Only Planet

One Child, One Year, One Planet. A family of three traveling around the world...

You can contact us at werkingwells (at) gmail . com

Monday, September 16, 2013

Going Amish.

I did it!  Managed to stay off Facebook, away from news sites, TV and even the radio for five days.  Here’s a snapshot of my week.

Day 1:
Today is the first day of my one week self-imposed media fast and all I can say is what the hell was I thinking? I forgot about NPR! I usually have NPR on while working at my desk, but I realized that even listening to NPR is distracting. Why couldn’t I have planned this during a NPR pledge week? My usual habit of getting up, grabbing my computer and reading mail, then reading Facebook, then reading Daily Mail, Huff Post, Salon, NY Times, etc. had to be abruptly stopped, so instead I got up, fixed Dylan breakfast and then peeled peaches. 7:30 and the house is quiet. Going to figure out how to work Final Draft again, and start the screenplay.  At least I can start with Fade in….

Just wrote 7 pages and it’s not even noon!  Walked dog.  Was so tempted to get on Facebook and see what the rest of the world is doing, but am going to go to Milos and see the real world. 

Managed to complete 10 pages of the new screenplay on Monday. Was grouchy by the evening because I couldn’t watch TV. Read a couple of magazines instead.

Day 2:
Got off to a slow start writing-wise. I managed to get an article and a query letter written between some batch cooking for us and friends.

5:37p.m. Twenty minutes before book group and all I wanted to do is check my Facebook page. It’s not an issue of how much time it could take away from writing, there’s no more writing getting done today. I’m realizing how much this has become a habit, I feel like a smoker really needing a smoke.  I’m so glad I’m going out with friends tonight. I do miss NPR, but a lot of the other media, not so much. 

Day 3:
12 years ago today I became obsessed with the news in a way that I (formally a journalism major) had never been before. The terrorist attacks on America left all of us feeling angry, scared and vulnerable and for me, part of dealing with feeling vulnerable, was having as much information as possible. After all these years checking the news at least twice a day has become more habit than necessary for survival.  

It’s interesting the conversations that crop up when talking about not being on Facebook. Some people hate it. They want to talk to their friends for real, or find the constant barrage of updates overwhelming, and/or often uninteresting. I get that. But as one of my friends pointed out, she has so many friends that have recently moved far away and it’s the only way she can feel in touch with them. I like to check it out because I’m home alone so much. It’s like stepping into a virtual coffee shop, a chance to see what’s going on with others and the world. Some of the people I read about, I don’t really know. We met once at a class, or used to hang out 30 years ago. Or I get information from businesses I “liked” at one time, it can feel like more online noise.

Everyone has a bad Facebook user story. The person who picks a fight and keeps on going.  The person who posts pictures of every meal they eat, and the person who has a million posts a day. I guess I’m not missing much on Facebook, but it’s still hard to not check it out…

On the work front, I wrote out 15 cards for my screenplay today and went to my writing group, so I felt pretty productive.

Day 4:
It’s Thursday night. I’m tired and there’s nothing more I want to do than to sit down and read some news. I really HATE watching the news (I find the news on TV superficial—30 seconds for a complicated nuanced story—and the 24 hour CNN news cycle borders on idiotic when there is nothing new to report.)  I read my news, or listen to NPR. My problem is that reading news stories, like potato chips, are hard to stop at one.

Writing didn’t go as well today. Mostly because I’m having some big plot issues and I always try to figure out plot before anything else. Otherwise I could end up writing some vignettes or something that has nothing to do with a story. At least I know what my problems are, I just not sure how to fix them.

Day 5:
Just saw this article on Soul Pancake that is especially relevant.  It’s about getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t work and how to make space for the stuff that does.

It did work! I was much more productive subtracting media from my day, and so I think I need to try to limit myself to surfing the web, research and Facebook to after 5:00 p.m. I did miss out hearing about the floods in Colorado. Huge damages, much pain and so distracting, especially for the people who are actually affected by the floods. But for me in relatively dry Portland, there’s nothing I can do to help. I’m not affected, and I could let the images and stories distract me. Taking control of my time is going to be a deliberate and difficult process, but the feeling of actually getting some writing done really does outweigh the distractions.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Media Fast

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m suffering from adult onset A.D.D. Ask me to complete a thought, and the little train carrying information inside my brain derails somewhere between Miley Cyrus twerking (I knew it was only a matter of time that my name would be adopted into something totally crazy) and the fall line up on NBC. One thing about writing, no matter the genre, is that putting words on paper takes a sustained effort and concentration; two things I’ve lacked in the past six months. 

I think one of the many reasons for my epic fail (writing-wise) is that I’m constantly seeking out distractions. Between Facebook, the Huffington Post, Netflix (Orange is the New Black is the latest in must-see-tv) and other various forms of media, there are many sirens beckoning my attention. In order to get back on track I’ve decided to go on a self-imposed media fast. No online websites, (not that any single website is bad per se, it’s just that once I open one, it’s hard to stop) no TV, and definitely no Facebook for at least the next five days—Monday through Friday. I wont even be able to post a blog entry since that would entail being online. I’ve got some great article and story ideas going through my mind and I hope that this media fast will help me land them on paper. That said, if you need to get in touch with me—phone, email and texts will be answered.   

Friday, August 16, 2013

Turkish Delight

The sun was setting as we landed in Istanbul. After negotiating a bus and taxi to our hotel and finding a quick meal, we watched the sky grow dark. As we sat in the restaurant munching our kababs, we noticed a never-ending stream of headlights; cars driving past, heading up the hill. After dinner we wandered up the narrow streets past our hotel, tangled with cars and pedestrians, past families carrying bags of food and watermelons. We rounded the final corner and ran into thousands of people sitting on the grass, milling in the square and wandering amongst booths enjoying the warm summer night. 

We had landed during Ramadan and it seemed all of Istanbul was out celebrating. The locals were enjoying Iftar, the meal that marked the end of the daily fast, which is the most well-known aspect of Ramadan. At this point, I uttered the oft-worn expression, “guess we’re not in Kansas anymore.”  

And here is the Hagia Sofia (Aya Sofya)
Here’s how I feel about travel.  If I’m going to get into a flying metal tube and sit there for fifteen hours, when I get out I want to feel like I’m somewhere different.  The more exotic, the better.  Istanbul filled that need for me. 

Women covered from head to toe in black, herded children running around the plaza.  Men selling everything from corn on the cob, to huge chunks of watermelon, to hand spun candy were providing food and entertainment to the crowd.  The grandeur of the Blue Mosque and the Aya Sofya  behind it, were backdrops to a temporary lane of stalls selling everything from rose-flavored lemonade to brass lamps. 

Speaking of shopping, one of the most amazing shopping experiences is an afternoon in the Grand Bazaar.  Described with superlatives, such as the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, it covers 61 streets, holds 3000 shops and sees 250,000-400,000 visitors a day. The Grand Bazaar is the Bazaar that all others are measured against. 

Istanbul is at a crossroads. It’s a smash-up of east and west. Having spent a considerable amount of time in both Europe and Asia, it was easy for us to suss out what seemed European and what seemed Asian, but in many ways it felt like we were on neither continent. Time and time again, with the exception of the monuments and grand mosques, Istanbul felt more like Cairo to us. The heat, the crowds, the calls of the muezzin, the ever-present fountains for washing, and a culture deeply steeped in Islam, rather than Christianity or Buddhism, has allowed Istanbul to develop its own flavors. 

This sweet lady who was selling scarves outside of the Blue Mosque helped Dylan fix hers. 

Inside the Blue Mosque

"Loki was here" This is honest-to-god graffiti left by the vikings inside the Hagia Sofya 

I wish every westerner could visit a Muslim country, just to see that Muslim countries are not all Al Qaeda and radicalism, like the United States is not all the Westboro Church or Snookie and LiLo.   People shop, work, and take their kids to school just like we do here in the US.  Well, maybe there are some jobs we don’t see in the US, like those of the urban porters who navigate streets too small for trucks.

My first thought, that's a weird car seat. 

 But the point is, despite the concerns and warnings about traveling to Turkey, especially after the protests in Taksim Square over the razing of Gezi Park, I’m glad we went and hope to return, except maybe when the weather is cooler.  

Turkish delight was sold here, but we were buying the many awesome baklavas.  The guys at this store waved Dylan behind the counter so she could snap some pictures. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Star Studded Visit

Thought we'd share some of Dylan's photos of the the more famous visitors (and one local) we saw in London.  Dylan was able to bring her camera into the concert which is how she got such great shots.  That, and the fact that she stood for over 11 hours in the mosh pit for two days, enduring record heat, sunburn, and 60,000 other fans.  But she was in the fourth row!

The guy has moves

I love this shot Andy took of Macklemore.  

We stumbled across Hugh Jackman at the Wolverine Premier in Leicester Square

Famke Janssen is also in the movie.

Daniel Radcliffe signing autographs after we saw his show, The Cripple of Inishmann. Photo by Loey. Dylan managed to get his autograph! 

Blame it on London

A few months ago I made a goal to visit 50 countries by the time I'm fifty.  I'm worried that I set myself up for failure and if I do, I'll blame it on London.  There's only so much time and money for travel, but instead of going somewhere new, I keep wanting to return to one of my favorite places--London.  Dylan and I just returned from a week there (Andy joined us over the weekend) and even though it was my fourth visit (Dylan's third), we still haven't seen everything we've wanted to see.

We spent two days at the Yahoo Wireless Festival--I'll blog about that in a separate entry--three hours at Top Shop, five hours at Warner Brothers Studio Harry Potter exhibit, two hours at Westminster Abbey and a leisurely afternoon at Columbia Flower Market, Brick Lane, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. We also had tea at Fortnum and Mason and trekked out to Highgate Cemetery.  All of these (with the exception of Top Shop) were new experiences for us.

All the gorgeous flowers at the Columbia Road Flower Market

Like the flowers, I'm desperately trying not to wilt in the London heat.

From what we later read, these are supposed to be incredible bagels.  We were too hot to eat.  

Finally got some relief at the wading pond at the Victoria & Albert Museum

Maybe I could conjure something frosty with Voldemort's wand.

After reading Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger, a haunting novel set at Highgate Cemetery, I had to visit. It was an extra treat to be able to visit Douglas Adam's grave where I left a pen from Milo's, a fitting tribute, since that's where I've done a fair share of my writing.

Forget what you've heard about English food being bad. This was delish.

So, I'm okay if I don't reach this goal, especially if it means I get another visit to London. But who knows, maybe I'll succeed--tomorrow we're off to Turkey, Greece and Spain.

p.s. Photo credits go to Dylan (which also explains why she's not in the pictures).  She's been lugging her fancy camera around and getting great shots.  Just wait till you see what she did at Wireless!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

My European Brain

Surprised to hear from me? I know it’s been long overdue. I can barely call myself a blogger anymore given how infrequently I’ve been posting, but there are reasons—okay maybe excuses—for not updating Only Planet. I’ve been in a funky mental place thanks to a long-term separation from Andy, helping Dylan transition into a new school, and figuring (again) what to do with my life. Not very pretty or interesting for the average viewer. 

But I’m back, and in Europe and seeing more new things I want to share. Let’s hope this blogging hiatus is over! 

I know it’s a bit of an understatement to say we travel a lot. Compared to the Secretary of State or the Dalai Lama, we don’t get out much, but compared to the average person, we’ve covered our fair share of ground. 

So much so, that on our 5th non-stop flight from Portland to Amsterdam since 2010 it’s getting so that I’ve come up with a term to describe what happens to me when I land in Europe.  It’s called putting on my European brain.* I know, kind of weird—right?  But there are things that I never need to think about unless I’m hanging out on the Continent.  Things like:

·       * Moving slower.  Epically long lunches, 70 km speed limits in the Netherlands, shuffling behind hordes of tourists, lines for almost every attraction. Yup, my usual mode of moving in 4th gear stalls out in 1st.  For those of you who like to move slow, it may seem like heaven, but I’m a "more on the plate, the happier" kind of gal, so unless I take a mental chill pill—it’s kind of a bummer. This rule does not apply at train stations, the tube and any place locals are trying to get somewhere fast!

·     *  Different bathrooms. Full doors, tiny spaces, stiffer toilet paper, paying a euro. All lead to a claustrophobic experience, and my first one—usually found at Schiphol--a bit of a reminder that I’m not home.

·      * The AWE meter will go into overdrive. Massive churches, ancient stones, famous settings. Things you’ll never see in the rest of the world, all together, sometimes laying haphazardly in a heap, coexist in Europe. 

The best thing about putting on the European brain is after a day or two (usually when jetlag subsides) it’s easier to navigate the European way. I know what to look for, can predict how long something might take and will hopefully look the right way when crossing the street—especially in England. 

We’ve only been here since Saturday and already we’ve travelled to Bruges, Belgium, only because Dylan and I love the movie In Bruges.  We zoomed over to Koln (Cologne), Germany and Liege, Belgium on Sunday, zipped over to Antwerp on Monday, hung out in Eindhoven Tuesday and are going to Amsterdam tomorrow (Wednesday) to see the newly opened Rijksmuseum.  Thursday we’re off to London for a week and will post pictures those once we return.  In the meantime, here are some photos from our last few days.  Dylan's already taken over 500 photos!

Are these not the shiniest eggplants you've ever seen?

Duck, Duck

Chipmunk!  Saw these at the Liege market

These lovely chickens were right across the street from...

their unlucky buddies.  That's a roasted chicken stand behind the confused looking woman.

Talk about ancient.  Dylan and Andy are in front of a Roman gate that was built in 50 AD.  

I love the juxtaposition of the old and new.  It happened to be Gay Pride in Koln on Sunday.  I don't know how we do it, but we've managed to be at Gay Pride Parades in Antwerp, Amsterdam, and now Koln!  

Here I make a few new friends.  Aren't they adorable?  Indonesian in Germany--unite. 

* My English friend has experienced the same phenomena, but for her she has to put on her American brain.  After living in the US for the past ten years, she's far more adept than I.