·         Saturday, 30 June 2007

Fechin Gallery in Taos

One of the highpoints of our trip to Taos, for me anyway, was a stop at the Fechin Gallery.  Nicholai Fechin was a Russian artist who somehow found his way to the Wild West to live among Native Americans, cowboys, Mexicans and the descendents of the Conquistadors in the isolated arts community of Taos.  It seems an unlikely place to find a Russian!


The gallery, which is housed in the home Fechin built himself, is wonderful.  It is bright and airy, a place that invites one to linger.  His paintings are wonderful and though his subjects are very American there are hints of Russian babushkas hiding in them.


Over the Rockies

We poked around a bit in Taos, before crossing the Rio Grande suspension bridge and heading up to Colorado.  We traveled on back roads and crossed the Rockies just west of Denver.


We slept in an unincorporated area of northern Denver.



·         Friday 29 June 2007

Accepting the Job

We lunched at a bright restaurant run by a wonderful business women with a strong vision and sense of integrity.  It was delightful to listen to the reasons behind her business decisions.  She loves her business and radiates with enthusiasm.  She vests each of the decisions she makes with respect and joy.


After the meal, which was hosted by dear friends (and mentors) of my in-laws, we had the opportunity to escape for a couple hours.  We wandered through a couple interesting shops while we discussed our future.  Somehow we made a decision.  It was not forced, it seemed to simply unfold.  We somehow just knew.


So we stopped and bought a small bouquet and headed over to the Habitat for Humanity offices to tell them yes!  Yes, Mark will accept the AmeriCorps position with Habitat for Humanity.  We will use that position as a means of becoming part of the community and as a way to commit to a new life in the Santa Fe area.


Making a happy decision is a bit like falling in love.  Once you say it out loud, there is a feeling of being free.  I want to dance and laugh. 



·         Thursday, 28 June 2007

Dinner at Gabriel’s

They make the guacamole at your table at this Santa Fe restaurant.  And it is very good. 


We enjoy a very nice meal with my in-laws and their good friend, R.  He is a friend from their Chicago days when they had condos in the same wonderful old building near Lake Michigan.  The conversation danced around pleasantly.



·         Wednesday, 27 June 2007

We Visit Santa Fe

What a beautiful place.  I am reminded of our life in Spain and our years in Texas (Austin & San Antonio).  There are even hints of things Ukrainian here. 


The hollyhocks please my eye.  The color and light appeals to me.  The sound of water in the fountains delights the ear.  So much art, music and such a variety of cultures. 


We sightsee downtown and drive around making a windshield tour of the area.  Despite all the tourists, Santa Fe has a small town feel.  The people we meet seem open ad interesting.



·         Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Breakfast at the Galaxy Diner (Where we Lose our Camera)

We had a great breakfast at an old-timey diner and then hit the road with Albuquerque as our destination.


Job Interview in the Desert

I have a phone interview.  The plan is to find a pay phone enroute and contact the interviewers at the designated time. 


I end up outdoors, sweating in the middle of a desolate desert, standing at a pay phone that does not work.  I resort to using the cell phone, though the signal is erratic.  Mark holds an umbrella over my head as I stay calm and answer the challenges.  Boy do I feel less than professional.  I score points for being resourceful and determined! 


Actually, the interview goes well.  I am stimulated by the job description and their vision.  I am comfortable with the women conducting the interview. By the end of the conference call, they make a job offer.  They have interviewed many people for this high visibility position.  I am delighted with the offer.  Mark has interviews later this week (one in Santa Fe and one in Minneapolis) so I tell them I will give them my answer on Monday.


What a picture: standing in 105 degree heat in the middle of a desert, conducting a job interview…and I did not even break a sweat!


Albuquerque’s Oldtown

It is hot, hot, hot (101 degrees at 6PM) in Albuquerque and the city seems to be a huge freeway.  We spend some time in Oldtown, wandering around the plaza and visiting a few shops before we have dinner at a delightful Mexican restaurant.


Tomorrow – off to Santa Fe, via the Turquoise Trail.



·         Monday, 25 June 2007 – Gas $3.59/103 degrees

Breakfast at the Bagdad Café on Route 66


See the film.  I saw it years ago so when I saw the sign, I knew this stop could be fun!  The Bagdad Café (that’s Bagdad without the H) was a fun film, a cult film (circa 1988) actually.  The star is a funny German woman who has made several other rather quirky films (“Rosalie Goes Shopping” is a riot!)  Jack Palance is in it too (an actor of Ukrainian heritage!)


We headed east out of LA with vague plans to breakfast on the road.  Little did we know that there would be few opportunities to eat.  The few cafes we saw on the road were closed on Monday AM and towns are far apart on the desert.  So when we stumbled on the Bagdad Café, we were quite happy to order coffee and breakfast.


“The cook quit,” said the rather scruffy hostess (owner) of this rather seedy place where the film was made many years ago.  She splashed some coffee into our cups and said, “I’ll cook up something, but we don’t have many supplies”


A rater dubious start, but I ended up with a plate of excellent pancakes, some of the best I ever had!  Wile we waited for our meal, we leafed through a huge scrapbook, packed with postcards, letters, photos and memorabilia from customers from all over the world.  The movie has a dedicated international following, evidenced by all the notes written in French and other foreign languages. 


This dusty desert oasis provided a fine diversion and a tasty meal as well as hours of conversation.  We posed for photos, signed the guest book and returned to the road, smiling and full.


Gas Prices…

We gas up in Needles, AZ and pay $3.59 per gallon.


Grand Canyon Adventures


445 miles fro our starting point (Claremont, CA) we deviated from our plans and made a quick detour to visit the south rim of the Grand Canyon: truly amazing.


This is a remarkable sight – a must see.  I wish we could camp here.



We see elk, rabbits, deer and pristine conifer forests as we head toward Flagstaff.


An Evening in Downtown Flagstaff

Flagstaff is beautiful.  I love the conifers that cover the gentle mountains in this area.  It is a lovely college town, kind of a throw back to an earlier time.  The downtown is pleasing and crowded.  The old library is made of stone and is bight and crowded – so inviting.  I could live here.


We dine at an outdoor café, sipping wine and listening to the sound of the train whistle.



·         Saturday, 23 June 2007

We pack up to begin the journey back east.  We leave Monday at daybreak.  This leg of the journey will be shared with my in-laws who travel to SD each summer to relax for a few months in a lovely second home in the Black Hills. 


When we arrived a few weeks ago, we carried only one suitcase and two carry on bags, but already we have accumulated more stuff.  It is the great American tradition to consume.


Shortly after we arrived, I had the opportunity to shop in the community second-hand clothing emporium where I was able to expand my limited repertoire of clothing at very low prices.  Needless to say, my tiny red carry on bag now bulges with clothes.  So much for traveling light!


We have also acquired things so in order to travel easily, we must UPS some of the new delights back to our SC home.


I struggle somewhat with this embarrassment of riches.  After a few years living Peace Corps life, all these things seem more like complications to me rather than pleasures.  I have to deal with them.  With fewer things to care for, I felt more joy in the caring.  This feeling of being almost oppressed by things generally passes, though the whispers in my head are not altogether silent.


When we establish ourselves in a residence of our own, will I revert to the consumer mode or will I streamline and simplify life? 


There is almost a schizophrenic feeling – a desire to have it all, to buy, buy, buy and yet, like a kid who has eaten too much candy, I know I will pay.  Things do not satiate or satisfy.  I feel certain strength when I simply walk away rather than making a purchase.



·         Friday, 20 June 2007

A Day at the Huntington Garden, Library & Museum

Gutenberg Bible, Chaucer’s works…Koi in the Japanese Garden…Tiny Bonsai forests and towering bamboos…The delights of the children’s garden…The traveling photo exhibit on Native Americans…Lunch in the garden with squirrels running around…


This is a wonderful place to spend leisure hours!


Thursday at the Getty Villa and the Kerch Antiquities Exhibit

LA rush hour freeway experience … hours in the car … the great Pacific Ocean

The amazing Greek antiquities of Kerch (Crimea) on loan from the Hermitage in St Petersburg on display in the grand halls of the Getty Villa! 


We are halfway around the world from our former home in Kerch and surprise, surprise; we have the opportunity to see the glorious antiquities collection of the Bosporan Kingdom (Kerch, then called Panticapaeum, was the capital!)  The handouts even came in Russian!



·         Thursday, 21 June 2007

Off on a Rant…

I hit the send button yesterday.  Trying to get my convoluted work history digitized with some accuracy has been and continues to be a challenge.  Job applications and resumes are generally online now.  Even though I am comfortable with the Internet and have a long, on-going affair with my keyboard, this method leaves me irritated, depressed, overwrought. 


At thus point in life I have a long, varied history.  I am a dynamic woman and have lived a rich full life, so getting it down with any precision is virtually impossible.  Getting the details straight is complicated because many of the places I have work suffered in the down-sizing of the US Air Force – almost every base and unit have been deactivated. 


My most recent venture (adventure) with the Peace Corps presents a dilemma too.  I was medivaced during training and due to unexpected surgery (mammogram) ended up being separated from that organization.  Since my spouse was sworn in as a legitimate Peace Corps Volunteer, I decided to simply get an appropriate visa and move back to Ukraine to carve out my own version of volunteer service.  I worked happily and successfully with several individuals and organizations in Ukraine during my 27-month tenure, and mingled and mentored countless Peace Corps Volunteers, yet.  Try putting that into the confines of a tiny box with a character limit of about 20 spaces!


I also have a wealth of varied volunteer experiences: crisis intervention counseling, community theater (acting, costuming, set design), Renn-Fair apprentice; radio experience; Recording for the Blind; answering phones at 6-7 NPR stations at various stateside locations; innumerable fundraising gigs for a variety of causes, presentations for the organ donor network; my pet project (CALEB Library Project), wrangling Brownie and Cub Scouts; hosting weekly English Conversation Club; membership chair for Friends of Ukraine; a stint as the Coordinator for NOW; worker bee for a music co-op and a pre-school and a couple animal shelters…Recording for the Blind experience, rape crisis intervention service and suicide intervention counseling are also part of my history….n and on.  My spouse and I volunteer in whatever community we currently call home and as a career Air Force veteran, we have had many homes and many wonderful opportunities!


Encapsulating my essence into these checklists and summing things up in short phrases seems impossible and is, in my humble opinion, not a very effective way to screen candidates.


While I did manage to fire off a couple applications yesterday, Mark beat me to the send button and has already received a few inquiries, completed a couple phone interviews and has an appointment for a site visit and second interview.  He just blithely taps away doing his application, seeming to never second guess his choice of words, etc.  He never experiences the irritation of having the access time-out midway through his education history.


Timing out – whew.  Another irritant of online applications!  My education history is lengthy (I have an AA, BS and MA) and because I completed my courses over an extended time, relocating frequently, it is tedious and time-consuming to fill in the blocks.  Federal job applications are the worst since they often request a detailed listing of specific classes taken.  Invariably, the system times-out and with it, my information too.  Sometimes there are not enough blocks.  Sigh.


Almost every base I served at has closed, so this adds to the dilemma and my career path may too erratic since the downsizing f the Air Force also meant changes to the specific job I actually did.  This is career broadening, but adds to my application drama.


At this point in my life, I often consider simply moving to the community and pursuing a position that involves a more direct screening process.  I could quite happily accept a position as a pet-sitter.  This would leave much of my day available for more creative endeavors, such as writing and working on CALEB Library Project.


Or maybe I could just head to Malawi and contribute directly to life at Mawingamara Farm.


So I struggle through yet one more transition in a wonderful life filled with many joys and delights.  Who knows what adventure lies ahead.


We lunched here on Olvera Street in Los Angeles – great Mexican food!




Visiting the California Mountains!  We lunched at a little inn and had a wonderful day!



·         Monday, 18 June 2007

Catching up and Getting a Routine in Sunny California

I am a woman who likes routine and privacy.  This communal life we are living wears on me a bit.  But we are happy and grateful to be here.


I do need unbroken time to think and write, private time to study and contemplate the lesson (Christian Science); time to linger quietly over coffee and observe the day beginning.  The past few weeks (months) I rise in the home of friends and family and most days to hit the ground running, eating rich foods (lovingly prepared by my hosts) and elbow to elbow with people all day long.


One of the gifts I experienced in Kerch was the opportunity to organize my day to meet my own demands and preferences.  I had time alone and I enjoyed it.


During this transition period where we are lucky enough to be with friends and family, I feel harried and on guard much of the time.  Being gracious and polite is hard work.


In a few months I will remember only the pleasures.  I am, of course, very grateful for this hospitality, but it will be good to have our own space again.  I may be fat and lazy and cranky by then!


Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad V!

We dine out with thee other couples (including my in-laws, see photos) who are all celebrating their wedding anniversary.  The evening is filled with stories, great Chinese food and ends back at the house with a delightful jam session.  The music was folk and brought back memories of when Mark performed with his Dad at coffee houses and sang anti-war stuff! 



·         Sunday, 10 June 2007

We Arrive in Claremont…

Mom and Dad V meet us at the bus station.  Yes, we arrived in time for church, but we elected to play hooky today.  Time for a hot shower before lunch!


Lunch was our introduction to life at Pilgrim Place.  All residents dine together each noon.  The seating arrangements change each day and with the diverse group of people here, that means conversations remain stimulating.  During daily announcements, we are introduced to everyone.


After lunch we attend a seminar on Peace.


It is pleasant to see the V’s furniture transplanted from the Chicago condo to this California bungalow.  It seems just right and it feels like home!



·         Saturday, 9 June 2007

Back on the Bus!

We splurge a bit on dinner at the Outback before delightful daughter and wonderful son-in-law drop us at the bus station.  It is pleasant to eat and talk.  We will miss them.


It’s been a good visit.  We helped the grandkids get ready for their separate trips and had lots of lazy time to talk.  No big agenda here, just relaxing.


The wait for the bus requires us to line up and wait to board.  If you do not stand in line, you may not get a seat.  It is not a practical process, but it is the routine at every stop.  So rather than sitting in the chairs, we stand by our luggage for hours, waiting to board the bus.  It is an opportunity to people watch.


People lay down on the floor and sleep.


Some Photos of Kids and Grandkids...











































·         Tuesday, 5 June 2007 – Moriah’s Birthday!

We are at the airport in Reno, NV, waiting to board a flight to Phoenix, AZ.  Our daughter will pick us up.  This will be a whirlwind visit, since the grandkids have lives of their own – happy, happy granddaughter is off to CA (visions of Disneyland and Sea World!) and Boy Scout grandson to Alaska in just a few days.  C. and M. have anniversary plans too.  Juggling schedules and coordinating visits is tough.

Last time we were all together was in Phoenix for Christmas 2004.  Lots of great memories from that crazy, whirlwind trip.  In my experience, if you wait for things to be perfect, you just don’t get it done.


Boarding call – we are off to the next leg of our trip.


·         Friday, 1 June 2007

Reno and Mom and Dad P…

We arrive in Reno, NV and spend a few days with more family.  Our visit in Reno found us dining very well…eating in casinos is an invitation to get fat!  We also took a drive around Lake Tahoe and picnicked on the beach.  Mark helped his Dad with a number of household tasks and we had a chance to meet some of Russ and Lou’s friends.

Dad & Mom P & my spouse!

A Reno View




FYI: If you want to read about our initial Peace Corps adventures, start with January 2005; that’s when we received our invitation (short-notice) to Ukraine!