Beach Town of Flic en Flac

One of the most well known vacation spots in Mauritius is the beach town of Flic en Flac. The pastel bungalows in the photos are its calling card.

Our hosts (Marcel and Marceline) rented a bungalow for two nights so that we could spend some time at the beach on the Indian Ocean. Chris, Champa and Rita, friends we met in Mauritius, also had a place at Flic en Flac. They provided an impromptu picnic on the beach for us while we were there! It was an afternoon of fun, delicious food and great conversation.

The beach is great, the water is warm enough that you don’t have to get used to it – you can go right in! We really enjoyed our time at Flic en Flac.

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An Invitation to Mauritius

Traveling is always an amazing opportunity to learn and grow. I like to travel – but I prefer travel with a purpose. Almost two years ago I visited Slovenia in order to present a paper at a conference – and to learn about Slovenia and Slovenians. This year I had the opportunity to travel in order to teach and to learn as well.

Recently, we visited the nation of Mauritius thanks to a generous invitation from our good friends, Marcel and Marceline, who live there. Where is Mauritius you might ask? Mauritius is east of Madagascar – the large island off the eastern coast of Africa. Go east of Madagascar to Mauritius – a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Traveling to Mauritius requires two very long plane rides. The first half of the trip is an eight-hour plane ride to Paris (or Amsterdam) and the second is a twelve hour flight to Mauritius.

Situated in the tropics, near the equator, Mauritius was just beginning its winter season when we were there – end of March, early April. Nevertheless, it was quite hot and humid by our standards – although this was relative. It was perceived as cooler by those who live there, compared to the even hotter summer temps.

Our hosts live in the area of Rose-Hill outside of Port Louis, the capital city. This is the northwestern area of the island. Breadfruit, sour sop (tastes like a passion fruit, a very large passion fruit!), bananas and more grew in the courtyard area of their house. In addition, Marceline created a beautiful container garden along the stairway up to their front door.

Picture1Picture2 Come along with me as we explore the country of Mauritius.

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Slice of Slovenia

A Slice of Slovenia

Slovenia was not a country I expected to visit, but thanks to a grant from Mary’s Pence I attended the international educators’ conference “To Teach is to Build” at the Biotechnical Center in Naklo, Slovenia in October. Educators participated from Austria, Italy, Germany, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain and the United States.

My paper entitled “Curriculum Development: Political, Subversive, Dangerous,” explored the social justice implications of designing school curricula. It also included fast, easy classroom exercises to help students develop more compassion and empathy. After submitting my paper, the conference organizer Professor Sandra Žvagen, invited me to be a plenary speaker and conduct a workshop. Meeting with other educators and attending their workshops taught me so much!

The Biotechnical Center is a holistic school that fosters curiosity and a safe space for over 600 students from various backgrounds – both rural and urban. Students can learn how to run a dairy farm in a way that is organic and cares for the environment. Other students focus on forest, wildlife and wild animal management. Many of the products students make such as cheeses, dairy products, produce, juices, local teas, floral arrangements and more, are for sale in their store and used in the school’s cafeteria.

Andreja Ah?in, principal of the Biotechnical Center with twenty years of education experience at the school, explained that she and her staff worked to design a curriculum that fosters a holistic integration of the student. This means integrating students’ values with their education and life work while understanding its impact on the environment and the community. This is the same reason I teach theology – to help students explore these fundamental questions; Who am I? What is my purpose? How will I make the world a better place?

My experience also included meeting with instructors and with students in the classroom. English class students were designing their own crossword puzzles, art students were using refurbished typewriters to create amazing pictures with meaningful words and other students were baking cakes and breads to use at school events.

Demonstrating their reputation for hospitality, school faculty drove us to the Lake Bled area in northern Slovenia near the Alps. We toured a green hotel, Garden Village, where all the landscaping was beautiful, edible and used in the hotel! Teachers Sandra Žvagen and Simona Zabukovec took me hiking in scenic southern Slovenia by the Adriatic Sea. Tina Križnar, who oversees adult education at the school, gave me a tour of the capital city of Ljubljana, existing since Roman times. Prior to working at the Biotechnical Center Tina was a tour guide for Russian and English speaking tourists so she knew well the city and its history.

The conference was an unexpected and amazing experience of another people, country and culture. Thank you, “hvala” in Slovenian, to the Biotechnical Center, conference participants and to Mary’s Pence for making it possible.

Welcome to Switzerland!

Part of what makes life fabulous is the opportunity to visit new people in new places. While I’ve been to Switzerland briefly in the past, I’ve never had the opportunity to stop and stay for awhile. This time I did. Staying for a longer time provides the opportunity to view life through the eyes of those living in Winterthur, just outside of Zurich.

Via my smart phone camera – you can join us!

Walk by the market area or town center

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Public transportation is easy and on time. For example, our friends met us at the airport and traveled with us on the local commuter train for the 10 minute trip into Winterthur.

Local streets cater to pedestrians and cyclists since not as many people drive cars. Pollution is low because traffic is light. Winterthur is quite walkable.

Look at these vintage shutters and ironwork – amazing, isn’t it?

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R. Meshar

R. Meshar

The water is crystal clear everywhere. Our host often fills her water bottle during the day at town fountains and assures us that it is pristine. It certainly looked clear – all the way to the bottom!

Next we’ve planned an excursion to a nearby a castle, complete with moat . . .

Christmas Present

CelebratingMyHome

These days Christmas for me is less about decorations and buying gifts and more about experiencing the beauty all around us and being with people I love and who love me. As I have moved more into experiencing Christmas, rather than doing the “tasks for Christmas” for others, the season has taken on a different shape. It’s starts earlier and lasts longer. It’s more enjoyable, peaceful and renewing.

This year for example, we participated in a “Biscotti Blitz” early in the month with a group of friends. We had fun making many flavors of biscotti – then passing them on to others, too, to enjoy. We saw a movie and went to the Jewish Community Theater and experienced a play about Hanukkah and racism. Dinner afterward gave space to discuss the ideas presented in the play and appreciate DH’s take on the performance.

Scattered throughout the season I have been going to Taizé. Taizé liturgy has songs styled in repetitive chant often with readings and candles. It is slow. There are long spaces of silence. The church is darkened. It restores my soul. At St. John Neumann, I can gaze out the large expanse of windows behind the altar and watch the snow covered evergreens, glistening in the night.

Christmas Eve brings midnight mass, Christmas music, readings and connecting with friends. Christmas day brings a relaxed late morning gathering with more friends for brunch.

Year end reminds me to give back since I have received so, so much. A candle is lit. Volunteer projects are considered, donations are made. I have enjoyed the practice of tithing for many years now. It keeps me focused on how over privileged I am and how much of what I have rightfully belongs to others.

New Year’s Eve takes us to another group of friends gathering together. Taize continues well into January. Liturgically, the season of Christmas begins Christmas Eve and lasts until the Feast of the Baptism of Christ in January. So much time to celebrate.

And so it goes. What was one day in my life is now expanded to embrace an entire season. Relaxed. Not too much fuss. Space for long walks in the snow, discussion, candle lights and reading by the fireplace.

Photo: GetGreen365.com

Birch logs or scented evergreen boughs and candles complete my decorating. Christmas Present – for me – means being present.

Whatever your tradition, happy holidays to all of you on the other side of this screen. May you receive peace, health and joy in the year to come.

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