Friday, June 29, 2007

A Fortunate Day

How lucky we are, I think to myself last night when my husband returns home from Kenyan...and I'm driving home to meet him in my air-conditioned car. I'm thinking about the African country he just returned from and my travels through South Africa, Ethiopia, and Senegal to name a few. These pictures are of a clinic I visited a few years back in Dakar, Senegal -- the women waited patiently for vaccinations for their children. It was a sweltering, hot day but they were dressed beautifully, intricate turbans wrapped their smiling faces. They were not only willing to have their pictures taken -- some begged me to do so. I walked away thinking about my daughter, our easy rides to the doctor's office for shots and how fortunate we are, indeed.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Kenyan goodies

My husband is back safe and sound from Nairobi. He just spent ten days in Kenya for work -- but managed to squeeze in some of the local markets and shopping scene. I anticipate his arrival for many emotional reasons but there is a certain element of breathless anticipation to see what treasures he found this time. He did not disappoint. An intricate beaded necklace and warrior carvings for me....a colorful blue, green, yellow and red piece of woven material. Animal carvings for my daughter of zebras, giraffes, an elephant and an ostrich. I can come closer to Kenya through these items, each picked out with loving care. I am already envisioning the perfect place for my fabric (I'm a bit of a textile junkie!). Thank you sweetheart and welcome home!

In Search Of....

I'm always in search of the perfect travel gadget or accessory. I have the Bose sound-proofing head phones (love 'em), a warm light purple cashmere throw (I'm always cold on overseas flights) and lotions and potions in pint size containers stuffed into my travel bag. I also just bought a beautiful travel add to my collection, that it. Today, I found a website which seems to have my name written all over it. ( sells nifty gadgets, wallets and such....and even in-flight music CDS. Bon voyage!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Vanity Fair on Africa

If you haven't had a chance to pick up the latest copy of Vanity Fair run out and get it now! I'm a regular subscriber...I can't resist reading Dominick Dunne's hilarious take on high society but I also find the journalism to be rather good. You'll find stories here about Kosovo, Africa, Asia and elsewhere that you won't find elsewhere. I'm fascinated by this month's issue devoted to Africa and edited by Bono. It features a picture of the Prez and Desmond Tutu on the cover and is filled with articles written by notable African journalists and Hollywood types, including Madonna. Last night, given my husband's trip to Africa, I read about Kenya and the explosion in small trading, the grey market and kiosks. It's what has kept the country moving forward despite corruption and political intrigue. Somalian markets like this one my husband visited are plentiful. Can't wait to see what he found!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Kenyan adventure

It's been a few days since I've posted...exhaustion has set in. I wish I could say that I have life under control but with my husband overseas, I'm frankly a bit frazzled. While I was putting in some office time this weekend, he was looking at this view. I can't begrudge him that. He's in Kenya and I am jealous of this truly African beach with a man and camel in tow.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Italian Wedding

It was just four years ago today that I walked down the aisle -- or as my husband likes to say “what aisle?” We were married by a Communist-leaning Italian mayor on a green, lush lawn at a beautiful stone villa looking out over the Tuscan valley. It was a magical week with an amber sun that seemed to shine on us. The wine, olives, proscuitto and melt-in-your mouth mozzarella were abundant. Today, we are celebrating in a reflection of the way we conduct our lives doing international work – my husband is in Nairobi and I’m here in Washington, D.C. We’ll toast each other from afar. So, happy anniversary, dearest husband! It's been a wonderful four years.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thailand's Finest

Okay, I must admit it. I’m a bit of a massage snob. I’ve been spoiled, you see. Several times when traveling through Southeast Asia for work, I’ve gotten up early in the morning or squeezed in an hour late at night to get a Thai massage. On vacation in Thailand six years back, my friend and I also indulged in every opportunity -- at the Thai massage school at Wat Pho in Bangkok, the oldest and largest religious temple in the waterfront resort where we stayed on Ko Lanta (our splurge!) Chiang Mai in between bargaining at the night market... and even at a few places near Angor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia. While I’m always happy with a standard Swedish massage, there is something more physical and fulfilling about a Thai massage given by an experienced masseuse. The pulling and stretching always leaves me feeling on top of this world. My husband jokes that I can find a spa no matter where in the world I’m traveling – and this is partially true. But what better way to truly experience a culture? I feel a bit more Thai because of it!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Christmas in Chiang Mai

It was Christmas Day. I guess I should have been back in the U.S. opening gifts close to a Douglass fir, with the sounds of White Christmas on the stereo and fluffy flakes falling quietly outside. But that prospect had me depressed a few years back (before I met my husband). That’s how I ended up at Chiang Mai at cooking school feasting on yellow curry chicken and bananas with coconut milk that December 25th. One of my best girlfriends and I decided the previous August that we just couldn’t take another Christmas at home with the ‘rents and so we decided that a Thai/Cambodian adventure was in order. And if we were going all that way, we had to learn how to cook up some better Thai treats. Seven courses late that Christmas day, we had succeeded in putting the finishing touches on fish wrapped in banana leaves and pork with wide noodles, comprised of fresh vegetables and noodles that we had shopped for earlier that day with an instructor. (Did you know that the shape of cashew you pick out is important?). To this day, it remains one of my fondest memories of a Christmas holiday.
Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School:

Friday, June 15, 2007

Thai antiques and more

I was scrambling around last night after work trying to find the brochure for this amazing -- and I mean amazing -- house and antique "store" I visited on my last trip to Bangkok -- the Amantee. A work colleague, Suzanne, (a very hip, 50-something who has lived overseas most of her adult life, wears great platform shoes and hangs out with various Czech artists and such) took me there. Because she knows the owner, and has invested a fair amount in Asian antiques of every size and shape, we were invited to lunch. This was a typical Thai-style house -- peaked roofs, no walls, incredible, lush vegetation. We were served a simple but tasty lunch of fish and noodles, rich with Asian spices, by her cook. We spent most of that Saturday afternoon browsing through rows of antique day beds, bureaus and assorted other furniture that I lusted after. A work colleague and I pondered whether we could split a shipping crate and get them home. We ultimately decided not to but it's just as well -- now I HAVE to go back.
Have a look: if you are visiting Bangkok or just doing some armchair traveling.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Children of the World

Last night, I went back and looked at some pictures from my last trip to Thailand....and was struck by many of the children that I encountered. I've visited schools, AIDS clinics and hospitals during my travels for work -- and it's always the children that I remember most. In Bangkok, I went to a school run by the Jesuits that educates and cares for children who either have AIDS or are living with someone who does. In some cases, their parents had alreay died and they were living in tiny beds lined up by the dozen on the 2nd and 3rd floors. So, today I am thinking about many of them. The question is, really, how to help? Then by chance, I got an interesting e-mail from Daily Candy about a bag you can purchase, proceeds from which will feed a child for one school year. I encourage you to check it out: (Search: Feed Bag) It's a very small step but one worth considering.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Northern Thailand -- Spa Treat

I have a holiday weekend in Thailand. I'm filled with anticipation about my long weekend. My husband has graciously agreed for me to take an extra day since I've traveled all of this way. I've been to the beaches on the coast. I've been to Chiang Mai. I've stayed in Bangkok. So late Friday afternoon I fly up to Chiang Rai, the northern traingle which borders Burma and Laos. It's not just any hotel where I'll be staying as I've done my research again. I've decided to stay at my ideal hotel/spa location -- the Anatara.

It does not disappoint nor does my trip on a long boat on the river under a blazing sun past a large golden Buddha, stopping for hot tea at a local tea house. I indulge in a 3-hour long spa treatment which starts with a foot bath overlooking the river and ends with a nice late afternoon rain shower as I'm engulfed in my fluffy spa robe.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Weekend Market -- Bangkok

Yesterday, I got to reminiscing about the Four Seasons Hotel in Bangkok. But I can’t help but think about this great city without thinking about the weekend market. It’s one of the most intense shopping experiences I’ve had in my life – stalls packed with literally everything under the sun. You can purchase live animals here. You can purchase flip flops for about $1. I’ve also salivated over glazed dishes, purchased an entire set of silverware and bought a great pair of Puma knock off running shoes for $3. My saving grace has been a map prepared a few years back by Nancy Chandler ( which breaks down the market by sections. It’s a must if you plan to go! Take the subway there early and then take a cab back after you’ve exhausted yourself…preferably to a cool drink waiting at the Four Seasons.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Did Someone Say Bangkok?

A colleague at work today mentioned he might get to go to Bangkok in September. Oh, please take me along I thought! I can't help but think of one of my favorite hotels -- the Four Seasons. I've been there a few times and it is simply magical. The service is impeccable, the decor is breathtaking and Asian hospitality cannot be matched. But my favorite memory is of the night I arrived late after a hail and lightning storm eliminated the runway lights at the Chaing Rai airport -- but that is another story. This is a hotel where they greet return guests at the door by name. So when I arrived at about 2 a.m. and was escorted to this palatial suite outfitted in cool white leathers and dark ebony marbles, I was, well, ecstatic. But, oh, so sad. I only had 4 hours until I had to leave for the airport for my flight back to the U.S. Nevertheless, I took a long, leisurely shower in the glass shower complete with "rain forest" shower head, lounged in the fluffy, white robe on the down comforter and then walked cooly through the living room several times before falling into bed after 3 a.m.


The Four Seasons, Bangkok:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A Small Fix for the Shopping Bug

I have a terrible habit. Shopping. Not the kind done in U.S. malls on weekends. I'm talking shopping during my travels overseas (particularly for textiles). I have fabrics from Senegal, wall hangings and pillows from East Timor, silk pillow covers from Thailand and Cambodia, hand-woven baskets from Lesotho and necklaces from just about everywhere I've ever visited. I always take an extra bag along that is brimming full by the end of my trips. The weekend market in Bangkok has certainly gotten an economic boost from my travels. But now I've discovered armchair shopping on two great websites (both with stores in Washington, D.C.) which are focused on fair trade goods. which is affiliated with National Geographic and StoreFront which is operated by the IFC. It's not a complete substitute by any means for my market bargaining and feeling of bliss when I find the perfect bowl or fabric, but it sure is nice on a rainy Sunday in June.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

And Another Perfect Day

Thinking about that lazy, perfect Sunday afternoon in South Africa also got me thinking about other perfect days I've had in the past few months. What can be better than a deserted Mexican beach in March -- while snow flakes are swirling around the U.S.? Even better if it's early in the morning and there is no one else in sight on the beach? Ah, Tulum...yes, fond memories of this place as well. Cold beers...fresh guacamole...and yes, there was a late afternoon spa treatment involved that featured fresh chunks of aloe and a honey/sand scrub all undertaken at an outdoor spa on the edge of the ocean. Yes, that was a perfect day.

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Perfect Afternoon

It's a lazy Sunday afternoon. We enjoy a bottle of chilled white wine overlooking the valley on an expansive rolling lawn, dotted by vineyards below. After the bottle is finished, we move onto the terrace for a lovely brunch. Then back to the lawn for more wine and finally coffee. Now the sun is going down and most of the restaurant guests have left. It's our paradise of fading sunlight and a slight wine buzz. It's just me, my friend and his girlfriend and the restaurant owners and their parents who are visiting from London with all of their children frolicking on the lawn. Did I mention we're on a hillside overlooking Franschhoek? Such a perfect afternoon.

And While I'm Thinking About South Africa

A few months back I had the chance to visit South Africa -- 5 days of conference drudgery in a drab Jo'burg hotel was completely forgotten after my weekend visit to Franschhoek. It started with a quick flight down to Cape Town and then a 45 minute, breathtaking drive through wine country. Around every turn was a sweeping golden valley framed by blue sky. I arrived at my host's beautiful guest house complete with swimming pool and mountain views and was whisked off to lunch at Reuben's, a restaurant with a lovely garden setting which of course, offers up delightful local wines. Later that night, we sat out on my friend's patio with a few friends doing more eating and drinking. I was so taken by the unspoiled nature of the place -- despite the American real estate agents who moved there from NYC a few years back -- that I came home armed with brochures for my husband...convinced we must buy a place there. Nothing's happened yet...but we are definitely going back this winter.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Ode to Africa

I just got a wonderful African tale of adventure from my friend, Jo, today. It deserves a week of postings...but I'll try to give you some highlights. You see Jo headed into the "bush" -- he's rather famous for these adventures after his trip through Burma a few years back in a small boat he had constructed and sent to Southeast Asia. There were accusions of spying, Burmese generals greeted him along the was like the travel tales of ol'. But, I digress. Now our friend, Jo, lives in picturesque South African wine country just north of Stellenbosch where I visited last November and seriously considered buying property. (I'll definitely write more about this later). But, now Jo and his girlfriend, Sami, have just completed a trip throughout South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe in a vehicle they called the to follow.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Truffles Anyone?

Okay, well I'm the U.S., that is. You can see that there has been a hiatus in my posts due to my odyssey back via Frankfurt (I detest that airport) and a one-hour wait on the JFK runway. I've had reverse culture shock. I admit it. I miss my strong daily coffee and the occasional Nescafe with hot, whipped milk. I miss my hot cherry pastry, the extra flaky kind. I miss the sound of trams and the ease of walking Zagreb's streets from meeting to meeting. Don't get me wrong about my life here but I am determined to find a little of Croatia in the U.S. So far, my efforts have been rather unproductive. The on-line wine seller of Plavac I found through Food and Wine does not ship to where I live. You actually have to pick them California!! The on-line seller of Dalmatian products only turns out to have olive oil and one type of jam. Regardless, I have my truffle oil and a precious truffle purchased in Motovun. This weekend, I am making pasta with truffle oil and will have to substitute a fine Italian wine. Seems the New York Times had something to say about this a few weeks back.
The British are invading the land of truffles. Oh my! Check it out: