Monday, April 11, 2016

Our story is in this book!!! At Home Abroad: Today's Expats Tell Their Story

We are proud to announce that we are one of 31 stories in the new book:

At Home Abroad: Today's Expats Tell Their Story

Website at:
Facebook at
Book is available on Amazon and ebooks.
We hope you'll join us online!

Who are the 21st-century expats? Do you wonder what motivates millions around the world to leave their homes, family and friends to immerse themselves in unfamiliar cultures, learn foreign languages and get to know new people? Have you considered joining them?
It’s a movement; the number of expats grows as we become more global and mobile. While the ages, locations and experiences of these 31 internationals differ, their stories inform, inspire and expose the common threads connecting those who choose this lifestyle.
What do they find at home abroad? Some find love and romance, adventure, an economical lifestyle or satisfaction in a new job; others find rewarding retirement years; some discover a new way of life — and some discover themselves.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Settling back in Mexico.....San Cristobal de las Casas

Here we are, back in one of our favorite Mexican cities - San Cristobal de las Casas which is in the state of Chiapas. You may remember that we were here for 2 months last year and now it is the end of our first of three months. Our life is the usual for (me), drawing (us), walking (us), meditation (Ricardo), Tai Chi/Qi Gong (Ricardo), Zumba (us), visitors (us). I have to pinch myself to determine if our lives are a dream as we are so lucky to be able to live this way and enjoy our days to the max.

I would like to write about a few of the new and different experiences we have had during this time for our memories and to share with you.

First was our visit to CIDECI (Centro Indigena de Capacitacion Integral) which means roughly "A Center for Indigenous for Integral Learning". We were connected to this school through Juan Villoro who was last year's chosen author for our program in San Miguel called "Libros para Todos". Our contact was the Director, Raymundo Sanchez who is the organizer of CIDECI and one of its programs - University de la Tierra who invited us to the Centro for a tour and visit. We had actually hoped for some type of volunteer experience with them but it became obvious after the tour that they are very self contained and have a very well run program without the need for outside volunteers.

The campus of this school was amazing - decorated with brightly colored pictures of flowers, plants, leaves, nature - on everything....walls, tables, stools, etc. These are all done in the paint workshop after being built by the students in the wood shop.
Weaving loom

We learned a lot about the history of this school going back to the local Bishop from Chiapas - Samuel Ruiz, his study of liberation theology and the connection of the Bishop, Raymondo and the Zapatista movement back in the 1980's. There were many others who influenced this school for its philosophy of teaching, thinking and learning.

Woodworking classroom
The students come to this school from indigenous and other communities throughout Chiapas - many from communities called caracoles which are controlled by the Zapatistas and many who speak languages other than Spanish. After studying at CIDECI they take their practical knowledge back to their villages to teach and practice the skills that they learned. Their studies include skills such as weaving, mechanics, shoe making, electrical work, carpentry, furniture making, cooking, health, nutrition, food cultivation and raising animals, etc.
making tortillas

grinding corn
sewing classroom

Shoe making classroom

All in all, we were very impressed with this amazingly creative school on the outskirts of San Cristobal and were so glad to have had the opportunity to visit.

Semana Santa, the week before Easter and the Spring Festival, the week after Easter gives many reasons for celebrations, parades and fun. It is a time of religion and celebrating the Spring Equinox - serious and lighthearted. Here are several (of many) photos of the Festival of Spring with crowning of many queens.

Our flowering cactus
Next photos include the amazing flowering cactus in our garden - which blooms at night for 24 hours. We have already had 5 blooms with more to come. We have enjoyed the opportunity to walk in nature at "Las Canastas" with various of our friends. This naturaliza is only 15 minutes from centro.
walking by the river

With Lorie at Las Canastas

Weaving in Zinacantan

preparing tortillas

Women in Chamula
Other activities include various visits to indigenous villages - San Juan Chamula, Zinacantan and San Andres with various amigos. We never want for things to do as the variety is amazing. 

We have joined a Zumba class for "Edad Oro" (Golden Age) and were invited to a fun party with our new Mexican friends, 20 ladies and Ricardo and one other man. Here we are enjoying the party and celebrating with the new "queen" of 78 years - Gloria.

"Queen" Gloria

Having spent 10 weeks on the road in Europe is now contrasted with three months in one spot - a beautiful home, each other and much to entertain ourselves with. Thanks again for traveling with us.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Saving the best for last....PORTO!

Porto skyline
At Geres National Park
The end of this trip has come. Both Ricardo and I wrote our posts separately without reading to each other until finished. You will find some duplicate thoughts and descriptions which helps us to realize that we feel similarly about our travels.

Ribiera District, Porto
Porto was our last but certainly not our least stop. We originally had plans for a few more places in Northern Portugal but changed our mind to stay put in Porto for nearly two weeks and with afterthought it seems like this was a really good idea. The longer we stay in one place, the more we get the “feel” and here we go again with a similar refrain – we love Porto and could see coming back for a longer stay. I know we have said this before and we do mean it each time – there are certain things that we loved about this city, namely: near the water (on a big river only 45 min walk from the mouth of the Atlantic Ocean); very close to many beaches, one hour train ride to loads of interesting cities (we visited Guimaraes this time); several National Parks in close proximity (we visited Geres on this trip); walkable city; great vegan options and many specifically vegetarian/vegan restaurants; several yoga spots (did not do on this trip); VERY friendly people. I guess the only real negative is the language barrier though most folks do speak some English so we did not really have trouble. It would be hard, though, to make close friends with those who do not speak some English or Spanish. The Portuguese do understand Spanish but the Spanish do not understand Portuguese – there are some sounds that are just not familiar to either English or Spanish that is used in Portuguese so I think it would be hard for me to learn. Reading is easier as the words are very similar to Spanish.
Atlantic Ocean waves crashing
at mouth of river

Fish market at Matoshinhos
Once again, you can travel with me through our pictures. As in many of the cities we have been – it is hard to get a bad photograph as the views from up or down, often with the river in the background, are awesome.
Ribiera riverfront

Favorite church - built in the rocks
in Guimaraes Pena Park
Now, at the very end of this amazing ten week adventure I will try to summarize a bit my thoughts and feelings. This is the first time that we have traveled this way – 3-5 days in many places. Let’s see how many different places we stayed at least one night: Sevilla, Aracena, Granada, Cabo de Gata, Ronda, Cadiz, Cordoba, Buxton, Lisbon, Sintra, Evora, Coimbra, Porto, Madrid….14 different homes! The good thing about our flexibility is that we make each new place a “home” very quickly. We stayed in mostly Airbnb’s meaning we had kitchen access and it was like being home. We had our routines without a real routine – Richard up early, Susan sleeping later and leaving home by 10—11 each day meant a very relaxed lifestyle. We did our activities and mostly were home early in the evenings to watch a show or two on the computer through Netflix or ITunes. Ricardo had his naps, I had my time to write, draw a bit or read….keeping up on all my photos and my blogs to share with you and to keep our memory alive.

Pena Park, Guimaraes
My thoughts are jumbled. I love this trip though I am happy it is coming to an end. I enjoyed the planning and investigations before traveling, but glad when I did not use a map or guide and just went with the flow. The yin/yang of travel…..I would not want to have missed anything that we did so the planning was definitely worth it. My early childhood lessons of map reading pay off in these travels as I always knew where we were and where we were going but sometimes my eyes were in the map and maybe I missed seeing something…..will I ever know what??? I liked that we always knew where the veggie restaurants were and that we went out of our way to find them, even though several were closed upon arrival. I also liked days like yesterday when we searched for one which was closed and went into a food court and found an amazing wok spot where we could choose whatever we wanted for them to wok together with sauce and serve. We might have missed that. That is the thing about travel….there is always more to see and one has to cut and run sometimes. Whatever we miss we never know. Letting go is important.

I learned another lesson about “stuff”. I hope I have learned it well this time. We left one suitcase full of stuff in Madrid which we will get tomorrow when we get back to Madrid. We have lived without everything in it for the last 5 weeks so obviously we did not need that stuff. I will admit that of what we have in this suitcase we only used half of the clothes. When moving around less is much more.
I love that after ten weeks with my sweetheart we are still happily looking forward to our next 3 month adventure in Chiapas – we love being together and do not seem to tire of each other.

And now from Ricardo....

Porto, Portugal and end of the journey.
How many cups of tea did we
have on this trip. Too many to count!
Geres National Park

Now that we have ended our ten weeks traveling here on the Iberian peninsula, where in Spain the most used word is VALE and in Portugal is OBRIGADO(A).  No matter what or how you talk as long as you end the phrase with one of these two words people will smile.  The people in both places were very kind, helpful and most of all generous.  Nobody seems to be in a rush and they truly enjoy spending time with foreigners like us. The people in Portugal were more comfortable speaking English than Spanish. Also the Portuguese can understand Spanish since their language is very close to Spanish.  The only difference is Spanish speakers have no idea what they are saying when they talk. The Portuguese accent and the pronunciation of their words have sounds that don't exist in Spanish or English language.

Without intention Porto, Portugal was the best place to visit by far.  We are already planning our return sometime in the future.  Porto has everything one could imagine, something for everyone. Just to list a few: ocean beaches, river cruises, old and new coming together all over the city,  places to hike, great food from fresh fish grilled in front of you to many vegetarian restaurants and so so much more. One must come here and see it for oneself and also to mention reasonable prices with great value.

New friends from tour to
Geres National Park with
Oporto Adventure Tours

Ended our trip to Geres in these

Last view of Geres at sunset
It is hard to make comparisons especially when every place was so full of interesting features and the people are so kind. If you had some time to follow the blogs or just the pictures you would see that we were able to immerse ourselves deeply into this part of the world. A month in each country is more then most travelers will ever have and I am very grateful to have had the time and resources. But in order to feel community here one would have to stop and invest so much more as we have done in Mexico. Maybe next time when we come here we will be able to invest ourselves deeper and look for more opportunity to build community here.
We saw ancient stones to magnificent castles, Mediterranean beaches to the Atlantic Ocean beaches.  All was varied except for the churches and monasteries - they seemed like huge caves of the man-made type. These structures were well decorated, but for me being in nature always is more profound. We were very lucky to have done many great hikes up mountain tops and along rivers and of course all of the towns were walker friendly except for Cabo de Gata where we needed a car.
Since the pictures say more then a thousand words more or less, I will leave you here and let the pictures do the talking.
Safe travels always with great adventures.
Sending love,


Purple steps in Casa de Musica. Porto
Lastly, I invite you to look at my collages. I have done one photo collage for each of the places that we have been - mostly geometric forms and design elements that caught my eye while visiting and taking photos. I have enjoyed putting them together and will keep them here in this blog post so that we will always have them as memories of each of these wonderful places.

I know that we have written much and posted photos on Facebook but we are happy to be sharing our adventures with you and appreciate your joining us. 

Seville, Spain

Aracena, Spain

Granada, Spain

Cabo de Gata, Spain

Ronda, Spain

Cadiz, Spain

Cordoba, Spain

Buxton and Manchester, England

Lisbon, Portugal

Sintra, Portugal

Evora, Portugal

Coimbra, Portugal

Casa de Musica, Porto, Portugal

Porto, Portugal