Saturday, February 14, 2015

Travel Tips for Geezers

First off. Who and what are geezers?

The mental image is not good. Toothless. Slack jawed. Sagging gut. Plummeting boobs. Ambulatory devices. Bad hats. Turkey necks. Crow's feet. Flaccid male units. Batwing upper arms. Bingo and Old Maid. Ensure, oatmeal and smashed bananas. On it goes.

Here he is. The stereotypical geezer. This guy is actually old, maybe 90-something?
But some people think they're old at 50, 60 or 65. I'm 70, which is, of course, very old! I am approaching geezerdom for sure. But like almost everyone I know close to my age, I don't think of myself as "old'" until I get ambushed by a mirror.  By the time we actually become geezers, I don't think we realize it, and that's merciful. "Geezer," in our culture, is not a pleasing self description When we call ourselves geezers, we mean it as a joke, right?

I found this photo, and others on this post, when I Googled "geezer images." I like these guys because they don't really fit the stereotypical geezer image because we can't see their faces, or other parts,  and I think most still have their teeth. But I'm sure glad I don't have to do their laundry. Plus, they're on the move, going someplace out of their comfort zone. Maybe they'll go swimming in their top hats, then have tea? They're not geezers yet. And where are the women?

Here we are, obsessing about boobs again. Mostly, we
obsess about body image and wrinkles and grey hair. And
necks are just a huge problem.
God, it's depressing! And it is WRONG! All wrong to consign humans past a
certain age to ridiculousness.  I know many of us who are approaching geezer age, whatever number that may be, joke about being geezers but don't really believe for even a minute that we are. Right? We know geezers, we've seen them and maybe have one or two in the family, or the tribe, or whatever group we're aligned with. But us? Geezers? No way! Not yet. Not yet.
Great juxtaposition here, doncha think?
Had to be a set up. Random photo grabbed
from Google images.
My friend JoAnne Heron took the photo below of her mate, Fayette, when they toured Europe in 2014. I think this was in Ireland. Can you imagine this sign in the US?! I love JoAnne's caption.

Just one more.....

Let's get to travel tips for people past a certain age—the  age at which they think they are finally irretrievably old.

I'm getting serious now. I spent seven recent years with my mom, who never seemed like a geezer, even at age 98.9, at which time she was liberated from her rebellious body, sightless eyes and soundless ears, to join my dear loving father at the Ft. Snelling Cemetery in Minnesota. May they rest in peace.

Back to the topic. During those seven years, in my mom's various living arrangements, I saw some geezers. The most geezer-like behavior I witnessed was a man who yanked out his false teeth after eating in the facility's dining room, and licked them sensuously before sliding them  back into his mouth. Smack, slurp. Not a lick of mashed potatoes remained!

Then I was repulsed. Now I am sympathetic, because I'm certain that during most of his life, that guy would never have done that.

Speaking of "never have done that," many of us geezerdom-avoiding  people have lots of weighty stuff on our bucket lists, things we want to do but never have done, and we damn well better get moving before we're too old and we can't.

I'm talking about PK and me now. We had a pesky foreign travel itch that went unscratched for decades due to our jobs, raising two fabulous boys—which we wouldn't have missed for anything—inadequate finances, and then elder care.

 PK and I are now embroiled in travel frenzy. It began in 2010 when we finally spent a couple weeks in Costa Rica with friends who own a place, there, then in 2013 with a fabulous trip to Africa and on to Nepal in 2014 with Nepal. We've learned some things, which we try to remember as we leave for extended periods our much-loved home of 40 years.

Travel Tips for Geezers (even though you aren't one)
  • Leave your comfort zone. Just leave it and go somewhere truly foreign. What's the worst that can happen? 
  • Ok. So leaving your comfort zone totally isn't for you, but tours abroad are really good practice.
  • If you do strike off on your own, make a plan, a framework to work within for when the doodoo hits the fan.
  • Give up the idea that you're in control. You can make a plan, but random stuff  occurs. ( If I was younger, I'd say "random shit") And sometimes  random shit is good. In fact, "random" is a great reason to travel.  Embrace the unexpected.
  • Open your heart and mind to anything that comes your way.
  • Relax, please. Nothing is fun if your jaw is tight and your rectum is clamped. Loosen up!
  • Be generous in spirit and respectful toward people from other cultures. 
  • Pack light, light, light. Seriously. Pack as if you'll have to carry your luggage up six flights of stairs because you might.
  • Whatever your age, don't worry about it. (Repeat.)
  • Whatever your age, don't worry. Did I already say that?
  • Remember that "geezer" is not a universal word or concept, and in many cultures, unfortunately not ours, elders are revered. If your teeth are long enough, go abroad for the reverence!
PK and I are on the front end of  a month-long road trip, nothing exotic, except maybe for swimming with whale sharks and sea lions in the Sea of Cortez, or cozying up in a small (guided) boat to get close to grey whales and blue whales.

Mostly though, we'll be visiting friends, sightseeing, hiking, riding our bikes, seeing Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, and various wonders of Utah.

On the way, I hope there are lots of surprises and that I'll have time and energy to post some travel blogs. That is if PK and I do not succumb to elderly heat.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Giving the Endless Gift - Education

PK and I spent most of November 2014 in Nepal with longtime friend Catherine Wood and a half dozen other US citizens, all committed to providing a rigorous well balanced education to impoverished Nepalese kids. Starting a decade ago with children in the early grades, each sponsor pledged to stick with one student until he or she graduated from high school. 

I'd also been to Nepal with Catherine in 2002, soon after she started the student sponsorships by sponsoring a spunky little kid named Samip. 

A highlight in 2002 was spending a morning with Samip and his parents in their humble home, eating a delicious meal prepared with love for a woman who had changed their world. 

Same thing in 2014, but even better because Samip was all grown up and graduated and love and gratitude were thick and sweet in the air. And the food prepared for our visit, in Catherine's honor, was the best we had in Nepal. 

Samip, now in his twenties,  reads aloud a  heartfelt message from his proud father, Raju, left, written to Catherine, who made Samip's education and ongoing success possible. Not a dry eye in the house!  Raju's message is below.  Jeff Bossler, photo.

Samip, age 8, on the day
he met Catherine Wood.

When Catherine Wood looked into young Samip's bright eyes 15 years ago, she saw his future. As a child of loving but poor parents, he was condemned to receive only the most basic public education. After grade six, because his parents lacked funds for school uniforms and supplies, he'd be working the streets and markets to help his family score the basic rice and lentils.

But one fateful day in 2000, the then-small boy was on a bus trip, which had been organized by a non profit organization. He had the great good fortune to sit next to Catherine, who was in Nepal fulfilling a Rotary initiative to re-establish a village health clinic.

Samip captured Catherine's heart. It killed her to realize that within a few years, Samip's education would trail into oblivion. Like hundreds, thousands, millions of poor children in the third world, he would subsist on a few dollars a day, his dreams would die, and those bright eyes would dull.

Free universal quality education is not happening in much of the third world.  In myriad countries populated by millions of children, quality education is available ONLY to children whose families can pay. Aside from an outlier here or there whose brilliance and hard work—and at least one piece of providential luck— elevate them, education is the key to escaping the hand-to-mouth routine.
                   Samip's parents devote a wall in their tiny home to honor their
                   only child's academic achievements. This shrine (partially pictured)
                   dominates their combined bedroom/living room.

Samip is a blessed man. He's bright. motivated, and much loved. But he also enjoyed once-in-a-lifetime good fortune when he caught Catherine's eye.

Raju's letter to Catherine. Didi is a term of endearment, meaning roughly, "sister".
Didi, I feel so happy, welcoming all BFF’s members to my small house. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for always standing next to my family and especially Samip.
It was 2000 when Catherine didi first visited Nepal, and didi visited our house too. She saw everything and felt our pain. After a month I got an email from her and didi decided to give scholarship to Samip. Didi, you became father and mother to Samip. You actually cared and loved him like your own son. We just gave him birth; you are the one who raised him up. My salary was not enough even to run my family. It was like a dream for me, seeing Samip going to good school and achieving good education. It was very hard for me to pay Samip’s tuition fee. Sometimes I borrowed it from my friend. My life was going through darkness until you came like a god. You took all our darkness and spread happiness into us.
Samip continued his education in the Phillipines and graduated with a BS in aeronautical engineering. Catherine and her husband, Michael, attended the ceremony and also paid expenses for Samip's proud parents to attend.
Didi, we never rode an airplane. Me and Anita were out of this world when you said, "Raju and Anita, you’ll attend Samip’s graduation ceremony." Didi, I don’t have any word to express my happiness. I think god for sending an angel who took care of everything. Thank you so much didi and Michael for always being there for us and Samip.

Samip, now employed by a Nepalese airline, donated his first paycheck, all of it, to the Bright Futures Foundation.

Samip shares a photo book Catherine created to chronicle his educational odyssey. He's surrounded by student sponsors from the USA and, on the right, Keshav Thapa, the Nepalese who manages the sponsored students. A number of sponsors have pooled resources to make sure Keshav's six-year-old son also receives a quality education. Others pictured, left to right, Kathy KrausCharla Rolph  and Jeff Bossler.
There's more. As a result of encountering Samip, Catherine founded the Bright Futures Foundation (BFF) to sponsor poor Nepalese kids at the Galaxy school in Kathmandu. The foundation also supported, with Rotary International for a time, a health clinic in Bhotechaur, a mountain village not far from Kathmandu.

Her 2014 Nepal visit was bittersweet, marking the end of a 10-year run with the clinic, which was always planned to become self-sustaining. The remaining 10 BFF scholarship students will continue to be supported by their individual sponsors until the last one graduates in 2021.
Keshav Thapa, BFF's man-on-the-ground in Kathmandu, has the full attention of Mark Minnis, Kathy Kraus, and Jeff Bossler, who sponsor, or have sponsored, BFF students at the Galaxy School.

The bottom line is that 22 bright young people have been given the opportunity, though a rigorous education, to move beyond poverty. They have options. They have futures to create rather than sliding into a vast underclass. 

In return, each sponsored student has pledged to:
  •  study hard and earn good grades
  •  never abuse a woman or child 
  •  help support a girl's education.
As everywhere in the third world, and even in so-called advanced countries, girls are often denied education in favor of boys, or shut out just because they're girls. Eight of the ten BFF sponsored students still in school are girls. 

More than a decade later, Catherine is still engaged in Samip's
future, which may include earning a master's degree in the USA. 
The takeaway of our magical morning with Samip and his parents:

It took one person to take the plunge to support a child's education. Whether Catherine envisioned it or not, that led to her forming a non profit organization that eventually financed an excellent education for 22 youngsters, many plucked from remote villages, some of which had sold girls into human trafficking.

Just 22? Yes. Just 22 young people whose lives have been taken off the poverty track and elevated to where they can choose from options where few, if any, existed before. 

Catherine at the Bhotechaur clinic with one of her many admirers.
The Bhotechaur Health Clinic, initially a Rotary project, also benefitted, as Catherine and the BFF board felt an obligation and a desire to see the clinic continue to develop beyond the Rotary commitment. The rural clinic now serves an area that is home to about 50,000.

But the longtime big winners are the sponsored students and their families. And thanks to the pay-it-forward clause in student sponsorship, other disadvantaged young people are also bound for glory. All because 15 years ago, Catherine visited Nepal and left part of her heart in Kathmandu.

A BFF sponsored student comes forward to accept an academic award at the Galaxy School.
Several mothers of sponsored students traveled from distant villages to attend a meeting with Catherine and BFF members to see their children receive academic awards. None of them speak English, so one of their daughters translated the ceremonies. That girl's delighted mother is on the left. One of the mothers here learned that her son is not up to snuff, and unless his performance improves, his sponsorship will end. The mother cried later, knowing that her 13-year-old boy may end up on the streets like his older brother.

What does it take to sponsor a child's education in the third world? 

  • A big generous heart
  • Understanding that educating young people is critical to improving developing countries and, hence, the world.
  • Believing that one person, or a group pooling their funds, can lift a child out of poverty and hopelessness. This child could be the next Ghandi or Nelson Mandela or Malala. Or Samip. 
  • Sponsoring also requires connecting with a reputable non profit organization (NGO) that provides a conduit between the sponsored child and the sponsor, as BFF  will continue to do until the last of the foundation's sponsored kids graduates in 2021. 
I know there must be hundreds of worthy NGOs managing educational sponsorships, but the only two I know personally are the BFF and another whose founder I have come to know, admire and respect over the past couple of years. That would be Frances Dixon founder and executive director of Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala

What about the financial commitment?

BFF sponsors committed to $2,000 annually, some for as many as 10 years. When tuition increased by $500 at the Galaxy school, the foundation made up the difference with fundraising.

Adopt-a-Village in Guatemala has sponsorships starting at as little as $250 a year for primary and elementary students still in public school, and up to $2,500 annually for students in the two-year Maya Jaguar high school in the northern highlands of Guatemala. (This compared with an annual average $12,000 per pupil cost of public education or more in the USA.) 

PK and I were the only members of our small traveling group in Nepal who were not student sponsors. Meeting the kids and some parents, seeing the benefits, experiencing the students' gratitude and the pure joy of their accomplishments, converted us. We're now sponsoring a young Mayan through Adopt a Village in Guatemala.

I'll be writing more about this as PK and I are planning to drive to Guatemala late this year to visit the remote Maya Jaguar High School and the Adopt a Village "headquarters" in a remote mountainous region accessible by 4X drive only.

We have a Toyota truck and a Four Wheel camper. We're going.  I can't wait.

If you want to know more about sponsoring, please contact Frances at Adopt a Village in Guatemala.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Asian/Mexican Fusion Kale, Cabbage, and Carrot Chopped Salad

Lots of yummy low-carb wonders are on this plate starting on the left with baked butternut squash, cauliflower mashed "potatoes", raw sauerkraut with braised pork, AND, the object of our affection, occupying half the plate, kale, cabbage and carrot chopped salad with Mexican and Asian dressings.
Email subscribers: Please click on the headline to get to the website, where everything looks better.

Blending Asian and Mexican flavors may not seem like a good idea, and I wouldn't haven't done it if I'd not been so lazy. But PK and I were headed for a 4-night ski trip with 14 friends, sharing a house and cooking duties,  and we snagged cooking duty the first night and I thought a chopped winter salad would go well with Emeril Legasse's killer chili and the vegetarian option, squash bisque.

Lots of chop, chop, chopping, cut, cut, cutting in those soup recipes, plus the chopped salad, and I didn't feel like making dressing. I knew we'd have the ever-present chipotle sauce I use to pump up just about everything. But putting together an additional homemade dressing did not appeal.

At the local Farmer's Market I purchased a bottle of Asian ginger/sesame dressing. It was cheap, just past its expiration date, on the discontinued table. It was perfect. The salad was a hit.
Remove the tough ribs from the kale, process with the slicing blade
in a food processor, then finish the chopping by hand.
Cabbage roughly sliced by food processor, awaiting fine chopping.
Chopping and grating done! Except for the last-minute onion.
Multiple requests for the salad recipe surprised me! But, true to my people-pleasing gene, I looked for a sesame/ginger dressing recipe as a fill-in. I tried one. It sucked. So tonight I made the chopped salad again and reverted to my tried-and-true, already made sesame dressing plus the ubiquitous chipotle sauce, and voila! Perfect.

Please don't think of any of the recipes here as one-shot-wonders. Chopped salad keeps for a couple weeks in the refrigerator, and chipotle and sesame dressings have even more impressive refrigerator lives. Chop chop chop one night and take it easy for at least a week. You can buy grated cabbage/carrot salad in plastic but....not recommended. Try this instead.
Freshly chopped/grated kale, cabbage, carrots.

Same stuff mixed. Lasts a long time. 

Recipes follow.

Kale, Cabbage and Carrot Chopped Salad, Asian/Mexican Flavors

1 bunch kale, any variety. I used lacinato, chopped
1 small head cabbage or 2/3 head large, chopped
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 half medium sweet onion, chopped (for garnish)
Optional last-minute additions: chopped apple, cilantro, parsley, peppers

Rinse the kale if necessary. I get mine at a local  organic farm stand and it usually doesn't require rinsing. If you need to rinse, dry the leaves or use a salad spinner. Remove the tough center stems. Fold the kale leaves and run them through a food processor using the slicing blade. Dump onto a cutting board and finish the chopping job.

Trim the cabbage and cut into wedges. Process with the slicing blade and finish chopping with a good knife on a cutting board.

Skin the carrot and process with the grating blade of a food processor. Or use a box grater.

At serving time, put mixed chopped veggies into a serving dish, add, or put on the table, optional ingredients. If you're serving a crowd, dress the salad using approximatlely equal amounts of sesame and chipotle dressings. If you're doing a small dinner, put the dressings on the side and let your lucky loved ones pile on dressings and options as they please.

Laurie's Sesame Dressing and Marinade

My friend Laurie served this to me at least 20 years ago, and I had to have the recipe. I've made variations of this for at least two decades. It is definitely my salad dressing of choice and it is always on hand. Use a food processor.

6-8 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup toasted sesame oil (or half olive oil, half avocado oil)
1/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, lemon juice, or other acidic liquid
1-2 Tbsp. dijon or other mustard
sweetener to taste— honey, sugar, Stevia
 dash of white pepper for a little kick

Directions: Use a food processor. Peel the garlic and process til finely minced. Add all other ingredients, then process until the oils are emulsified. The oil will separate after the dressing sits for awhile, but it is easily  mixed with a twirl of the spoon. Works great for dressing a salad or marinating veggies for the grill or even steak or chicken.

Chipotle Sauce

2/3 c mayo 

2/3 c sour cream 
2/3 c plain yogurt 
2-4  tsp. lemon or lime juice.
2-3 tsp serrano sauce or garlic/chili sauce. Lacking those, use a Sirrachea sauce.
1-2 tsp. cumin Mix and serve over, or on the side, with grilled meats, fish, veggies, eggs, or atop soups or stews.

2-3 cubes frozen chipotle cubes - or 2-3 canned chipotles in adobo sauce, minced. 

Taste, taste, taste. Gauge your own heat tolerance. As you can see, this recipe is based on thirds, using the same amount of mayo, sour cream, and yogurt. 

More Kale Recipes from Ordinary Life

Kale chips!
Creamed kale with dried tomatoes
Kale and Yoga Eggs Fritatta
Killer Kale Salad with Sesame Dressing
Savory Eggs, Kale, Prosciuitto Breakfast
Kick Butt Kale Soup
Key to a Happy Marriage (includes kale!)
Spring Smoothie
Quinoa Kale Salad