Tag Archives: travel

A Day in Barcelona


On our way to southern France, my husband Jon and I met my sister Madeleine and her husband Dick in Barcelona for a couple of nights. None of us had never been to Spain, and we all loved it. Dick speaks Spanish fluently (he’s an interpreter), Madeleine does well from their trips to Mexico; Jon and I have a few words and phrases that came to us like answers to a crossword puzzle.

We did lot of walking that first day, including a visit to the Catedral de Barcelona and the History Museum of Barcelona. The museum is built over excavations of Roman ruins. Conquerors would simply build over existing structures. These included wine making, fabric dyeing, and fish preparation. Very interesting to see and well curated.

After a late lunch and a siesta, we walked on the famous pedestrian boulevard called La Rambla all the way to the waterfront. We stopped at a market on the way back for apples and oranges.

Can Culleretes is a recommended restaurant that was established in 1786, an impressive 228 years ago. Food and service were excellent. Barcelona is a beautiful city where I would love to spend more time someday. Friends who have been there love it, too.

Can Culleretes

A Move in Progress


Boxes and lists surround me couple of weeks before I move

from my Houston apartment back to my house in Austin.


Obviously the days of this month are diminishing, but new items on the lists continue to appear. Not everything will be accomplished in the end; something will be left undone or left behind in one form or another.

Mainly I want to clear my schedule as much as possible for goodbyes. First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston (firstuu.org) is full of wonderful people. They are smart, funny, kind, friendly, wise, creative and many other positive attributes.

Yesterday I wrote about 2/3 of my final sermon here, to deliver on July 27. So soon!

Then there will be a farewell party hosted by the members and staff. I anticipate tears and laughter as we share what’s on our hearts. In just under 2 years we have changed each other. We have made indelible memories that have filled me with gratitude.

The weekly commute became too much to continue for another year. Husband, friends, and family await my permanent return. To rest, to plan our trip to Barcelona and the Canal du Midi in southern France, and to contemplate the next chapter in my life–those are my 3 primary goals. Perhaps more blogging, too!


Glittery Blue


GlitteryBlueMy toenails sport a glittery blue paint job today. Thanks to bidding on a door prize at Project Row Houses in Houston, I won a gift card from an upscale salon in Houston called The Upper Hand. Just a pedicure today because it lasts so much longer than a manicure. With this card I may be able to pay for 2 more. Sweet!

The building is old. I suspect it has been used for a variety of businesses. Its brick walls (interior and exterior) have original archways through which I can watch the ladies and gentlemen get their hair or nails done. The ceiling is now of varnished wood in an overarching shape. Art from a local high school adorns the walls. It’s comfortably old; nicely remodeled.

I wonder how the stylists walk in those shoes: lovely spiked heels, I mean, with interesting straps and designs. The latest in fashion goes by as on a runway before me. It is a world I seldom enter. Meanwhile, Fibi treats me to a foot bath and conversation. She is married to a U.S. citizen and gets to go back to Iran every 2-3 years to visit her family of origin. Whether in Iran or the U.S. she is treated somewhat as an outsider who doesn’t really belong. Only within her immediate family does she feel at home.

She brightened upon hearing that my son lives in Japan (over 10 years now) and married a woman from Taiwan. She was curious about why he went there. As it happens, her cousin went to China four years ago and has loved it.

If you haven’t lived abroad perhaps you can remember moving to a new neighborhood where you need to find a grocery store, a bank, a school, and a doctor you like. I got lost coming to work for the first week I lived here! I do still get lost outside my usual circuit. Everything was new in my neighborhood but at least I knew the language! I never feel at home in a new place until I take a trip somewhere. Coming back, it starts to feel more like home.

Curious, isn’t it, why people go to different parts of the world? An adventure, a romance, or a job may pull you away. A graduation, a deadline, or an accident may push you along. It’s different for each of us but it requires a similar leave-taking, transition. re-entry, and resettlement.

The move doesn’t even need to be physical! You can stay in one place your whole life and still you can make big changes. What changes will you make this year?

me ‘n’ my boys


About 10 hours from now I hope to be flying from Austin to Chicago and on to Tokyo! I do hope the Chicago weather does not force delays but it’s a lot better than yesterday.

Younger son Fred Nugen and I pooled all our frequent flyer miles to make this trip possible. We’re going to visit son Rob Nugen and his lovely and lively wife Rinko Hayashi, aka Lin. Though she and Rob came to the States last Christmas for a Texas-style wedding, this is the first time to meet her extended family. I have a list of names and relationships to review on the plane. After all, 2.5 hours to Chicago, a 3.5 hour transition, and about 13 hours from there to Tokyo. They are 15 hours ahead of us in time.

Fred has very sophisticated tastes! He insisted that at least one leg of our journey would be on Singapore Airlines, business class. He’ll probably take too much luggage, too, and just says that’s the way he rolls. I am taking an extra rolling bag mostly full of gifts instead of my usual one bag and a backpack.

Jon and his daughter Alicia and I had a “farewell” lunch at Magnolia. We had bought a coupon at the Holiday Swing auction and it was about to expire.

The first time I visited Rob in Japan was in the fall of 2003, the first year he moved over there to teach English. I arranged a series of excursions through a travel agent to enjoy a number of tourist sites. Kyoto, Hakone, Hiroshima, and Ft. Fuji are among the highlights. Rob went with us on some weekend excursions; otherwise he was working.

Now I’m not exactly a tourist since I have some sense of the country and the people–tour guides, schoolchildren, monks, other tourists, crowds in the fashionable Shinagawa, Geisha girls, businessmen, shopkeepers. It will be different this time to meet Lin’s mother, two sisters and their families, some uncles and aunts. Her youngest niece Yuu is 6 months old.

So, not a tourist, but a guest. Rob and Lin share a small apartment with her mother, so they have rented an apartment for us about a 5-minute walk away. Perhaps the next time I visit I will feel less like a guest and more like family.

Those of you whose children have married have probably gone through a bit of anxiety about the new in-laws. The cultural differences will also be a factor–family members hail from Taiwan, Brazil, Japan, and the U.S.

Rob sent detailed instructions on which trains to take from Narita Airport to Shinagawa. We’ll probably take the Keisei Line to Nippori station, and then the Yamanote Line to Shinagawa station. He gave information about currency exchange, a number to reach him and say which train we’re on, and a meeting place at the station. I think he’s done this before!

So, I needn’t worry about a thing. My bags are packed; clothes are laid out and ready to put on; and a sense of adventure is growing. Curious about what lies ahead and the stories and pictures I’ll bring back. What an extraordinary opportunity!

Fred, Kathleen, Alicia

Fred, Kathleen, Alicia

buying cat food; see boot for broken foot

buying cat food; see boot for broken foot

Alicia and Jon

Alicia and Jon

pre-travel lunch with Alicia and Fred

pre-travel lunch with Alicia and Fred

Two Transylvanias


Back from a month of travel and books!

My last blogs placed me in Brevard and Asheville, NC, visiting friends. Beautiful people, beautiful forests, waterfalls, and cool air. On Sunday morning of our visit, Jon and I walked about 4 blocks to the Unitarian Universalist church in Brevard. It’s called Unitarian Universalists of Transylvania County, a very descriptive name (trans + sylvania = through a wooded land).

In May of 1999 Jon and I made a more distant journey to Transylvania, formerly part of Hungary and now part of Romania.  Many of the people are historically Unitarian. They experienced a great deal of persecution for their religion and language. The irony is that the Unitarian King John Sigismund issued an Edict of Religious Toleration in 1568 – “The Edict of Torda (or Turda), also known as the Patent of Toleration (Act of Religious Tolerance and Freedom of Conscience), was an attempt by King John II Sigismund of Hungary to guarantee religious freedom in his realm. Specifically, it broadened previous grants (to Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists) to include the Unitarian Church, and allowed toleration (not legal guarantees) for other faiths” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edict_of_Toleration)

Public schools do not teach Hungarian and no Hungarian is allowed in the public square on signs or in speech. Therefore the Unitarian churches keep Hungarian culture and language alive. Their motto, counter to Trinitarianism, is very simple: “God Is One.” In Hungarian it’s spelled Egy Az Isten and pronounced Edge Oz Eeshten. That simple yet profound declaration is posted over every church gate and in the sanctuary.

Our host in the city of Brassó (“Brasov” in Romanian) was the Rev. Sándor Máthé and his wife Sindike. They live next door to the magnificent church in a parsonage from which we could go directly down to the church in a driving rainstorm. Twelve children participated in catechism and Confirmation that day (11 boys and 1 girl!) and received as adult members in the faith. [Fun fact: they used Jon’s pen to sign the Membership Book.] The Unitarian Church in Eastern Europe is far different from this country’s. Its depths of history and tradition are inspirational.

A memory trip indeed! I’ll get back to my intended topic by and by . . . Happy Independence Day, wherever you live!

Asheville, NC


On the road from Brevard, NC, Jon and I drove about 30 miles and stopped again for a visit. Our friend Janelle moved to Asheville about a year ago and has been busily remodeling a lovely home in a historic district.

The city is much bigger than Brevard and has some bigger city problems like a lot of intersecting highways with signage that works perfectly if you already know which lane you should occupy!

Janelle lives within walking distance of downtown, but since it was raining we drove up the hill several blocks and walked from there. Lots of beautiful churches along with new development–restaurants, bars, an art museum. It was a Tuesday when the historic one-screen theater has movies at half price! After a quick snack of white asparagus we bought tickets to see Monsieur Lazhar. I had seen it at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin and was glad to have a chance to see it again!

This old theater still uses reels of film. Near the end, snap!

We waited for a while until the technician admitted defeat. The film was damaged beyond simple splicing. Too much of it would have been lost. After folks got passes for a free flick (and we gave ours to Janelle) a bunch of us went back in so I could give them a summary of the ending and answer questions! It’s a good movie, so see it if you can.

We spent the night, had some homemade granola and fruit for breakfast, and went on our way a little further toward home. Thanks, Janelle, for your gracious hospitality!

Here are some pictures, mostly of the house, but a few from downtown Asheville. In the store window you can see that not all North Carolinians voted to ban same sex marriage. In her front yard she has special plant protectors that are filled with water to keep the temperature stable as plants are taking root and to keep pests out–they crawl up the side and fall into the bladders filled with water. I had never seen them before.

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Kairos / Chronos


The close of my ministry with Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church is coming quickly. It boils down to a pastoral visit, a parable for the children, a sermon for the grownups, a farewell to and from all, and a walk through the building and through the labyrinth before turning in my keys.

I am a fortunate woman to have served this congregation for nearly nine years. That is a substantial chunk of time since my ordination nineteen years ago.

Chronos refers to time in ordinary terms, as in past, present, and future. It is measurable in nanoseconds and in geological eras. Events happen and recede into the past. We plan for the future and it’s here so quickly I often say, “The dates in your calendar are closer than they appear.”

In Greek mythology, Chronos is the personification of Time. Kairos has a different Greek meaning for time: the opportune moment. Typically something special happens at just that “right” moment in time.

In chronos terms, April 30 is my last day at Live Oak. I can look back over my time there and the history before then, and I can estimate with increasing certitude how the next few days will play out.

In terms of kairos, this is an opportune moment for nearly anything to transpire. Whenever there is a change in leadership the entire system shifts. Transitions begin with an ending, then go through a neutral zone of flux and possibility, and end with a beginning: something new and not entirely predictable. T.S. Eliot said it this way in The Four Quartets:

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.

I don’t think he meant that in absolute terms. “Where we start from” changes and if we land there again we land with different experiences, wisdom, and insight (or a new chance to learn the same lessons again).

My immediate plans are to travel. My husband Jon and I will take a road trip to see friends in North Carolina. We have both been working so hard that a break will be most welcome. Yesterday was our 15th (!) anniversary. Time on the road will give us a chance truly to catch up while leaving ordinary responsibilities behind. A second honeymoon! We’ll be back in time for me to preach in San Antonio–perhaps an antidote to the temptation to “run away from home.”

June will find me on a journey to Tokyo to visit my son Rob, his wife Lin, and Lin’s extended family. The only other time I visited Rob in Tokyo was in 2003, I believe, the first year he moved there. Who knew he would stay so long, teaching English, working as a messenger, and now computer programming? Who knew he would meet his Taiwanese wife because she wanted someone to climb Mt. Fuji with her? He has been back to the States a few times; I’m excited about my return trip.

Returning June 14 I’ll have just barely enough time to reset my biological clock, do some laundry, and repack to fly to Phoenix on the 17th. This trip will be for the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association. We’re calling this one a “Justice General Assembly” to draw attention to our witness on comprehensive immigration reform. Where better than Arizona to raise our voices?

Those are chronos events, to be sure. The kairos comes in the possibility–no, the certainty–that my life will spin into a direction unknown. It won’t be Kansas any more, Toto! My ministry will form and reform as the months and moments occur. I am open to new possibilities.

I have such high hopes for Live Oak as well. Spinning a congregation in a new direction will also be inevitable, but it will likely be a little longer in duration. Have any of you noticed the speed of church? This transition will be rapid in congregational terms but terribly slow for the “early adopters.” I am so excited for their future. Since change is inevitable, let’s all make the best of it!

Be blessed, companions, as I have been blessed.

Sting and Sing!


Last night’s Tapestry Singers concert was awesome, if I say so myself! The music had a wide variety of styles and moods, including lyrical gentle breezes, cold harsh winds, whirligig beetles that swim in random circles, the ethereal Northern lights, a Brazilian tribal song, and a Japanese children’s song about fireflies. A favorite was Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run,” followed by an encore performance of “Wise Mother.” This was written by Nell Manycats as a prayer for her AA meetings–an alternative to the Lord’s Prayer. She had written the words when she met Tapestry Singers. She was so inspired that she went home to compose the music–her first musical composition. She was a Tapestry Artistic Director for several years.

Toward the end of the second half, something bit me on my right forearm. Great discomfort! I kept singing, a bit distracted by the pain. Every time I adjusted my sleeve it hurt more so I even wondered if something sharp had become caught in the fabric. Between songs, a quick look–yep, it was a bite. Next song, something in my hair. Was it the music folder from the person behind me? I finally brushed it away and off flew a huge wasp! Oh! so that was the culprit!

The wasp had been in Mary’s hair, too, and crawled up Carol’s dress until someone swatted it away. By then it was pretty irritated and landed on my arm. Hmm…..the concert theme was Nature’s Glee. Was it also Nature’s Revenge? The friendly wasp finally landed on Sharon’s pant leg. She walked outside at the end of the concert and sent it away into a more natural habitat. Not many in the audience had any idea about our mini-drama.

Topical ointments and sprays had minimal effect, so I took Benedryl–one pill at bedtime and one at 4:30 after a late night phone call awakened us. It still hurts a good bit and looks bruised about the size of a half dollar, but it’s much better. Good thing I’m not allergic!

I was so pleased to see friends and family members in the audience. My sister Madeleine often comes to visit for concert weekends and we have had a busy time together.

On the day she arrived, my son Fred left for 3 months of research in Stockholm! I helped him with his luggage and the three of us had lunch together at the airport before he left. Fred told us several stories from when he was a kid. When he was 6 and brother Rob was 10, they flew to West Virginia to visit relatives but mistakenly got off the plane at the wrong airport! No one had told us the plane had an intermediate stop!

The plane took off without them and airline officials scrambled to get them on a charter plane with a bunch of businessmen. They were landing when Fred got up to tell the pilot his ear was hurting. When he took in the view of the cockpit and the panorama of beautiful West Virginia he said “Wow!” and the pilot nearly jumped out of his skin. Said they’d talk about it later and sent him back to his seat. Upon landing, everyone filed off, the pilot shook his hand and asked about his earache (it was fine by then), and off they went. Ah! the days when minors could fly without a huge amount of supervision.

After swapping more stories, Fred boarded the plane. He did make it across the friendly skies on British Airways without incident. His challenge for a while will be to go to bed at a decent hour, since it barely gets dark this time of year.

Love these travel adventures!

Just a Moment, Please


(written Feb. 23, 2011)

Travel is a bit exhausting, especially when we have stayed in a different place four nights in a row. There have been wonderful hotels—Parisutham (means “very clean”) in Tanjore; Annamalai in Pondicherry, currently the Anand Regency in Rahahmundry. In fact, they are nice enough that we would love to stay longer! Tuesday night accommodations were on the overnight train from Chennai to Rajahmundry, after several day trips by bus.

Our bus driver and his assistant who drove us around in Chennai drove the bus to Madurai in time to meet us when we flew in. They have been excellent. The driver can make a 180-degree turn in Indian traffic–no small feat!

From now until we leave India, it looks like we’ll stay at least 2 nights in each place. Today we will meet at 9 to debrief, then go visit Abhi’s mother in her home briefly, then get to the airport for a 12:50pm flight to Hyderabad. Glad we’ll stay there longer!

Another frustration is Internet access. Each place is different; some have passwords, some have wireless, some have very slow or poor connections. I paid for 2 days in Chennai. Mainly, there’s just not enough time both to get connected and to scan email, FaceBook, and/or blog. This morning I have an extra hour because the bedside clock is incorrect—but the Internet is down……..

Then there’s the struggle with photos. I tried compressing one so it could be uploaded but that didn’t work. Next I’ll try to save them to our family website, but of course I have to be connected in order to do that.

Still . . . [Now there’s a good word—still. It has the “however” connotation and even more importantly, the “be here now” connotation. Be in the moment and in this place, this chair, this body, this spirit. I am in India for just 3 weeks and there will be time later to take care of all this busy-ness.Though I would love for everyone to know what’s happening currently, the stories and images are still good even after I get back. It’s a little like mailing postcards even though you will probably get home before they arrive.]

Still . . . I’m having a wonderful time. Travel is what it is and the benefits are enormous.

Still . . .

Breathe . . .

Smile . . .

Chocolates and Chennai


Chocolates and a sweet card (in Spanish) were waiting for me on this beautiful Valentine’s Day. Jon and I will enjoy a special lunch today; our next chance will be well into March!

My bags are packed (and repacked) for tomorrow morning’s departure toward Chennai! Reading the Lonely Planet travel guide was a real help: There was a link to travel tips especially for women. You can get information about countries all over the world. Based on those tips, I changed out some of the clothes to take with me. Check out http://www.journeywoman.com

The trip to Chennai via Washington Dulles and Frankfurt will take about 25 hours of travel time each way, plus trips to and from airports and getting through security and customs. India is 13.5 hours ahead of Central Time. [Gee–I’ll just be 1.5 hours behind son Rob in Japan!] Other websites of note: http:/www.incredibleindia.org and http://www.mapsofindia.com.

Just a little bit of business today–trips to the bank and the grocery store and I’ll be nearly ready. In a way, the shorter my list gets, the more room there is for anxiety to fill in the gaps.

But it’s Valentine’s Day! A time for special attention to love in all its forms. We are sisters and brothers who share SO much in common. Love your neighbor, everyone! My neighborhood will soon get a lot bigger, halfway around the world. I’m expecting to see, hear, taste, smell, touch, and sense an entirely different world view. I send neighborly love to all of you–no matter where you live! What will you do today to show a little love?