Where Credit is Due

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For all the ways she made me who I am…


Today is the celebration of the birth of my own dear mom. I don’t think she would mind me saying that today she is 79 years old. If you met her on the street, you’d probably guess her age was much, much younger (like early sixties). That alone inspires me.

If you have read my blog for a few years, you will have learned a bit about the patience and understanding of my mother.

Here are a few choice places to get caught up:


There was the time I threw a snake at my mother.


There was the time I shot her in the arm with a BB gun.


Or when she thought I’d drowned in the bathtub.


And one of the many times I crushed the aspirations she had for me.


But mostly, a story about when she was just being, quite frankly, awesome.


I am the sum of all my parts and much of the good stuff I owe to my mom.

I am proud of her and I’m lucky she was kind enough to give me life.

Happy Birthday, Mom! You deserve cake!





Easter 1976, Albuquerque, NM. We are a good looking crew! Thanks mom!




Image from the family photo albums.




A Different Kind of Summer Day

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Sigh. It’s a beautiful August day outside.

The sun it out but it’s not too hot. A slight breeze dries the little bit of sweat that springs up from running around on the green grass. The pavement is warm on my sandaled feet.

I miss having summers off. Three months of ease and joy. I miss those lazy hot August days, like today, in the waning hours before school starts again. It seemed like summer would never end and Autumn was a forever away.

I miss dry Albuquerque days with powerful monsoon rainstorms in the late afternoon.

Splashing in sprinklers. Chasing lizards. Riding my bike.

Then dashing inside where the refrigerated air was like heaven on earth and sipping sun tea while watching Guiding Light with my mom and sister and often my grandmother too.

I think I had angst back then. I’m pretty sure I worried a lot. I at least got a little worked up over the latest machinations of Reva and Josh in that soap opera world.

But I had kid worries too. What would school be like? Why didn’t I have more friends? Why was my hair mousey brown and not blonde? When mom and dad talked about money problems did that mean something bad was going to happen?

I know I had a lot of angst back then, but in hindsight it seems so easy. So effortless.

What is that saying? “Youth is wasted on the young.” For me maybe not wasted but certainly not appreciated.

On this beautiful August day, I sit in my hard walled office with one glass wall and gaze out to the park across the street. Kids run and tumble and shout and scream and seem to be having a really effortlessly fun summer.

And I feel wistful.

I know kids today have their own worries and in a lot of ways it’s harder to be a kid today than it was way back when. But right now I am gazing out the window as I prepare for my next conference call where we’ll blah de blah for an hour about something that seems terribly important but really isn’t. Right now I sort of wish for a swimming pool, a soft serve ice cream cone and the time and desire to lay out on a beach towel and just soak up the sun.

For just a moment to have nothing to do and nowhere to be and nothing to worry about other than when to flip over so I don’t get sunburned.

That’s summer vacation to me.

Ah well. Back to the conference call. My boss is pinging my mobile phone and asking if I am attending.

I’m attending. In body only. The spirit is floating on a hot pink blow up mattress in the muddy waters of Ute Lake.


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This photo is not totally applicable to this post, but I went to my favorite royalty free stock photo site and put “summer” in the search box.

This was the first image that came up and it was too compelling to pass up. So there you have it.







Image by Teresa Howes and used royalty free from stock.xchng



Plane Spotting

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Today I have another story from my Costa Rica travels. Forgive me, longtime readers, but I have to get all these stories out and written down.

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While I was visiting San Jose, I had a chance to meet not only with coworkers at my own company, but some fairly high level representatives from local suppliers.

Which is to say, I was treated to some really expensive dinners by some fairly wealthy people by Costa Rican standards.

These were city folks from San Jose. The more advanced and sophisticated type.

In all of those conversations, it always became clear how proud Costa Ricans are of their heritage, and the talk would lead to stories about Costa Rica, both personal and historical.

And multiple times, over a cold glass of Cas, I heard a similar tale.

These business people in expensive suits would laughingly tell me how, on the weekends, people will pile their kids in the car and drive out to the airport. Cars park along the runways, just outside the chain link fence, and Costa Ricans spend the afternoon watching airplanes land and take off.

“They even sell ice cream!” they would say with a shade of embarrassment, and then say “well, it’s mostly the people from Alajuela that watch the planes.”

By the standards of San Jose, Alajuela is seen as farm country and the people from Alajuela are considered bumpkins.

So the implication is that only the rural folks watch planes.

But then, to a person, every time I heard this story, the speaker would finally admit “so, yeah…my dad used to take me out there too. We’d be out there with all of our family and neighbors. I used to love it, it’s a great memory.”

Then they’d also admit they had taken their own kids out to watch planes too.

Because it turns out watching airplanes is really less about being a bumpkin versus being a city sophisticate, and more about the spirit of community. It is families spending time together. It is friends and neighbors taking a break from working hard to simply feel the joy of watching modern airplanes landing and taking off.

“In Mexico, they’ve even built seats like football stands,” one guy told me, as if to say that while Costa Ricans enjoy the show, they don’t make it a permanent thing.

I smiled. Such a simple joy I heard as these stories were told. To me this is a prime example of how Costa Ricans look at life.

They may not have a lot of money.

They may work very hard.

They may have seen a lot of hardship in their lives.

They may have to ride a bus belching diesel for several hours to get to their job.

They may lament too much or too little rain.

But they never forget the simple joy of ice cream and airplanes.

That, my friends, is the heart of the Costa Rican philosophy of pura vida.

And that’s what I take home with me in my heart.

I told my coworker that after a week, I’m a little bit Tico now, too.

I’ll never watch an airplane again without remembering their kindness.




Photo caption by photographer: “Douglas DC-8-63(AF)…San Jose Juan Santamaria International airport”



Image from jetphotos.net

Today’s Theme Thursday is: community



Facing A Fear…Or, Scratch That One Off The List

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Most everyone has heard tell of this fruit they have in Southeast Asia that is really stinky. Most people will give you some sort of description of what they think it smells like including rotting flesh, pee and other unpleasant adjectives.

And of course all of these people who think they know a little something, when pressed, will admit they haven’t ever actually tried the thing.

So on a sultry Tuesday night in Singapore while drinking too much in a brew pub in the Boat Quay district, I was chatting with a coworker and native Singaporean.

He was asking me what were the things I wanted to see and try while I was in town.

I ran down a short list. Then he said to me, “so…do you like fruit?”

I grinned. “Yeah…are you talking about….?”

And he nodded.

Plans were made to get this American girl a taste of the stinky one, the King of Fruits, the Durian.

Thursday was the scheduled rendezvous and a group of us loaded up and headed for the Geylang District of Singapore, also sometimes called the Red Light District.

Despite being heavy on the laws and penalties, Singapore does actually allow prostitution. It’s just one of the many dichotomies of that fabulous city that intrigue me.

But I digress.

After a real hard work week, some coworkers and The Good Man and I found ourselves wandering what I could only describe as the old town of Singapore. The ungentrified part of a very gentrified city. I said to The Good Man “I’ve been looking for the soul of Singapore and I think I just found it.”

For among the clean streets and new glass and metal high rise buildings and a western sensibility in an Asian community, the Geylang showed me something different. A little more dirty. A little more dangerous. A lot more fascinating.

Dinner was an outside affair in a honest to goodness alleyway. The waitress told the ladies to watch their purses and anticipation for the meal ran high.

In addition to Durian, my Singaporean friend wanted me to try bullfrog porridge. I said ok.

We started with some Carlsberg beer to up the courage and soon the plates began flowing out of the open air kitchen.

We started with an oyster omelette (which The Good Man pointed out was like a Hangtown Fry without the bacon) and some beautiful sliced venison cooked in soy sauce and green onions.



I had to take a photo just so I could remember



While the chopsticks got to working and we discussed just where in the densely populated Singapore would actual wild deer be found, the main event landed on our table.

In two pots, one containing rice congee and the other chopped up chunks of bullfrog. I took some of the spicy variety and dug in.

Very tasty. Tender and quite mild like a very fresh scallop. No, it didn’t taste like chicken and by the way this is not the first time I’ve eaten frog. The congee gave a nice backer to the spicy frog meat.

As we ate, even more food came out including grilled calamari, stingray (the second time I had this), prawns and a heaping plate of clams.

It was a feast and the company was great, the surroundings gritty (but good) and the weather was about as steamy as you can imagine.

In short, one of the most perfect meals ever in my little life and a memory that will linger with me for years.

After we stuffed ourselves silly then cleaned up with the aid of several tissue packs, it was time to take a walk.

Dessert lay ahead and we were ready.

Across a very busy road and in an open air stand backed only with hanging tarps, we found our destination.

The prickly Durian fruit, piled high, odor filling the air.



I don’t know what the spray painted colors mean



My Singaporean friend went over to the vendor, a guy with a short, sturdy knife in hand, and began speaking in local dialect. He told us later he assured the guy that he wouldn’t pay for the fruit if it was bad, he needed to see inside, they haggled over price, and so on.

A fruit was chosen, the guy hacked it with precision and it was presented to the rest of us who were seated at another plastic table in a Geylang alleyway.




Each of those long strips has three sections to it



First impressions: It doesn’t smell that bad. It probably helped that we were outside and I understand some varieties of Durian smell more than others.

For me, it wasn’t the smell I struggled with, it was the texture. The fruit itself is like a custard inside a thin skin. You grab a section of the fruit (it pulls apart easily as there is a large pit inside each section) and just bite in. First bite my mouth registered “this is not a fruit” because it tasted kind of, well, savory.

But as I chewed and swallowed, on the back of my tongue, I tasted sweetness. The second bite I tried tasted sweet. Not big time sweet, just a nice mellow custardy sweet.

The more I ate, the more I liked it. I found after two sections, I was done. It was strangely satisfying and quite good.

Someone at our table popped up and went over to the vendors and negotiated for a plastic bag full of another fruit, this time the Queen of Fruits, Mangosteen. Less stinky and easier to open, the fruit inside looked like garlic cloves but tasted tangy and sweet. It was an interesting counter balance to the Durian. I understand they are often served together.

After a few sections of Mangosteen and another bit of Durian I was done. Topped up. Full to the gills and supremely satisfied.

What an amazing meal. What an amazing night.

By experiencing truly local food with the guidance of a resident “fixer”, I found the soul of Singapore.

It sang to the soul of me.

We are forever friends.




All photos Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right hand column of this page. Taken with an iPhone4s and the Camera+ app.



Walking On The Moon

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Last weekend, toward the end of my visit to New Mexico, my best friend and I decided we needed to go somewhere without much in the way of civilization.

A break from the every day is good for the soul.

This year my friend had drawn out a tag to hunt Oryx, and about a month ago, she and her husband went out to the empty land around Upham, New Mexico as Oryx are plentiful there.

While she didn’t manage to get an Oryx this year, while hiking around, she witnessed a vista so amazing that she wanted to share it with me.

So we loaded up and went bouncing down dirt roads, me riding in the passenger seat. My job was to open and close gates so that we could make our way past ranches without much in the way of fences to contain their hungry cattle.

Since the truck we rode in sounds a lot like a feed truck, they’d come a galloping along to greet us. It was kind of hard to let down all of our bovine friends as we only had a fried chicken picnic to eat, and that’s not really cow food.

The land we saw as we bumped along was empty, otherworldly and beautiful.

My New Mexico readers will also know a bit about Upham as that is where the New Mexico Spaceport is being built with taxpayers money.

By taking publicly accessible roads, we were able to get pretty gosh darn close to the construction site.

Here’s what it looks like (click photo for larger size):



The Spaceport website has quite a few construction photos as well. I was struck by the fantastically long tarmac, pure concrete rumored to be almost two miles long and three feet deep. How the heck they got that much water out there to create that much cement is absolutely beyond me.

The actual location of the Spaceport is quite a ways off the highway, almost an hour in the truck, and it’s a good thing my friend was familiar with the area. I would have been quite lost.

After ooh’ing and aah’ing along with cussing and discussing the merits (or lack of) of the spaceport, we headed up a long and somewhat winding trail to get to a certain spot my friend had in mind.

That’s when the ooh’ing and aah’ing really began.

This photo does no justice to the almost 180 degree sweeping view from Anthony to Truth or Consequences. It was absolutely breathtaking.

Other than the guy who lives in the small ranch at the top of the rise, and some Oryx hunters, I don’t imagine a lot of people have gotten the chance to see this amazing view.

It made me proud to be a New Mexican. This is who I am. This is where I come from.



(click for larger size)




All photographs by Karen Fayeth and subject to the creative commons license as seen in the far right column of this page.