Football English Style For You?

I recognize the dominance of football in sports- driven America yet soccer rules the world in spectator  games popularity. In my short attention world, it seems difficult to embrace soccer’s  rules of continuous “time of play” and  its low scoring  nature. Looking globally then for a personal explanation for such heightened  soccer intrigue, I vividly recall the excitement I felt as a professor for my  ESOL students of Latin American background. For I encouraged them successfully to improve their ability to speak English by proudly describing the soccer mania in their respective countries. 

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From a travel perspective, I also recall our 1980s – 1990s summer vacations in Italy , France , and Holland, where we often observed citywide celebrations of winning teams in World Cup action. Later in 2010, Africa’s stunning landscape backdrops and competitive game action associated with the World Cup Finals  would definitely pique our interest in visiting South Africa that year. Most recently, our  vacation visits to London and Southampton, England in Fall, 2018, would thus provide a unique opportunity to study up-close the mass appeal of English Premier League soccer. The following video captures a sample of such soccer mania  that we experienced at this time.

September 26 – Brentford Bees at Arsenal Gunners 

On the day of this well publicized, playoff match, I surprisingly purchased inexpensive tickets for my wife and I for thirty British pounds apiece. Due to a transit strike that day in London, alternate tube station routes would require greater walking distance to and from North London’s Emirates Stadium. So we patiently made  our way through the center of town from our outlying transit station to the stadium on foot following a slow line of fans two hours before the game. Interestingly, we noted then that designated pubs were strictly marked with signs  for home and away fan attendance. Yet fans of both teams of both teams were observed amicably mingling on the streets.Observing souvenir stalls  on sidewalks for both teams along the way, we soon purchased a relatively inexpensive, Arsenal sash to mark the moment.  We noted then that Gunner fans wrapped similar sashes around their bodies to combat the surrounding chill .

Entering Emirates Stadium environs on this cool and clear night, dazzling billboards of Arsenal team unity immediately. attracted our attention. As policemen vigorously patrolled the Emirates perimeter, we then enjoyed the serenity of walking in this pedestrian safe and oddly quiet environment. In addition, with no auto traffic/parking lots to cross and noticeably light crowd congestion here, we would  locate our entry gate with ease. Our small handbags would  then be quickly cleared in a security tunnel leading to a conveniently located elevator to our midfield, upper level seats. Gazing around at the simplicity of the stadium’s inner structure at  first entrance , we quickly noted a “sea” of uniformly designed, red seats, one stadium clock and minimal advertising banner distractions. 

As match time approached, the stands filled quickly with spectators in businesslike fashion. As the two teams conducted pregame practice on the field, team unity seemed prevalent then as groups of players informally gathered to discuss upcoming strategy. After a brief return to the locker room, both teams  now re-entered to raucous crowd singing and flag waving mania. A single line formation of players from both teams at the center of the field indicated their appreciation of such positive crowd energy provided prior to kickoff.

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As both teams settled into a vigorously contested defensive struggle, I noted that every spectator  surrounding me seemed intensely engrossed in the game’s action. Scoreboard reference to goals earned and assigned penalties by player(s) reinforced such undivided fan attention. At times, however, the sprinkling of shouted profanities (yet few boos), spontaneous cheers, and loudly heard chorus of home/road team singing seemed more interesting than the game action itself. Midway through the second half of the match, we joined a line of fans who surprisingly chose to forego the end of match celebration and thus begin an orderly exit from the stadium. We soon waited patiently in the long queue of passengers at our designated tube stop  for the  return trip home. 

Displayed below are some sample pictures depicting the kind of behaviors  that I observed this night. 

How strange to me that in spite of the few goals scored and the transportation inconveniences that night, the sheer fun of being there then sustained my interest throughout the night. Clapping for an injured player who rose from the turf to play on, the cheer for a star player returning from the bench, and the unified linking of home/road team fans singing in unison their respective fight songs seemed to transcend the intense concerns about who was winning. 

What conclusions might you consider from this soccer blog to make your next American football experience a more pleasing one? 

  1. Focus on the game more. Turn off your cellphone, ignore the continual advertising distractions and give full attention to the action in play.                                  
  2. Lighten up” some and enjoy the present moment of witnessing a competitive moment. Look for positive opportunities to cheer performance of individual players in times of need rather than mindlessly booing their errors. More clapping and singing should be encouraged before and between game action.
  3. Consider commuting to the game in some other method than car. Walk around the stadium more and notice places of quiet solitude. Avoid purchase of cheap and unusable souvenirs as you tour the stadium grounds.
  4. Embrace opportunities to unify with others. Mingle with road fans. Avoid divisive political discussions. Be more aware of those sitting around your seat. Look for  opportunities to engage in human interactions with players at stadium gates, souvenir opportunities near the field or at organized team events. 

Montreux Landscape Artistry

“If you want peace of soul, come to Montreux” (Freddie Mercury)         

 The natural beauty of Switzerland lures Ruth and I to frequently visit it on our European vacations. With the inviting presence of endless Alps hiking routes interspersed with quaint Swiss villages, crystal clear lakes, and cow sprinkled pastures, we imagine Switzerland as a fairy tale dream. Our most recent visit to the pristine shorelines of Lake Geneva  flanked by inviting hillside vineyards and the towering Jura mountains in September, 2018 thus bode well for us as a similarly uplifting experience. 

On this particular day, we decided to visit Montreux by slow train on a cool and sunny  weekday. Strolling through town on foot, we intended to examine the artistic legacy here of Freddie Mercury, of Queen’s rock music fame. Descending from the Central Gare Station through downtown along a steep walk to the popular lakeside promenade, we first paused to view the famous statue of Freddie. His crowd-pleasing, musical presence situated prominently along the lake soon resonated a deeper meaning of creative artistic expression emanating from this exquisitely beautiful place. Feel Freddie’s flair for seeing Montreux in his own  inspired way in the following video. You might sense a poem in his lyrics an impressive art piece or one of his magical music performances. 

Click on Freddie’s Montreux link below.

Freddie’s Montreux

Moving uptown away from the shoreline in further search  of Freddie Mercury’s enduring musical legacy in Montreux, we then toured “Queen, The Studio Experience Exhibition, at the elegant downtown casino. From 1978 through Freddie’s death in 1991, Mountain Studios functioned as the epicenter of Queen’s musical production. Here, Queen produced seven record albums including their fifteenth and final one, “Made in Heaven.” Our tour of this legendary place would now yield a firsthand look at a young man of musical genius surrounded by the excesses of rock star fame. His handwritten musical lyrics, priceless photos/album covers and graffiti-like, wall dedications from adoring fans provided a solid testament of his iconic artistic brilliance.

When Freddie received his AIDS diagnosis in 1987, He sought more peace and quiet in his life at Montreux. He then spent more time at his nearby lakeside home, relaxing outdoors. For a legendary rock star used to the wildly raucous “grind” of world tours, my observations about  one of his writings at this casino museum visit clearly suggested that in these painful moments  of his life, Montreux’s natural environs  provided him with a greater “peace of mind.”

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 Other reminders of Montreux’s rich legacy to spur rich artistic accomplishment surfaced on a  second day visit by car.  Chillon Castle stood prominently along the lake where Lord Byron’s felt inspired to compose his epic poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon”. Our short visit here thus provided chilling irony that  within this castle’s stony walls along a  beautiful lake, enslaved victims were once cruelly imprisoned for innocently opposing  the religious dogma of the Protestant Reformation.           

5E7A04E3-A3B9-4C02-8EB0-03A952316317 Moving out toward the suburbs of Montreux, two additional sites of of artistic interest caught our interest. The “avant-garde” design of famed French architect Le  Corbusier provided breathtaking, open air vistas of Lake Geneva at his home, “ Via Lac Le Corbusier”. The winding drive to Charlie Chaplin World in the the vineyard – filled hills above Montreux  also provided a breathtaking overlook of the serene lakeside below. How enlightening it seemed then to relive the humor- filled artistry of this legendary, silent movie actor near his home and special place of refuge. 

In early July each year, Montreux buzzes with endless musical creativity for three days  at its  renowned jazz festival My wife and I on several occasions in the past have listened to unforgettable  live performance there in ticketed indoor venues of popular bands of jazz/rock interest. We  have also enjoyed many smaller scale performances performed for free  as we settled into French Riviera relaxation along this beautiful, lakeside shoreline. If you plan to visit Switzerland in the future, I thus urge you take time to enjoy the  unique magic of  Montreux’s landscape artistry as described in this blog. 

 

Let’s Act Without Labels

“Once you label me you negate me” Soren Kierkegaard

My wife always reminds me of one of her favorite phrases when I go into my “mental meltdowns” about others I disagree with. Practice the ideal of “To Each His/Her Own”. Having spent a lifetime as an educator assigning labels to my students based on informal observations and test results, it seemed “second nature” then that I could detach myself so emotionally from them as I assigned predetermined labels conveniently for my teaching needs. For my student victims, however, being categorized as slow learner, emotionally handicapped, or learning disabled….would represent a permanently stereotyped imprint on their fragile minds for the rest of their lives.

A more extreme example of this phenomenon occurred during the rise of Adolph Hitler in his propaganda campaign for expelling Jews in conjunction with the rise of Aryan Nazi Power. Stereotyped as outcasts in increasingly demeaning ways, innocent Jews were forced to live in depressing “ghettos” and wear the yellow star of “Jude” as constant reminders of their alleged inferior status. Ominously, such inhumane branding resulted in “The Holocaust”, a systematically bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and cold-blooded murder of over six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its complicit collaborators.

BE339026-EF4F-4A49-8B7C-D5F94BCFF633In Nazi schools, stereotyped persecution of Jewish children became particularly heinous. Witness the case of Rebecca Weisner, who recalled her anti-Semitic treatment in her German school: “When I was six, Hitler came to power. I started school in April 1933, just at the same time… There were some German girls I was friends with – we grew up together – and, all of a sudden, one day I come down and they call me dirty Jew. My friends, the friends I grew up with! I couldn’t comprehend it. I would say to my mother, Why do they call me dirty? I am not dirty. And she said, You had better get used to it. You’re Jewish, and that is what you have to learn. So just take it. But I didn’t want to take it. I fought.”

Or consider the traumatic recollections of Hedwig Ertl as a teenage student: “We had a history teacher who was a very committed National Socialist, and we had four Jewish pupils. And they had to stand up during the class, they weren’t allowed to sit down. And one after the other they disappeared, until none were left, but nobody thought much about it. We were told they had moved…. We were told all the time that first the Jews are a lower kind of human being, and then the Poles are inferior, and anyone who wasn’t Nordic was worthless.”

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With the November 5 Midterm elections looming, I observe a similar stereotyping phenomena in the political arena.  “Leftists and Rightists”emotionally “ dig in  to lay claim to their own uncompromising ways toward what needs to be done for reaching the “promised land” in our country. Unsurprisingly then, such appeal to one’s self-full filling view of political party domination perpetuates confusing, “cognitive dissonance” when situations require them to uncomfortably look beyond their narrow frame of reference to recognize opposing points of view. In effect, our country continues to suffer with endless political gridlock as so vividly captured today by polarizing anger and blame intensifying in the second year of the Trump Presidency.

B1855746-AE41-4206-846D-5B7E6595167ERepublicans and Democrats should not be labeled as exclusively conservative or liberal respectively. Nor should stereotypical blindness deny our pursuit of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all. Imagine we together embrace the phrase “May The Force Be With You“of Star Wars fame as a new anthem for reminding us to find reason for unity in our daily lives.

Blog References:

1.Jewish Children In The Nazi Classroom

http://spartacus-educational.com/Jewish_Children.htm

2.A Student In a Nazi School

https://www.ushmm.org/remember/office-of-survivor-affairs/
memory-project/featured-writers/wiener-student

Historic Scars of Anti Semitism

“What I want you to take away from my life story is just how important it is to defend your freedom, at all costs. Experience has shown me that if you lose your freedom, you are condemned to fail.” (Leon Schgrin – Holocaust Survivor)

For many individuals of Jewish faith, Anti-Semitism presents a stark reality of cruel injustice that has continued throughout history. Ponder the endless clash of Judaism vs. Christianity concerning the holy  presence of God and Jesus Christ. Think of the coldly systematic extermination of over 6,000, 000 Jews in war torn Europe. Or imagine the Nazi induced fears of Anne Frank and her Jewish family hiding in an Amsterdam attic to maintain their daily  survival. Some racist conspiracy advocates even deny that the “Holocaust” ever took place. Click on the link below for a more detailed video documentation of Anti Semitism throughout European  history. 

Clearly, Anti-Semitism  presents a serious problem in many  countries throughout the world today as well. Witness the anti-Jewish  hatred expressed in “right wing”  political rallies or examine the ominous statistical trends of such prejudice  rendered in the pictures below. Oddly, however, I have rarely seen evidence of such blatant racism in my daily life routine in suburban South Florida. In fact, my friends/acquaintances with solidly Jewish roots excel in religious, business, and educational  careers. While I thus conceded my own naïveté on this subject, I deeply desired to gain a more focused perspective about this historically human tragedy by way of my world travels.           

My Fall 2018 tourist visits to three history museums in Italy and France  thus revealed the incidence of Anti- Semitism more intensely.  The resultant  blog entry here intends primarily to serve here as an informational  tool for my readers to understand the serious nature of  this enduring problem. I also hope that social media interest in my blog  provides momentum for supporting policies of political action to fight back against this rising scourge of Anti Semitism in the United States  today. 

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Rome Italy – Historical Museum of the Liberation of Rome

Picture an Italian residence standing inconspicuously on a side street  leading away from the bustling center of Rome. Transform this house into a secretive Nazi facility of black darkened windows and walled up interrogation rooms designed for systematic torture and ultimate deportation to death  for thousands of Jews during World War II. Such heinous crimes of Anti- Semitic inhumanity  were exhibited in full display on my recent visit to Rome this past September. Lining the halls along our tour of the facility, I noted the chilling presence of official, Anti – Jewish manifestos, death order records, as well as wall charts branding Jews  with inferior yellow star status. Such evidence indicated a ruthless Nazi resolve to complete their Holocaust mission in war-torn Europe at that time. 

Turckheim, France (Alsace Lorraine) – Musee Du Memorial des  Combats 

The quaint medieval town of Turckheim appeared at first glance on our recent visit as  a “fairy tale” land of bright flowered cottages, intimate French cafes , and inviting cobblestone passageways. Yet Turckheim lies in the strategically valuable plains of Alsace -Lorraine, a politically contested area historically belonging to both Germany and France. As Allied troops in World War  II fought Nazi armies to free Alsace from German occupation, a murderous reign of Jewish arrests and Nazi camp deportations took place from here and in the more populated surrounding cities of Colmar and Strasbourg. 

As I descended to a small cellar now functioning as a small museum in the center of town, I learned that this place  had functioned as a dismal shelter of refuge for town residents from the surrounding war battleground in 1944-1945. I thus imagined the Nazi Anti Semitism factor  surfacing at the time while  families lived in fear here without electricity and water here while sleeping on dark and dirty floors to avoid enemy detection. As I photographed a vast collection of Nazi weaponry/pro- Hitler artifacts  in prominent display here, I logically reasoned then that such Jewish fears  were justified. 

Paris , France – The Shoah Memorial/Holocaust Museum

The Marais district of Paris exists today as a bustling center of activity for the Judaism faith.  Jewish children busily scurry to Hebrew school. An orthodox rabbi sits quietly on a bench to recite his lines for his latest sermon. A Jewish family informally gathers together at home for “Shabbat” meal at Friday sunset.  Such freedoms to learn, worship, and assemble seemed miraculous in view of the human atrocities resulting from Anti- Semitism observed at the Memorial de la Shoah on our most recent visit. 

As a relatively recent addition to the Marais district in 2005, the Shoah induced me to feel shock  and hope  with respect to the Anti- Semitism problem. Along the exterior  of the facility,  the extensive list of Holocaust names  inscribed on the “Wall Of  Remembrance” certainly provided overwhelming negative outrage. In the interior galleries, the presence of Nazi storage cabinets containing personal documents/ physical object collections of Holocaust victims as well as adjoining photo collages of Jewish victims equally repulsed me then. 

 More positively, I now realized that the  egregious evils of  Anti-Semitism so graphically exposed at the Shoah provided a valuable educational tool  to inspire new generations to change such prejudicial thinking. For new leaders would be discovered at ongoing workshops, debates, and conferences… offered at this museum to instill new optimism that these historic evils of Anti-Semitism would never again be repeated. 

Research Sources

https://onstageformyselfnow.blog/2018/10/30/south-florida-plea-for-unity/

http://musee.turckheim-alsace.com/

https://www.romeinformation.it/en/museum-of-the-liberation-of-rome/

http://www.memorialdelashoah.org/en/english-version.html

http://theday.co.uk/politics/rising-alarm-over-incidences-of-anti-semitism

South Florida Plea For Unity

 “Everyone has a responsibility to create a more inclusive society and challenge hateful rhetoric. The safety and well-being of our community depend on it.”(Sabina Mohyuddin, program manager at The American Muslim Advisory Council)

 In response to the tragic murder this weekend of eleven Jewish followers at the “Tree of Life” Synogogue  in Pittsburgh, I read that security would be tightened at Jewish synagogues throughout South Florida. Arriving on Monday morning for a speaker presentation  at the David Posnack Jewish Community of South Florida,  I observed the enhanced presence of police patrols and massed array of  local TV news vans in the parking lot at this securely gated facility. As I entered the reception area, I then received word that this event had been cancelled. Meanwhile, I also heard that an open press conference reaction to the Pittsburgh tragedy would soon be taking place in a nearby building.

Given the free time now, I made my way to the press conference area, considering it as an opportunity to educate myself about community plans to deal with the Anti Semitism problem. As I entered the room,  I noticed ahead of me a row  of TV cameras facing a crowded press conference stage. Anticipated tension seemed to settle amid the diverse crowd I determined to be religious leaders, politicians, and other community organization activists To my left, a memorial table had  been set up to recognize each of the eleven Jewish victims  slain in Pittsburgh with lighted candles. Moving closer, I curiously scanned the official list of prominent speakers/attendees  from South Florida at this event.

I then saw an ideal opportunity to mingle among the crowd and speak to various attendees informally. Conversing candidly about their presence here today with  priests, rabbis,  mullahs, volunteers, and community activists, I now realized that this would be no politically divisive rally. An exhausted looking Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz would soon provide a tear-filled speech deploring this attack on the Jewish community as an attack on all humanity in this country. As the press conference continued, I surprisingly noted that other speeches contained largely factual reporting about Jewish hate crimes with no mention of Donald Trump or the upcoming midterm election.     

What have I learned today? Clearly, a plea for unity in this crisis across political, economic, and religious lines seems most relevant here. America has just witnessed one of the largest anti-Jewish attacks in the history of this country. Social media hate attacks currently run rampant. Our President continually uses blameful attacks on his opponents to exacerbate our political differences. Whether globalism or nationalism resonates with you now, we must tone down the anger and engender vigilant attention to our shared humanity. 

Pastel Paradise – Cinque Terre Italy

“The view was like a vision described in novels; a tiny town that hovered on jagged cliffs and sparkling blue water, and by no means did the “visions” stop through out the day…” (Destination: Cinque Terre”, a story by Sergio Ortiz)

On our recent forty two day adventure, my wife and I visited five European countries by Eurail Pass interspersed with Air B&Bs stays adjacent to convenient railway locations. Snippets of the Traveling Mind” returns this week with impressions of our three day visit to the five towns of  Cinque Terre National Park, a UNESCO National Heritage site along the Italian Riviera. 

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As Ruth and I settled in slowly in late afternoon into our spacious, Air B@B apartment in La Spezia, we felt immediately relieved. For we had exited our busy time in  congested Rome to experience much quieter, suburban  surroundings here. Our amiable apartment proprietor would provide us with plentiful information about adjacent Cinque Terre National Park that we planned to visit in the next three days of our visit. As she informed us that the famous walking trails linking these five villages to the Mediterranean shoreline paradise had washed out due to recent mud slides, we opted to undertake each town separately by rail. Hiking through steep, narrow stepped lanes within each medieval village would provide a formidable challenge for us to consider then.                          

Over the next three days , we would soon discover that each town along this secluded shoreline possessed its own uniqueness, combining  colorful pastel housing, exquisite coastal panoramas, and Italian sensory delights. Click on the link below to gain a video perspective about the spectacular setting of the Cinque Terre region.

Corniglia –  Climbing Challenge 

Exiting the tunnel at the train station near Corniglia, we immediately spotted the steep cliff leading to this small medieval town surrounded by vineyards and a jagged coastline setting above. The hike  would thus be challenging, requiring  us to ascend a zig zag route of narrow stone steps to the town above. Accepting this strenuous walking challenge would enable us to view spectacular vistas of mountainside coastline interspersed with lush Mediterranean foliage along the way. Arriving to town somewhat winded, a spurt of energy returned quickly to the sounds of distant church bells ringing in this quiet medieval town. 

Vernazza – Relaxing Sunbathing Experience 

Gently descending  the narrow cobblestone road through town, we reached a bustling shoreline inlet protruding into a man-made shoreline pier. We would then join throngs of locals/tourists/sitting quietly along the pier-side walls there. With the serene vista of the colorfully pastel town and gentle, wave lapping harbor in our immediate view then, we truly enjoyed love of life on this sunny day.

Manarola –  Getting Lost Experience 

A jumbled maze of narrow, medieval streets in Manarola offered a variety of options for visiting this town. Spotting a low route along the perimeter of the village, our short hike curved around steep cliffs dotted with  rocky promontories and hidden caves. With sufficient time, we could have walked for hours along these crystalline shores with no real destination in mind. 

Monterroso – Luxury Living Experience 

As the most popular, tourist beach destination in Cinque Terre, Monterroso personified true luxury in the Italian Riviera. In fact, we observed only a few places of public access on this visit as private beaches catering to exclusive hotel occupants dominated our attention  here. Ambling amidst the pretentious hotels along the boardwalk of town, we imagined being seen as one of the  “rich and famous” catered obviously to here.

Riomaggiore – Bohemian Eating Indulgence 

As the last stop on our Cinque Terre, Riomaggiore provided a spectacular setting and old town presence. Notably, we savored a plethora of creative wall murals and colorful pastel housing amidst its steep cliffside location. However, it seemed the alluring sights/smells of food dominated most our attention here. Unlike pricy Monterroso, window shopping of small cafe patios and storefront markets for fresh seafood and fruits/vegetables  along the town promenade seemed  most natural for our “less than upscale”  tastes here. Settling for the savory crunch of the local focaccia bread later in La Spezia would suffice on this day.

Final Tips For  Visiting Cinque Terre

1.Do not try to visit all five towns of Cinque Terre in one day

2.Cool off in railway tunnels to counter oppressive Italian heat.

3.Watch your fried food choices here to avoid stomach issues.

4.Go early to each town. Avoid the tour bus crowds.

5.Each town visit involves taking many steps up and downhill. Pace yourself and wear the proper shoes. 

     

A True Feel For Roman Conquest

“Today is yesterday’s victory, yesterday is tomorrow’s conquest, and tomorrow is today’s war. (Nadege Richards, Burning Bridges)

“Snippets of the Traveling Mind” returns this week with an eyewitness look at  Rome on our recent overseas vacation. On this 42 day adventure, we  visited 5 European countries by Eurail Pass interspersed with 3-4 day stays in Air B&Bs adjacent to convenient railway locations. Embarking from Southampton, England, we concluded our Autumn wanderings with a 16 day reposition cruise sailing the same northerly route as the ill-fated Titanic back to North America. Along the turbulent seas of this North Atlantic Sea route, we toured five, captivating destinations along the way. In upcoming blogs, I intend to provide a “present moment” perspective surrounding selected themes for all destinations visited on our journey. As usual, sensory impressions will  predominate  my writing with a dose of added history. 

September 4-6  Rome Italy 

Historical Museum of Liberation 

Imagine entering a chamber of horrors in the middle of a bustling city where systematic  tortures/executions  took place regularly during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Italy  during the final years of World War II. On my visit, I gasped  at the sight of desperate fingernail scratchings on solitary confinement, cell walls with no light or air ducts. Imagine these condemned prisoners awaiting their inevitable deaths in such inhumane conditions by cruel, SS Gestapo hands. How coldly calculated such official orders displayed here were carried out to exterminate  Jews, intellectuals and other perceived political opponents here. Such a sickening display of blatant ant-semitism/ violence would render nightmarish memories in my memory as I recalled in my later dreams the horrified faces of innocent victims who were offered no mercy in this vile den of death. 

Colosseum Rome 

The ancient Colosseum  towers over the ancient walls of the Roman Forum to showcase vivid evidence of the glorious games of gladiator fights, wild animal fights, slavery auctions, and public executions. As an enthusiastic stadium attendee of sporting events at home, I immediately sensed the excitement of over 50,000 spectators attending each game here in ancient times  with bloodlust fever. Epitomizing such violent, Roman conquest for over 500 years, however, the crumbling walls of this ancient arena definitely cast an evil spell to me on this visit. 

The Pantheon 

Walking gingerly along cobblestone streets, we eagerly sought refuge at this massive rotunda of Roman antiquity. Gazing skyward inside the great hole in the dome then, I felt a burst of positive  energy realizing that it long represented  a spiritual canopy of the Roman world beneath the “starry heavens.” Gazing at ornate crypts of the Italian monarchy lining the perimeter of the circular interior, I also sensed the immense power that emperors possessed historically in ancient Roman times. 

Ostia Antica

A short train ride to the Mediterranean coastline, visions of Pompeii’s well preserved ruins came to mind as I entered the remnants of this ancient, Roman town. Yet this immense expanse of stone ruins set amongst the cool shade of Mediterranean pine trees along the mouth of the Tiber River was much more enjoyable to visit than Pompeii had been. With  few tourists walking along the cobblestone paths and zero souvenir hawkers, “Ostia” in fact felt like a serene park. As we continued our curious trek along the mile long road called “Decuman” traversing the center of town. it suddenly felt real to me that I was experiencing  the logic of classical Roman design and material prosperity of its citizens along this main path 2,000 years ago. I oddly then felt thankful that the surrounding silt/ mud from the surrounding river bed that had buried this  ancient town for centuries now enabled this site to be preserved and  later successfully  excavated for my viewing today. 

Trevi Fountain 

From past visits to Rome, I expected a mob scene gathering at this popular tourist gathering spot.Admiring the perfect symmetry of sculptured gods depicting abundance and salubrity as a backdrop to these crystal cool waters, I perceived happiness at lunchtime pervading the gathering crowd surrounding me. Placing my sweaty arms in these cool  waters by chance, I would soon label this phenomenon, “Water Fountain Therapy.” How right it seemed then that I saw so many couples throw a coin or two into these mystical fountain waters to find romance or good fortune in their life.  After witnessing the “dark” past of ancient Roman civilization  on this visit, it felt enlightening that so many still believed here that “love conquers all.” 

IT’S TIME TO RECHARGE

Please note that new entries to my travel blog, “Snippets of the Traveling Mind” will be temporarily on hold during our vacation time in Europe from 9/3-10/14. I look forward to sharing with you personal insights/photos about the places I will visit when I return. Namaste. USFMAN

Making A Right Choice to Travel

Ruth and I will set out on our six week tour of Europe next week amidst a daily assault of dire warnings of an impending “American First” crisis. The United States must defend itself from bad deals overseas. Our country’s borders have been infiltrated by a “sea” of illegal immigrants who cannot be trusted. Too many native Americans are losing their jobs to foreigners. Post 9/11 paranoia subjects innocent citizens to possible terrorist attack. Thus traveling abroad in this highly propagandized atmosphere of fear/distrust might seem undesirable now.

Yet today, these two seasoned travelers choose to venture forth, embracing global awareness and trust of those who are culturally different. In doing so, it  makes no sense for us to brag about our country’s strengths or criticize another nation’s weaknesses. Always striving to plan our vacations to free us from unneeded city stress, we remain alert to safety concerns as needed.

It’s disturbing to realize that many Americans currently do not undertake foreign country travel. Statistics as to why are truly startling. Only 40% of Americans own a current passport while 29% have never been abroad. Under such circumstances, staying put perpetuates the likelihood of  close-minded views. Potential cultural ignorance runs rampant among “blue collar” communities as many such Trump voters who never left their hometowns are among his strongest supporters. Our opinionated President also espouses “us vs.” them” rhetoric to his dedicated, “upper middle class” followers who largely reside in white dominant suburban areas. Under these circumstances, prejudicial intolerance conceivably runs rampant in such sheltered communities.

More Americans should realize that that extensive health benefits have been scientifically documented about traveling abroad. Studies show that as one visits unfamiliar countries, the more trusting he/she will be of others. In addition, research indicates that immersing oneself in multicultural travel experience reduces heart attack risk, lowers stress levels, decreases the likelihood of mental depression, promotes longer life span, and enhances creativity.

I thus wholeheartedly endorse the following actions at home to enhance preparation for successful overseas travel: 1) Consider ways to avoid brash displays of”standing out” in a crowd by paying mindful attention to your attire, mannerisms, and verbal communications. (2) Make an attempt to politely speak in a second language to foreign born individuals especially with regard to thank you, hello, and goodbye.3) Avoid stereotyping those you meet according to media “spun” propaganda. Treat everyone as an individual instead. (4) Frequent places you’ve never been as a way to gain greater cultural awareness.(5) Realize that staring at a computer screen such as a You Tube video to access the world around you clearly cannot substitute for authentic international travel. So live your life more fully. Make the right choice to travel. 

Research Sources:

https://snarkynomad.com/the-best-of-mark-twains-travel-quotes/

https://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/why-americans-dont-travel-overseas/

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/wellness/5-scientifically-proven-health-benefits-traveling-abroad-n759631

https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/advice/2017/01/01/traveling-abroad-donald-trump-administration/95999452/

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/10/trump-supporters-hometowns/503033/

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/donald-trump-manufacturing-jobs-hope/496541/

More Than Souvenir Stuff

“Collectors are not merely possessors; they are themselves possessed by the search and at last by the objects of their affection” (Paul Theroux)

I often wonder why I bother to shop for collectible items during touristic travel. Haggling about price with aggressive sales hawkers does not appeal to me along cruise stops. Nor does browsing in local shops for cheap souvenirs on guided tours “strike my fancy.” Do I logically need to add more bulk/weight to my suitcase/backpack by purchasing items that I questionably need?

Searching my “intuitive, “right brain” for finding further excuse for my vacation shopping desires, I recall my obsessive childhood fascination with collecting thousands of major league baseball cards. For opening a new pack of cards revealed in my youthful eyes then a plethora of fun activities. Rather than staring at the player pictures themselves, I would flip, fold, or throw them in game-like fashion. For added pleasure, I might stick them in my bicycle spokes to hear them snap loudly in rapid succession. For a mental challenge, I recall stacking each card into player position categories and inventing ingenious all star teams. When boredom ruled the day, I could even build my own castle with physical arrays of cards. For such cheap stuff that I acquired in my youth, I clearly realize a buying spirit of “free play” of my mind/body predominated my thinking.

As I stare today at my travel souvenir collections accumulated from our extensive world travels, my adolescent buying spirit for spontaneous enjoyment continues. Our living room cabinets are continuously replenished with fun filled, travel memorabilia, providing a daily feast” for the senses. As I aspire to find “more than tourist stuff” in my enjoyment of the present moment of travel, I thus showcase below some prized collection examples.

(Blow it) A horn purchased at a European airport struck me as a fun way to toot excessively as I watched the World Cup on TV taking place in South Africa.
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(Drink it) Sitting amidst strangers in Buenos Aires, I learned how to slowly drink a foul tasting liquid from a “mate” cup at lunchtime to enhance social conversation.
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(Play Soldier) Standing near “Checkpoint Charlie” adjacent to the Berlin Wall shortly after its historic destruction, I bought a Russian military officer’s medaled hat to wear daringly there on this momentous occasion.
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(Hit It) The opportunity to buy authentic bats at the Louisville, Kentucky Baseball Museum/factory provided me with youthful zest to suit up and hit a fastball again.
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(Sing It) A Russian music box purchased on a tour excursion to Moscow became a singing toy for us to feel Russia’s “old country”, cultural presence.
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(Shake It) Snow globes come in handy when you imagine this plastic orb suggestion of a frosty night in sweltering Las Vegas or Route 66 in the Mojave Desert.
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(Meditate on it) The presence of Buddha as witnessed on our India/Thailand adventures provided a powerful icon of purchase for our self- spiritual pursuits through yoga practice at home.
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