Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
The upcoming holiday of Purim and the story of Esther remind me to reveal myself and take off my mask. Many Jews celebrate Purim by dressing up and putting on a mask. The semester I lived in Jerusalem, was the first time I saw Purim could be as large a celebration as Halloween in Los Angeles. Wandering the streets of Tel Aviv, I was amazed at the number of Esthers, and Hamens that bumped into me in the celebrating crowds.
This holiday celebration includes being confused about good and evil. This shadow between good and evil and the line of intentions and when they become actions informs some of my travels and decisions. Sometimes we forget that at the corner where we work at the 7-11 is a man who is from Burma who speaks five languages and was a tour guide at Schwedagon Pagoda. We forget that this man in front of us has a history and wears a mask. Most of the people we interact with have some issue that plagues them and causes them to wear a mask and hide some part of themselves.
While I have often picked easy costumes for my work, such as coming to school as a Crayola crayon, in other areas of my life I have proceeded differently. Lately I have picked problematic travel destinations. Being in Sri Lanka this summer, so soon after the civil war ended caused me to really examine why I travel and where do I go. Being in an area with barbed wire around the beaches was nerve-wracking for me, but meeting people who were so happy to have peace and so welcoming to us as strangers to their country made it worth it.
Having recently watched, “Strangers No More”, the Academy Award-winning Documentary Short film about an amazing school, I am thinking about Tel Aviv, Strangers and Masks. In Billy Joel’s song, “The Stranger,” he sings, “We all have a face that we hide away forever, and we take them out and show ourselves when everyone has gone.” Travel allows us an opportunity to break from our every day routine and get outside ourselves.
When I travel, I hope to learn about the place, the people, the history, and the culture. Mostly I learn about myself. When my husband George and I were away for nearly a year, I cried in the beginning on almost every country. I even cried while snorkeling one time. I thought he would not notice. When we travel, our masks are off and we are the strangers. I frequently need help to find the bathroom, the bus, the hotel; everything is up in the air. Our daily routine no longer is there to support us.
I think of the young students showing up at Bialik-Rogozin School, having survived long walks in the desert, seeing parents killed and now managing their first day of school in a language they do not understand. The teachers seem so kind, compassionate and willing to help. The children of Darfur, South Africa and Eritrea who show up and move forward with hope and potential inspire me.
Adam Rosenthal writes in Koach:
“Each of us has emotions, thoughts and aspirations which we conceal on a daily basis. We hide these parts of ourselves by presenting others with a prepared image. We wear masks, denying others, and sometimes even ourselves, a glimpse of the vulnerable “stranger.”
I am thrilled that our travel blog will have this new home at the Jewish Journal but now I wonder if I can really show my travel stories and travel foibles and take off my mask to reveal what our travels are really like. I ask myself: will anyone care to read about our adventures?
Travel has given me the opportunity to evolve from a sidekick to a superhero. I have learned so much about my relationship and myself. I did not want to quit my job and travel for a year as a test of our relationship. I wanted to be engaged or I would not go but I did go and eventually we did get engaged.
The story of Purim remembers Esther who hid her Jewishness in the beginning and Haman who hid his anti-Semitism. In the end, both must reveal their true selves. This is what travel does for us. We must show up as who we really are without our masks.
Queen Esther and her uncle Mordechai foil the plan of Haman, King Ahashuerus’s prime minster, to exterminate all the Jews of Persia. All secrets are revealed, all masks are off, and once again the Jewish Story continues. Join me March 24 to hear about the story of how the Jews have been welcomed and sent away for centuries in Morocco.
The Megillah Esther literally means “to reveal what is hidden,” join me as we wander and wonder about the history of the Jews, our planet and mainly ourselves.
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March 4, 2012 | 9:11 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Here is the beginning of the Interview:
Lisa Niver Rajna is our Geography Awareness Editor, a world traveler, and a science teacher in Los Angeles, California. Think that science isn’t international? Think again! I’m impressed with the work that Lisa does with her students - exploring the world, and the people in it. She’s the publisher of two websites that combine her love of travel and teaching science - We Said Go Travel, and Science Isn’t Scary. She embodies the true meaning of international education - and practices it every day.
February 27, 2012 | 10:58 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
At 1:30am as I lay on the cement step outside the bathroom. I thought, “Hmm, why am I on the ground? How did this happen?” Leaving Los Angeles for a summer of sun in Samoa and the South Pacific, I had no idea about the Survivor Stories that would unfold so quickly.
I had eaten the chicken at dinner, apparently a mistake that night.
During the dark hours before dawn I fainted at the edge of the bathroom steps and there I regained consciousness, scraped and bruised on both arms and chin. I guess when I needed to run to the bathroom again and again I should have woken George, especially after falling, but I was so stunned that I ended up face-planted on the ground. Once back in our room I lay on the mat, moaning. George woke up and asked what was wrong. After hearing my tale of woe he offered to help. Because of his concern, and despite the many earlier explosions, I was finally able to rest.
This video shows some of the gorgeous beauty of Virgin Cove, our nighttime arrival and the many steps to the bathroom. All aspects of travel are not beautiful but some of them do make us appreciate better the postcard days!
Video: Drama at Virgin Cove
February 17, 2012 | 12:51 pm
Posted Richard Bangs
There is a place whose people have been on a never-ending quest to achieve a concord between life’s jagged puzzle pieces. And some believe they have found its secrets.
Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong: three pearls in one exquisite setting. Each distinct, yet bound together by a cultural veneration of harmony. Just as a wick needs a flame, some of us can’t live without exploring our existence, and I inevitably find myself turning to the East and the wisdom of the Ancients in search of the roots of the human desire for harmony.
Harmony implies balance and the ability to integrate different elements into a pleasing unity. It incorporates the Chinese concept of Yin and Yang, opposite forces that come together to form a whole.
Chinese philosophers and religious leaders have long honored harmony as an ideal. Confucius, the great Chinese thinker, spoke of “harmony without uniformity.” He taught that the world is full of differences and contradictions, but that righteous people should try to balance them to achieve a vital equilibrium.
Taoists believe that by following practices that achieve balance in daily life, they gain harmony with the universe. And the Buddha said that for the enlightened one, harmony is his joy, his delight and his love.
Read the rest of this article….
Watch the new PBS special, “Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose: The Pearl River Delta-Quest for Harmony” airing now nationally. Check local listings.
February 13, 2012 | 11:16 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
George and I had wanted to visit there before but it was the first time the dice of price allowed it to happen! Our two weeks in the Cook Islands included kayaking, hammock swinging and two trips to the incredible jewel- toned Aitutaki Lagoon with Teking Tours.
Kit Herring of the Backpacker’s Handbook was recently there for a glorious third time and offered to share his historical knowledge of this spectacular location. Enjoy!
When Captain William Bligh let go the anchor of the Bounty off the west coast of Aitutaki a few days before the famous mutiny, he beheld an island and a culture far different than we can possibly understand today. He did not visit the whole island, but rather only the area loosely termed Arutanga. Always a meticulous diarist, he recorded some interesting facts. Of the natives in Tahiti he had written, “Inclination seems to be the only binding law, marriage in this country for a woman will get her a husband if she pledges…”
He continues about the inhabitants of Aitutaki, “The people are just the same as those of the…Isles… but are more docile and inoffensive.”
The account from his logbook of the discovery reads as follows:
“At daylight however we discovered an island of a moderate height with a round conical hill…A number of small Keys were seen from the mast.”
“They were all around with trees and the large island had a most fruitful appearance. The shore was bordered with flat land, with innumerable Cocoa Nut and other trees. I saw no smoke or any sign of inhabitants.”
He writes that, “(T)hey called this island Whytootackee, ” and that upon his first meeting with the natives, “I was however agreeably surprised by a visit from four men in a single canoe… Two of the men had each a large Mother of Pearl shell hung on their breasts… On being told I was the Erree (chief), the principal person immediately came and joined noses with me and presented me his shell and tyed it around my neck… Notwithstanding they said there were no Hogs, Yarros, of tarrow… they called them by name, and I rather inclined to believe they were imposing upon me… The Chief of the canoe took possession of everything I had given… a knife, some nails, Beads and a looking glass.”
He goes on to say that two locals wished to overnight on his ship. Apparently some of his crew took the idea of immediate friendship in a rather liberal sense. “After the natives were gone I heard that some of my johns had engaged to bring women off in the morning, and it was therefore the reason perhaps that two of them designed to sleep on board.”
We have no reason to disbelieve his observations. Any navigator who sailed in an open boat, as Bligh did after the mutiny, over several thousands of miles of the unexplored open Pacific to safety at the nearest European settlement, Batavia, now the capital city of Jakarta in Indonesia, deserves respect and validation. Regardless of the circumstances that resulted in his being tossed from the Bounty with scant provisions by a crew that had become enchanted with the terrible beauty of Polynesia, he was a man who set forth to record all he saw.
But life on this tranquil outpost of Oceanic civilization received the first of its death blows at his hands, although Bligh could not have understood the tragedy about to unfold when he touched shore. The story of the coming of the missionaries in 1821 is well known and does not need to be repeated here. The tales of forced conversion, the bringing of diseases and epidemics that the “Christians” blamed on the Polynesian gods, the later blackbirding of the population and the relentless efforts of the Europeans to stamp out the old ways—these stories are horrific and yet accepted today as a matter of course.
With their bodies’ physical beauty covered by the whites in heavy nineteenth-century civilized clothing, the essence of the pre-contact natives was smothered irrevocably. Today no oral traditions remain of that first contact, and the missionaries did nearly a complete job of eliminating the old spirituality and the old ways.
The author Jared Diamond has noted that perhaps the biggest mistake humankind ever made was to quit the hunter/gatherer way of life and settle into towns and cities, where manipulative leaders were then able to force stifling societal rules and repression on hapless clans of formerly free people.
Whether or not this generalization holds much truth is still a matter of debate, but in Aitutaki the answer is painfully obvious.
Perhaps the wisest response we have to First Contact comes from the log of James Cook. Upon encountering the indigenous inhabitants of Australia for the first time, he recounted that they shouted at the English sailors an incomprehensible phrase. At the time no one in the explorers’ party understood the meaning of the words. Later they were found to impart a simple message: “Go away!”
Thanks for reading and for all your comments on our blog!
Tell us: Where do you want to go next?
February 6, 2012 | 10:50 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
After seven years at sea and a year in Asia with my husband, George, I have touched ground in 108 countries. But we are far from the top elite of this hobby. This past December, we met Lee Abbamonte at a Traveler’s Century Club luncheon. He has currently checked off 301 of the world’s 321 countries! (December 2011 Traveler’s Century Club Meeting with Joan Schwarz, Pam Barrus (VP TCC), Lee Abbamonte (301 countries), and Lisa & George Rajna.)
My family has been counting, too. My parents rang in the New Year with us to celebrate their seventieth birthdays and nearly forty-nine years of marriage. My sister counted and collected over eight hundred photos that represented every decade of their lives, from images of their great-grandparents to their grandchildren, including shots of hilarious 1960s hairstyles, and our home’s mod wallpaper during the seventies.
Using the fantastic site, www.picturemosaics.com, we turned our collective photos into a photo mosaic masterpiece. A picture might be worth a thousand words, but this photo mosaic was so impressive that when we hung it in the photo and art gallery on the Voyager of the Seas to surprise our parents, total strangers inquired whether the piece might be for sale! I told them, “You can’t have ours, but I recommend you make your own!” Naturally my dad said, “Sell it to them! We can hang on the wall in their house also!”
I love the photo mosaic and I love the personal history it represents. I think I may create one from the five years George and I have spent together, including shots from our travels. Here is a novel and unique art project for travel pictures and now I can count one more important aspect of my own life.
Article first published as Count Something Important on Technorati.
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January 30, 2012 | 12:53 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
When I met Halle at her book reading recently, I thought about my first trip to the Giza Pyramids. I remember that day like it was yesterday although I visited the great archeological site over thirty years ago! My family was cruising on a Greek ship at the time and the vessel stopped in Egypt. The day we went to the pyramids our bus caravan was escorted by armed guards. We carried a large sack of fruit from the Maitre D’ and a brief but terrifying camel ride still burns in my memory, I remember seeing the Giza plateau and climbing through the sand and wondering, “Who built this? Why?” and, “Are there more sights like this to see in other countries?” Reading Halle’s book reminds me of my travels in Egypt, on sea-going cruises, and around other parts of the world. I hope you enjoy my review of her book and are inspired to look for your own questions AND answers!
Halle’s vibrant examples and personal tales draw me in to her writing style and I feel I am also sailing in a private Nile cruise on Momo’s boat, The Alfandia (which means The Old King).
The novel talks about Halle’s tour company, her trips to Egypt, and her relationship with herself, her partner, and travel companions. I feel like I was at the Philee Temple along with her and experiencing the events. Her personal tales like “the yellow fire” remind me of my own travels and how making your dreams come true can include painful moments while on the road. I appreciate that Halle shares all aspects of the journey, not just the pretty parts; I would love to be included in the “bad kids” tours! Her discussions of opening chakras, past lives and ancient religions seem perfectly in tune with the history of Egypt and the sites they visit. Her descriptions are accurate and make me want to laugh out loud as I remember similar moments on my own trips: “If you’ve ever driven in Athens, you’ve driven in Cairo, five lanes of cars driving on three lanes of streets.” One of the most noticeable things in this book is that in every section it is clear that Halle loves to travel and loves Egypt, as well as the life she has created with her partner, Greg.
After reading this book, I think most people would want Halle as a personal guide. However, the reader may also pick up incredible travel tips, such as visiting the Luxor Temple late at night as to have the place all to yourself. That temple and its light show were some of the most memorable moments I myself had while in the Nile Valley.
halleHalle has seen sights in Egypt that many of us have missed, for example the Temple of Seti I at Abydos and the Library at St. Catherine’s (where many of us could not get an invitation!) Learning about these gems wakes up my travel lust and gets me ready for more adventures.
I first was drawn to Halle’s story as she calls herself the “Julie the Cruise Director” of Spirit Quest Tours. I have personally worked on board the Love Boat and other cruise lines and enjoy that she uses that same title to convey what an incredible travel host she is for all her guests.
She says, “Many people think they come here for a vacation, when they really come to heal a hole in their hearts.” Whether cooking an incredible Thanksgiving dinner in Egypt or attending a memorial for a friend, Halle creates a spiritual zone around her. “Our lives are braided like DNA, and we so often fail to recognize that we are here, not by ourselves, not with our spouse, our children, our friends, but with everyone we touch, and everyone they touch and, by extension, the whole world.”
While reading this book, you will enjoy a trip to Egypt and quite possibly to your inner self.
Article first published as Red Goddess Rising by Halle Eavelyn on Technorati.
Date: February 2, 2012
Time: 6-8 PM
Place: Luxe Hotel Sunset Blvd, 11461 Sunset Blvd.
Special Guest: Johnny Jet
RSVP today as space is limited: http://www.facebook.com/events/282922671769066/?context=create
Please join LACOT and We Said Go Travel for this evening of hors d’oeuvres, wine, and conversation with special guest Johnny Jet.
The Los Angeles Consortium of Online Travel (LACOT) is hosting, and we’ll hear a few words from our favorite local travel celebrity along with some helpful travel advice. Here’s what LACOT has to say about the event:
“Those of us who so choose can have a quick tour of the Luxe Sunset Hotel. Right off the 405 on Sunset Blvd, this boutique hotel is one of west Los Angeles’ great little surprises. Great food and talented, creative barkeeps are a draw for locals, and the rooms are beautifully appointed. You’d never suspect that the Luxe Hotel Sunset Blvd sits on seven acres, so close to the 405 as it is.
And - shhh - there may be one or two other surprises in store for this evening’s gathering of like-minded travel lovers. Don’t ask; you’ll have to come to the meet-up to find out. But, seriously…wine, hors d’oeuvres, chit-chat, and Johnny Jet? Sounds pretty great as it is.”
January 23, 2012 | 12:40 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Although my personal country count is over one hundred countries (by Traveler’s Century Club), I still have so many places to go on my list! For a long time, I have wanted to go to Iceland and Ireland (and Italy—George calls is my “I” List). When Richard Bangs spoke at our travel event in October, he told me he was off to Ireland. Please see my article below about his trip, his new videos and the concept of “Craic.” I can’t wait to go to Ireland!! Where do you want to go next?
There is a mysterious and elusive concept in Ireland called “Craic.” Everyone in country knows what is it, and seeks it, and relishes it….but few outside the shores know of it….A secret within an enigma in a puzzle.
Join Richard Bangs as he unearths this underground notion, see the entire multi-media series of dispatches now; it is live on vimeo.
Richard Bangs was our keynote speaker at Meet Plan Go Los Angeles in October 2011. He has often been called the father of modern adventure travel, having spent more than 30 years as an explorer and communicator, pioneering “virtual expeditions” on the World Wide Web and leading first descents of 35 rivers around the world. He has published more than 1000 magazine articles, 19 books, a score of documentaries, several CD-ROMs, and all manner of digital media. He has lectured at the Smithsonian, the National Geographic Society, the Explorers Club and many other notable venues.
His desire for adventure and travel was inspired by his father, a career officer in the CIA, part of the first class that came from Yale who truly believed he could change the world for the better, as the OSS did before him. Richard is working to change the world with his show, Adventure with a Purpose, seen on PBS. His series of specials celebrate a destination, and tell its stories in an evocative, emotive way, one that elicits connectivity, inspiration to visit, and to become involved.
I hope his series will inspire you to live his vision:
“Risk is the flame of the evolution of consciousness. I would rather die trying something new than live a long life of mediocrity.”
Travel, as Mark Twain supposedly says, is fatal to bigotry and prejudice, but it also reignites the internal combustion engine of the soul. Richard Bangs says, “I love finding new light, turning over new stones; falling into new holes…I love getting lost.”