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...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Touching Last Day

My last day was a full one. I had thought to cook a Turkey Thanksgiving style meal for all. Then I realized (dah!) that the guys at the house (asylum seekers) do not get meat there and that their own cooking would be great for them. Several are very good cooks.

So the morning was taken with shopping in the markets:

Hallel lamb for an Iranian dish - it was excellent.

Fresh chicken for an Algerian dish - tasty with olives and a nice broth.

Fish, mackerel, for a Congo dish - quite good.

Basmati rice - for Teodros popular rice - yummy! esp. w/ the lamb.

topped off w/ cans of John Smith and Stella Artois.

Barry, the older British gent I introduced 7 weeks ago took me to breakfast.

I had purchased small gifts, calling card to Bolivia, Iran, Algeria etc. Wrapping paper was tabloid newspapers!

In the afternoon, we went to the cafe to say goodbye & give Barry a birthday present. He's 65 on Saturday.

Good buys were heartfelt: those living rough, young professionals etc.

In the evening 13 of us sat down to a sumptuous dinner. Lots of good cheer, laughs and pictures. they gave me a lovely good bye card and two Oxfam gift cards that tell who is being taken care of in our name.

The gifts went well. Lots of laughs. Several heartfelt conversation privately. Emotional good bys. I understand the kissing on both sides of the face, but one ethnic group kisses you non-stop. Oh well!!!!

A truly touching evening. Such good men who face incredible obstacles yet have much joy and are a joy to live with.

Off to the airport in 90 minutes. Amanuel insists in accompanying me on the bus - no doubt taking my luggage!


Sunday, September 7, 2008

People you meet in Hostels

Without question, it is a great experience if you enjoy the energy, enthusiasm, openness and basic goodness of young people.

Some interesting people:

Daniel, 25, from Lisbon - touring Europe for 30 days. He has to do an internship in law and then take his bar exams. He wants to practice law related to urban planning. His agenda: to tour the cities to capture a sense of their unfolding.

Ian, 40, from Australia - came to Prague to help his friend and his wife adjust to having a baby with Downs Syndrome. The experience was hurting the couple's marriage. He helps out at their home 4 days a week& then takes a break. True friendship!

Liz, 29, from Santa Monica who has settled in Prague and manages the cafe in the basement - which looks more like an ancient crypt - such ambiance!

Dave, 26, from Kansas City touring Europe before he gets too old!!!

Richard, 20, from a village near Florence - a musician touring also. He stands 6' 4" and is a very engaging person. He decided to sit and talk with me for several hours. He now keeps in touch by email. He wants to have lunch with Laura, Jason and me when we are in Florence in December!

Emily, the 22 year old student in Oslo, who has to fend off some of the guys as she works at the hostel desk. The guys are polite but clearly interested. Makes sense as she is a delightful, interesting, and attractive young lady.

John, 66, and his son who are here with about 20 guys on a bachelor’s party from England. John is interesting and a true Tory. Unlike most, he's not rooting for Obama!

Praha aka Prague - Part 2.

The trams (streetcars) offer a unique opportunity to see a lot including some wonderful views of the city across the Vltava River. Sir Toby's Hostel allows you to approach the city center and get a feel for its character. Go right across a bridge (most) and arrive at Wenceslas Square, the place where Czech's throughout history gathered to celebrate or protest.

In the Old Town Square, Jan Hus, stands proudly against religious excess. Interestingly, a Hussite church explains the role of Catholic priests about 100 years ago who tried to convince the Vatican to be more open to the world. Today much of what they wanted is in Vatican II.

The Charles River Bridge reminds one of the bridges in Florence though quite different.

Take a ride on Tram 22 past the Castle and see some lovely sites; stop for a soda, pint or coffee and enjoy a wonderful summer day - people watching in a non-tourist area!

It becomes clear that though guide books are quite helpful, you can easily fall prey to develop a "To Do Checklist" which can make it more of a marathon than a stroll to enjoy the culture.

Prague offers a lot to see. Touristy can be a problem! I think in my return visit, I'll pack a nice lunch and spend the whole day in the Castle - which is actually a large site with gardens outside the deer moat and two churches, walking areas and other site inside.

Both here and in the Jewish Quarter you can easily get drawn into buying a pass that covers all. They're pricey and afterwards you're likely to feel that you've been on a sort of tour workout!

Do come to Prague and other countries in Eastern Europe. There is so much to see and learn.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Well this is truly the city to visit in Eastern Europe. Weather is great - sunny & 70-84 degrees. I actually felt it was warm yesterday - then again it's been 60's most of the time in August in London!

There is simply too much to see in one visit. The Hostel is really very good - convenient, very clean, a big breakfast all you can eat for $5.80. A lounge downstairs & free Czech movies w/ English subtitles 3 nights a week. A small library to check out books, including tour books.
Sir Toby's Hostel in Prague

Lots of interesting people from Portugal, Germany, U.S., Canada, U.K., Spain, Argentina etc.

I strolled through Prague today after touring it by tram yesterday. After this break, I'm heading back to cross the Charles Bridge

and walk into Old Town.

and the Astronomical Clock

This a.m. I toured the Franz Kafka Museum. To me it was one of the most effectively copnceived exhibits I've seen anywhere: images, video, hanging exhibits, conical walks with images appears, info and info in a pond, and more! The peeing figures out front are interesting!

Then onto The Church of St. Nicholas considered to be one of the best examples of Czech Baroque in the Republic.

Tomorrow - the Castle, Jewish Quarter, and New Town.

Price comparisons in dollars:

City London Oslo Prague

Pint of Beer 5.81 10 - 13 2.25

Soft Drink .89 4.00 .55

Tram/Bus 1.60 4.00 1.30

Monday, September 1, 2008

Two Days in Oslo, Norway

After 6 weeks in LCW, I was to leave for 10 days of touring. Given the weak dollar & needs of the LCW house, I'm doing two smaller trips.

1st Stop - OSLO

Norwary is a wealthy country due to its oil. You quickly learn to not spend money! What might cost $ 3 or 4 here will cost about $ 13 there.

Oslo is a small for a capitol city, but quite lovely and with an excellent transportation system. I quickly learned that having a ticket is crucial if you do not wish to pay the $ 200 fine. As I was talking with fellow hostel guests we saw a stream of people running from an equal number of police. Turns out they had no tickets. So when the officers boarded the tram to look at all tickets they fled, en masse!

Edward Munch is a famous artist and the museums attest to this. There are many lovely sites like:

The Scream

Fronger Park Hmm, is that a phallic symbol in the background?

City Hall

The Holmenkollen Ski Jump

The amazing Vigeland Sculpture Park with 212 bronze and granite sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland. and

its harbor with ferries to small picturesque harbor islands

Best of all I met a young Italian band staying at the Amstel Hostel. Richie is now in regular email contact.
Laura, Jay and I will have lunch with him in Florence at Christmas. Some of their music is at

Next tiome, I hope to fly to Copenhagen, take the night ferry to Oslo, and than the train to Bergen in the north - just south of ther Arctic Circle - beautiful Scandinavia.


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.