7 Weeks, 13 Cities, 10 Suitcases and One Cadillac

flying into LAX summer 2014

En route from Hong Kong to Dubai, as everyone slept, a window of stillness appeared.

Our seven official weeks of summer vacation were over. A bit uncertain what the future will bring, this summer we prepared for transitions.  Meeting new people, we cracked open the doors of possibility.

Landing in Los Angeles, our journey started in Manhattan Beach enjoying the warm Pacific coast summer. Ace and Mark’s long-lost triplet convinced them sleeping in the garage was the height of coolness while Suzanne enjoyed her completely silent, hotel room.

barnstable and sandwich town line

We flew to Boston, spent July Fourth on Cape Cod and visited Barnstable, the town my first English ancestor landed in in 1630. Journeying north we visited our friends’ beach front house on the Beverly Glen shore. That set the stage for our whirlwind tour of New England boarding schools through towns with classic East coast names – Deerfield, Windsor, Farmington, Suffield and Wallingford.

flying over potomac and madeira school grounds

Leaving Hartford, we flew into our beloved Washington National to Arlington where our children were born. As Arlington gentrified, we felt so at home there. It was an ancestral connection. My Scot-Irish ancestors had settled along the Potomac. The land called to Suzanne too. She loved the hills, the river, and declared Virginia is where she wants to go to school.

Finishing the East coast school tour, we ventured further into the deep South, to steamy Georgia.

When I was a child, my father appreciated Georgia’s dense forests where a man could lose himself. He found love and built a life there. Growing up my sister and I visited his one-stoplight town during the summers. Returning home, I described the Red Velvet cake my southern step-mother baked to my friends who had never heard of such a delight.

Of all places in world, our expat friends from Bahrain migrated to a Georgia town that even my father used to call “country”. We pulled into their neighborhood, and if it wasn’t for the cicadas, I would have sworn we were in a Virginia development. As the kids instagrammed, my friend and I practiced our yoga in her thriving studio.

Saying good-bye and moving to my father’s, I drove the new byway lined with the requisite CVS and Kroger shopping malls before passing Jefferson. I noticed the signs pointed towards Old Town Road and the Old Swimming Pool Road. It finally dawned on me when I reached the Old School Road that I needed to turn back.

Winding past the new two-story houses with central air, I knew the backwoods of Georgia had been invaded by Yankees and others. Just before my father’s driveway, the city council had posted a sign informing the new “tourists” they had arrived in Historic Jefferson. My father was officially a relic.

overlooking Santa Barbara and Channel Islands

Returning to California, we left Los Angeles’ millions of cars behind and unpacked our bags in Santa Barbara. There we relaxed as the morning breeze carried the fog’s coolness. After a couple days shopping, picking avocados and distilling rose water, I left the kids in my husband’s care.

I followed PCH to Venice and dropped my bags in a renovated flop house a block from the beach. Venice has also gentrified since I was a teenager. Along Main Street, there was a Robert Graham men’s store. I was amazed to learn the now-hip Venice is where their only free-standing store is in all of California.

After practicing movement and meditation in Emilie Conrad’s Santa Monica Continuum Studio, I danced back north.

Together again, we continued our school visits.

Situated on a mountaintop overlooking the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Los Padres mountains on the other, my children described the setting as “nice”.   After visiting Thacher with its impressive view of the Ojai Valley, we drove through orange tree farms for a quick stop at famed Lulu Bandha yoga studio then ate pizza made with garden fresh vegetables.  Once again, the kids said,

“It is pretty but we prefer the East Coast.”

In Santa Barbara, we met old friends and got an intimate, close-up of actress, now singer, Minnie Driver. The annual Fiesta marked the end of our visit with a parade and mariachis.

Packing a full mini-van, we headed south to our home-away-from-home in Newport Beach. The owner texted me saying this fall they will be tearing it down, leaving us homeless next summer. With friends and family, we celebrated our final year and toasted the unknown future.

saying goodbye in Newport Beach

Just before closing the front door, we placed a framed, family-selfie on a table. Like the summer, we are gone, but not forgotten.

POST SCRIPT

This summer many asked me whether I had unfriended them from Tales of Dragons, Rabbits and Roosters. No one was excluded; I was not writing.

Delving deeper into my yoga practice, I am embarking on a mission to study yoga in its original Sanskrit at Loyola Marymount University.  As I want to relieve my mind of other writing responsibilities and to be with my children before they leave home, I am taking a hiatus from Tales of Dragons, Rabbits and Roosters. If I feel inspired I will post, but I will not be blogging full-time.

I send you gratitude for reading my posts. I encourage you to follow your hearts and to experience this beautiful world with all its diversity and cultures. May you fly like a dragon and befriend all the roosters you meet.

With blessings,
Eva the Dragon

I Do Not Want to Work; I Only Want A Puff

paris eiffel tower by eva the dragon 2014

Je ne veux pas travailler
Je ne veux pas déjeuner
Je veux seulement oublier
Et puis je fume

I discovered this song several years ago. Dreaming of running away to Paris, I picked up a “Paris” compilation album. In the midst of diapers and cheerios, Julia Child’s 1950s Paris seemed like the place for me. I only understood the woman when she sang,

I do not want to work
I do not want lunch
I only want to forget
And then I smoke.

Washing the dishes, I joined in during the chorus.

Fast forward a decade.

All over Bahrain were banners with a fantastic photo of a grey-haired man with a bow tie and a woman with an umbrella who obviously traveled by hot air balloon. Paired with an elegant Japanese woman – together they were Pink Martini and Saori Yuki. I had no idea what their music was but I loved the photos. My friend called and said she bought us front-row, balcony seats for the National Theater show. YEAH.

Pink Martini’s lead singer China Forbes stepped out wearing a bright green Bahraini jalabiya embroidered with silver. We were expecting a Japanese diva. In an American accent, China sang Let’s Never Stop Falling in Love. She had a fantastic voice. Wow!

“I bought this dress yesterday in Bahrain,” she announced. “I love it.” Everyone clapped their appreciation.

Thomas Lauderdale, the piano player, welcomed us and gave a little speech in Arabic, obviously thanking everyone for inviting them to Bahrain. The Bahrainis were thrilled and applauded his effort. Pink Martini was off to a crowd pleasing start.

China introduced the next song, Sympathique.

“This is the first song we wrote,” she said.

Suddenly I was back washing dishes. It was my theme-song. China was the woman who only wanted to smoke and daydream. She was my soul sister; the singer I am not.

Finally, in a long, sparkling red dress, Saori Yuki appeared moving like an elegant geisha. I have decided to adopt her graceful small steps that made her move like a mermaid. After singing Yuuzuki from their album 1969, she said,

“I was in City Center the other day and I saw a big photo of me near Shoe City. That is me? I was so surprised. Thank you, thank you, thank you,” she said with beautiful delicate bows.

Thomas Lauderdale introduced Uskudar as a traditional Turkish song the ALL Turks know the words to.

“Are there any Turkish people here?”

The lady sitting next to us raised her hand and hooted.

“Would you please come up on stage and sing it with us?” Thomas and China asked.

Nobody moved.

“Please all Turkish people know the words to this song.”

I reached over. “Go on, go sing.”

That was all the encouragement she needed. The woman jumped up and made her want down to the stage. She radiated pure joy as she sang and belly danced.

How do I describe Pink Martini? Excellent orchestra. China Forbes has beautiful, clear voice. Thomas and China know how to engage the audience with their jazzy songs that evoke a playful era. Pink Martini has a crowd-pleasing show.

Near the end Saori Yuki sang Puff, the Magic Dragon in Japanese.

With that, my evening was complete.

My mother took me to my first concert. It was Peter, Paul and Mary at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. The only song I remember was Puff the Magic Dragon.

 

Making Room for New Wives, New Stories

 

holy land mount nebo jordan by eva the dragon 2013

My annual summer preparation includes either finishing or removing the piles of Ideas from my desk. Jordan continues to inspire me.  There are so many tales.  I start with Mount Nebo.

When God told Moses “Behold you are about to sleep with your father,” Moses quickly finished writing down his book of laws.  After finishing his final sermon to his people, God told him,

“Ascend this mountain of Abarim, Mount Nebo which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho; and view the land of Canaan….and die on the mountain you ascend.” Deuteronomy 32:48-50

Depositing my poor sick friend at another host’s house, my Irish friend and I continued to Mount Nebo so, like Moses, she could view the entire Holy Land before she died.

I first ascended Mount Nebo several years ago.  At that time, we simply walked up small road, past the boys selling chocolate and bottles of water, to the old Byzantine Church. Standing on the balcony built facing west, the sky was filled with dark grey clouds. As we looked across the Dead Sea to Jericho, a few clouds split open and the sun’s rays streamed through highlighting the small piece of earth causing such turmoil. It was a powerful moment. Both my husband and I felt it was a Divine experience.

This time I easily found my way by following the government signs posting the road to Mount Nebo. We parked in the nearly full lot outside the newly constructed gate.

While my friend gathered her things, I said “Salam” to the group of guards manning the Guard House and a Jordanian guide and walked through. I began taking panoramic photos of the entire valley. Behind me, footsteps crunched on the gravel.

“Madam, madam”

I turned. It was a short, brown-uniformed security guard and the guide in a sparkling-white thobe.  He was very tall and carried a long, goat-herding stick. They came up alongside me, a little too close.

“Madam you must buy a ticket.”

“Really? That is new. I apologize. How much is it?”

“One JD.”

I rummaged through my bag. I only had twenties, fifties and hundreds. I offered my twenty. The man shook his head.

“You don’t have one JD?”

“Sorry, maybe my friend does.”

The man came closer. Too close. His closeness was not respectful. He pointed down the hill.

“You see the big tree? That is Mousa’s spring. There he took his stick and opened the rock. Sweet water comes from the spring. If you want later, I can take you.”

Mousa is Arabic for Moses. Very interesting. I had never been there before. At the end of the curvy road, cars were parked near the leafy tree. I could see flashes of color as children played in the stream.  After seeing the church, we would go, but not with this man.

“No thank you. I am a very good driver. My Pajero can make it down the road.”

“Where are you from? UK?”

“No. America.”

“Ahh America. I have always wanted an American wife,” he smiled. Again, he moved too quickly to intimate matters. It was aggressive.

“I am sure,” I said. “American wives are very popular. We are very independent and know how to make money.”

His eyes brightened with appreciation. “Yes, I am looking for an American wife.”

“So did my husband. And he got me.”  I thought that would stop them.

The man in the thobe piped in.

“I have three wives. I can have one more wife. I would like an American wife.”

Time to teach them a lone woman was not an invitation.

“My husband has three wives too,” I told him. His eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Yes, my husband is Saudi. Right now he has three wives. Me and the other wives are tired. We want him to marry an American wife.”

“Your husband is from Saudi Arabia?” I nodded.

“I am first wife. I have given my husband three children. Two boys and a girl. The other wives are pretty, but they are, well, not so good like me. We are looking for a new wife.”

The man nodded in understanding and appreciation. The security guard was watching me.

“How can I get an American wife?” the guard asked. He stepped back a respectful distance.

“You must look on the internet. Lots of people find someone on the internet. There are many websites for good Muslim girls. Put up your photo and I am certain you will find someone here in Jordan.”

“I want an American wife. Can you help me find one?”

“No, no. American women are very particular who we marry. He must be a man with very high standing. He must have a good job. He must be able to buy a house. It is very difficult to find an American woman to come to live in Jordan.”

“I speak English. I have a good job.”

“It will be very hard for you to find an American woman. But maybe,” I shrugged my shoulders.  “Try the internet.”

“Your daughter, how old is she?”

“Absolutely not.  She is too young to be a wife.  She is smart and must go to university.  Besides we are very careful who our daughter will marry.”

“I am a good man.”

“I am certain you are. But we do not know you. You would have to fill out an application, tell us all about your family, your history, your job. Only the best man will marry our daughter.”

“I work for government. I have a salary.”

Too much. Time for the hammer.

“You are a security guard. My husband is a business man.  He would never allow it.  And you smoke. Look – your teeth are brown. I would never let my daughter marry a man who smokes. You will die early and leave your wife and children all alone. Who would take care of her?  Absolutely not.  My daughter will NOT marry a smoker.”

“Please help me find an American wife.”

“No.  I am first wife. I know who is a good wife and who is a good husband. American women like men with shiny white teeth and who are healthy.  Look at you.” I pointed to his large belly. “You must find someone who will take a man like you.”

Finally my friend arrived carrying two tickets.

I laid my right hand on my heart.

“Shukran. Masallamah my friends. I pray that Allah blesses you with a good wife.

“Wives? What was that all about?”

“Laying down the law. Those men needed an ass-kicking.

 

Enjoying Jordan?  For more, click through to

All the amazing sites from the Bible and ancient history you can find in Jordan.  Jordan – The Holy Land Museum

The Land of Shared Ancestors More About Moses’ family and exploring Petra

To Hire A Man or Not – Being assigned our Pajero at the Queen Alia Airport

Interested in Oman?  Click through to Touring Oman – First Stop Fanja

Or riding the train to France? click through to Don’t Pick Me Up – Eurostar Evaesdropping

Or life on a small desert island? – Read A Day in the Life of Unexpected Coincidences

 

 

 

Magician And Mystic – May 29 at La Fontaine

Magician&Mystic May 29 La Fontaine

La Fontaine’s public love affair with Ibn-Battuta‘s travel, Sufi mysticism, and ancient lands continues.  May 29 under the stars explores modern Turkey and India with an eye to the past.

Still can’t find La Fontaine?  Here’s a link to a map.

 

Fearless Living in Jordan

You might wonder what this beautiful, blond, self-help author and this grey-bearded, Syrian refugee have in common.

Years ago, before Oprah, before Starting Over, before she was America’s #1 Life Coach, Rhonda Britten and I were friends.  Even then, as a young, 20-something, she was full of wisdom and optimism.

I remember being amazed at her beautiful, rented apartment painted in feminine colors and angels.  She replaced the industrial shades with soft, white curtains.  Saving my dollars, it never occurred to me to spend my money to decorate someone else’s property.

Her answer has always guided me,

I don’t know how long I will live here, but I want this space to be my home.  Having the colors I love makes me feel like it is mine.  When I open the door, I feel safe and warm.

During the Salam Neighbor filming in Jordan, people have shown their make-shift classrooms and sleeping mats inside of their UNHCR tents.  The camp’s desert sameness is a bit dreary.

fearless living jordan salam neighbor fountain zaatari camp

The other day, three, red-haired boys appeared and pulled Zach and Chris’ hands.  They led them through the tents to a beautiful fountain their father had built in the middle of the Za’atari Refugee Camp.

An innovative recycler, Ziyad has decorated their camper, planted a garden and built a bread oven.

As he told Zach and Chris his story, he explained his efforts by pointing to his sons and saying,

I don’t know how long we are going to have to live here.  I want my family to feel at home.

Regardless of how temporary our lives might be, our hearts are filled with joy when we feel we are at home.  Creating beauty amidst the ugliness in the world is Fearless Living.

ABOUT ZIYAD AND SALAM NEIGHBOR

You can read the entire posting called Neighbors of Za’atari Part Two – Ziyad. at Livingonone.org.

What does the daily life of a Syrian refugee really look like?

In partnership with 1001 MEDIA, Living on One founders Chris and Zach have just launched Salam Neighbor. They are on a bold, immersive journey into the heart of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. From January 19th through February 15th, Chris and Zach will live alongside refugee families in Jordan to uncover the daily realities, struggles, successes and dreams of displaced Syrians.

Chris and Zach can’t do it without your participation! As they film they will be releasing weekly blogs and live-stream hangout sessions to hear and help answer your most pressing questions about the humanitarian crisis and life as a refugee.

Join the Salam Neighbor film and journey. Learn about the humanitarian crisis. Take action to change the world!
www.salamneighbor.org

Cheese Versus Beans

I am comparing the UNHCR refugee lunch to the Wadi Rum, sack lunch my Bedouin guide gave me when I was in Jordan.

We both got tuna.  What I wondered was whether Zach and Chris had a guide who taught them how to use the tuna can lid as a knife?

As a paying tourist, I got an imported apple and plastic plate.  And my lunch was all mine.  I didn’t share my cheese with anyone.

Looking at the refugee lunch, it struck me, is it possible a family of four can live on that can of beans?

You can read all about Zach and Chris eating their lunch at Registering as Refugees.

 ABOUT SALAM NEIGHBOR

What does the daily life of a Syrian refugee really look like?

In partnership with 1001 MEDIA, Living on One founders Chris and Zach launched Salam Neighbor. They are on a bold, immersive journey into the heart of the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis. From January 19th through February 15th, Chris and Zach are living alongside refugee families in Jordan to uncover the daily realities, struggles, successes and dreams of displaced Syrians.

Chris and Zach can’t do it without your participation! As they film they will be releasing weekly blogs and live-stream hangout sessions to hear and help answer your most pressing questions about the humanitarian crisis and life as a refugee.

Join the Salam Neighbor film and journey. Learn about the humanitarian crisis. Take action to change the world!

www.salamneighbor.org

Facebook Saints and Mobsters

gold shoes and sandal close to petra cliff edge by evathedragon 2013

My photo collection began after my grandmother gave me my first Kodak Instamatic camera.  Processed at the drive-through Foto-mat, a lifetime of pictures are mounted in albums with sticky backs and plastic covers.  Stored in our spare bedroom closet, the photos have faded but you can still tell who the characters are.

They are my personal treasures – both for the memories and for their value.  Half-jokingly, I have threatened my friends with,

“If I ever find out someone says something rotten about me, I will post these to Facebook.”

While in Jordan, I found a kindred spirit in our young, Bedouin guide, Mazan.

After my friend loaned her camera to him, his professional demeanor dissolved into a child’s joy. He scampered around the cliffs recording choice moments for digital posterity.

petra cliff walking by eva the dragon 2013

Joumaa conned Louise into crossing a tiny ledge along the Petra cliffs.  She cursed and nearly fainted but made it across.  When we stopped to regain our composure, Mazan nudged my elbow and asked for my camera.  I could not tell what he was looking at but I figured it must be interesting.

He started snapping photos, then shouted something in Arabic.  I recognized one word – Facebook.

“What do you see?” I shaded my eyes and squinted.

balcony scene from petra version romeo and juliet by evathedragon 2013

He placed his hands on my ears and moved my head.  Across the canyon, like Romeo and Juliet, two, star-crossed, Bedouin teenagers, sat alone on top of the cliff.

Mazan took more photos and shouted again, “something, something, something Facebook.”

Facebook is going to turn all of us into either saints – or mobsters.

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