We all came from somewhere

I’ve been watching the migration of refugees into Europe and reflecting on the movement of peoples and the changes they bring.

Being of European descent, I have always felt at home when traveling in Europe.  I know that I am the outsider from America and that I don’t really fit in like a local but I try to respect the host country’s customs and enjoy the environment and culture I am visiting.  I know that my ancestors brought a part of the European culture to America and used it as a foundation for building their new life.

Watching the refugees flow into Europe – and other parts of the world – reminds me that we all came from somewhere.  Very few of us are indigenous.  Back in our ancestral dna was an intrepid soul that felt the need to move.  My husband has ancestors that moved because their family lands had already been divided out and nothing was available for the younger sons.  I have Irish ancestors that moved because their lands were no longer life-sustaining. I have Eastern European ancestors that moved because of the oppression of their government.  Everyone moved because they were seeking change and opportunity to provide a better life for themselves and their family.  I like to believe that each generation has added something to strengthen their new community.

It’s part of the movement of life and we must embrace those refugees and give them the opportunities that we all had at sometime in our lineage.

Cruising is a great way for you to see Europe – I can help you personalize the perfect trip.  Visit my website at psorenson.cruisesinc.com


My 5 favorite travel necessities

It doesn’t matter if I’m heading for an overnite with my sister or a month-long cruise; there are five things that are always part of my trip.  If you keep these stored in your luggage you will always be ready to go!

  1. Spacebags for clothing. The medium and large sizes are perfect for your garments and fit nicely in a typical 21” carryon bag.   Be sure to get the kind that expel air without a vacuum.  I usually just fill the bag with my clothes and lay on top of it until all the air comes out.  These things allow you to organize your clothing for easy unpacking at your destination because you can use one for pants, one for shirts, one for dresses, etc.  They protect your clothing from moisture, spills and smells.  They are great for separating your dirty clothes from the clean ones when you are packing to go home.
  2. Hanging toiletry bag.  This “go to” bag contains everything I need in small sized containers.  It’s always ready to go with my essentials.  I just add my makeup bag and hairbrush.  When at my destination, it comes out of the suitcase and hangs in the bathroom either on a towel rack or hook.  This clears the small bathroom counter for other things!
  3. TSA approved clear bag for carryon liquids. Invest in a strong clear vinyl bag with zip top and keep your carryon liquids ready to go anytime!  These will be less prone to puncture and leakage and because they are more substantial, I find it easy to pull out and put back during the security process.
  4. Kipling bag. These stylish lightweight bags are made of durable nylon with lots of zippered compartments.  My favorite style is the crossbody flat bag with three zippered full sized compartments and additional layered zippers in rows on the front.  I can put passports in one section; etickets and confirmations in another.  I can keep my currencies separated and allocate a specific pocket for my travel receipts.  There’s still room for a camera and phone and maps!
  5. Packing cube for electronics. Make sure you have all your chargers and cords and universal adapters in one place.

Enjoy your trip knowing you didn’t forget anything because you are so organized!

Where in Winter?

It’s April.  The trees have leafed out, I’m enjoying my first cut roses from the garden and mulching the plants for the dry summer months.  But I’m thinking about where I will spend the winter.

This will be a year of change; retirement and a move from the west coast to the midwest.  Although I spent the first 21 years of my life in the midwest living through hot humid summers and cold brittle winters,  I don’t know if I can re-acclimate to it 40 years later.  So, thinking ahead, where will I spend the winter?

The world is a big place and the opportunities are endless.  My optimum climate is in the 70’s with more sun than rain and minimal bugs.

Any suggestions?

They cried in yellow

May 2014: Seoul, South Korea

Pushing through the heavy glass lobby doors into the cool, misty morning the sounds of the city awakening are light on my ears. A few cabs are on the street and the five way intersection at the bottom of the hill is not yet congested with the commuter’s cacophony.
In search of morning coffee and I turn right and follow the path past the temple built behind the hotel. The dirt paths on the temple grounds have been recently raked and await the tread of today’s traveler. I don’t walk through the temple grounds but stay on the path that leads past the temple and through the pines to a stairway leading down. At the bottom of the steps I can hear traffic noise echo through the narrow canyon between the buildings. I follow the sound to the main road.
I am seized with an awareness that this is no ordinary day. The gentle light of this dawn touches the square before me and illuminates the yellow strips of cloth as they wave in the morning breeze. They are tied to the posts of the white tents set up between the building and Seoul Plaza. They are tied to the guide wires staked in the ground, to the trees and to the many poles erected just for the ribbons. Students are painting images of the victims onto a long canvas banner laid across the ground. Bulletin boards have messages and drawings overlapping each other, layering the sorrow of the country with each addition. Tables hold black markers and yellow strips so that visitors can add their own messages to flutter in the sorrowful breeze. Little yellow boats are stuck into the moist dirt.
This is Children’s day and it’s also an official day of mourning for the Seoul ferry disaster that claimed the treasure of this nation; almost 300 children who were raised to be obedient were taken to their death as the ferry sank and the crew left them behind after announcing that they should stay in their cabins to be safe. A large sign hangs on the City Hall building apologizing to the victims.
It’s exceptionally quiet as I walk through the plaza. Soon, people will be lining up to place a white Chrysanthemum on an altar in remembrance of those who died.
I walk through the plaza and absorb the grief; I am in tears as I read the messages and pictures around me. My hunt for coffee is forgotten as I stay a little longer to reflect on the lives lost and the living whose strength are reflected in the respectful messages of mourning.

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Athens art

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Wall.”

After a nice dinner in the Plaka, we walked through narrow Athens streets that wound their way through ancient homes and shops. Fresh flowers fell out of window baskets and scented the night.  We descended several old stone staircases through residential areas on the hill  and at the bottom, we found this open space.  The wall and it’s markings are part of the neighborhood but such a contrast to the area above where we had dined.

There’s more than gold in the Yukon

Traveling up the Yukon trail from Skagway is a journey of unexpected emotion and beauty.

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As the tour bus grinds into lower gear to continue it’s climb, the driver (local to Skagway) points out the narrow cuts along the mountain face that carried men and their animals and cargo to the Klondike.  He tells of the foolish and greedy easterners that tried to carry a household of goods on their cart; only to leave it on the trail as they ascended the slopes.  He tells of the many who died on their journey.  He tells of the native Athabascan and Tlingit peoples that helped with navigation.

As a local, our driver told of the oral stories connected with the Athabascan and Tlingit tribes and how they relate to the  symbols on totems around the area.  The most common symbol, The raven, is a trickster who steals the sun to bring light to the world.

Native Alaskans are either  associated with the Raven or the Eagle/Wolf through their mother’s side; each generation then adds other stories introducing animals such as the owl, frog, beaver, fox, bear, salmon and killer whale.  Each has a meaning related to the lineage of the tribe.  It’s fascinating to know that for over 10,000 years these stories have been passed from generation to generation using animal symbolism to illuminate events in time.

I started my journey to the Yukon to learn more about the Klondike gold rush but I came away with a new desire to learn more about the Alaskan native tribes.

If you want to plan your own Alaska adventure, contact me for more information at psorenson.cruisesinc.com.

Staying healthy on our voyage

I don’t know how we managed to come away unscathed.

The average age of our fellow cruise passengers was about 70.  Seriously, it was a pretty old crowd. The number of scooters, walkers, wheelchairs and canes nearly outnumbered the passengers walking about unassisted. I know from experience that if you are weakened to a point of needing a scooter or wheelchair you may also have less defense against colds and flu.  We had a pretty good incubator crowd.

Someone came onboard with a cold.  It didn’t take long for that to pass through the buffet line, onto the dinner tables, over to the doorknobs and railings and elevator buttons and into the air.  Many of the passengers began to display symptoms after a few days.

The medical team has a small area in the bowels of the ship and cannot quarantine patients in their facility so sick passengers were sent back to their rooms to recuperate through their illness. We frequently saw people carrying food plates on the elevators back to their sick cabin mates. Walking down the halls every day I noticed more and more empty plates being placed outside cabins. You could not be in an elevator or pass a conversation without hearing some mention of the onboard sickness.

When the sick passengers started to “feel better” they came back into circulation on the ship.  It was a challenge to find a space where the sounds of sniffling, sneezing and coughing were not present.

Arriving at our first port after 4 days at sea saw some passengers still ailing and confined to their rooms; those that did not recover were ultimately met at succeeding ports by ambulance and were disembarked for further medical care.

Throughout the 15 day cruise there was never a general announcement of the widespread sickness(even the crew was sneezing and coughing by the end) but each cabin was given a reminder memo of  good sanitary procedures and suggestions of when to contact the medical team. It was really on each passenger to keep themselves well and practice preventative measures.

We chose to dine in the restaurants with fresh linen at the table and to be served our meals by the waiter; the uncovered dining tables in the main food courts were not sanitized between each passenger and the common serving utensils in the buffet line were being touched by each person moving through the line.

I witnessed a young girl sitting at one of these tables and sneezing and coughing openly.  She left the table and another unwitting passenger immediately sat down with their food to enjoy their meal.

We tried not to use any handrails. We touched elevator buttons with the back of our hand or a covered finger.  We tried to keep to our own space.  We washed our hands for the requisite 20 seconds after touching surfaces. We used the hand sanitizer every time we saw a dispenser.

We took vitamin boosters every day; we drank juices and ate nutritious meals (and some not so nutritious). We spent a lot of time on the outside decks.

Whether it was one of these things or some combination we were fortunate enough to escape the invasive sickness at sea.  We were able to enjoy every day.

Our last port was Ensenada.  I’m pretty sure the stomach illness my husband experienced the next day was from his love for authentic Mexican food – but that’s another story!