Archive for the ‘Ra Adventures’Category

Magic in Iceland

There is so much magic in Iceland one could hardly imagine it. There is magic in the earth. There is magic in the sky. There is magic in the strong winds. And there is magic and a whole lot of steam and heat in the water.

On a recent trip to Iceland I arrived with little expectations but the hope of seeing the elusive as I had heard them, Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis, and to soak in the Blue Lagoon. Beyond this I knew little about the country I was about to visit and the magic I would find there, in fact I arrived in Iceland knowing less than I had known about most places I have traveled.

We arrived early in the morning and with the long nights of winter the sun didn’t rise until 10AM we found a life of commuters and city dwellers in the dark. We spent our fist day discovering the capital of Reykjavik. I was charmed by the colorful houses, and entranced by the views of the sea and the mountains that would surprise us between streets and around corners.

The next morning we flew further north to Akureyri a small town set amidst the fiords of the arctic north. All around us was stunning nature – snow capped mountains that descended into green hills that hid houses built into their sides. Cracks in the grass and land emitted steam from deep below in the heart of the earth. We soaked in the outdoor hot pools while a gentle and cool rain fell.

That night with hardly any expectations and if we are honest a fare amount of skepticism we headed out to try to see the northern lights. Our guide helped set our expectations even lower but said no matter what we should still try.

The Northern Lights, also called Aurora Borealis, and Norðurljós in Icelandic are named for Aurora the Roman Goddess of Dawn and Boreas the Greek God of the North. While they seem mystical, magical, and unbelievably awesome they are also perhaps one of the most stunning natural phenomenon one can witness.

With a silhouette of dark mountains in the night sky behind us we sat patiently and watched as a faint glow that was almost unrecognizable started to deepen and then change color. Over the next hour the clouds departed and the sky turned slowly into a light show I could never have expected, slow moving lights that would undulate and pulse and then short flickers where it would appear to “dance”. We watched as they would come and go, faint and stronger, white, palest green, deeper green, then white again. They stretched from the open field on our right to the mountains on our left and then would flash back across. We sipped on hot chocolate to keep ourselves warm and then just as we started to think about departing a circle of light emerged above us with colors that would move and “dance” the green turned violet and red and pink! Our guide who started the night hesitant slowly over our time said the show was better and better until by the end he said it was one of the best we could have seen! We had expected so little heading out but we had gone despite our doubt and magic happened right there above us, more magic then I could ever have asked for.

We headed back into town and drank and sang and danced the rest of the dark away with gentle images of that night’s sky electrifying us.

The next day we drove towards the Lake Myvatn Area. We watched a late sunrise by the banks of Godafoss waterfall.

We drove through stunning farmland and past lava craters. At times the air smelled thick of sulfur and at other times of the smoke from smoke houses curing lamb and fish. The ground bubbled in places with hot brown mud, it hissed in places with steam, and in the stark lava fields there were crystal blue waters that would mirror and reflect the earth and sky back to us.

We had lunch at a farm by a lake. And then we saw where the earth seamed to split apart or collide together. Huge black gashes of rock and chasms where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates collide. Steam from beneath the earth rose and the sun slipped like a red orb on the horizon. We hiked into an underground cave that had a pool that was as hot as hot tub at its base. After hiking back out, we perched on the top of a black lava rock with the crack that separated one content from another where we sat as we watched the sun set!

Once back in the south we experienced the Golden Circle. Thingvellir National Park with its green mountain peaks and lakes and forests.

We saw Geysir Hot Springs for which all other Geysers are named and the erupting spurts of water that would shoot up 2 stories into the air.

And Gullfoss waterfall with its mighty power and crashing strength of water.

Our last day we soaked in the electric blue waters of the Blue Lagoon. Amid the almost moon like environment of lava fields the blue water shocks the eyes. Then you slip into the heat and warmth of the water that rivals the Caribbean, the air outside still a cool northern reminder of where you actually are, but submerged it feels like a different place entirely. We caked natural mud on our faces, the minerals felt heavy and earthy and good. So many elements in one small place.

I went to Iceland with no idea of what to expect and found so much more than I ever could have imagined. I felt myself impressed by the kind people, the warm hearts as warm as the natural hot water that is everywhere throughout the country. I felt myself melted in a way by the understatement of such a spectacular place. I have struggled my entire life with expectations and my mother always used to say “expect nothing but hope for everything”. I never understood what she meant but somehow in Iceland I did. She meant I have to have an open mind that is willing to meet occasional disappointment but never give up the hope even when it looks unlikely and dark because somewhere there may be magic in the air. Iceland was magic and for that I am so grateful and I can’t wait to go back to experience more!




12 2014

A Springtime Visit With My Sister

My sister was here for a week. It was a wonderful 8 days of togetherness. We joked that we walked and ate, and walked and ate more, but really the highlight as Astrid would say was just the company we kept with one another.

It was perfect spring time here in New York, and the perfect time to have a leisurely week of reconnecting in person with one of the most important people in my life. We strolled through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and marveled at nature’s spectacular show of color. I made my sister pose and take pictures and we giggled with silliness.

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, down Canal Street, and up through the Lower East Side. When I first moved to New York my mother took me down to this part of town and recalled stories of her mother taking her out as a child on these very same streets; it was the only time in my life that my mother ever talked about her mother in a tender or loving way. I have a soft spot for this part of town which always felt like a place for generations of mother’s and daughters in my family. We went into The Pickle Guys and inhaled deeply the garlicky briny smell that always makes me think of a long line of family who came before me. We had lunch at Katz’s.

We saw friends of mine and friends of my sisters. We took naps. We talked and laughed and cried. We made our mom’s famous chocolate mousse and it tasted so much like her. We shared the void that has chasmed in each of our lives since her death. We told stories and laughed and sometimes wept with how much we miss those days that seem to exist in an alternate universe one before September 13, 2009. Bari, Matthew, Asher, and their new family addition Rory had a pre-Birthday dinner complete with candles and cake.

Our plans for this visit all started over 4 months ago when we learned that Cheryl Strayed was speaking at the Woodstock Writers Festival on my birthday; I sent a half serious who wants to join me e-mail. Well my sister wasted no time and that day said I do, had flight options a few days later, and then had taken off of work. With my friend Gina we drove up to Woodstock and spent a weekend out of the city and completely out of our minds with excitement. We walked along streams, stopped into small stores, laughed a whole lot more, ate of course. To me it seemed our mom was both everywhere that weekend and no where, as it often seems she is, just out of reach but on this weekend in a nice way. The crystals and purple and pictures of Janis Joplin reminded me of her but didn’t yell out. The time together felt more like a new relationship for my sister and I one in which only we exist. My mother and sister used to visit me every summer and after she died it seemed so hard to be with my sister like a tripod that suddenly lost one of its legs. This trip felt like the perfect balance to me of a two legged toddler just learning to stand on its own, not needing anyone else for support but our mother ever there with her arms outstretched  encouraging us on.

Oh and yes Cheryl Strayed said the most amazing things and graced us with a birthday photo.

To my nugget, my sister, I love you so much, more and more with each passing day and year. Thank you for an amazing visit.



04 2013

A Moveable Feast In A Hidden Valley

We drove up, up, up the narrow switchback roads to the top of green peaks as the sun slipped off along the Salinas Valley below and then dipped into the Pacific Ocean beyond. We drove up and then along narrow backbones of tall cliffs with land cascading below us, hawks were eye to eye with us and then at the other side of the mountain’s narrow spine we descended. We went down, down, down the narrow switchbacks but this time deeper into valleys between the giant shadows of mountains and only miles from the coast it felt a distance further. Moss and lichen grew on trees and hung from branches creating a canopy above the car. We had driven for 45 minutes into a small and remote area, to a local store that sold little more than milk and beer. The long drive was for an unlikely and much antipated hidden feast.

This was the scene a little over a month ago after my work in Utah when I visited my dear friends Anne and Beth in Salinas, and they took me to a special dinner they had been oohing and awing about for the past year. It was a dinner that took place only on Monday nights in a pop-up community center in the Cachagua Valley. Hidden 25 miles from Carmel is a small and unassuming stop one has to seek out to find and one is greatly rewarded when they do. Served to locals from Cachagua Valley and those fortunate enough to be in the know, every Monday night a magic of sorts takes over in a small dining room of a general store. Food as local as possible even naming at times the very farm the “Faurot Ranch” Lettuces or “Borba Farms” Roasted Baby Cauliflowers came from. It was unassuming with folding chairs and post it notes to mark the tables (reservations are a must) in a room where they also have AA meetings or quilting circles on other nights. A band of two who looked to be good counterparts for Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart set the ambience. The menus were printed just as we walked in on paper in the back room. Then the food arrived, roasted beets with coconut Chevre, Crab Cakes from the bay 25 miles away, Goofy Ass Pumpkin Ebelskivers with greens and reds, sorrel and maitakes, red Chile honey.

It was a magical experience, a single night in the week from out of nowhere a meal like a person dreams of in a setting one could hardly imagine existed. We drove back up, up, up, along mountain spines, and then down again but it was dark with stars and we were full of the finest food and the night had seemed a stunning secret much like the restaurant. I have held onto the memories of our meal here for weeks; an experience too fine not to share. If you find yourself in one of the most beautiful and magical places on earth – the Big Sur/Carmel/Salinas area on a Monday night and you are an adventurous spirit (read don’t get car sick and like scenic drives) and love fine culinary experiences—The Moveable Feast at Cachagua Valley General Store is a meal not to be missed.


04 2013

Marveling In Marrakesh And Feeling My Heart Beat So Fast

“You Who Enter My Door May Your Highest Hopes Be Exceeded”

This is the quote written above the door as one enters the Ali ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakesh, Morocco, but I would dare say the same could be true for my entire experience in Marrakesh. From the time our ever so small prop-job of a plane left Madrid it felt like I was flying to a world far away, passing over the sliver of water I never could have imagined was so narrow that divides Spain and Africa. It awed me; for a moment I thought it was a lake we were flying over. Then over golden dunes of sand and sparse earth below before landing in a city that is completely made of pink; seriously, there is an ordinance and the city of Marrakesh is almost entirely pink in color.

From my first walks down winding streets that promised and succeeded in confusing and losing me in their inner labyrinths, I knew this was going to be a place far from anything I had ever experienced. From the man who met my car outside the Medina’s (old city) walls with a cart and happily piled my luggage in and led the way through crowded souks and narrow alleys, the entire way speaking French and Arabic and pointing out “hamam, hamam, café, square, hamam” as if my mind could remember or comprehend any of the activity that was happening faster than I could even take it in. Shop keepers called to me, a man tried to sell me chickens just killed with the feathers still on, another man offered spices, and yet another jewelry. Where had I landed?

That is how Morocco welcomed me—an over stimulating trajectory into what became a time spent fully alive. And all of this on the way to my Riad. The noise, the smells of incense, spices, wood burning fires cooking food, dirt, and yes, donkeys crowded the streets as we walked along deep into the maze like confounds of the Medina. It was hectic and confusing and then we arrived at a big black gorgeous door. There was a man who was ready to receive me having somehow been called by this peculiar man with a cart. Before any business of checking into my riad I was offered tea, which I accepted happily, ready for a few moments to adjust. And then within the walls of the riad, the door closes behind me and mysteriously in a sanctuary a world away, the noisy street disappears, the smell becomes one of fresh water from the inner courtyard’s fountain, and flowers blooming, incense, and mint; so is the world inside the pink walls of a riad in the inner Medina, and I found over my time so is the way inside many walls in Morocco a secret is hidden within. Like the desert it resides in Morocco holds a million secrets, there are oases I could never dream of lingering behind a bustle of activity I could never understand.

On my first days whenever I would venture out of the safe walls into the bustle of the immediate souks and city life I would feel a strange pounding, a beating, and fluttering in my chest and stomach that felt almost palpable. To the sound of snake charmers’ music and the call of vendors for orange juice, water, dates, nuts, or the men with monkeys, I could feel the exhilarated pace of my heart. I felt like Morocco put a spell on my first days. I walked through Djemaa el-Fna, the main square, I marveled at the Koutoubia, I tried intrepidly to not get lost down the winding lanes that all lead to dead ends (I almost never succeeded but was always met with a person who happily would show me the way out for a small gift). I woke early to sunrise and the first call to prayer as a pink sky met the pink buildings of the city.

As I was in Marrakesh for a yoga retreat I did move to a lovely place outside the city in a more quiet and remote location, the blissful and truly oasis like Peacock Pavilions. We ventured into the city for visits to the Badi Palace, and Jardin Majorelle. The colors of doors and mosaics were like the fine masterpieces hanging in museums around the world. We went for a day to Essaouira along the coast and rode camels at sunset along the Atlantic Ocean.  I spent a day in a hamam and had a woman scrub more of me clean then ever before in my life.  We dined on the most delicious food – tagines, couscous, goat cheese, and tomato tarts all infused with spices to the point of delicacy. Mint tea flowed from endless streams of high pouring teapots.

But all of this is not what I took away from Morocco; all of this was lovely and it felt like gilding to a deeper place. The people were the kindest and happiest. The smiles and welcomes and cajoling presses to enter their shops all with a grace and openness. There were the calls to prayer that wafted through the air.  And there was this deep sense of being alive and being present. As we drove through the city one afternoon our young and hip driver Abdu, he couldn’t have been more than 27, with French Hip Hop playing or Modern Moroccan Rock on the radio gently turned the dial on the volume down. It was imperceptible if you weren’t paying attention but sitting right behind him I noticed, and then I noticed through the window the faint chant from the mosque I had become acquainted with. Then just as imperceptibly he turned the radio back up when the Adhan was finished. No cars stopped, no one bowed on the streets, but when we asked our driver he said, “I take notice when I hear it, I do not need to stop in my day, I just become aware.” I loved that, I loved it the entire time I was there hearing this call in the early hours of morning, through the afternoon, and again as the day closed. It made me think what if throughout our day whatever we believed or didn’t believe we took notice, what if we stopped and breathed if nothing else 5 times a day consciously and then what if it all happened together? It moved me more than I could ever say and more than I ever imagined but it did because it made me pause and think about my own days and the activity that inhabits them much of the time. Perhaps my days are not filled with donkeys and mopeds at fast speeds, there are not shop owners calling and pulling towards me but my days feel hard at times and what if I just stopped 5 times and breathed, I took notice of myself, and I said there is something I am not sure what but something larger than just me here.

I understand the world is at a hard place now; you can’t travel and not notice the warnings and the news briefs. But I also know I am not ready to stop traveling yet. There are more places to discover, people to meet, cultures to be introduced to. I have found the best way to know myself is to see myself in these different places and to take a piece of them with me. I wanted desperately to spend more time in Morocco; I am determined to go back. I wanted to learn more Arabic and refine my very rusty French. I saw in my confusion and my fast beating heart that there is so much more to learn and discover in the world. But more importantly I saw that as fast as my heart might race, I can pause in my day I don’t have to do more than that, I can take a moment and I can find myself perhaps again.

Shukran to the marvelous people of Morocco for sharing a part of your world with me.



10 2012

Finding Myself Full Circle In Barcelona

“I do not seek I find” Pablo Picasso

I have found in Barcelona a city I did not seek and could hardly anticipate or expect to find. I have loved my three days here with friends.I have found here a beautiful European city with a wonderful laid-back-near-the-ocean feel.

I have also found myself here in a completely other world than the last time I was in Spain. When I was invited to join these days of the trip and I realized it would put me in Spain for the third anniversary of my mother’s death it felt somehow like coming full circle. Barcelona feels nothing like Madrid and I feel nothing like I did that night I got the call. It could be me who has changed, for it is hard to have your heart break and not be different from it forever. I lost a world in that night and it has never felt like less than that on any days since then. I lost the world of youth, safety, and a feeling of sense that I can never retrieve again after such a monumental grief. I am new and I am finding a new identification with Spain on this trip.

I arrived early in the morning and I met Mara and her two friends at a small apartment we are renting in the Poblenou district of Barcelona. We are down a small pedestrian only street. We are a few festive blocks from the beach with a rooftop terrace that feels pretty close to heaven. The city was just coming to life as I drove through the streets and walked the small stone way to our old wooden door.

We went to Museu Picasso and I was swept away by his blue periods and the sea. After we walked the old and vibrant streets and passed the Catedral and then up to Esglesia De Santa Maria Del Mar. We drank Cava and ate tapas (including my brave venture to eat blood sausage) amid an old square. This is the life!

Our second day we went to La Sagrada Familia and the stained glass was like nothing I have ever seen (the entire thing was like nothing I have ever seen)! The majesty–the dedication of decades of people. The sound of the chisel as they continue to work and complete this enormous undertaking. The detail, the many views that never could be seen in one single lifetime, and the continuation of work after a century of being constructed. Awe is nothing short of what washes over you.

We continued a day of Gaudi at Parc Guell. As you climb the steep streets to the park the views are first of hills dotted with olive and palm trees and then the ocean is revealed and almost takes your breath away as it glistens in contrast on the horizon. Barcelona continues to reveal more beauty it seems in every step.

We ended the day in front of a big platter of Paella. I remembered my mother telling me of her trip here some forty years ago with her friends Val and Bloch. She said they didn’t have enough money and one of the nights they fought over the final olive before finally cutting it into thirds to share. We did lick as much of our fingers and paella plate as we could but we did not fight over any of the food.

Today we went to the beach. Ahhhhhh Barcelona, did I mention I really think I love you, well I do now. We drink homemade Sangria and eat cheese and bread on our roof top before lounging on chairs and in hammocks.

In just a few days I have found myself amid a true vacation, indulgence/enjoyment, and treat for every one of my senses.

I am finding in each day here what it means to live and enjoy my life again. Work seems a far off memory a moment of labor that one must go through to have moments like these. Moments of reverie, moments of light, moments of gratitude, and pure pleasure. I am so happy to be once again out in the world and so happy to have found my way to Barcelona and with new images of Spain in my mind.

Tomorrow my friends are off and I am departing for my week along the Costa Brava alone. I will miss their company, their warmth, and the laughter we have shared.

Beauty is in this world and one needn’t find their way to Barcelona to see it (although if you can I highly recommend it!). I hope in whatever place of your life this may find you, whether it be at a beach in Washington, at work in an office, or sitting in a park that you will see the beauty in your world as well.


PS – Thank you my darling travel friends Mara, Maribel, and Ana for inviting me along for part of your adventure. You are all such special parts of my life.


09 2012

Life List/Bucket List:

“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” Nelson Mandela

I have always been inspired by the magnificent words of the great Nelson Mandela, and the words of this quote specifically. My mother sent me a birthday card once of etched black and color hearts, inside was this quote, and the birthday gift that year was the wish that I would always let my light shine. I think I was 22 and a little pissed at the time that she didn’t include what I would call an “actual gift”. But that was my mother, always one for larger gestures and less of this physical world.

So with that wish to always live my life with passion and let my light shine, just what does that mean? I have pondered that on many nights, I have felt defeated by that question during storms of the conscience, and I have felt sparks of it with me in the most unthinkable moments. But while in Kenya with plentiful time to talk with my remarkable roommate (miss you Sarah and I hope France is welcoming you with wide arms), I was encouraged to finally write down a few of the ideas that ignite a spark of passion within me; to put a physical name to what so many know is out there – the life or bucket list. That which I feel inspired or compelled or intrigued to do while I LIVE this life. I spent a night on a balcony in Lake Nakuru national park with grazing zebras to my side and contemplated this list and came up with the below.

Travel to Egypt and see the Pyramids by sunset and Valley of the Kings; Live as an expat; Travel to Morocco and taste the spices in the market on my bare tongue; Design and create an environmentally conscious hotel/resort that would be a completely sustainable model for life; Sail on the Nile; Celebrate Carnival in Brazil; Sail on a sailboat for a weekend; Travel to Israel and try to find the Kibbutz my mother worked on in the 1960s (or one like it) and work for a few days; Have a family; Learn to Tango; Be a good mother (ok we could add – be a good daughter, friend, sister); Write a book (if I am honest, in my notebook this says – write a best selling book, but I’m trying to be realistic – read humble here); Make a movie; Drink rum in Jamaica; Purchase a house; Ride in a hot air balloon; Sit in the Blue Lagoon of Iceland; Roll and smoke a cigar in Cuba; Help someone deeply; Hop with the kangaroos in Australia; Bring my mother’s ashes to Hawaii to spread them with my sister; Stop worrying about money; Fall deeply in love; Walk on the great wall of China; Plant my own garden; See Machu Picchu; Ride in a helicopter; Sail to the Galapagos Islands; Sit with Gorillas in Uganda/Rwanda; Commit myself to someone; Give my kids pie for breakfast (Zelda’s mother Ruth did this with me as a kid, and it is one of the sweet memories of my youth); Learn to surf; Complete the full trip to Spain and Portugal that I left when my mother died; Become a really good/great cook; Make a difference; Leap in front of the Taj Mahal; Drive the entire Pan-America Highway (that is Alaska to Chile, one long road trip).

And to be fair, when one says the dreams they have, it is only fair to also say those fabulous things that once graced this list that I have already accomplished. With such gratitude to those who helped me make these memories a reality:

I have gone Sky Diving (twice); Gone parasailing and paragliding; Traveled to New Zealand and seen the glaciers and the Fiordland; Experienced the lights of Paris; Learned to Drive; Traveled to Fiji; Sailed through the Panama Canal; Seen the giant diabatsu of Japan (post Japan I would add – rolled sushi and sat in many onsen);  Learned to ride a bike; Kayaked in the Indian Ocean, off of the coast of Hawaii, in the Caribbean, in New Zealand, and in the Hudson river; held some of my closest friends’ babies and watched my friends become fantastic parents; hiked Mount Lassen ( I love the photo Carole); Gone on Safari; Lived in Africa; Had pie for breakfast; Traveled to Angkor Wat; Met the Dalai Lama; Traveled to Vietnam; Worked on Broadway; Swam with dolphins; Drove to Maine in a convertible; Roasted a really good chicken; Traveled to Germany; Rode on an elephant named Ramona in Bali (no joke); Lived a life I have really loved.

As with anything in life this list continues to evolve and change as things are added and moved from a place of dream to accomplishment. I encourage anyone to revisit this project and write their own list for life, I would love anyone who wanted to share some of their ideas with me. And if anyone can help me make some of these dreams come true…well I am here and ready.

Viva the life filled with life.



08 2011

Here’s A Tongue At You

Yes, yes, I know I have not had much to say since I have been back from Kenya, or perhaps too much to say and I can find no time to say it. I came back and started working almost immediately; well, someone had to pay for all that travel. Meanwhile I am living off the kindness of not strangers but good friends. I spend my weeks, weekends, and other weekends with different friends in their homes around New York City. Thank you all for letting me bunk on your couches and in your extra rooms.

I have been spending the majority of my time with my good friend Jessica and Mike, and that is where this story begins. Mike has been taking a culinary journey of his own these past few weeks – a journey from CSA to full deli deliciousness!  Inspired by the fact that their CSA offered a meat choice of tongue, Mike decided to brine and cook his first ever beef tongue!

But the story goes further than that, what would be the justice of a well-cooked piece of meat otherwise thrown together with a few store bought ingredients? Not when this tongue came from a CSA and a grass fed cow who had a good life! For this only the best would do. So Mike set out and made two mustards to top the tongue – one stone ground and pungent traditional mustard of deep yellow color, and the other spiked with the sweet flavor and purple color of roasted beets met with the sharp spice of horse radish.

The brine experience took over 10 days to perfect. We had parts of the experience that reflected science experiments – adding enough salt to water to the point where an egg floats – yes try that one with your kids.

The meat itself was finished off in a simmering bath amidst a fine mirepoix. The smell was of a good Jewish yenta’s house.

To complete the experience Mike thought that the only fitting canvas for such a delectable pallet would be to bake his own Rye Bread. Yes you read correctly, every part of this meal from scratch – mustard, tongue, and bread.

And it was in fact my first tongue, nothing like the giraffe kiss in Kenya. This one was more like a brisket. And for a lady who considers herself almost a vegetarian you might be asking why did you eat this? And the answer is easy, for the same reason I ate the brain taco in May. After traveling through third world countries where they eat whatever they are fortunate to have – bugs, wild boar, their pet chicken – who am I to turn down a lovingly prepared tongue. Also, there is a respect I found in these parts of the world and cultures that use every part of an animal. For a partial vegetable-only eater I liked that the life that was taken to make my dinner was going to have every part and organ used. And hey, I fancy myself a person who likes new experiences. So what’s next??? Tripe??? I don’t think I am exactly ready for that yet.

But thank you Mike. Thank you for taking me along your culinary journey. Thank you for having a passion and zest for creating this full culinary experience. And thank you for showing me the beauty in the tongue.



08 2011

Singing For Our President In Kenya

Our home in Kenya was full of sounds – laughter, singing, the TV playing dubbed Telenovelas. But there was one song in particular we liked to sing. It doesn’t need much introduction, nor necessarily does it need translation from its original Kikuyu lyrics.

There are many versions of these videos because everyone in our house loved to sing this song, and more than that loved for me to video tape them and then watch it back on my camera. I can still hear the peels of delighted laughter from the two young girls at seeing themselves.

Singing for Mr. President from Ramona Collier on Vimeo.

I have only included two versions here, but believe me all you need to do is watch and eyes sparkle, smiles light up, and a bridge from Kenya to America is somehow standing before you.

To my songstresses many thanks for the hours of laughter and light. And to Mr. President, this one is for you….



Sing It Ladies from Ramona Collier on Vimeo.


08 2011

April – A Month Of Milestones Met

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

– T.S. Eliot

April was a milestone month for me and for the RAvolution! The idea of the RAvolution as my friend Astrid put it was, “a wonderful lesson in moving forward”. To me the idea of the RAvolution was to give myself space and time and to finally learn some basic life skills I was very late to come to. But late is better than never, and in April I was finally able to put those goals behind me in the rearview mirror of the car I was legally driving!

I had tried to learn to ride a bike oh, maybe once, but at the time, as a very prim young girl who refused to wear anything but dresses, declared “this isn’t for me, I can’t wear my dress and I might fall and hurt myself”. So there on Bryant Street in the Mission District of San Francisco, a very short-lived bike career ended on the same or next day and street as it had started.

I made a few more valiant attempts at driving than biking, but just barely more focused. I got my permit twice – promptly at 16 when I could officially get it, only to find out that our family only had stick shift cars and coupled with the steep hills of San Francisco my trepidation and a wee bit of laziness got the best of me. Then when I was in my early 20s I tried again, alas, very half heartedly I think I might have practiced a whopping 4 hours on that permit, and we wonder how it took so long for me to finally get to the day I would sidle up to the DMV and actually pass the test!

With all obstacles removed and the time dedicated to the goals at hand, we started April with a bang. We wasted no time to get to the DMV and get me started on a daily driving regimen. Now with years of life experience, if not driving experience, I knew that what was needed was merely practice and the intention to overcome insecurities and trepidations. Armed with fantastic teachers in Anne and Beth, we spent countless hours, miles, and detours to master my skills. We took leisurely drives, sped on freeways, got dizzy on winding country roads, worked in abandoned lots to refine my motor skills with created obstacle courses; we did three point turns, and practiced parking for days.

And then it all paid off. After more practice driving into and out of parking lots and around towns and cities, one fine morning on the coast of California, I was officially handed a new means of ID – MY VERY FIRST DRIVERS LICENSE!!!!

I had started my month in Salinas with the hope that in 5 -6 weeks I could learn to drive, get my drivers license, and I kept saying in a hopeful way to people if I was very lucky and worked hard I would like to learn to ride a bike! My mother used to tell me “Ra have high hopes but low expectations. Hope for the moon and the best and expect nothing, then when life happens no matter what it is, it will not disappoint you.” This was a hard lesson to learn, and to be honest I am still learning and struggling with it. But I put this philosophy to practice here in Salinas and to my surprise, enjoyment, and pride I not only learned to ride a bike but I learned to love it! I started with taking small bike rides and grew to around 10 mile jaunts, including small hills. I love the feeling of the wind and sun on my face and arms. And I love even more hoping and wishing for something but holding no expectation or attachment to it, and finding in the realizing of process that I can do whatever I put my mind and heart to.

April surpassed my every wish and hope. The lessons and life skills learned. The conversations had. The movies we saw (Water for Elephants, The Conspirator, Jane Eyre, Of Gods And Men). The life that met me and opened the door to a new me. When there are life skills that are somehow taken for granted by others – driving, riding a bike, swimming (yes, I know how to do this one) the day that you no longer have to with a blush of shame admit that you cannot do something, it is a great readjustment to how one perceives themselves.

I am so happy with my new skills and find that I love my time on a bike or spent behind the wheel of a car so much it is hard for me to imagine it took me so long to come to this place.

My endless gratitude to those who helped me along the way. To my teachers, to my cheerleaders, to my guides into this new wondrous world of wheels!



PS – My little friend, Asher, on a visit to California tried to beat me to get a Driver’s License.



05 2011

A Cyclist Is Born

It is hard to believe I have been in Salinas for only a week, and not the better part of a lifetime. There has been so much to do in a week and the difference in my life feels like such a long time should have passed. Anne and I wasted no time in getting me driving in the car, and with five days and 100 miles under our belts we decided with Beth’s help to tackle the next two wheels.

Friday afternoon under auspicious skies that had only hours earlier watered the green hills, and fed the abundant flourish of wild flowers that adorn the area, we hit the pavement, bike handlebars in hand!

It may have taken me more than 33 years to get to this point but it only took my two excellent teachers an hour (they claim less) to get me up and riding a bike around the neighborhood.

No training wheels for me, actually at first no peddles either, but we moved passed that part of the lesson in no time. Go figure Ra wants to ride and there is no keeping her from the open road!

The feeling of accomplishment the first time I did peddle and keep myself up was amazing. Such a rush to have something that for so many years you had to say with a slight error of hesitation you couldn’t do, and now to know that statement was falling behind you with the wind at your back.

I was in such secure hands with Anne and Beth running on either side of me in the first moments. And as I pulled out alone the first time and rode down the street I exclaimed my excitement “I AM RIDING A BIKE!!!!!” as two seven-year-old girls rode by. Their bikes were decked out pink wonders with streamers and bells and I could feel them look at me and think, well so are we. But the feeling of a 33 year old learning to do something new is such a rich sense of accomplishment I didn’t even take notice.

I continue my daily practice with wheels of every kind. We drive to Salinas, Monterey, Pacific Grove, and today the Highway. We bicycle around the neighborhood and today Beth and I took our first “long” ride to a nearby store.I become more self-assured with every turn (that counts for both the car and bike) and each goal met. I have found in my week, yes again it seems too brief, that while I may come late and I may have trepidations, no aspiration is out reach. With the right amount of determination, a lot of practice, patience, and work, and some wonderful teachers by your side, anything at any time in your life is achievable.


Ra (the new rider in the house)

For those of you who care – In one week I have driven approximately 200 miles and rode a bike approximately 6 miles!

Photos: 2 through 8 By: Beth


04 2011