Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Turkey - the food

The food was great. Lamb and chicken are a regular. Vegetables, various salads, cabbage, cheese, yogurt, rice dishes, desserts galore (about 5-10 choices.) Various meats, juices and cereal, bread plus 2-3 types of eggs for breakfast. And I lost a pound! Avoided most carbs and took tiny tastes of desserts!! In Baltimore? The Cazbar on Charles has good Turkish food.

Antalya, Perge and our hotels

Antalya on the Mediterranean is a lovely city. The archaeological museum is outstanding. Resort hotels line the beach. Perge itself is another interesting site of Roman ruins. Touring it furthers your understanding of the Agora in ancient times. Our Hotel Experience was excellent. The hotel in Istanbul was a 30 minute ride from the main sites. Along the Aegean and Mediterranean we stayed in luxury resort hotels - well beyond my regular experience! We lucked out as our tour costs were underwritten by Turkish Airlines (which is excellent), the government and one or both of the last day visits: fine jewelry and leather making. The advertized tour price was $2298. Ours was $ 1100. Coupons were is various newspapers. The tour company is American European Travel

Turkish Bath and massage

What is a Turkish Bath? We found out! You disrobe except for a generous wrap. You walk into the steam room and lie down on a marble shelf. Warm water is poured all over you. Then the attendant scrubs you all over - now I know how a frying pan feels when it is cleaned! Following your scrub, a foaming substance is poured all over you. It looks like a very large pillow case full of foam. You get three servings! As the attendant squeezes out the foam, you are literally covered neck to toe. Then you are rinsed and lead to the massage room. As part of the massage you are covered in a pleasant oil. The whole experience takes about 45 minutes and is quite a treat. The price? Less than a one hour massage here at home!


Hierapolis is another site of Roman ruins plus the added pleasure of warm springs. Formations include calcareous cascades, calcium stalactites, and shallow travertine basins formed by lukewarm thermal springs. It looks very much like ice/snow formations. The walk through the ruins is pleasant as there are nice vistas throughout. Travel literature says: '...enjoy a nice warm swim at the thermal pool.' RIGHT! It is but they do not mention the particulars. You begin your walk in calf high warm water(about 93F). Then you come upon boulders that you must climb, slide, slither over! One was such a challenge that after suceeding(3rd try) I said: "This is like climbing an Ionian column! Standing and looking I in fact saw a fallen Ionian column next to my boulder! One continues to negotiate, boulders, marble slabs and columns. Watch your step. It is an experience worth having and one that you will not forget!


Ephesus is an incredible experience. You do a long stroll through well-excavated and colonnaded marble streets, adorned with monumental fountains, numerous temples, the elaborate Library of Celsus. Pictures (I'll post on my Facebook page.) simply cannot re-create the experience. It is not to be missed. Awe and wonder are words that spring readily to mind. There are excellent board walkways where needed and the actual colonnaded streets are breathtaking. This as well as the Alhambra in Granada, Spain and Dubrovnik, Croatia are truly spiritual experiences.

TURKEY: Istanbul

Traveling to Istanbul has always seemed like a dream to fulfill. What I did not realize was just how amazing Turkey is. The big draws in Istanbul are the Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, the Grand Market and Spice Market. The Grand Market is closed on Sunday and our excellent Turkish guide (American-European Travel) told us that it's full of junk and not worth the time. The Spice Market is manageable and nice finds can be found. YOU MUST negotiate. Start with 50% of what they ask. Hagia Sophia, Blue Mosque are incredible sites outside. Hagia Sophia is the largest church in the medieval world. The Blue Mosque is known for its fine Byzantine mosaics and Islamic calligraphy. Due to lots of renovations in both places(and many wires holing chandelier type lights in the Blue Mosque) much is blocked or hard to see. Topakai Palace - a series of three courtyards is lovely to walk through. There are a few inner rooms holding artifacts - including Mohammed's footprint. For a Westerner it takes some getting used to to seeing so many Mosques and few churches. Turley is 99% Muslim. One cannot miss the call to prayer as minarets have loudspeakers on them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

People & Places in England

Hello all!  It's been awhile. Spending 11 days in England visiting wonderful friends.  As some are refugees seeking asylum, other have received it, I'll use the initial of their home to identify them. Probably no one official looks here, but just in case - given the www today.

This may or may not interest one. I share it as I feel it is a blessing and a joy in my life. I can do some good and I am reminded of just how good many of us have it.

A- Algeria     E - Ethiopia/Eritrea      C-Congo       I - Iran       S-Senegal    Brit friends by their names.

E - Friday, E met me at Heathrow. He has always taken great care of me coming,going, and during! Monday we headed for North Greenwich to ride the new cable car ride over the Thames - great views.  It is fun to see him enjoying himself in somethign he rarely gets to do. It humbles one to be sure. He is a wonderful young man who is in a very long wait to get his leave to stay in the U.K. prayers please.

I've written of him before.  I've included it here. 

                              Monday, August 15, 2011

Will I simply turn away and have a nice cup of tea?

He stands 5' 10." He is reserved and kind. Behind his reserve, is a quick mind and considerable skills that require intellectual acuity as used in games like chess, difficult suduko... He is an athlete. He is a refugee from an intensely repressive African nation. His family is gone; he is 30. His hopes for a life are severely limited with not much hope in the near future. He is my friend.

Imagine being forced to flee your home and country. You travel at night trying to avoid being caught, returned to torture, beaten up. You make it to another continent, but the first nation has no interest in helping people like you. The people speak a Semitic language in a script that is a complete mystery to you.

On the street, hungry and cold with no soup kitchens or temporary housing, you make your way again to a country that though strict about immigration has people who have the decency to treat those in need with kindness and respect.

You've arrived, but the government does not want you. They insist that you go back to the first country. Go back, to what? Imprisonment, life on the streets probably far worse than that in London or New York?

So you remain, hoping that some day things might change.

Five years later nothing has changed. You may not work or go to school. Others move on; you cannot.
Imagine for a moment this was you. What would you do? Would you give up? How would you face each day?

This is the situation for my friend who accompanied me to the airport. Back home in a motel my connecting flight delayed due to storms, I stand waiting for the elevator in the Sleep Inn. A tall young lady tells me about her frustration: waiting, cabs, "I am not used to this. I miss my BMW." I try not to throttle her. I smile and say: "Hey, you could be homeless." Undeterred, she returns to protestations of existential angst. But wait, that could be me, complaining about a temporary discomfort, oblivious to all the pain that is right before me.

But more to the point. a crucial question: What am I myself going to do today to make a difference? Or as one friend said to me, "Will I simply turn away and have a nice cup of tea?"

With affection and respect, I ask you, my dear friend, to join me in considering this same question.

Sunday it rained and rained! Enough said!  Monday I went into London and viisited the National Portrait Gallery, the Natyional Gallery - briefly, and St. Martin in the Fields. Put this here in case anyone felt I was missing London!! This is my 7th visit so it is nice to do it in a relaxed manner.

- Zelda my good friend with whom I stay lives 45 minutes east of London in Basildon. She has spent her life caring for others: family, the poor, refugees. As well she has participated in many actions against nuclear weapons and war.  Yesterday, we met I in London for a delightful afternoon of conversation and food. I is a very good many who has lost everything: his freedom, his business, his home.  In his 40's he feels 60 inside. He is positive and told me that the dinner we got him - salmon - was the best he'd ever had.Aa metaphor I think of appreciation and fellowship.  A very good man - Prayers as well, please.

Today I am meeting Steve who had a great career in business and gave it up to help the needy. In his 30's he's quite an inspiration - thoughtful and considerate.  We always have great fun talking about all kinds of topics from politics, the environment, travel to football (soccer).  I enjoy watching a game with him as well as E as I learn much.  Later  E, Zelda and I are having dinner with Peggy a good friend of Zelda's. We always meet to chat and eat.  It's always interesting to listen as I gain a sense of a perspective from across the pond!

E will return to Basildon with me to stay over. No doubt  E, Zelda and I will have a competitive game of scrabble or yahtzee again!!  And we'll do a looooong walk with Zelda.  Good thing I'm in shape now.  They've both commented on the difference in my walking  :-) 

Tomorrow I'm meeting Danny a dear friend who works in business and spends a lot of his time helping others on a weekly basis.  Danny is avid about reading, sport, culture, social justice and life! Our conversations alway range across a variety of topics.  Here again I am able to gain the perspective of a Britain looking at our world.  I am always struck by how narrow some folk's worldview is.  It is indeed a blessing to have such good friends and to be able to spend time with them both at home and abroad.

Friday will likely be a relaxed day in Essex.  I hope to travel around the local towns as I've only really seen Basildon. The weather has been quite rainy, but it looks as it it's clear up by then or sooner.   There is a pub in Basildon square. The staff remember me from previous visits. Here again it is great fun to listen and hear the persepctive of local folks.  Laughter is a readily available commodity!!


Saturday I hope to lunch and visit a museum with Angela - a grand lady whom I met at the Catholic Worker years ago. I still fondly recall her natural use of the term 'higglety pigglety' (Are we going to rearrange the tables & chairs or leave them higglety pigglety?)  Angela is grace, insight and commitment. We have great fun catching up and sharing a local art exhibit as well as a bite to eat.  

In the evening I'm going to treat myself to Mozart's Requiem at St. Martin's in the Fields.  Hopefully E will acconpany me.  Looking forward to it!
Sunday sadly will be my last full day. To church and hopefully catch up with some I've haven't seen: S, the other E and A.  We're doing our best!   There's an older guy, like me (!) who does terrific immitations of Brits etc. He's great fun. Not sure I can get to see him but will try.

Monday accompanied by E,  I fly (well the plane that is) back to the states.

I hope everyone is well & having a good week!  Blessings.  Phil



Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.