Category Archives: Travel

Swimming With Manatees

Dave gets suited up in the dive shop.

Today is National Manatee Day, so I am reposting this blog I wrote in 2014. We went snorkeling at Three Sisters Springs a manatee sanctuary near Homosassa Florida where we were staying with our friends Jeff and Anna.  Jeff arranged the tour for us and suggested we go on the 6am launch with a boat from the Bird’s Underwater Inc.

Getting ready to swim with the manatees in Florida

Few snorkelers or kayakers are in the water at that hour and so the manatees are laid back and friendly. The West Indian manatees wait for the sun to come up before heading out to the Gulf of Mexico to eat seaweed. 

It was very cold and we left the dock in darkness and fog with our knowledgeable and capable guide Donna.  When we arrived at the springs only the two boats from our sanctuary with about 10 snorkelers each were there.  And did we see manatees! How I wish I’d had a underwater camera. (The photos of manatee in this post were all taken from on board the boat after we’d been in the water for about ninety minutes.)  One of the women snorkeling with us said this was her fourth visit to Three Sisters springs and she had never seen as many manatee on any previous dive. 

They swam right under us. I’d think I was swimming over a high rock only to glance down and realize there was a manatee beneath me.  Once I looked over and Dave had one manatee nipping at his ankles, another with its nose right up to his face mask, and he was petting a third beside him.  

Donna told us if we were very still in the water the manatee would come right up to us and they did. I could pat their thick hide and feel the bristly hair on their bodies, touch their long whiskers, run my fingers along the scars on their skin, brush away the algae sticking to their backs, rub their bellies when they flipped over and see the seaweed in their mouths. Their flat wide tails brushed against my body and they nibbled on my hair. 

The manatees have a sort of pre-historic quality about them and that makes sense because they’ve found fossils of manatee in Florida that are 45 million years old. Their nearest relative is the elephant. 

We saw little babies and juveniles and huge adult manatees  We saw mothers nursing their babies and adults mating. We didn’t realize how cold we were after all that time in the water till we got on board and were just shaking. The manatee were so amazing you didn’t even think about being cold. Once Dave had his wet suit off and his clothes back on he stood out in the sun at the back of the boat to warm up. As we left the Three Sisters Spring area about ten new boats had arrived with dozens and dozens of snorkelers. Kayaks were beginning to fill up the cove.  The manatee wanting to escape from all the commotion were heading out to sea in large numbers and away from the spring area. I was so glad we’d come early before so many of the manatee left the cove. 

Swimming with the manatee was a great experience. I was a little apprehensive and scared about it before hand but the manatee were so gentle and it was such a thrill to get up so close to such intriguing  sea creatures. 

Other encounters with interesting creatures are described in these posts……….

Hong Kong Frogs That Sound Like Cows Bellowing

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Bison

It’s All Happening at the Zoo

The Animals of Australia

Seeing Sea Creatures 

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Filed under Florida, Nature, Sports, Travel


Sign on a hiking path near Hiroshima Japan- 10 Minutes Walk – (7 If You Run A Little)  Sign on our family cottage at Moose Lake. Tsunami evacuation sign in Phuket ThailandSign outside the art gallery in Minneapolis. Sign warning of a land mine in CambodiaDave with our friend Alan in Singapore. Neither Dave or Alan really had to worry about ducking despite the warning sign. Dave and his brother Paul point to the sign at the entrance to the Bird Garden in Hong KongI pose by the Abbey Road sign in London.  Abbey Road was made famous on a Beatles album. Street sign I photographed in Madrid.  A misogynist sign I found in a bowling alley in Vientiene Laos. Sign showing us all the different kinds of fish we might see while snorkeling in Borneo. Danger sign in a thermal park we hiked through in Rotorua New Zealand Sign indicating the men’s washroom in Kyoto Japan.Sign on a T-shirt I found in a souvenir shop in Jerusalem. Volcano emergency sign information posted in a house we rented in Iceland

Sign in one of the hotels we stayed in while on a bike trip in Germany.  It means “The laughter you send you comes right back to you.”

Other posts……….



On A Boat


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Two Films About Menstruation You Need to See

One of good things about watching  the Oscars this year was learning about the film  Period. End of Sentence. It  won the award for best documentary short subject.  I watched it on Netflix the very next day. The film was the brainchild of a group of highschool students in Los Angeles and their teacher Melissa Berton who wanted to tell the story of young girls in India who don’t have access to affordable sanitary pads. Because of this the girls stay home from school when they have their period or suffer serious health problems because they use dirty rags or sometimes even ash instead of sanitary napkins.

Set in rural India the film brings to light the deep stigma still attached to menstruation in much of the country.  Directed by award-winning filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi and produced by Guneet Monga the film also highlights the work of Arunachalam Muruganantham an Indian inventor who created a simple machine to make affordable biodegradable sanitary napkins. In the film the inventor teaches a group of women in the village of Hapur to make the napkins with his machine and they sell them and use the money to finance their own education and improve their lives. Arunachalam Muruganantham is inspired by these girls trying to build a future for themselves.  He says “the strongest creature on earth is not the elephant, not the tiger, but the girl.” 

After watching Period. End of Sentence I also watched Padman on Netflix. It is an inspiring movie which tells the story of inventor Arunachalam Muruganantham and shows how his sanitary pad machine is enabling women all over India to have access to affordable personal hygiene products and in the process helping them to become independent, educated and empowered. Padman is certainly worth watching as well. 

At the Oscars Melissa Berton accepted her award saying “A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.” Her film as well as Padman profile an important initiative. You can support it at The Pad Project which is directly related to the two films.  Here is a list of ten other organizations that have similar initiatives in other countries. 

Other posts………

Meeting the Street Children of Dehli

Indian  Dinner

Love in a Lunch Box



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Filed under India, Movies

Loving Uber!

We get around everywhere by Uber here in Mexico.  The rates are so cheap and there are so many drivers available that downloading Uber apps on our phones and using them for our transportation needs is a far more economical and practical choice than renting a car. Some drivers don’t speak English but others do and we have learned plenty of interesting things from them. 

Many have left jobs related to their university degrees- business, technology, innovation, architecture, engineering to drive Uber because they can make a better living here in Mexico as a driver than as a professional. 

Two of our drivers were Americans who had roots in Mexico, had come here for visits, fallen in love with Mexican women and had children.  Since getting American immigration papers for their families is almost impossible they must remain here. 

Some people drive Uber because it gives them an opportunity to have two jobs or it gives them the flexibilty to spend more time with their kids during the day. One of our drivers was a farmer and he and Dave discussed their family farms during our trip.  

One driver who didn’t speak English asked Dave in a questioning way “música?” When Dave said ‘The Beatles” the driver understood him immediately and played one Beatles hit after the other on his car sound system during our ride. 

We have only had one female driver.  She didn’t understand English but Dave and Rudy managed to convey that they wanted to stop on our ride to pick up some items from the grocery store.  While the fellows went into the store I showed her pictures of my grandsons on my phone and she showed me photos of her family and with gestures and the few words we knew of each other’s languages I learned she had five brothers and two sisters,seven nieces and nephews and that her grandmother had died last year. We even figured out that her nephew and my grandson shared the same name. 

A couple of our drivers have moved here from Mexico City  because there is so much less crime and extortion and corruption here in the Yucatan.  They gave us lots of interesting reasons why that is the case.

I especially love Uber trips I make on my own.  My last two I was lucky enough to get drivers who both spoke a fair bit of English and we had fascinating half hour conversations on our ride home from Merida. Uber is fast and convenient but the bonus for me is that I am meeting lots of interesting people and am learning so much about Merida and the Yucatan from our local drivers.  

Other posts………..

Friend For A Moment

We Placed Our Lives in his Hands

Dave the Professional Driver

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Filed under Mexico, Travel


at the great wall
With my husband Dave on the Great Wall of China in a photograph taken by my brother
moss covered wall vik icelandA moss covered wall around a cemetery.  I photographed it in Vik Icelandwall aidaI photographed this wall while visiting a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem
john-lennon-wall-pragueMy husband Dave in a photo I took of him at the John Lennon Wall in Praguememorial-to-conscientious-objectors-winklerA wall to honor pacifist conscientious objectors I photographed in Winkler Manitobabiking-in-xianDave and I biking on the wall around the ancient Chinese city of Xian in a photo taken by our tour guidepraying at the wailing wallPhoto I took of women praying with me at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem

 I photographed this intriguing electronic display of  people writing the word welcome on a wall at the Human Rights Museum in Winnipeg.wall in gaudi parkDetail on a wall I photographed in Gaudi Park in Barcelona, Spain
I photographed Dave walking by the city walls of Gaia Portugal along the Douro RiverDave photographed me in front of one of the remaining walls around the Colleseum in Rome. Dave and his cousin John talk with a member of the Wendat First Nation in front of the wall around their traditional settlement, a Quebec heritage site. 

Other posts…………

Who Are the Wendat? 

An Evening Stroll Along the Douro

Those Who Went to War and Those Who Didn’t

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Friend For A Moment

I made another friend for the moment on our way to our winter home in Mexico.

We were standing outside the Cancun airport waiting for the bus that would take us on a four- hour ride to the city of Merida where we would be spending the next two months.  A couple who looked to be about our age came to join us and we struck up a conversation. We discovered they were also headed out to Merida for an extended stay and were from Ashville North Carolina. 

Ten Thousand Village Store in Ashville North Carolina

We had visited Ashville several years ago and I commented on some of the things we enjoyed and appreciated about the city.  I mentioned we had been surprised to find a Ten Thousand Villages store there. We told the couple the stores were a project of the Mennonite Church and we were Mennonites.  “Well then we have something in common,” said the woman.  “We are Quakers and our faiths are similar. In fact,” she told us, “we live in an intentional Quaker community near Ashville.”

Library at the Quaker School in Monteverde Costa Rica

We mentioned we had visited a Quaker school and church in Monteverde Costa Rica and they said they had visited there too and in fact an American church they had been involved with were strong supporters of the Costa Rica Quaker community.

Dave and the woman’s husband started chatting about sports teams and so I asked her what kind of career she’d had before retirement.  Turns out she was a special needs teacher and so we also had our backgrounds as educators in common. I shared that in my retirement I was working at an art gallery and she told me she had started a small business in her retirement helping people organize and clean up their homes.  This led to a discussion of a new Netflix series featuring the Japanese author Marie Kondo who has written the best selling book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

That in turn got us talking about the books we were reading currently. She had just finished Michelle Obama’s biography Becoming and I was just about to start reading it.  My new friend told me she had particularly enjoyed the book because both her son and daughter-in-law who live in Washington DC had worked for the Obama administration.  Many of the stories in the book resonated with her because her children had already shared similar stories with her. She said what fine people her children had found the Obamas to be and how much they had enjoyed and appreciated working for and with them.

I was almost sorry when our bus arrived and I had to end my conversation with my North Carolina friend.

I once presented a day- long workshop about friendship to a group of women and one of my topics was Friends For the Moment.  I described the many interesting people I had met who I only known for a few moments but with whom I’d had terrific, thoughtful and sometimes even very helpful conversations.  I called them friends for the moment and encouraged the women in the workshop to think of similar friends they had made.

I was happy about making a friend for the moment as I waited for my bus in Cancun.

Other posts……..

Are Men and Women’s Friendships Different? 

My Mom’s Friends

Hopeful Friendships



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Sketching The Baker and Her Husband

On my latest sketching outing with my friend Esther I decided to try to do my own version of a work of art called Portrait of Terentius Neo or The Baker and His Wife.  It is from a fresco found in Pompeii in the home of Terentius Neo who we know was a baker because his home had been modified to include a bakery.

canadian tourists in pompeii

Visiting Pompeii with my husband Dave

1700 years after Mount Vesuvius erupted the city of Pompeii was discovered, a kind of frozen time capsule that tells us much about life in the first century AD. The Baker and his Wife was an important find by the archeologists exploring Pompeii. 

baker and his wifeThe famous fresco which now resides in an archeology museum in Naples shows a pair of middle-class Pompeii residents probably a husband and wife. The man and woman have large almond-shaped eyes.  They look like prosperous and confident merchants. The man has a wispy beard, and is wearing a toga, the mark of a Roman citizen. He holds a scroll of sorts with a wax seal.  The woman has fashionable ringlets in her hair and wears pearl earrings. She has just a hint of smile on her face.  She holds a stylus or writing implement to her chin and has a wax tablet to write on  indicating that she is educated and literate.

Paul Roberts from the British Museum who curated an exhibit which included The Baker and His Wife claims the most important thing about the fresco is that the couple in it appear to be equal business partners.  The woman who clearly keeps track of the finances for the business is not subservient at all and in fact is standing slightly forward from her husband. 

sketch the baker and his wifeMakes me wonder if the famous fresco shouldn’t have been called The Baker and Her Husband. 

Other posts………….

Visiting Pompei

The Catacombs- Myth and Reality

Channeling Norval Morrisseau

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Filed under Art, History, Italy