LUGGAGE Lady

Contemplations about Life, Love, & the Pursuit of Meaningful Existence…

Archive for the category “Government”

A Part of My Soul Remains…

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You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” ~Miriam Adeney

🌏✈🌏

I sincerely apologize for my lengthy absence. Although I’m home from my recent journey throughout Turkey, Israel, Egypt, and Greece, a part of my soul remains. Each faltering attempt to convey my experience has left my heart further fragmented. How do I adequately describe human suffrage at depths I’ve never known — and never will? I gravitate toward positivity, but doing so temps me to replace reality with photo-ops like the one featured. Expertly orchestrated. Perfectly contrived. We so wanted to aid our Egyptian guide’s cause. A man who sat knee-to-knee with us atop well-worn, ornate prayer rugs inside Cairo’s Alabaster Mosque and elicited tears by sharing ardent family traditions, religious misconceptions, political frustrations, and dreams he’d likely never achieve (but maybe his son would one day). This 14-hour excursion with our charismatic Egyptian friend touched us on so many levels, compelling us to paint Cairo as a grand destination — and yet…

Just six days before our guide snapped this photo, he’d lost his close friend — a fellow guide who was inadvertently killed by his country’s own military when they mistook him and the Mexican tour group he was leading for ISIS while they picnicked in the Bahariya Oasis. Hence the reason the pyramids were virtually empty. Tourism had already plummeted post-2011 revolution and was just beginning to make a teensy resurgence. Unfortunately, the Russian airliner bombing truncated an already meager recovery.

And that’s just one story…

How can I forget the haunting despair of staring into the eyes of malnourished, shoeless orphaned refugee children in Istanbul? Or strolling the sweltering, dusty, potholed, garbage-filled streets of Alexandria, strewn with butchered animal carcasses bleeding right next to pedestrian traffic? Or passing heavily armed police men and women along the impoverished, graffitied, sand-coated, apocalyptic-looking back roads of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv?

I promised myself then and there that I would never complain about “first world problems” again. But, back in my comfortable surroundings, how swiftly I’ve rejoined the choir, eagerly adding my own petty verses. Why?? I’ve never been oppressed, persecuted, or brainwashed by my government. I’ve never stressed over where my next morsel of food or sip of clean water might come from. I’ve never had to speculate where I might sleep, much less wonder if I’d live to see another day in the manner countless big-hearted, hard-working, beautiful souls around our globe do every single day.

Bidding an emotional farewell to our Egyptian friend, we confessed how inconsequential we felt. How we wished we could do more to help. “Your presence here means everything,” he said, embracing us like lifelong friends.

Sadly, since our September trip, ISIS and its evil predecessors appear to be growing more emboldened daily, stealing innocent lives, destroying families, raping, pillaging and ravishing livelihoods in the region we visited and beyond. With each bloody news alert, I think of the hospitable, gregarious, respectful people we encountered, from Cairo schoolboys flocking around me to take selfies, to the young women smiling curiously from behind colorful hijabs, to the gentleman rescuing us in Alexandria when our animated map-pointing failed to secure three taxi drivers in a row — and a plethora of generous souls in between.

An open heart is humanity’s greatest resource, mutual compassion bridging two very different worlds.

Suffice to say, a part of my soul remains….

 

 

 

Love Always Wins

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“If love is universal, no one can be left out.” ~ Deepak Chopra

💕

Celebrating sixteen years of perfectly imperfect marriage this week, conflicted feelings wash over me. While I’m thrilled for my gay friends who finally share the right to marry in this country, the disrespectful dialogue generated by the ruling has been bewildering. Although derogatory commentary is sadly the norm these days, hearing the hypocritical roar from the so-called “religious” sector hollowed my soul.

Shouldn’t we be focusing on treating one another with dignity rather than groveling over marital definitions? After all, we’re an extremely diverse nation with a myriad of beliefs. Can’t we simply agree to disagree and respectfully move forward? Maybe even celebrate our differences and learn a wee bit along the way??

Heck, my husband and I said our vows on a beach and chose not to have children. In the eyes of some, we’re not “truly” married. Thankfully, we never had to go to court to argue whether our love was worthy of the marriage label.

With negativity dampening spirits aplenty, I keep returning to what I believe is a universal covenant:

I am a mere human, placed upon this earth to judge no one!

As a flight attendant, privileged to interact with hundreds of amazingly unique humanoids on a daily basis, I know how rapidly my day deteriorates when I fail to honor this fundamental principle.

Will I open my mind or open my mouth?

Endear or alienate?

Leave a peaceful trail or one of dissension?

Spread love or animosity?

Despite routine stumbles, whenever I don my compassionate heart, joy colorizes my life beautifully…

Because

💕LOVE💕

Always

Wins

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Harmony Begins With Me

Travel-wormhole“Peace begins not with countries, not with nations, and not with governments. Peace begins with you. Peace begins with me. Peace begins with each of us. It is within us.” ~ Prem Rawat

💞

Wandering foreign back roads

Sans news bombarding me from every angle

Away from depressing snippets and soundbites

Construed to perpetuate division and unrest

I’m blissfully off the grid

Society’s maladies forgotten

Replaced by a celebration of shared commonalities

Soaking up universal love

Strangers morphing into new friends

Eager to share stories of their homelands

Time condenses

A single afternoon reshaping my heart

Strolling enchanting cobblestone streets

Swapping mutually respectful gazes

Studying exotic features

Stunningly unique

Appreciating cultural nuances

Savoring the international pulse

Rather than having it interpreted for me

I’m reminded

Peace is not something wished for from a distance

But rather an empowering choice made with each encounter

Whether thousands of miles from home

Or in my own backyard

I must give my best

While seeking the same in others

Or risk living a sad life

Where I’m continuously offended

Immediately jumping to conclusions

Making examples out of every deemed wrongdoer

Leaving a dense cloud of negativity in my wake

Dearest Universe

Please draw me upward

Whenever I’m tempted to fly so low

Please open my eyes to just how rewarding life can be

When I remember

I’m obligated to find peace within my own heart

Because harmony begins with me…

💞

💖Dear Treasured Readers, I sincerely apologize for my perpetual absence here. I’m having trouble “returning” from my travels — I promise to catch up with you lovely souls very soon!!

**photo from our recent Balkans adventure: Sibiu, Romania

Bienvenido a Cuba

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Proximity has zero bearing. Less than an hour flight from Miami catapults us backward 50-plus years. On the exterior of the tiny Cienfuegos Airport, a bright blue BIENVENIDO sign beckons.

I possess a Visa solely as part of an approved People to People Program. Daily exchanges to include: mingling with artists, vocalists, musicians (including members from the Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club!!), dancers, entrepreneurs, environmentalists, spiritual leaders, historians, teachers, and students.

Being here as a U.S. citizen leaves me both awed by opportunity — yet pondering whether my coming is somehow…unpatriotic.

From a bureaucratic standpoint, our welcome is somewhat subdued. Neither U.S. bank-issued credit nor ATM cards are accepted. We knew this before we came. Cash in hand, we pay a 10% commission to change dollars into CUCs at a rate of 1/1. This is not a bargain shopper’s destination. Cellular service doesn’t exist for those with U.S. carriers, and internet is only available in some 5-star Havana hotels at speeds slower than our modem days.

Our Cuban guide shares that, up until a few years ago, a local would be sentenced up to four years in prison if caught using internet in his or her home. He laughs, referring to our online shopping as folklore. “Cubans can’t imagine paying for something on a screen and having it actually show up on our doorsteps. Forget about returning it and getting a refund!” Satellite TV is also forbidden. Some people have illegal hookups but know they could face hefty fines if the authorities learn of these.

No one in our 22-person group minds. We didn’t come to Cuba to bury our noses in gadgets. We came to experience the contagious verve of the people…

We step onto crumbling cobblestone roads and into another century. Surprisingly well-preserved American made (and Russian overhauled) vintage cars roar all about. Vibrant colors and zippy music tantalize our senses. Even standing in place, the locals sway to a beat I’m convinced is part of their DNA.

From Cienfuegos to Havana, with stops in Trinidad and stunning beaches along the way, I admire close-knit families, communities, and a refreshing enthusiasm from school children to the elderly. The hope sparkling in their eyes touches my soul in a way I struggle to adequately articulate.

I’m just an ordinary girl — with extraordinary freedoms, privileges, and conveniences I need never question. Gratitude and humility flood my heart.

As we make our way to Havana’s airport the last day, our gregarious guide describes the tedious departure process, adding that clients ask him what the airport is like on the other side of immigration. Are there shops? Restaurants? He shrugs. “Well, maybe one of you will be kind enough to send an email when you get home and tell me because I’ve never been…”

🌎 ♥ 🌎

♥ I dedicate this post to my dear friend & colleague, Maria, who left her beautiful island in the second grade and dreams of returning one day soon… ♥

A Butterfly’s Rousing Journey

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Butterflies know precisely when to leave the safety of their cocoons, gloriously unfurling an exquisite new form and fearlessly trusting those untested appendages. When I sprouted my post-college “wings” and headed starry-eyed to the City of Angels, I did so with slightly less gallantry. My mode of transport was an Olds Cutlass Sierra, and my trailblazer spunk came with a convenient disclaimer: If things didn’t pan out, I could skitter back to my midwestern “cocoon” — no questions asked. How different that departure might have felt had I known there was no return option? And what if my destination required me to abandon my comfort zone completely, trekking to a destination foreign in every way, with little more than the clothes on my back and a hope-laden heart?

How much would you sacrifice to seek freedom and opportunity?

For Shermin Nahid Kruse‘s parents, who emigrated from Iran to Canada in the late 80s, the answer was — everything. Today, their accomplished daughter attributes her success to a baba and maman who gave up livelihood, family, and country so she and her sisters could pursue dreams unencumbered by their homeland’s oppressive regime.

From the tender age of eleven, Shermin embraced her new environment with grit, grace, and adaptability. Now, in addition to a resume that leaves me wishing I could package and sell such ambition, she’s written a compelling book that interlaces mother and daughter perspectives of Iran before, during, and after the Islamic Revolution.

Her novel, Butterfly Stitching, makes one feel like a privileged friend, granted special access down a hidden corridor to a colorfully complex and otherwise inconceivable world. She skillfully drops her readers into tenacious Persian women’s shoes, swaying at once to the tight-knit cultural beat with our senses delightfully piqued. We shop at bustling markets, prepare and savor ethnic meals, host secret parties, dance to illegal music, recite forbidden poetry, paint heartrending emotion, suffer a passionless arranged marriage, find and lose true love — all while somehow maintaining positivity against a backdrop rife with fear, repression, betrayal, and bloodshed.

If you’re like me and routinely invent excuses for postponing goals, her rousing journey will replenish your soul’s gusto, transforming yesterday’s paper-thin excuses into possibilities. Thanks to this inspiring author and dear friend, I shall never utter the words “I can’t” again!

♥♥♥

What leap of faith have you taken to achieve your dreams? Tell me about it and possibly win a signed copy of Butterfly Stitching!

♥ LL

(Photo from our latest travels: The Dark Hedges in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland)

Together We Flourish — Divided We Flounder

Dolphin Always! (5)

Sensationalized reporting

Sweeping generalizations

Inflated sentiments

Morph into disconnect

Isolation

Bitterness

Fear…

Channel after channel

Each attempting to eclipse the other

Competing soundbites trying to sway

Yet, in the real world

I observe a much different story

I see

Folks joining hands

Working tirelessly

Building cohesive families

Earning honest livings

Looking out for their neighbors

Volunteering

Mentoring our youth

Goodwill extended every step of the way

And my admiration skyrockets

The camaraderie of upstanding citizens

Impassioned spirits merging with loving intent

Has always been the glue binding our communities

We don’t need anyone to decipher this for us

It’s ingrained in the very fiber of our shared humanity

Together We FlourishDivided We Flounder

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