Wednesday, January 31, 2007

finding joy in the mundane

Can you? I guess if we follow a set routine we can live the mundane. Finding joy in it? I don't know. My parents are in their 80's and they live in Toronto. Lately they have become snowbirds and now spend the winter months in Southern California. Every weekend has become a party. I never remember a time when we got together so very often. My 2 brothers, their families and I. I told my brothers that every day my parents are alive is a gift to them and to us. We still have them here on earth. The time will surely come when we will be apart, not just geographically but permanently. We reminisce on our old days living in the jungles of Borneo. Those were very hard days, living in mosquito infested jungle, with no running water, no electricily and no indoor plumbing. We have come a long way, both geographically and in our mindset. With hard work and a lot of prayers one can achieve a life of one's dreams. My life now is filled with interesting pursuits, and active career, lots of interesting books(I found a copy of 'Iberia' by James Michener at a garage sale for $1 over the last weekend). I watched a remake of Jane Eyre on PBS the other evening and I rushed out to Barnes and Noble to buy the book because I want to read it again. I have just finalized all the hotel arrangements for my trip to Sicily in 5 weeks' time. The hotel in Palermo is E65 per night; the one in Catania is E55 and in Agrigento it is E75 for double occupancy because my sister in law is coming with me. Christmas came and went. It was a full house because my sister and family (total of 5) were here from New Jersey. I am continuing to write and to learn to draw. I am looking into places to visit for next year's travel schedule and investigation is fun and exciting. I read the history and find out as many reasons as I can to visit a certain place. This trip will only cover half of Sicily. I do want to find time to finish the other half of Sicily. My life is full and hardly mundane. My joy is overflowing....

Sunday, January 21, 2007

travel the world

Air France, Alitalia, Air One, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Rome, Fumicino, Catanaia, Italy. These are words I'll be very familiar with by the time I embark on my trip to Sicily, Italy. I went on the internet and worked out an itinerary for myself. I'll fly on Air France from Los Angeles to Paris, on Alitalia from Paris to Rome and finally on Air One from Rome to Catania, Sicily. My sister in law is coming with me but she's booked on British Airways. We'll be exhausted by the time we reach Catania. I remember a similar trip to Seville, Spain. I remember I was in airports and planes for over 24 hours. I wasn't that savvy a traveler then; I could have worked out a better itinerary. I learned a lot from that debacle. Now I'm really good. With each trip I add on not so much frequent flyer miles (I never know how to use my miles so I don't bother) but greater knowledge about the travel industry. I went British Air's website just now, one can really fly cheaply still during the month of Febrary. So I'll look into traveling in February from now on. March is still cheap. The enigmatic Sicily. Few people has been to Southern Italy and the intrepid ones who's been there come back with as much praise for Southern Italy as for Northern Italy. We were in Southern Italy (the heel) last year and we had so much fun that we decided on Sicily this year. It's fascinating a place with a rich and complex history having been conquered and colonized by a series of different rulers- the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, the Saracens, the French Normans, the Spanish Bourbons, the German Hohenstaufen, and today being an autonomous region of a Unified Italy. Each 'conqueror' or 'conquering power' left their distinct mark on Sicily. A friend said, after hearing about our planned 2 weeks in Sicily," it's a small island". She meant we could zip through it in a couple of days. The truth is my plan involves just half of the island. I have to plan a second trip to finish seeing the rest of the island. That's how packed with notable sights Sicily is. I shall be bringing my digital camera and another cheap 35mm camera, my sketchbook and color pencils. I started learning to draw a year ago. I'm surrounded by art books. I shall come back with drawings of Mt Etna and lots of Baroque churches.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

how to save money

I was at my brother's house last night. I brought back a bunch of leftovers which I will eat for a whole week. Well, that's one way of saving money. My sister in law and I were going over the itinerary for our upcoming trip to Sicily. I love reading stories on how other people stretch their dollar. I learn a lot and even though there might not be anything new, the articles reinforces my own commitment to saving money. She asked where I'll be going next becasue she wants to tag along. I said, Beijing and Lhasa in the Fall. Then she wanted to know when I'll go bck to France; we both love France. That set me thinking, next year, 2008 over Easter I want to take my 2 teenage neices to Tuscany. I have already taken them to France. Well, next Fall will be a good time to revisit France, especially the Dorodgne region. I, so love that region especially the quaint little village of Sarlat. I haven't been to Mont St Michel; maybe I'll incorporate Mont St Michel into the trip. The next question is "how to afford all these trips and the many more beyond....?' I really must devise lots of ways to save up. I used to jot down everything I spent. It is very effective, each time I open my wallet, I have to remember that I'll be filling up an entry in this book and it does make me pause to think twice before spending. So yesterday, while I was spending a whole day at home, avoiding the malls and other places of paid entertainment, I was entertaining myself, rereading some of my books and magazines and jotting down this list of ways to save money. This is a list of things I'm already doing. I need to continue reinforcing the message! With the unfavorable exchange rate for the dollar, it is hard to find a bargain in Europe. Saving for trips abroad starts and end at home! Writing this blog takes up time; keeps me occupied and it's freeeeeee!
pack sack lunch
ride the bus
cook and eat at home
do not cook too much- eat leftovers
buy canned salmon for fish cakes
eat more vegetables
eat more fruits
no glossy magazines
don't go to the mall
sew your own summer clothes from old thrift shop clothes
stay at home- write in journal, reread books and magazines
dream on paper
wash car
read about thrifty people
do not save by taking advantage of other people
do not save by living off the largesse of other people
give to charities
avoid favorite websites- Amazon or Alibris, fast from these websites
no alcohol/soda
drink tap water
no movies or rentals
continue to invest in stock market, contnue to send regular checks to Schwab one account
continue to pay down mortgage faster

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I'm going to Sicily on March 10. I searched for months for a cheap fare but the best arrangement I found was Air France from Los Angeles to Paris, Alitalia, from Paris to Rome and Air One from Rome to Catania. My sister in law is coming but she's flying on other airlines for reasons I wouldn't go into here. It's hard finded any thing cheap. The only way to save on trips is to save for it on the home front. The new year means new travel plans. The first trip of the year is to Sicily. In October I'm planning to go to Beijing and Lhasa. I've been reading on all these places for the whole of 2006 and I'm ready. 2 weeks in Sicily. A friend said, But it's a small island! 2 weeks and my plans include sights in half the island. I have to plan a second trip to Sicily to include the whole of Sicily. My books on Tibet is burgeoning, most of these books are out of print books. There is a dearth of recent books on Tibet. Tibet, the roof the world, the land of snows, the land of the snow leopard, the land of the blue poppy. I have a book that had a picture of the blue poppy! Wow! It is a poppy! It is blue! It is so precious! As an English novelist wrote, it's either CB or MMM. That translate into cut back or make more money. I choose to CB- cut back. It is fun, saving money. I don't have the latest gadget in my home, I still have an old TV, circa 1994. I don't have a DVD/VCR or cable. I haven't been in a mall for years. I hate spending money on made in China widgets. I drive an older model car and only for going to work. On days off I walk or take the bus. I've paid for Christmas with cash. When I go to Sicily I will use cash, the pensiones I will be staying in takes only cash. When I return, most the trip if not all is already paid off. The airline ticket is going to be paid today. So it's going to be another year of extreme frugality so I can afford my peregrination. I'm planning for 2008 trips this year. Ciao! A tutti!