Archive for March, 2013

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

March 27, 2013

Well, travel fans, it’s that time again! I leave on April 8 for some more far flung places, once more a test of this battered, once magnificent body now suffering the ravages of age.

As most of you know, both my wife and I are volunteers for AdvancEd, the organization having the responsibility for accreditation of over 32,000 schools around the globe. Most of them are in the U.S.A.; most of the public schools in 43 of the states rely on us to take a good look at their programs and make recommendations about how they can continue to improve. Each school or school district is visited every five years and, as it turns out, my assignment this time is to a school that my wife visited five years ago on her first overseas assignment, to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf. To this point in time, we’ve never been to the same school together; as a matter of fact, while I’m in Bahrain she will be in Tokyo, which is not “just around the corner”.

The main benefits that accrue to us as volunteers include seeing something new and effective at each site we visit, and being able to tell others about it. At the same time, once our official duties are completed, we may take side trips on our own funds to experience places of personal interest while on our way to or from the assigned location. Last year in fact, I circumnavigated the globe, evaluating schools in Japan, South Korea, and Cairo, and was able to take a five day river trip on the Nile before proceeding to London and visiting Stonehenge. Both of these items were near the top of my personal “Bucket List”, although as I get older that particular term holds some unwelcome nuances.

In previous years, I have had three trips to Germany, a trip to Saudi Arabia, and another to Cairo, on official business. These provided me the opportunity to have a few days of April in Paris, a week with my niece in Prague and the village from which my grandparents came, Istanbul and the Bosporus, and Amsterdam and Delft, in Holland.

Venice and Bahrain

So, what are my Bucket List items this time? Well, as it turns out my colleague and I have to stop over in Venice, Italy, on the way, for a briefing about the Mediterranean District of the Department of Defense Education Agency, a structure within the Department of Defense that supervises all the schools attached to military bases around the world. At present, there are about 197 of those schools, but there are forecasts of some being closed down during the next few years. The Bahrain School is somewhat unique as it is not physically located on the military (Naval) base; it is a short distance away. At the same time, it has students from more than 40 countries studying alongside our American kids, in a K-12 English-speaking instructional program. I am indeed excited to immerse myself in this school, as I have long been a proponent of multicultural educational programs. And although Venice was not on my list, I can’t turn down this opportunity for a couple of days browsing the pigeons in the famous square, and water skiing wearing a Speedo down the Grand Canal.

Immediately after our briefing, we fly on to Bahrain, having to change planes in Dubai after a six-hour flight, then an hour back to Manama, the Bahrainian capital. The first school we visit is the Middle/High School, having a bit fewer than 300 kids, and our duties begin on a Sunday and conclude on Wednesday. The school operates on the Islamic week, which is Sunday to Thursday; Friday and Saturday are the weekend with the Friday focus being on religious activity. We then have several days before repeating the activities at the Elementary School, a school of 300 children. During our “break”, we are free to become tourists, and I’ve already noted that there are some archaeological sites to visit on the various islands that make up the Kingdom. I know that I’ll spend at least one day preparing my report. There’s also a causeway connecting Bahrain to the Saudi peninsula, but my Saudi visa is expired so I probably won’t be able to take advantage of that location. Rather, I’ll probably spend a lot of dinars in the Souk, the bazaar that masquerades as my dad’s flea market space. My wife said that they emphasize the selling of gold objects, something quite foreign to my personal tastes. I’ll probably get overcharged (i.e. screwed) again for some kind of textiles, as happened in Istanbul and Cairo.

Scotland

On April 26, my Bucket List once again raises its head, as I fly to Glasgow, Scotland for a three-day stopover on my way back to the U.S. Why Glasgow? Well, it’s a short 40 mile train ride to Troon on the West Coast, and a 100-mile bus trip to St. Andrews on the East, the birthplace of golf and possibly the final resting place of the real Holy Grail (somewhere I read that the word “Titleist” is engraved on the Grail). I discovered that the famous “Auld Course” is shut down on Sundays except during major tournaments, in order to allow the townsfolk to stroll across the landscape. The club’s representative informed me that “yes, the course will be closed on the 28th, and you are quite welcome.” Well, there’s a lot more $$$ to be left to help out the local economy. I’ll also visit the Golf Museum and the town of St. Andrews before returning to Glasgow.

On the 27th I will go to Troon, and hopefully meet the father of a friend of mine with whom I became acquainted last summer during my London stopover. As I understand it, the father is a friend of the Chairman of the Royal Troon Golf Club, another of the courses that have been used for The Open (i.e., “British Open”) Golf Tournament. Perhaps we will be able to lunch there, and spend some quiet time in the town and looking at the coastal scenery. If I’m feeling up to it, I may try to arrange a return to Troon on the 29th, for a 9-hole round of golf.

Next stop, the U.S. of A.

I leave Glasgow on April 30, my destination being Clayton, North Carolina near Raleigh, and my brother’s home. After a brief stop, I proceed to Charlotte where I’ve been accepted as a volunteer for the Wells Fargo Championship, a fairly major golf tournament. I will be working at the event on May 3rd and 5th, reserving the 4th for my son and grandsons to do the “spectator thing”. On the 6th I head to Atlanta for a couple of days of golf with one of my close friends from Peace Corps days in the early ‘60’s. Then, it’s back to my brother’s, through the 12th; taking a few hours to attend a friend’s son’s Law School graduation at Duke. Finally, it’s back to the Center of the Universe (Wyoming), the place I’ve chosen as home.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, now you can decide whether to open any of the travelogue emails I send out as I move about the world; you’ll have an idea as to whether it’s something you’d be interested in, or not. Or, you can read them on the blog site, rkrisko.com (Bob’s Muse).

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, this five-week Odyssey is really in the nature of a test of my physical state; many of you are aware that I have an ailment that is intent on slowing down my activity, and for which I’m scheduled for a visit to the Mayo Clinic in late May to see what treatment options may provide some relief. In other words, this might be my last extensive trip at least until we can resolve the health issues. I sure hate to let someone else use all those Frequent Flyer miles (170,000)!

Always Be Happy & Heartily Healthy!  To Our Youth with Vigor & Rigor!

POPE and PEEVES

March 13, 2013

POPE AND PEEVES

A New Pope

A huge sigh of relief blanketed St. Peter’s Square when the new Pope emerged onto the balcony, and everyone could see that it was not Dennis Rodman. Although there is still some speculation that the new kid may also have tattoos, they are well hidden under the vestments and shouldn’t interfere with his new duties.

The selection process was, at times, confusing, occurring as it did simultaneously with the NFL’s Free Agent Scramble. The two activities occasionally crossed one another, and U.S. Politics even entered in at one point. However, Mitt Romney took another job although there had been consideration given to a merger between the Catholic and Latter Day Saints Churches, the former providing the traditions and elaborate rituals, and the latter the cornucopia of cash from its widespread investments. In an interview with one of the U.S. Cardinals, he indicated that Pope Benedict had been placed on Injured Reserve and relegated to a taxi squad; that the conclave was described as “The Papal Draft” and Mel Kiper, Jr., was asked to evaluate the candidates. There was even a rumor that they each were timed in the 40, wearing cassocks.

Other perspectives entered in to the selection;  traditionally, a Pope had to be old and knowledgeable of the Church’s Biblical History and Traditions. To find someone to address these concerns, it was first suggested that the Church consider a “Dual Pope”, and hire Billy Graham for the “old” quality and at least one Rabbi to provide the interpretations of the earliest days of the Bible. Both ultimately were rejected, Graham because he probably in currently paying too much attention to some of the Baptist colleges’ basketball successes (Wake Forest, Baylor), and rabbi’s due to their probably close relationships to the plethora of standup comics flooding the entertainment world. One commentator shuddered at thinking the latter would start a service with, “A funny thing happened to me on my way to Mass”, and go downhill from there.

Oh, well, at least it’s over for the time being, and everyone can wonder, once again, if the New Guy will address the major issues of Gay Marriage, Priestly Indiscretions, Celibacy, Women’s Rights and Their Role in the Church Hierarchy, Birth Control, and other things involved with the usual Catholic Church tradition of living in the past.

PEEVES

People who leave shopping carts in parking lots, so they can be blown into cars. Are examples of self-centered, arrogant individuals, too lazy to push the emptied cart to a designated area; instead, blocking access to parking spaces. The Germans may have partially solved this; I noted that at a supermarket, a shopper, wanting to use a cart to take groceries out to the car, deposited some money into a coin slot mounted on the cart’s handle, and received the money back when the cart was returned.

Those cardboard ads inserted between the pages of a magazine, thus effectively preventing me from happily thumbing through the articles. The AARP and golf magazines I think are the worst; I usually spend a few minutes ripping out all the offending literature before proceeding to my reading.

Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough for being rude and insensitive. They like to ask questions then interrupt the answerer before they can finish, and so they themselves can “dominate” with their own opinions. I’m tired of Scarborough living in the past, constantly going to “when I was in Congress during the Reagan years” or something akin, instead of realizing that today’s situations are quite different. And Reagan wasn’t that great anyway. Matthews is very bright, but is probably the most obnoxious person on TV. If he’d play “Softball” instead of “Hardball”, perhaps his real messages would get through more effectively.

Wolf Blitzer for consistently trying to make everything controversial, pushing people to express inner thoughts in order to spark conflict among guests who have been invited but are not always treated with respect.

TV interviewers asking persons directly involved with a traumatic incident, “How did you feel when—-your child was run over by a truck, you discovered that all your IRA had been wiped out, you were told that you only have three months to live, your daughter has been missing for three days, etc. etc. etc.

What are some of your peeves (bloggers?)

Always Be Happy…in Spite of Peeves!    To Our Youth…Always!