Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
We Said Go Travel Writing Contest
Winter 2013--Free Entry, Cash Prizes
WeSaidGoTravel.com invites you to enter its 2013 Travel Writing Contest with a $200 first-place prize and no fee for entry. The theme for the Winter 2013 contest is “Inspiration: A Place you Love.” We hope your article will encourage other’s to consider going to the place you love and travel more! Please see below for the full rules of our competition. Thank you for your participation in creating a growing global community of engaged travelers and concerned citizens. Writers of all ages and from all countries are encouraged to enter and share stories from any part of our planet.
THEME: Inspiration: A place you love
JUDGE: Richard Bangs, award winning writer of 1000s of magazine articles and dozens of books and host of PBS Adventure with Purpose
CASH PRIZES: 1st prize - $200usd, 2nd prize - $100usd, Vagabond’s Choice - $100usd
First and Second Prize will be selected by our judge, Richard Bangs and the We Said Go Travel Team. The Vagabonds’s Choice Award will be selected through voting on the We Said Go Travel Facebook Fan page. All award monies will be paid through Check or PayPal in United States Dollars. The contest begins January 2, 2013 and ends February 14, 2013. All winning entries will be promoted on We Said Go Travel social media channels and the author names recognized as winners of the first We Said Go Travel Writing contest.
RULES: Publication is dependent on proper use of English language and grammar, appropriateness of theme topic, and being family friendly (G rated). If your post is written in a language other than English, please also send an English translation. Travelers of all ages and from all countries are encouraged to participate. Each individual may send up to 5 entries that are 500-800 words with 1-2 photos. Your article must be an original and previously unpublished piece. All posts, which meet the requirements, will appear on WeSaidGoTravel.com. Enter by midnight PST on February 14, 2013. Voting for the Vagabond’s Choice Award will begin on our Facebook fan page after all eligible posts have been published on WeSaidGoTravel.com.
1. Email your entry to Inspiration@wesaidgotravel.com by February 14, 2013 by midnight PST (Pacific Standard Time).
2. Send your article in the body of the email and as a word doc attachment.
3. Include at least one or at most two photos as jpg attachments (only send photos that you have taken or have explicit permission to use).
4. In your email include the following information:
a. Name, Email Address, Country you are from, Country your article is about, Article Title
b. How you found out about this writing contest
c. Please include a short bio(1-3 sentences) with one link to you—either your personal website or some social media site like your Facebook page.
Inspiration about writing:
We are looking for an article that “speaks to readers, transforms them and transports them either to a place they’d like to live or like to travel.” Use “creative evocative writing that brings a destination to life” by combining “the tools of a novelist, the eyes of a journalist, and the general knowledge that comes from a never-ending education and a natural curiosity about the world around you—and its history.” When you are “capturing the essence of a place and engaging the senses,” you share your passion for the place you are writing about and everyone will want to read your writing. (Quotes from Travel Writing 2.0 by Tim Leffel)
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December 30, 2012 | 12:59 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Sitting between my parents at the temple where I grew up, I felt lucky. It seemed odd at a funeral, but that is how I felt. After years of traveling by land and sea, I was home and sharing in an ancient tradition to commemorate the life of our temple's matriarch, Florence Zeldin (August 13, 1919 - May 20, 2012).
My parents joined Stephen S. Wise Temple when at age 9, I said, "I want a Bat Mitzvah," Neither of my parents had been raised with much formal knowledge of the Jewish religion. Ready to share in my zeal, they took a class together and became B'nai Mitzvot, making lifelong friends in the process. To me, my parent's partnership of nearly fifty years of marriage has been a fine role model by example. While Rabbi Zeldin is seen as the creator of the Temple (the largest reform congregation in Los Angeles, this City on the Hill or Mount Shay-anai), he does owe much to his wife and partner, who also led by example during their 68-year marriage and seventy years together. She lived like the Thoreau quote, "Advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, and endeavor to live the life you imagine."
During the memorial commemorating her life, I thought about tributes and legacies. Florence Zeldin's first priority was her family and she also created a community, published many books, games and Shabbat service prayer books. As I listened to stories from her children, grandchildren, colleagues and Rabbis, each mentioned her commitment to family, partnership and community, her work as a parent and a teacher and her ability to think the best and hope all would come up to her expectations.
She was warm, funny, academic and full of passion. An average life is 960 months, or 29,000 days.
Florence lived far beyond the averages and used them all well. I remember traveling with her and Rabbi Zeldin for his 85th birthday when he brought 85 people to Israel in 2004. They have been at three of our family B'nai Mitzvot, two weddings, many services and have always been an inspiration with their aspirations for excellence.
While I am traveling in Asia this sabbatical year, I have wandered among great archeological wonders like the temples of Bagan in Myanmar (Burma), the Xi'an Warriors in China, and the temples of Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Many of these were built as memorials for parents or rulers. What do we build for our families and leaders in America?
Florence built a great legacy with her actions, her family, her books, and her creation of a synagogue. It was an honor to know her and remember her. On December 11, 2012, my father turned seventy-one. I know that like Florence, my father has built a life to be remembered and through his actions, has been a role model for all those close to him.
When I asked him if he could imagine being married for 68 years (and together for 70), he said, "I am on track for that." I plan to dance with my parents at their 68th wedding anniversary and I am in awe of my father's commitment to create the best life he can for himself and his family. I know that my father will live every moment of his life to the fullest as a husband, father, acclaimed Periodontist, NASTAR medal-winning skier and contributor to the community. As the comedian George Burns said when he was ninety-nine, "I can't retire now, I'm booked."
I cannot wait to see my father working, skiing and traveling for at least another twenty-nine years like Burns. In Stephen Covey's book, The Third Alternative, he talks about living life to the fullest and rising to a crescendo. I hope to live up to the example set by Florence Zeldin and my father to "always believe that your most important work is ahead of you, never behind you. It's essential to live with that thought... that you are never finished contributing." I want to honor my father and his life as Florence's memorial honored hers, by saying on his seventy-first birthday, "Thank you for being such a great role model and Happy Birthday Dad!"
Read more about Frank Niver, Lisa Niver Rajna and their family celebrations at www.wesaidgotravel.com Lisa and George Rajna are on a career break in Asia and are celebrating Chanukah 2012 and New Year's Eve in Southern India!
November 29, 2012 | 6:15 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
The article begins:
To kick off our year-long trek through Southeast Asia, my husband and I spent two months exploring the Indonesian island of Bali with no set itinerary. While in the town of Ubud, home of the Balinese royal family, we saw that the Puri Agung Ubud were building a bade (cremation tower) and an enormous twenty-foot papier-mâché bull for a cremation ceremony for Prince Tjokorda Putra Dharma Yudha, so we decided to attend.
Locals line the street to catch a glimpse of the procession. (Photograph by Lisa Niver Rajna)
Johnny, a dive master and member of the local band, T-WRECK, told us we were lucky (b-ungtung in Balinese) to see such a large ceremony — or to see one at all. The last royal cremation occurred two years ago. Many of the locals we befriended in the diving meccas of Amed and Tulamben explained that they could not afford to attend but would have loved to join us on the big day.
November 16, 2012 | 10:13 pm
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
"I did this to myself," I mumbled. I kept thinking, "This is my fault. I am stuck on this bike in this heat in Bagan to celebrate my big birthday. I chose this. I must be crazy." I wondered, "Why am I torturing myself? Are we having fun yet?"
George, my happy husband, seemed so calm and collected on his bike. I wanted to be an intrepid traveler and young at heart but turning 45 made me wonder: "Am I too old for adventure? Do I need to get off the road and settle down? What will the next five years bring?"
Certain birthdays give us the chance to take stock. Have we met our goals? Where are we? As I map out where I want to go on this, my sabbatical year, I wonder in the next five years where will we go? For the last six years, George and I have talked about traveling in Myanmar together. Now we were here for my 45th birthday and I hated it. I hated the heat. The bike. Even myself for choosing this terrorizing trauma as a gift to myself.
Who would bike in 104 degree heat at midday to see old rocks? What had I done? It seemed smart back in Los Angeles when we met online. I first saw the Schwedagon Pagoda in 2001 during a 50-day cruise from Athens to Bangkok. Seeing the Schwedagon Pagoda at sunset and then at night is one of my most special and enduring memories from seven years of working at sea like Julie McCoy on "The Love Boat."
FIND OUT WHAT HAPPENED NEXT on the HUFFINGTON POST: CLICK here to read the full article and see all twenty photos!
November 13, 2012 | 4:03 am
Posted by Lisa Niver Rajna
Bali to Thailand on Air Asia
Video: Bali to Thailand on Air Asia
Our two months in Indonesia went almost as quickly as this video of the flight from Bali to Phuket, Thailand on Air Asia! The islands of both countries are so beautiful. We spent July-August 2012 in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia and September 2012 in Thailand. Our stories, photos and videos of both countries, the beginning of our year trip in South East Asia are available at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/ In October 2012, we were off to Myanmar. Where will we go next? We are not sure yet but likely we will fly on Air Asia. They have great flights at fantastic prices!
This movie is from our two-month stay in Bali and Lombok, Indonesia (July & August 2012) and our year TRIP in South East Asia, see all the videos from our trip.
August 31, 2012
November 5, 2012 | 3:46 am
Posted By Eva Rosales
“Everyone walks through life but it is those who look to learn from people coming from different walks of life that travel the farthest."
True learning for me is something that happens in gradual steps not something that I acquire at a first glance. For this very reason, when traveling to Iran became a possibility, I was ecstatic. All I knew of Iran at that time was that it lay geographically next to Afghanistan and that prior to the fall of the Shah in 1979, it was one of the most European minded countries in the Middle East. Its golden age of shaping foreign policy in the 70’s and its influence during WWII was something I had only had the opportunity to read about in textbooks. I only truly grasped how extensive and rich Iranian culture really is when I traveled to Iran. Far from its interactions with the Portuguese empire during the later part of the 18th century and its cultural peak during the Safavid Dynasty, I discovered an Iran preserved in time, an Iran that warmly offers a piece of its history and intricate social fabric in its people and in doing so bestowed a sense of immortality upon me.
Bordering the Gulf of Oman, the Persian Gulf, and the Caspian Sea, Iran’s geographical setting boasts of the Zagros Mountains from north to south and its grain and wheat fields in cities like Shiraz. Its friendly population of a staggering seventy million demonstrates daily its respect and profound devotion to Islam in their everyday clothing. For one, all women must wear hijabs and long-sleeved shirts and pants. I, for one along with all the women who traveled with me on the plane, remember putting on my hijab five minutes before landing. At airport checks women and men always made separate lines. For me, this wasn’t strange because I had lived in the Middle East before; however I never had to wear a hijab. Honestly, I quickly forgot that I even had hair because I was more intrigued by sightseeing in Tehran. Not only that but I only ever saw my hair right before going to bed. Walking down Tehran at night was one of the most colorful scenes I witnessed. Women, especially young women wore colorful hijabs, ranging from blue to green and fuchsia. Something that also caught my attention while shopping was the fact that most mannequins in Tehran had band-aids on their noses- a sign that shows just how popular and prominent plastic surgery is in Iranian society. Likewise, the recurrent and intertwined symbolism of Islam is apparent in every crook and cranny in Iran. For one, the color green can be seen throughout Iran. Not only because the color itself symbolizes the power and importance of the Q’uran’s teachings but also because it is displayed in the colorful flags of local elections in various cities across Iran. This further shows how Iran like many Middle Eastern countries’ politics and religion are intertwined and are almost if not impossible to separate.
Look for Part 2-4 Mondays in November at http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/
October 30, 2012 | 8:58 pm
Posted Richard Bangs
From Iguaçu I travel west over the Andes and beyond, over one of the emptiest stretches of water on the planet, en route to Easter Island, a fine dot on the map of the Pacific. If Iguaçu is full presence, Eastern Island is absence. Fretted by incessant winds, it is surrounded by a million square miles of open sea. And the nearest solid land you can see from here... is the moon.
This tiny rock in the middle of nowhere, on the way to nowhere, has bewildered and beguiled explorers, scientists, artists and visitors for centuries. But only its solitary stone sentries, some standing, some fallen, know the island's real story.
Wonder is what provokes through opposition of what makes sense, and so little makes sense here. It's a twisted plot that turns on creation and destruction; a whodunit; a cautionary tale... and one of the greatest unsolved riddles of all time.
Why did an ancient people erect the massive stone figures that haunt this remote island? How did they do it? And why did such an accomplished people nearly vanish into thin air?
Answers are as insubstantial as sand. The footprints of those who once knew have long washed away. Yet we are inexorably drawn to things we don't understand...compelled, by nature, to wonder.
Easter Island is a place to meditate upon mysteries. Nowhere can such colossal statues be found in such a small place in such great numbers created by so few people. It is the richest, most bewitching open-air museum in existence.
Many are familiar with the outlines of the story: Once blessed with bounty -- flocks of native birds, a forest of palm trees and a sea abundant with life -- Easter Island was, for a time, Eden-like.
Sometime in a period still uncertain, seafaring Polynesians, masters of wind, stars and current, set sail in outrigger canoes. Defying all odds, they crossed a vast void of ocean, until they bumped into this igneous spit, and then settled here, perhaps because of the fresh water source in its crater lakes. Over time, they carved and erected these great moai, the island's iconic, brooding statues.
Then suddenly, over the course of a few short hundred years, the society buckled, then collapsed. The population shrank to a shadow, leaving only the mute moai as witness to what had happened.
Anthropologists tell us the people who settled this island were Polynesian. Archaeologists tell us the moai were carved from volcanic stone. But no one can explain why the inhabitants spent so much time fashioning the statues, and moving them around like giant chess pieces... and why they toppled them when they were done.
The island received its cartographic celebrity from the Dutch sea captain Jacob Roggeveen, the first European to visit the island on Easter Sunday, 1722.
One sailor wrote of the huge stone heads they found: "all made with skill, whereat we wondered not a little."
Up to 13,000 people once inhabited the island, but by the time Captain Cook arrived in 1774, most of the land had been deforested, and only a thousand called it home. Like so many, Cook was amazed by what he found. "It was incomprehensible to me," he wrote, "how such great masses could be formed by a set of people among whom we saw no tools."
The extinct volcano Rano Rarku provided the volcanic tuff from which the island's almost 900 moai were chiseled and carved. Archeologists think it took 5 or 6 men, using hand tools, a full year to complete each statue.
But how did they move these monoliths, some standing thirty feet high and weighing up to twenty tons? Some suggest felled palm trunks acted as rollers as teams of hundreds pushed and pulled the statues into place. Others say they were walked, as movers might walk a large piece of furniture across the room. And there are those who believe there was no human assist at all, that the statues marched themselves across the raw-boned isle.
At Tongariki stands a line of giant Moai, one crowned with a massive stone headdress. The achievement of donning this fellow's hat might be compared with putting a man on Mars today. How did they do this? The only thing to do in the face of the incomprehensible is to wonder.
Most of the moai were felled for reasons obscured by the long shadows of time. Only recently have several been re-erected to their previous viewpoints, and the restoration work continues
Contact with the outside world was not kind to Rapa Nui, and in time the island seemed to shrink into itself. European ships brought slave traders and disease. Then there was the islanders' own undoing, still a mystery. But by 1860, just 111 people survived and today's inhabitants are the descendants.
After missionaries arrived on the island, much of the native culture was suppressed and, in some cases, erased, but since the 1960's Rapa Nuian culture has undergone a renaissance. The people of Easter Island today are breathing mana, or life spirit, into their native arts, language and culture.
Controversies still rage as hard as the sea into the cliffs on this three-million-year-old volcanic spit. Theories slip past like fish in flight.
Many guesses for Rapa Nui's early undoing have been hazarded: climate change, overpopulation, volcanic eruption, rat infestations, cannibalism, war. Though we continue to search for answers, it's the non-answers that needle and keep us wondering. Why is this important? Because knowing begins with not-knowing.
But while we fail to grasp the narratives long vanished, there is a yearning wonder in the attempt. Was what happened here a moment of dizzyingly singularity? Or is it a crystal ball to our own future? What are the costs of our own choices? What can we learn to avoid this fate?
In recent years, tourism has boosted the economy of Easter Island. But the people of Rapa Nui well know that if the number of tourists increases past a certain threshold, the island will once again have insufficient resources to handle the growth. The people of this island are no strangers to overpopulation, and its consequences, so great efforts are being made to keep this address sustainable, in balance, for locals and visitors.
From the moment visitors' touchdown, these efforts are noticeable. Even the offices of the island's leading airline are designed to be green and sustainable.
The newly built Hangaroa Eco Village is based on the Polynesian kainga, or village, integrating respect for the fragile lands of Rapa Nui with a laudable cultural sensitivity.
"On the entire surface of the island, there is not a tree that merits being called that," wrote naturalist George Forster, who accompanied Captain Cook.
No matter how the island's trees were lost--cutting them down to move the Moai, or for building, firewood and weapons, or from a plague of Polynesian rats arriving with the island's first settlers -- thanks to work from CONAF, The National Forest Corporation of Chile, trees native to Oceania are now being introduced in an effort to re-forest land denuded for centuries.
And so, the guardianship of this once-broken island seems in good hands now, its tonic of wonders intact, and sustaining.
The wind whispers here, like the voices of carvers past. All we are left with is the magnet of mystery, which pulls travelers to this powerful place.
The mysteries lay folded in wonder. The great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda wrote of this place: "And in this capital without walls made of light, salt, stone and thought, like the rest I looked at and left frightened by the cleanly clarity of mythology, the statues surrounded by blue silence.... Easter Island, where everything is an altar, where everything is an altar of the unknown."
The blind eyes of Easter Island watch our comings and goings, impassively, as they always have. Most gaze inward, toward the center of this island universe; but a few look out to sea, wondering, perhaps, what lies beyond. Can they as well see across time as space, and know what is coming in the Moai's future -- in our today?
The APT/KQED television special "Richard Bangs' South America: Quest for Wonder" is airing nationally now on PBS. See this link for air dates and info.
September 27, 2012 | 7:22 am
Posted Amy Sommer
On Saturday, September 29, 2012 KTLA’s “Career Day” will invite viewers in to science teacher Lisa Niver Rajna’s classroom and see first hand how she inspires her Kindergarten through sixth grade students by integrating science concepts in an engaging way that connects with our community.
Niver Rajna’s fourth grade students had a Question and Answer session with the director of "Trouble in Paradise" a film that documents how the inhabitants of this Polynesian island nation are dealing with the rising sea waters which will force them to abandon their homes in the near future. Several students were so inspired to help they had a weekend bake sale to raise money to help the Tuvaluans relocate.
Another example of Niver Rajna’s innovative approach to a holistic teaching of science involved her sixth graders participated in the 20th year of the OXFAM-Canada International Recycled Toy Competition. Her students who won the International Award are the first American participants in this student project.
Niver Rajna, an avid traveler who with her husband, George, run the global travel site, We Said Go Travel http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/, found out about the Oxfam Competition when they met the founder of the contest hiking Sri Lanka’s Ella Gap. Niver Rajna always brings her travels into the classroom and she is gathering more material during the 2012-2013 school year while she travels in Asia during her sabbatical.
During her travel year, the teacher and traveler invites everyone to be involved in her latest philanthropic venture: 45x45. The goal of this venture is to create awareness for the plight of the Darfur refugees. In the 45 days before she turns 45 she is raising money to assist 45 families receive Solar Cookers from Jewish World Watch. She is already half way to her goal having raised funds to help 23 families. For more information on this project: www.wesaidgotravel.com/we-said-do-good
Niver Rajna is a 2012 presidential nominee for excellence in math and science teaching, and has received rewards and accolades from political leaders including United States Senator Barbara Boxer and City Council member Eric Garcetti: http://www.wesaidgotravel.com/accolades
Niver Rajna has been to over one hundred countries and is a member of Traveler's Century Club and it is by sharing stories of these adventures with her students that she inspires them to learn geography and be global citizens. Her choices for Science Fair projects are also influenced by her worldly view a dozen of which are featured on www.sciencebuddies.org.
Being able to explain the Ho Chi Ming Trail, all about Nomads and Gers in Mongolia, as well water issues around the world with both photos and video from her personal perspective engages students of all ages. Find out how Lisa Niver Rajna does it on KTLA Saturday, September 29, 2012 at 1:00pm.