Secret: Learn From It All

Dear friends,
2017 has tested me as a human. After losing depth perception in my left eye (due to high altitude shock) while visiting ancient civilizations in Peru and Bolivia in July of 2016, I had no choice but to stop and look at my human limitations and change my way of viewing and living life. Not a bad choice to move out of the fast lane, take eye breaks, and enjoy each breath-taking moment. As a result, I count blessings more often and allow myself to become my BEST possible every day.

My goal for 2018 is to continue to learn from the good, the bad, the happy, the sad, and remember the secret—learn from it all.   I first learned this lesson in 1976 when a singing elephant showed up in my dreams at a time when I was ill and depressed. My first book for children was a result of that profound realization. Just reminding myself all these years later.

Wishing you Happy Holidays and a Wonderful New Year! XX

Little Dog (looking like a little bear) parks outside our gate.

Big dogs  think he’s OK as long as he doesn’t steal their bones. When he steals a bone, he gets as close as possible to a big shoe for protection. We call him Osito which means little bear in Spanish

He loves to chew, play, run, and do cartwheels; all at the same time. Here he is learning to run with our big dog, Benji. Fortunately,  Benji is a good and patient babysitter.

Intention + Obstacle + Tactics = Character Development

I’ve just completed an assignment in a Screenwriting Master Class with Aaron Sorkin. Aaron teaches, “A character is born from the INTENTION and OBSTACLE—they want something, and something stands in their way of getting it.” How they overcome those obstacles, or what TACTICS they use, define the character.

Copyright Free – Stock Free images. Public Domain image dedication. CC0 1.0 Universal Licence – http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

The ASSIGNMENT: Write a scene where one character is asking another for money. The other character WON’T give them the money.

When it comes to giving money to others in need, I’m a soft touch. Here’s my take on the assignment. What would your take be? I’d love to read it. Please share.

My take:  Money

Travel Highlights (50-100 words) Read and Enjoy!

Author/Editor Robert Fear runs annual travel writing competitions. One is for Travel Stories (500-1000 words) and the other for Travel Highlights (50-100 words). He publishes the best of these in a book each year.

The Travel Highlights competition (50-100 words) has just finished and is open to a public vote until the end of November 2017.  I wrote one about riding a tank through the Israeli desert. Not an easy ride and not an easy task to tell the story in 50-100 words. Hope you enjoy it! Please read through the highlights and vote for your favorites. You can vote for five entries daily. Thanks for your support!

Susan Joyce.

http://www.fd81.net/freds-blog/voting-now-open3126059

Wild Tank Ride! Negev Desert 1971

(Fred’s Blog 2017 Travel Highlights)

It is a great pleasure to welcome back Susan Joyce with this terrific entry for the 2017 Travel Highlights Competition. Here is her intro to a very special highlight:
As a young American female, I never hitchhiked and never dreamed I might one day need to do just that. While living in the Negev Desert of Israel one scorching hot summer day, I watched the last bus to my village disappear into the distance. I had missed my ride home. Uncertain what to do, I stood at the bus stop on the main highway on the outskirts of Beer-Sheva, Israel and hoped a vehicle, any vehicle, would stop and give me a ride.

When I heard traffic approach, I held up my thumb and begged God to hear my plea.


A Wild Tank Ride Across the Negev Desert!

Beersheba to Arad. Israel, Summer 1971

Missed last bus home.
It’s Sabbath!
No taxis or passing cars.
Scorching heat.
29 miles, 47 kilometers.

Tank barrels toward me, rattles to a stop.
“Arad?”
Driver motions. “Climb aboard!

Car stops, offers ride. “Tanks take forever.”
Confused, I wave them on.

An hour later, I hear a raucous scream overhead
“Bomber,” driver yells.
“God!” I gasp.
“Friend!” Driver waves skyward, pats tank. “Soviet from Six Day War.”

Minutes later, second bomber buzzes tank.
Driver again waves.
Friendly fire? Feel faint.

After three hours, we arrive.
Wilted vegetables, melted ice cream.
Shaken, I thank him.
Wild ride! Shabbat Shalom!

Dangling!

In my lifetime, I’ve been lucky to visit off-the-grid places where I’ve experience nature at its finest; far away from the madness and clutter of everyday life. Spaces where I found solitude and experienced a powerful oneness with nature and slept like a baby.

As a child, I often fell asleep on a flat, hot rock in the middle of the Arizona desert waiting for a spaceship to rescue me. I felt certain they had left me in the wrong place with the wrong family.

As a young woman, I made a childhood dream come true when I followed Heidi’s footsteps on a trek through the Swiss Alps. That night I slept in a picturesque chalet, nestled high in the hills above Hergiswil, Switzerland with a stunning view of mountains and lakes. An eiderdown quilt kept me cozy and warm.

I once napped atop the ancient rock fortress of Masada, Israel, after a rugged dawn hike to the top of the plateau. A most delicious rest.

While crossing the Indian Ocean, in monsoon season, much to my surprise sleeps were deep with lots of telling dreams.

I knew I had experienced the most unusual places to sleep in remote locations until July of 2016 when my husband and I toured Peru’s Sacred Valley with a group of other tourists.

Our bus stopped alongside the Urubamba River, near a railroad track, and our guide suggested we get out and look at a structure across the river. He pointed skyward to a strange shape stuck to the pristine mountain side.

View of Skylodge, Peru, from Google Street View
From Google Street View

“What is it?” I asked.

He said it was a “sky lodge” attached to the sheer rock face—one of three transparent sleep capsules suspended above Peru’s Sacred Valley of Cuzco. Each capsule measured 24 feet long, and 8 feet in height and width, equipped with four beds, a dining area, and a private bathroom with a big window view across the Peruvian landscape. Solar panels powered Interior lighting.

I borrowed a pair of strong binoculars and inspected the strange sight. The pods looked like space ships stuck to the cliffs.

“How do guests get there?” I asked.

Skylodge, Peru

He explained. Lodgers must first climb 400 feet up the cliff face—a rough climb, with 400 iron rungs and a steel cable fixed to the rock to help climbers navigate the toughest parts to reach the sleeping pods.

“For the intrepid adventurers,” a fellow tourist remarked.

I could imagine the spectacular views over the cliffs of the mystical valley and the Urubamba River flowing below. To watch stars explode across the night sky would also be awesome.

But I couldn’t imagine the nerve-racking climb, much less a good sleep while dangling from the side of a sheer cliff. What about the roaring winds? I wondered when a strong gust of wind blew past. “And just how does one get down?” I asked.

“Zip-lines, seven hair-raising zip-lines,” a fellow tourist (in the know) chimed in.

For foolish thrill seekers. I shuddered, shook my head no, crossed my heart for the thrill seekers, and crossed the sky lodge adventure off my bucket list. No dangling sleep necessary.

Excerpt from Susan Joyce’s book in progress Journeys—Short Travel Stories from around the world.

 

Count your blessings!

Each day, I count my blessings and am always amazed at the way life blesses me.
Our trip to the high altitudes of Peru and Bolivia in July 2016 resulted in high altitude shock and permanent damage to my left eye. But I have more clear sight days as time goes on and the eye heals.
Today, I am blessed because …
1. I see bright and clear.
2. Sunshine surrounds me and a low 70s temp. Gorgeous Day!
3. I hear the purr of our cat and the sighs of our dogs. Content.
4. We live in a beautiful, quiet place.
Thinking of positives in life will diminish the negatives. Try it! Count your blessings!

RIP Gita!

In memory of our sweet Gita! She arrived as a pup at our casa in Mexico and was delighted to have a home. Always kind and happy, especially when she heard the words FOOD or WALK. We miss her but are comforted knowing she is now pain free and flying high. She lives on— in our hearts forever!

Beware! Chew and Brew!

My husband, Doug, and I flew from Lima, Peru (sea level) to Cusco, Peru (Elevation: 11,152′) on July 12th, 2016 with a group to visit ancient sites in Peru and Bolivia.

The plane landed, doors opened, and oxygen got sucked from my lungs. I gasped for air. My vision blurred. Dizzy, I clutched seat backs and handrails to exit the plane. Doug extended his arm for support but he also struggled to breathe in the thin mountain air.

I knew altitude sickness could affect people and that it can be dangerous; even lead to death. Since I had hiked high mountains without problems, I figured I was low risk. The risk is low if one increases altitude in a gradual way. The risk is high if one climbs over 1,600 feet per day. And we climbed to an elevation of 11,152 in one hour and twenty minutes.

A world traveler, I didn’t expect complications but took high altitude pills for four days before. Just in case. The pills can cause minor side effects; tingling fingers, a strange taste. Better than dead.

A bus took us to our hotel in the historic district of Cusco, the ancient capital of the Incan Empire. We checked in at the desk and climbed the staircase to our second-floor room. My eyes teared non-stop and my left eye throbbed in pain. I clung to the banister for guidance. Not far, I thought struggling to catch my breath with each step. When we entered our room, we collapsed on the large firm bed. Exhausted, I assured myself I had mild altitude sickness (AMS). I’d be fine once I acclimated to the high altitude.

We met our group in the lobby later and discussed our various symptoms. Some travelers had headaches, others earaches, one a bloody nose. Lucky me; a throbbing eye. No blood.

Our local guide pointed to small bowls filled with coca leaves in the dining room and suggested we chew the leaves. He explained how coca is an essential part of life in the Andes. A South American plant, coca grows wild in the humid foothills a

We joined others in a welcome ceremony to connect our souls with Mother Earth and spirit guides. Inca tradition. In the meditation, I imagined my eyes healed; with bright vision again.

Susan & Inca Cross

When the ceremony ended, we received gifts and our guide explained the spiritual meaning of each Incan symbol. I chose a dark wooden cross on a leather cord. He said it was the “Chakana” (Tree of Life) and provided protection. Incas used the “Chakana” to decide everything important in life. Doug selected one from light wood which represented purification.

After the ceremony, we walked along the old stone streets of the historic capital of the Inca Empire (13th-16th century). I wiped my teary eyes and stepped with caution as I listened to the ancient history of the region and the Spanish invasion in the 16th century. The Spanish destroyed most of the Inca structures and built new ones on top of the old.

Cusco Walls

Our guide explained the evidence of great builders before the Inca and pointed to the megalithic walls at the base. The stones on top of the granite were typical Inca rectangular shapes which resembled polygons. Adobe mud, used as mortar covered the rough stones and held them in place. The Spanish built walls of straw, adobe mud, and painted the rough surface. Spanish walls looked sloppy by comparison.

I touched the smooth massive boulders at the bottom; the ancient walls. They varied in size and shape, yet joined, edge to edge in a perfect fit, interlocked without visible gaps and without mortar to hold them in place. My fingertips danced across the even surfaces and the rounded corners of the gigantic megalithic boulders.

Doug pointed to a Puma figure and a snake in the granite shapes. Our guide showed us a condor figure higher on the Inca wall.

Next we visited the holiest site in Incan mythology; “The Coricancha.” I rested my eyes and listened to our guide tell us the history of the religious complex; the center of the Inca world. Built to honor the creator god, and Inti, the sun god, it housed shrines to the Moon, Venus, and other weather deities. The vast astronomical observatory had a device to calculate movement of the earth with ceremonies conducted round the clock.

Temple of the Sun, Cusco, Peru

When the Spanish conquered Cusco, they described the temple as “beautiful beyond belief.” Then they stripped its gold and treasures and sent them back to Spain. After demolishing the temple, they built a cathedral on the site. Earthquakes have destroyed the cathedral but the ancient temple foundation remains intact.

Next stop was the Cusco Museum of History.  Tattered documents and ancient artifacts told the story of the various stages of development of all invaders who inhabited Peru.

A wooden bench, on the porch, beckoned me. It looked to be on the same floor level. But when I took a step, I stumbled and almost fell because I couldn’t judge the size or the distance of the step. My depth perception was gone.

We returned to the hotel for an early dinner, then to bed for a good night’s sleep. We tossed and turned for long hours, then realized coca is a strong stimulant. No rest for the weary. Chew and brew did us in.

But, when on a tour, the show goes on and we joined our group for another day of exploring more ancient sites.