2016 Solas Award Winner for Travel Writing

lenore greiner 2016 Solas Awards for travel writing

Travel Writing as a Craft and an Art

Just found out today that I’m a 2016 Solas Award winner for travel writing, garnering three awards and two Honorable Mentions. That’s a better showing than last year.

Here’s a rundown of my Solas Awards for Travel Writing:

Silver Award for Cruise Story – “The Slot” (soon appearing on WorldHum.com, where you’ll find the world’s best travel writing)

Bronze Award for Most Unforgettable Character – “A Different Kind of Invisible”

Bronze Award for Travel and Shopping – “The World’s Most Dangerous Shopping Trip”

Plus, Honorable Mentions for two pieces I submitted, “From Mill Valley With Love” and “Ashram Dharma.”

These stories and more with appear in my forthcoming travel memoir, “Battered Journals.” The travel narrative form of writing is a most beautiful expression of craft and art. On the road, we find ourselves, we learn about everything from history to languages and share our experiences with the other humans sharing this planet with us.

I’m very grateful to be a travel writer.

Westways Magazine Publishes My Disneyland Memory

Westways Disneyland travel writer lenore greinerWestways, Disneyland and A Travel Writer

Disneyland celebrated its 60th year and Westways, AAA’s magazine for Southern California, shouted out to the general public for favorite Disneyland memories. As a travel writer, I’ve visited Disney’s iconic park many times. Too many. And sometimes, Disneyland travels with you.

Yet, after recalling the touching stories Westways had run for the 50th, I sent in my own, figuring that I wouldn’t make the cut since thousands of submissions Westways disneyland travel writer lenore greinerwould probably pour in.

Then, at the Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference, Westways Travel Editor Elizabeth Harryman told me they were thinking of dropping the article altogether.

Ah, well, the life of the long distance travel writer. Then something strange happened.

Walking into the Encinitas Library one fall day, I spied a box marked “Free” outside the bookstore. Sitting right on top lay a copy of the Westways November/December issue, an issue chock full of Disneyland memories.  

I searched quickly to see if I had made the cut. And (Yes!) I did. Thank you, God!

If you can’t read the tiny article posted above, here’s my Disneyland memory in its entirety. It’s a sad memory from a rough time in my life but traveling helped me heal.

Disneyland wove its magic.

Walt Disney once said he designed Disneyland so that visitors could not see the world beyond its walls. He wanted us to feel as if we were inside another world. I have a long-ago snapshot of myself standing in Town Square taken by my husband, Rob. We had just endured a mean year of fighting his cancer with a brutal chemotherapy that eventually saved his life. Living daily with fear, we longed to feel normal again, so we escaped to the Happiest Place on Earth like a couple of giddy kids. Our Disneyland day was a precious break from the cruelties that adult life can dump on you. Just as Walt had envisioned, we felt completely unaware of the outside world.

 

 

Published in Tales to Go

Tales to Go Lenore Greiner Travel Writer

Travel Writing Excellence

This month, I’ve been published in Tales to Go, which delivers four inspiring, transformative travel stories every month, just the way we like to read them: no ads, no flash, no fluff.

It’s a project from Travelers’ Tales, the award-winning experiential guide series of travel stories, wit and wisdom reflecting true travel writing excellence.  Travelers’ Tales crossed the digital frontier to produce beautiful digital editions of Tales to Go containing only four tales for the price of $2.99 per month.

As a travel writer, I’ve been working with Travelers Tales’ Publisher and President, Larry Habegger, for years on the California Travel Guide.   And I’m very grateful that he chose to include my story in this month’s edition.  My humble contribution joins three other engaging tales.

You can read my piece here.  Or read on below:

Signorina, per piacere?”

I looked up into the ebony face of a young Nigerian man, perhaps 20 years old, both of us students at the University of Foreigners in Perugia, Italy. His earnest, round face towered over me and he wore two sweaters, since Italy is far chillier than his home. In his clipped Italian, David haltingly asked me to translate an American song for him and his fellow Nigerian students. The group watched expectantly from across our dormitory’s dayroom.

Then I heard the song from his battered cassette player: the unmistakable strains of Aretha Franklin’s earthy, volcanic, “Respect.”

I couldn’t help but smile.

Certo,” I replied.

I crossed the stone-tiled floor, which smelled vaguely of floor cleaner, to join them under a flickering and buzzing fluorescent light.

It felt so delightfully wrong.

Here in this student dormitory run by nuns, where heavy, fortified doors secured the men’s and women’s areas, separated by this uncomfortable room, I was being asked to translate an anthem of the feminist movement that oozed with sexuality. But that wasn’t all.

In our school’s Italian immersion program, our international student body consisted of South Americans and Japanese, Danes and Iranians, Americans and Nigerians. Outside our school’s palazzo, the Perugini impatiently put up with our slow, sometimes nonsensical Italian. The locals barely endured most of us, but they despised the Nigerian students most of all.

“Whenever there’s a drug case in the newspaper, it’s always the Nigerians. The Nigerians!” spat one storekeeper. This wasn’t true; plenty of Americans ended up as guests in Italian prisons as well.

I had seen groups of Nigerian students, Othellos in well-cut Italian overcoats, crossing the Piazza Quattro Novembre, the public drawing room of this Umbrian hill town. I had wondered how they wound up here. I learned later that Italy was exploiting the gas fields of the Niger Delta and needed translators.

As these Nigerian students leaned toward me, I began scribbling each heated lyric in English, singing along as David stopped and reversed the tape. The Nigerians grinned and laughed as I sang, crowding their knees toward me as we sat on the stiff furniture. Then dictionaries came out: English and Italian, Nigerian and Italian.

But right at the top of the song, I hit a wall.

What you want,
Baby, I got

David looked confused. “What does she have that I want?” he said.

How to translate Aretha’s innuendo? How to translate a molten, sexual African-American soul song in a windowless dayroom in a nuns’ dormitory? To Africans?

“Well, she has what you want…”

“Yes?”  Those earnest faces.

“But all she needs from you is respect.” This sounded so chaste in Italian.

Rispetto.”

Trading glances, their expressions slowly changed, some forming sly grins as others averted their eyes with embarrassment.

They got it.

Aretha was singing “I’m giving you everything so leave the attitude at the door.”  She was demanding respect for her sexual needs as her back-up singers chanted behind her, backing the sister up.

Aretha continued to drive it home as her girls chanted “Just a little bit” over and over.

“Ah…un po’ di piu,” I said, frustrated. “Just a little bit” was coming off as much too dainty; I was not conquering the Italian divide as I wished. I plowed on.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Take care, TCB

Ah, yes, how to explain TCB? Where did it come from? During the ’60s, on the streets of black neighborhoods, TCB meant “takin’ care of business.” Later, Elvis brought TCB to white America. Was Aretha singing about getting this respect question settled pronto so that other “business” could get taken care of?

In spite of dictionaries and my efforts, I couldn’t do justice to Aretha. Our dorm’s curfew fast approached. I soldiered on, cursing my habit of late-night clubbing instead of memorizing Italian vocabulary and verb conjugations.

Now Aretha was ecstatically swooning about her lover’s kisses, sweeter than honey but, hey, so is her money. At this, the Nigerians roared and slapped each other, bent with laughter. Oh yeah, Aretha’s sassy.

Finally, my Waterloo: “Sock it to me.” And it was almost curfew time.

“Like hit?” asked David. “She wants to be hit.”

“No, no, American…” I raced through the dictionary for the right word. “Gergo, slang.”

Now long brown fingers spun the pages of the Nigerian dictionary.

“It’s like, it’s like she wants him to love her, right now,” I said, avoiding the temptation to do any pantomiming, leaving that image to their imagination.

“American slang,” said David. “OK.” They got that, too.

With little time left, I watched my new Nigerian comrades puzzle over my lyrics and Aretha’s manifesto, going through each line, helping one another understand. Then David rewound the tape and we sang the entire song together, loudly, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T,” finding out what it means to me and taking care of TCB.

And at that moment, it hit me: I was a white girl teaching Africans a history lesson on the African-American experience during my country’s time of great upheaval, when women and blacks battled sexism and racism. In this Italian provincial town, these Africans might have been experiencing racism for the first time. No wonder they chose Aretha, who knew a thing or two about battling for respect. Aretha represented.

And there, as our curfew arrived, we all sang along together: Aretha, this American girl and these Nigerians getting their first introduction to R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

~ ~ ~

About the Author

Lenore Greiner was honored in The Best American Travel Writing 2013 and received a 2015 Solas Award for best travel writing. Her stories and photography have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including World Hum, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Delta Airlines’ Sky. She has authored a guidebook to Las Vegas and contributed to fourteen guidebooks for Fodor’s Travel Publications. “Translating Respect” will be included in her forthcoming collection of travel narratives and essays. She lives in Carlsbad, California.

Look for other stories of cross-cultural communication like “Translating Respect” in The Best Travel Writing, Volume 10 and The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Volume 10 from Travelers’ Tales.

2015 Solas Awards for Travel Writing

2015 solas award travel writingWon a 2015 Solas Award for Travel Writing and an Honorable Mention

This prestigious travel writing award is sponsored annually by longtime travel anthology publisher, Travelers’ Tales. You’ll find all the winners on BestTravelWriting.com.

Originally published by WorldHum.com, my travel narrative entitled Translating Respect won in the Culture and Ideas category for the best story or essay about how art, history, currents events, fashion, or music affected a traveler or a trip.

2015 solas award travel writingI also picked up an Honorable Mention for another story, Behind the Face Veil, about how my day about Dubai in full abaya and face veil transformed my perception of living faceless, ageless and anonymous.

Translating Respect details how, in Italy, visiting Nigerian students asked me to explain and translate a classic American song, Aretha Franklin’s molten Respect.  Hilarity ensued.

Both stories will be included in my forthcoming book, a collection of travel narratives and essays about far-flung places, India, Greece, Antigua, Italy, Hawaii, Belize, Disneyland.

Coming soon!  Check back here for more details as publication approaches.

Four Best Hotels in Dubai for Arabian Extravagance

Dubai Burj al arab

 Four Best Hotels in Dubai

Only in Dubai do you find yourself wading through a sea of Lamborghinis, Ferraris and Maseratis to get to a luxury hotel entrance.

In this city of incomparables (the world’s tallest building! the world’s largest mall!), the four best hotels in Dubai, UAE, offer Arabian extravagance in this crossroads of the world, including the world’s only seven star hotel in what must be the world’s fastest growing resort destination.  Imaginative, expensive and extravagant, Dubai’s resorts lure global visitors with a wide range of exceptional properties, everything from Arabian palaces to ocean fantasies to the Burj al Arab, the iconic super-resort of Dubai.   The Arabian Gulf’s endless sun and sand attracts chilly European and American visitors to top name hotel chains with memorable outposts, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Raffles, Hyatt, and Fairmont, to name a few.

For the best of Dubai, head to the Jumeirah Beach coast where a string of gorgeous, over the top resorts are necklaced along the white beaches and aqua water.   Some stand on the famous man-made island of Palm Jumeirah. Extraordinary and dramatic, each spares no expense to shock and awe.

Here are the four best hotels:

Dubai Atlantis

Magnificence in The Atlantis lobby

Atlantis, The Palm

On the crescent of Palm Jumeirah Island stands a high style, aquatic fantasy palace for children and their families.  This splashy Atlantis resort is a sister property of its Bahamian counterpart and may be Dubai’s most Vegas-y overstatement.  The ocean-themed resort offers an aquarium, dolphin swims and a Shark Lagoon in a marine and water park. The showpiece of its whimsical oceanic décor is a two-story high lobby sculpture by American glass artist, Dale Chihuly.  Look closely to find tiny sea creatures floating within 3,000 pieces of hand-blown glass fronds on this multi-colored sculpture.  It’s worth a visit to Atlantis to view this unique work of art.

Dubai burj al arab

Dubai’s iconic Burj al Arab resort from Umm Suqeim Beach.

Burj al Arab

This seven-star landmark hotel resembles the billowing sail of an Arabian dhow floating over Gulf waters.  Among the world’s tallest hotels, at 1,053 feet, it is certainly the most expensive.  At night, the hotel dominates the coastline, changing colors while being visible for miles.   Set on its own island off Umm Suqeim beach, the best photo spot, the all-suite hotel doesn’t allow non-guests entry without a dining reservation.  But to view the stunning architecture, and the gaudy décor of gold, purple, red, green and blue, it may be worth splurging for a pricey martini.

 

Mina A’Salam in the Madinat JumeirahDubai Mina A Salam hotel

 

This romantic boutique hotel showcases lavish Arabian design, housing guests in luxurious ocean view rooms with a traditional Arabian décor motif, dark-wood furniture and locally inspired design touches.  This gorgeous hotel is connected by waterways to other areas of the magnificent Madinat Jumeirah complex.  You can float (or stroll) over to 45 restaurants, cafes and bars, a private beach and a spa. Inside the Madinat Jumeirah, a recreation of an ancient souk offers Arabic women’s fashions, regional crafts and artwork.   The hotel’s Bahri Bar affords the finest view in Dubai of the Burj al Arab, especially at night.  And the hotel houses Dubai’s best Chinese restaurant, Zheng He.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah 

This newly opened, pristine white palace is a Zen oasis of calm amid acres of marble.  It sits on a frond of the Palm Jumeirah nearby the Atlantis and is its complete opposite.   Perched upon a white beach, the elegant resort offers two swimming pools, a Dubai waldorf astoria DUBAIDubai waldorf astoria teatimeshaded baby pool, a spa and six restaurants and bars.  And to meet the Waldorf Astoria hotels’ reputation of personalized service amid architectural grandeur, every guest is assigned a personal concierge before check in.

If you cannot check in, go for afternoon tea at Peacock Alley, found in the sophisticated lobby, to experience this beautiful resort.

 

 

Dubai hotel constructionMore Dubai Resort Extravagance Is On The Way

Dubai’s resort construction continues unabated.  More extravagance is on the way until Dubai ensures that the Jumeirah Beach coast is blanketed with the finest world-class resorts.   Have you checked into one of these resorts?  If not, which resort would you choose?

Honored in Best American Travel Writing 2013

Edited by Elizabeth GilbertBest American Travel Writing 2013

Very proud to be honored in annual anthology ‘Best American Travel Writing 2013’ edited by ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ author Elizabeth Gilbert. My piece “Translating Respect” appeared on the high quality travel writing site, WorldHum.com.  My first person account from my student days in Italy involved Nigerians, Aretha Franklin and a tightly locked convent.

World Hum wrote:

“The 2013 edition of the annual Best American Travel Writing anthology hit bookstores last week, and we’re thrilled to learn that three World Hum stories were listed in the notable selections: Jessica Colley’s Catching the Gist, Translating Respect by Lenore Greiner, and Bali Belly and the Zombie Apocalypse, by Linda Watanabe McFerrin.”

Very proud.  And tickled.

If you read this piece, let me know in the comments below.  Thanks.

Circumnavigating Bora Bora

Bora Bora

Hotel Bora Bora. Sigh.

Around the Isle of Bora Bora

Isolated and untouched, Bora Bora has a mystical relationship with sun and sea, encircled by a jewel of a lagoon.

James Michener had proclaimed Bora Bora as the “most beautiful island in the world.”  Since then, a never-ending tide of words as extolled its beauty yet no writer has gotten it right.

It’s easy to understand.

We stayed at the famous Hotel Bora Bora, the most memorable resort I’ve ever visited.  Opened in 1961, the hotel pioneered the overwater bungalow architecture seen throughout French Polynesia.  For almost 50 years, jet set luminaries such as Jackie Onassis and movie stars such as Robert Redford indulged in a stay at this private, dreamy beach resort.

But no more.

More on that later.

Aquatic sports are king in Bora Bora but after days of sailing and snorkeling the lagoon, we decided to circumnavigate the isle to to view local life and see what’s enfolded within those emerald cliffs.  Since public transport is nonexistent, we headed to Vaitape, the main town and wharf, to rent a cranky gas-powered golf cart.  We set off on the flat, winding Circle Island Road for a twenty mile trip past little churches and communities with spectacular vistas, stopping to lunch on the freshest seafood at Bloody Mary’s, a must.

Here are the photos.

Bustling Vaitape, the only town

Bustling Vaitape, the only town

 

A single lane road encircles the isle

A single lane road encircles the isle

 

Bora Bora schoolyard

A Bora Bora schoolyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A massive seven-inch U.S. Navy cannon from World War II overlooks the lagoon

A massive seven-inch U.S. Navy cannon from World War II overlooks the lagoon

 

Matira Beach, the only public beach

Matira Beach, the only public beach

 

Bora Bora resorts stand on motus, or islets, on the coral reef ringing the isle

Bora Bora resorts stand on motus, or islets, on the coral reef ringing the isle

Where is Bora Bora?

Bora Bora lies in the Leeward group of the Society Islands about 140 miles northwest of Papeete in French Polynesia, which is an overseas collectivity, or region, of France in the Pacific Ocean.  French and Tahitian are largely spoken on the isle with little English speakers.

Probably originally named Pora Pora in the Tahitian language, meaning “First Born,” according to 18th- and 19th-century accounts, the isle is a volcanic caldera surrounded by a clear lagoon and a barrier reef.  In its center, the remnants of an extinct volcano rise to create Mount Pahia and Mount Otemanu, the highest point at 2,385 feet.

BB cloud mtn

How To Get To Bora Bora 

If you are going to Bora Bora, I’m very happy for you.

But it’s not easy to get there but the trip is worth it.

The Fa’a’ā International Airport (PPT) at Papeete on the island of Tahiti is only a seven-hour flight from Los Angeles.  From there, you must hop aboard an Air Tahiti puddle jumper, flying daily to the Bora Bora Airport (BOB) located on the islet of Motu Mute.  From there, your resort’s speedy boat will transport you across the lagoon.

 

Bora Bora Resorts

Hotel Bora Bora’s owner, Aman Resorts, mysteriously closed the resort in 2008 for “reconstruction” in anticipation of its 50th anniversary in 2011.  Yet the resort still remains shuttered today.

But old South Sea romance can be found today at five-star luxury resorts commanding several hundred U.S dollars per night, averaging just above $1000 per night).   These are the two best:

Four Seasons Bora Bora

St. Regis Bora Bora

 

Bloody Mary's white sand floor under a thatch roof

Bloody Mary’s white sand floor under a thatch roof

Bora Bora Dining

Don’t expect much culinary-wise outside of your resort, which will offer five star chefs and fine French wine.  But a visit to Bloody Mary’s is a must.  Famous for its thatched roof, open sides, white sand floor, wooden slab tables and stools made of coconut stumps, the menu is a large, iced display of fresh lagoon seafood.

Have you been?  What’s your take?  Share your comment below.

 

Pack For A Purpose

Grab Your Suitcase and Pack For a Purpose

PackForAPurpose.org Founders Rebecca and Scott Rothney.

PackForAPurpose.org Founders Rebecca and Scott Rothney.

During their first trip to Africa, Pack For A Purpose founders Rebecca and Scott Rothney found that their safari outfitter limited them to only 40 pounds apiece yet their airline allowance was 100 pounds of checked luggage plus 40 pounds for a carry-on.

Before their second African trip to Botswana, they contacted their safari company, Wilderness Safaris, about putting their extra luggage space to practical use, asking if a local school needed anything.  Their inquiry resulted in a delivery of 140 pounds of school supplies and soccer balls to some very happy schoolchildren.

After that enormously rewarding experience, Rebecca asked a travel agent why other travelers didn’t use their luggage allowances in this way.

His answer created Rebecca’s defining moment – “Because nobody thinks about it.” That moment gave birth to her idea for PackForAPurpose.org.

Rebecca got to work, skillfully setting up worldwide network of suitcases, destinations and community-based projects for transporting needed goods for free.

Genius.

A Smile from the Kasisi Children's Home in Zambia.


A Smile from the Kasisi Children’s Home in Zambia.

Small Suitcase Space, Big Worldwide Impact

Shipping large amounts of supplies requires a great deal of time and close logistical cooperation with a local tour company.

But Rebecca devised a simpler, more direct way for travelers to deliver.

She asked travelers to pack just five pounds (2.7 kilos) of supplies for drop-off at their lodgings, supplies which the participating hotel would deliver to a local, deserving school or community project.

No logistical support required.

By stuffing your suitcase with five extra pounds you can transport:

  • Stethoscopes to India
  • Deflated soccer balls to Botswana
  • 400 pencils to Mexico
  • Children’s cold weather clothing and shoes to Turkey

And PackForAPurpose.org arranges everything at no cost to you.

Packforapurpose 2Where Are You and Your Suitcase Going?

Expand your generosity by expanding your suitcase to give back to the communities you’re visiting.  You may find yourself traveling to Costa Rica, Jamaica or Thailand or another network country.  Here’s your chance to let your suitcase to change the world.

If 500 LenoreGreiner.com visitors each packed five extra pounds for this charity, a total of 1.25 tons of supplies would arrive free of charge to community-based projects worldwide.

Pack for a Purpose How To PackForAPurpose in 5 Easy Steps

Want to participate?  Here are five easy steps:

  • Find your destination here
  • Find a lodging and a project it supports, such as Playa Viva in Mexico
  • Choose the supplies you wish to pack from the request list
  • Drop off the supplies while checking into your hotel, safari lodge, backpacker’s camp or eco-resort
  • Supplies will be delivered for you or you can deliver them yourself

It’s that easy!

This will make your trip, guaranteed.  I did something similar in Belize and it was the highlight of the journey.

Your reward for your trouble?

The incandescent smiles on the faces of the kids benefiting from that extra space in your suitcase.

Going somewhere soon?  If you participate, let me know!

 

 

Belize: Visiting Caye Caulker Ocean Academy

Members of the Senior Class seated at their mahogany desks.

Members of the Senior Class seated at their mahogany desks.

Carrying a bag stuffed with motivational stickers, pens, sheet protectors, little notebooks, pastel crayons and folders, I arrived at the Caye Caulker Ocean Academy on a clear Caribbean morning after a considerable, fast-moving cloudburst. I came via golf cart, even though the residents of this tiny coral island off the Belize coastline usually travel about by bike or foot.

But first I had to negotiate a flooded driveway carrying my sack of donated school supplies to this non-profit high school. I wish I could’ve stuffed more into my luggage.

At the school, Principal Hilda Marin gave me a tour where I got to experience a real treat – meeting Ocean Academy’s 4th Form class, or the senior class.

All nine of them.

Sitting in uniform at their mahogany desks in a sunny classroom, they displayed the typical Belizean gregariousness and open friendliness. Laughing easily, they showed great interest in writing, blogging and the Internet. They all have their own blogs where they share interests such as listening to Justin Bieber, learning new dance moves, or diving on Belize’s massive reef, the second largest.

As I spoke to them as a writer and as a traveler, I clearly saw that they understood the value of learning the English language well as a foundation for their future success.

Ever see a school library with a white sand floor?

Ever see a school library with a white sand floor?

The Challenge for Caye Caulker’s Children

The fact that Ocean Academy exists is something short of a miracle.

Here on Caye Caulker, twenty miles from the Belizean coast, parents had only two choices for furthering their children’s education after primary school:

  1. Send their child to Belize City high schools on a daily 40-mile round-trip by water taxi
  2. Send their child to an inland boarding school

For almost all of Caye Caulker’s families, both choices proved too costly and island children were forced to skip their high school educations. That’s a real blow for this fishing village of 2,000.

At risk? The island’s 62 students who love to learn and want a better life. Ocean Academy is truly about preserving their unique life on an island atop a limestone shelf only 5 miles long and 1 mile wide.

A small army of teachers, administrators, volunteers and supporters built the island’s first and only high school, Caye Caulker Ocean Academy.

Here are the numbers:

  • One island with one high school
  • 62 students
  • 21 computers
  • 1 library with a sand floor
  • $2000 Belizean per student tuition (that’s US$1000)
A group of the dedicated teachers of Ocean Academy.

A group of the dedicated teachers of Ocean Academy.

Though the Ocean Academy follows the Belizean school curriculum, students also study Marine Biology and Small Business Development, supporting their future involvement in Caye Caulker’s tourism industry.

For their aquatic career development, P.E. classes include kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, swimming, lifeguarding and earning a scuba diving certification.

stairs

And these students want to be there. The government only covers only a portion of education in Belize. Many students have to earn important scholarships to cover their tuition. Fundraising and donations support the rest of the school’s expenses. One student even “pays” for his education by harvesting sand from the ocean floor and dumping the piles around the school for drainage.

The students sell herbs grown in an award-winning student garden to raise money for student trips. Their gardening excellence resulted in the Compost and Gardening Group winning 3 national awards from the Ministry of Education. They also participate in conservation projects and volunteer their time with scientists on research projects important to Belize and the ocean.

Problems At Caye Caulker Ocean Academy

A teacher negotiates Ocean Academy's flooded, mucky driveway.

A teacher negotiates Ocean Academy’s flooded, mucky driveway.

Classroom conditions.

Classroom conditions.

Swamp

The encroaching mangrove swamp complete with crocodile.

Though the computer lab is located in a simple, air-conditioned cinderblock classroom, the climate creates many maintenance issues for the school, starting with that flooded driveway into the school grounds. I saw one corner of a classroom completely soaked after that recent cloudburst. Poor construction methods are resulting in many expensive repairs. The library floor is sand. Even some of the mahogany desks built by Belizean Mennonites are falling apart.

Remember those sand piles used to pay tuition? That sand also staves off the encroaching mangrove swamp behind the school’s building. A six-foot crocodile also lives in the swamp and sometimes visits at the water’s edge. But Principal Marin ensured me that the kids know to leave the croc alone.

Lunchbreak-1

How To Help Ocean Academy’s Students

The school is only three years old. When I asked about Ocean Academy’s first graduating class of 2011, all four of them, tears sprang to Principal Marin’s eyes.

She proudly stated that two grads are attending the University of Belize and Muffles Junior College. Another grad works with local conservation groups. Belize Diving Services hired the fourth grad who successfully completed an Advanced Diving course through Ocean Academy’s aquatic tourism P.E.

The students of Caye Caulker Ocean Academy are important. Yes, they are far away, little pieces of the world living on a tiny speck in the ocean.

But they count.

Help the school by checking out the school’s Amazon.com Wish List and making a donation. Or make a Paypal donation here. Or simply go to their Facebook fan page and make friends and support the students.

Every little bit helps. Every little piece of the world deserves it.

Gypset Travelers: Travel and Leisure With A Twist

 Travel and Leisure Travelers

A new trend has surfaced in the waters of travel and leisure – travelers with an iconic twist.  The Gypset (Jet Set + Gypsy = Gypset) happily blends luxurious jet set sophistication with a resurrected experiential bohemian lifestyle.  Around the globe and at a bargain price, this wandering tribe of travelers populates simple, exotic enclaves in locales such as North Goa, India, Ibiza, Spain, Jose Ignacio, Uruguay and Montauk, N.Y.

Part travelogue, part social history, Gypset Travel by Julie Chaplin ($31.96 at Amazon.com), profiles a claptrap collection of artists, surfers, fashion designers, and pleasure-seekers from Lamu, Kenya to Byron Bay, Australia.  They are, as Chaplin writes, “characterized by a fashionable exoticism and down-to-earth ease.”  Their outposts and style hearken to the days of the Lost Generation and even further back to early Victorian explorers and Grand Tours. 

Their predecessors are the travelers of the 60s and 70s, Western Europeans, North Americans, and Aussies, who once followed the Hippie Trail, an overland route by rail, VW bus or thumb from London into India and Nepal.  This months’ long traverse on problematic roads crossed into Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Kashmir south into the Indian subcontinent. 

But, by the end of the 1970s, the party ended as an Islamic revolution deposed the Shah of Iran and the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

 In the U.S. and abroad, the Gypset live unconventional, wanderlust lives in hard to find, hard to get to primitive-chic beach shacks, jungle haunts and teepees, preferably next to an awesome surf break. 

 While creating music, fashion, or experimental architecture, these cultural nomads create a moving tableau moving from a creative art festival in Cornwall, England to a yoga retreat in Chapada do Veadeiros, Brazil.  And Chaplin helpfully includes a directory of where the tribe gathers and where they stay.Gypset Style

 For your coffee table, it’s a pleasurable book detailing a traveling lifestyle unmarred by jet lag, invasive security and Delhi belly.

 Once you finish reading Gypset Travel you may come down with a severe case of wanderlust and the desire to wear a long, exotic caftan.

Gypset Style

 Chaplin has also published a previous tome on this stylish crowd, Gypset Style: Jet Set + Gypsy = Gypset ($32. 07 at Amazon.com).