father’s Foreign Service career abroad, I switched to my middle name and wandered through the United States, accumulating college credits at five institutions, working a series of hourly jobs, and training as a modern dancer, a trajectory that eventually landed me in New York City. There, in the city that felt like all the places in the Real World at once, the nicest man I know called me by my Spanish name and something clicked in my heart. We’ve been married for forty years, during which we’ve created our own real world rich in rewards, the greatest of which is our daughter. We’ve traveled, but America is home.

Third Culture Kid

 It wasn’t always. When I was younger, I struggled to answer the most American of questions: “Where are you from?”  I lived in eight places in six countries on three continents before I was 18, but none of them was home. I was born in Minnesota and my Norwegian ancestry shows in my fair coloring, but I grew up in Latin countries. I was an American kid with the mystique of a diplomatic passport overseas, but I felt like a foreigner in the United States. I sink my roots fast and make friends quickly, but I up-root easily and don’t ever look back. I’m never from here, but I’m also not from there. Neither a true-blue American like my parents, nor a member of any other nation, I’m a Third Culture Kid. 

Archeological Exploration

When I was in second grade in the magical ancient city of Rome, I was sure I’d be an archeologist. Although that idea evaporated when we moved to another part of the world, I realize now that I’ve spent the better part of my adult life sifting like an archeologist through the detritus of my childhood, looking for the evidence of where I was from. 

I wove childhood memories and family anecdotes into stories about my parents, Robert and Nancy Amerson, my sister, Susie, and me. I dove into the journals, letters, and interviews my parents left behind containing their personal observations about a quarter-century with the United States Information Agency. My father’s book about Venezuela, How Democracy Triumphed Over Dictatorship, and the oral histories of other Foreign Service officers who served alongside my father during the Cold War, have allowed me to breathe life into historical events and to recover personal experiences that would otherwise have been lost to time. Finding a way to share these stories has been a thrill, a comfort, and an honor. And reflecting on the impression of these experiences on the Embassy kid that I was and the adult I have become has been a rewarding journey. 

An Homage to My Parents

This book is an homage to my parents, two patriots in the firmament of Embassy people, men and women who, then and now, serve as America’s emissaries abroad, raising their children in foreign lands far from family and friends in order that the world get to know us.

These are the stories of an ordinary American family living through extraordinary times in the service of their country. 

This is where I am from. I am an Embassy kid.

Travel Tuesday: Looking Back at Our 2016 Mediterranean Cruise

Our daughter and her fiancé visited over the weekend. It was heaven having double the number of people and dogs in the house after a year of isolation. “The kids” are headed to see his family in New Jersey and New York while we are dog-sitting our first black Lab, Pancho for the week. The initial rough patch at integrating a new “old” dog into the house routine has smoothed out as they accept each other’s territory and learn to share us.

Over dinner, we got to talking about travel, somewhat wistfully. The pandemic and my nearly dying during a transatlantic cruise have put my husband and I permanently off taking another boat anywhere type of adventure. But V and C are just beginning their life together, and there is one trip that, even now, we are encouraging them to take — a Mediterranean cruise. Here’s a pictorial essay that shows why.

Venice, Italy

The canals of Venice
The canals of Venice, Italy Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

Dubrovnik, Croatia

Dubrovnik marina
The marina alongside the ancient walls of Dubrovnik, Croatia. Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

Kotor, Montenegro

The ancient city of Kotor, Montenegro
The quaint city of Kotor, Montenegro. Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

Corfu, Greece

Bathers in the azure Adriatic in Corfu, Greece
Bathers in the azure Adriatic in Corfu, Greece. Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

Sorrento, Italy

Looking across the Bay of Naples from Sorrento
Looking across the Bay of Naples from Sorrento. Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

Pompeii, Italy

The ancient market of Pompeii is overlooked by Mount Vesuvius
The ancient market of Pompeii is overlooked by Mount Vesuvius. Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

Rome, Italy

The Trevi Fountain. Tossed a coin over our shoulders to ensure we will return! Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

Monaco

Nice, France

A balcony and flag over the spot at which we enjoyed a café. Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

Provence, France

Barcelona

(Which will be its own pictorial essay another time) and then we flew home.

Can you see why this trip has stayed with us? Here’s to the post-pandemic world!

Travel Tuesday: Looking At The Dutch Tulips

Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in Dutch virus test, wrote Mike Corder recently for the AP, documenting the opening of the famed Keukenhof Gardens for a lucky 5,000 people. It is one of hundreds of public venues that the Dutch government has allowed to reopen under strict conditions to evaluate whether rapid testing can safely help the country ease coronavirus restrictions amid rising levels of vaccinations and warmer weather.

This is a gift. It feels great today. It is beautiful weather anyway … but to walk through the tulips is fantastic!

Corder quotesWritingBerries blogger Berry de Nijs, who shared the following picture on her WritingBerries Facebook page. Dank, Berry!
Dutch blogger Berry De Nijs posted this photo of the tulips in Keukenhof Gardens after her recent visit.

On May 5, 2019, we were scheduled to spend the day at Keukenhof Gardens when our cruise ship stopped in Amsterdam for the day before sailing on to Norway to complete a three-week cross-Atlantic voyage. We had missed the brief tulip season when we were in Amsterdam 2018, catching glimpses of the flowers only at the floating market during our week-long stay, so we’re really looking forward to seeing the 7 million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and myriad other flowers meticulously hand-planted throughout Keukenhof’s manicured lawns by a small army of gardeners.

Photo by Jane Kelly Amerson López, 2018

But, through one of the zillion of timing miracles that allow me to tell you this today, we were not among the tulips on May 5, 2019, when I fainted on an Amsterdam sidewalk. We were outside a pharmacy getting medication for my husband’s bronchitis. Quick response by EMTs had me in an ER within minutes just as my heart stopped. I had ruptured an undiagnosed aneurysm. OLVG Hospital’s expert intervention sealed the leak, but I would be in the ICU for six weeks as my body struggled to survive, and another six weeks in the gastroenterology unit as I slowly regained movement of my wasted limbs.

I celebrated my one-year anniversary back on my feet. But this year as I commemorate surviving and recovering, I am even more grateful to have been spared breast cancer, to be vaccinated, and to be the least interesting patient in my doctor’s roster.

There’s a whole lot to look forward to, maybe even tiptoeing through Kukenhof one day, while living in each moment.

Politics Monday: Of Course We Need a Vaccine Passport

Travel is ticking back up, and with it talk of a vaccine passport, writes New York Times reporter Claire Moses. It’s not a new idea — inoculations against yellow fever and other diseases are already required for travel to certain countries. Growing up in the Foreign Service, my diplomatic passport was twinned with a passport-sized yellow vaccination booklet.

Opposing on grounds of personal freedom

Like everything else pandemic, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has politicized the notion of a vaccine passport, using the cover of “personal freedoms” to prevent their use.

…vaccination passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy.

Governor Ron DeSantis

Suing the feds to release cruise industry

And there’s a weird twist to this position, because the return of Florida’s cruise industry, in dry dock since March of last year, is dependent on the concept of a vaccination passport. DeSantis cares so much about this key business that he has sued the Biden administration to release the CDC’s hold. Does his left hand not know what his right hand is doing?

It’s just such a bizarre, mixed signal.

Peter Ricci, director of hospitality and tourism management programs at Florida Atlantic University, quoted in Wendy Rhodes, The Palm Beach Post, April 12

Prolonging the pandemic

He’s fighting for the liberation of unvaccinated people to spread germs as they please in the middle of a worldwide pandemic — one that appears to be surging again. By preventing Floridians to distinguish between who is vaccinated and who is not, DeSantis is telling us to be content with prolonging the pandemic.

The Editors of The Palm Beach Post

Florida leads the country in the number of COVID variant cases, which are 50% more contagious and 64% more deadly. On March 21st, Florida’s deaths surpassed two million. Two million souls are nothing more than data points. You won’t hear this from the state’s confident governor.

I think things are going well.

Governor Ron DeSantis
Pulitzer Prize winner Clay Bennett, Washington Post News Service, Chattanooga Times Free Press

Travel Tuesday: How to travel the world without leaving home

Today, I’m sharing some great photos and posts from British blogger Rebecca Ruane, who writes to inspire others to travel and to be more adventurous at home. Her recent series combines those two ideas for a perfect pandemic getaway.

Kirk and I have chosen to take a week off to celebrate our one year anniversary. To make it feel special we’ve planned a week of travelling the world from our home!! Each day we will visit a different country, eating foods and drinking drinks from those countries, as well as trying different activities we feel are linked to these countries.

Rebecca Ruane, blogger, Rebecca Travels the World

France

Croissants for breakfast, Tuna Niçoise for dinner, and From Paris With Love to end the day. To see all of this très bonne journée, click ici.

Greece

Mezze of hummus, stuffed vine leaves (Dolmades), tzatziki, halloumi, olives and flat breads, and cleverly creating instant Greek pottery out of terracotta and markers! To see all of this fun day, click here.

Mexico

Nachos for lunch, churros for a snack, and do-it-yourself tin art. For recipes and how-to instructions click aquí.

India

Day four of Rebecca’s week was India. Take-away from a local restaurant brought them , and Rebecca shows how to draw your very own mandala. See how-to’s here.

Origami art kit turns first-timers into paper folding experts.

Japan

Soy milk donuts, dumplings and origami. For more on Rebecca’s day walk down memory lane in Japan, click here.

China

Bao buns for breakfast, egg fried rice for dinner, and Tai Chi in between. To see all of Rebecca’s day-at-home-in-China, click here.

Italy

We actually wanted to get married in Tuscany. Logistics of getting married abroad meant we decided not to but we were lucky enough to find a venue in the UK which embodies the Tuscan feel. Therefore our wedding day still had an Italian feel with the wedding breakfast being Caprese salad, Italian meats and bread followed by lasagna and then tiramisu.

Rebecca Ruane, for more on Relaxing in Italy, click qui..

New York City

New York City’s daylong homage began with all American pancakes and peanut butter and ended with pizza and Goodfellas. Check out all of Rebecca’s Big Apple day here.

Adventures and experiencing new things are the key to life no matter how far you travel for them!!

Rebecca Ruane, blogger, Rebecca Travels the World

Travel Tuesday: Listen to the Longing for Pandemic-Prohibited Travel in this Song by Novelist Kazuo Ishiguro

One of my favorite podcasts is NPR’s Fresh Air, in which host Terry Gross interviews all kinds of interesting people — writers, scientists, singers, film stars. Much like the PBS NewsHour and CBS Sunday Morning, Fresh Air almost always expands my mind, enriches my brain, or opens my heart. Sometimes, it’s all three. If you are not yet a subscriber/viewer, back up and click on those links before you read any more.

Seriously, do that.

Thanks for coming back. So, one of Terry Gross’ most recent guests was Sir Kazuo Ishiguro, the Nagasaki -born, London-raised novelist whose works include Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go, and who won the 2017 Nobel Prize for Literature.

…who, in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.

2017 Nobel Prize for Literature press release.

I’d not heard Ishiguro interviewed before, so was surprised by his English accent and stories of his British youth. He was a sort of celebrity child singer of church music and thought he’d be a singer-songwriter in his youth, and “voice” continues to inspire writing.

I take enormous inspiration from listening to singing voices. I love to listen to Stacey Kent, whom I write lyrics for. There’s something almost impossible to capture in words about the quality of the singing performance.

Kazuo Ishiguro speaking to Terry Gross on Fresh Air

Terry concluded the interview with Stacey Kent’s I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again, lyrics by Kazuo Ishiguro. The song is sweet and the message is one so many of us feel very deeply, thirteen months into this pandemic. I wish I could go traveling again …..

Barry Goldstuck on YouTube, lyrics and images for Stacey Kent’s “I Wish I Could Go Traveling Again,” lyrics by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro.

Travel Tuesday: How Germany Guarantees the Memory of the Holocaust, Giving America A Roadmap for Addressing Slavery

German prosecutors charged a 100-year-old man with 3,518 counts of being an accessory to murder on allegations he served during World War II as a Nazi SS guard at a concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin, authorities said Tuesday. This case is a vital reminder to the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia, said Efraim Zuroff, the chief Nazi hunter at the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

David Rising, Associated Press.

In his recent article for the Associated Press, reporter David Rising wrote about the coming trial of a former guard at the Sachsenhausen death camp outside Berlin. The accompanying photograph reminded me of our somber day at that camp, the Berlin Holocaust Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and the Berlin Wall during our Baltic cruise in 2017. Here is some of what I wrote about that day in words that mean even more today. Germany’s acknowledgement of the Holocaust through restoration of that awful past gives America an example for acknowledging slavery in order to move ahead.

Acknowledging the Holocaust

“After decades of denial, a reunified Germany slowly but firmly turned to look at the horror of the Nazi regime. The effort is meant to ‘guarantee memory.’ Twenty-five years have gone into the restoration of Sachsenhausen’s original buildings, design and artifacts. 

“The Berlin Holocaust Memorial is an unavoidable block-wide grid of unmarked slabs of grey stone laid out like coffins, soaring over death-shadowed canyons in the center and emerging into the ongoing life of daylight.

Acknowledging Slavery

“We too have a shameful past: slavery. Emancipation did not lead to freedom, and we’ve allowed slavery to morph into accepted behavior in this country. Jim Crow. Lynching. Segregation. Discrimination. Incarceration. Death at the hands of the police. Indeed, Nazis and Klansmen march in support of racism under the cover of the First Amendment, and statues of the Confederate military are defended as ‘heritage’ to be protected. It’s a heritage built by slaves and defeated in the Civil War. True freedom and liberty are yet out of reach to persons of color.

“What if, instead of ignoring objections or tearing Confederate statues down, we found a way to lay out the full story, to force ourselves to look at our own dark past? Let’s talk about why we had a Civil War, and what has happened since. Until we can force our country to stare down its horrific past, we will never be free of it.”

Whites Own “The Conversation”

In an article entitled In a nation founded on whiteness, how to really discuss it AP reporter Deepti Hajela explores the challenge.

This mess has been from the founding of this country. This mess has been in our soil. It’s in our soul. It’s everywhere, and we’ve never really completely decided that we will look at it.

The Rev. Susan Chorley, First Parish of Norwell

Are white people willing to confront and have a conversation about the extent to which white racial prejudice and white racism, and the desire to maintain white power in the United States, is part of our political process?

Asheley Jardina, Duke University

Travel Tuesday: No, That’s Not Sewage Spewing Out of That Pipe!

A few weeks ago when we were among just a handful of people enjoying the beach at Boynton Inlet, a couple of pale visitors from Minnesota wandered by, camera in hand. After we’d established that I, born in St. Paul, had roots — a word my South Dakota father pronounced “ruhts” — in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, the man looked down the beach, where a waterfall of sandy water was spewing from a long pipe.

That’s not sewage, is it?

Minnesotan tourist

Absolutely not, I answered. It’s part of sand dredging. I kept meaning to look that up, because I really wasn’t at all sure about my answer, other that feeling pretty offended by the presumption that Florida was throwing crap into these turquoise waters.

Boynton Inlet. Photo: Jane Kelly Amerson López

What a relief, then, to read an article in The Palm Beach Post that assured me that I’d been right. The pipe is part of a sand transfer plant installed in 1937 to restore the natural movement of sand down the beach interrupted by the man-made Boynton Inlet.

In 1937, the sand transfer plant at the South Lake Worth Inlet, also known as the Boynton Inlet, was built to take sand from the north side and feed it through a pipe that attached to the bridge over the boat channel to the beach on the south side.

Kimberly Miller, The Palm Beach Post
The little house is the sand replenishment plant. It vacuums up sand from the north side of the inlet and pipes it out on the south side. Video: Jane Kelly Amerson López

It’s slurry.

My new word, thanks to Kimberly Miller at The Palm Beach Post

The beaches in the northern reaches of Palm Beach County — in Juno and Jupiter — have been undergoing their own sand project. The changes in the landscape made it feel foreign, almost lunar, when we visited in February.

Travel Tuesday: Picking Up Plastic at the Beach

Mondays are recycling day in our Palm Beach County neighborhood. I used to take take a certain level of satisfaction in filling our blue bin with plastic, just as I make sure our daily newspapers are in the yellow paper recycling bin. Then, I saw Plastic Wars on Frontline and understood that we were sold a myth, a feel-good story created by the plastics industry in order to overcome public resistance to using its product.

Recycling hasn’t worked

The reality is, for all the ads and promises over the years, it’s estimated that no more than 10% of plastic has ever been recycled.

Laura Sullivan, Frontline “Plastic Wars”

The sobering reality gave me a different perspective on the plastic I saw on the seashore this morning, where some (socially distant) beachgoers were picking discarded plastic out of the tangled seaweed.

Beachgoer picking up discarded plastic on Boynton Inlet Beach

a plastic industry invention

Making recycling work was the plastic industry’s way to keep their products in the marketplace.

RONALD LIESEMER, Council for Solid Waste Solutions, 1988-2001 (in Frontline, “Plastic Wars”)

To sell more plastic

Coming up with ways to have their product perceived as more recyclable and more environmental makes their product look better. They want to sell more plastic containers.

COY SMITH, Former board member, National Recycling Coalition (in Frontline’s “Plastic Wars”)

Reduce, reuse, recycle

For the last 40 years, the conversation in this country has been about the recycle part of “reduce, reuse, recycle.” It was not an accident. It was created. It was manufactured.

David Allway, Senior Policy Analyst, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (in Frontline’s “Plastic Wars”)
One beachgoer’s collection, including barnacle-covered flip flops

More plastic than ever

And yet despite the backlash, the industry that makes plastic is expanding. The U.S. is now one of the world’s largest plastic producers, and the industry is investing tens of billions of dollars in new plastic plants.

Laura Sullivan, Frontline “Plastic Wars”

Be careful! Not everything that looks like plastic is man made. The shoreline was full of Portuguese Man-Of-War jellyfish, whose blue and purple gas-filled air sacs help them travel. They almost outnumbered the litter.