November 7, 2012

I'm Proud of My Country

Wasn't yesterday amazing?!!!

Americans turned out in huge numbers. They politely, peacefully, and respectfully fullfilled their responsibility to this country.

Some voted their hearts. Some voted their indoctrinations. And some voted their pocketbooks.

But they voted. All across this beautiful land, for offices large and small. For issues that will shape our country's future forever. For issues that were important only to them and their neighbors.

I just finished watching some of President Obama's acceptance speech and some of Mitt Romney's concession speech. What gentleman they both are!

Now it is time to support our President and work together as a country to solve our big and our small problems.

Democrats, your work isn't finished. Your President doesn't belong just to you. He belongs to the entire country. He wants to do the best job he can. And he can do that job best if he is allowed to serve the entire country by governing from a rational middle ground.

Support him. Don't ask him to do things that hurt the country as a whole in order to make a partisan point.

Republicans, your guy lost. But he fought honorably. he lost the popular vote as well as the electorial vote. Take a lesson from this loss. It is in your very best interests to help our country continue to improve for everyone who calls it home. Don't join the dividers and obstructionists.

Encourage your representatives in Washington to reach out to President Obama to work together. Now that he no longer has to focus on securing his base he can stop running for office and focus on serving his country. What he deserves now is the chance to secure his legacy. Help him do that.

Help him become an Abraham Lincoln, a Teddy Roosevelt, or a Harry Truman.

Help him become the best Barack Obama he can.

We will all be better off.

June 6, 2011

A New, Young Country in the Age of Technology

There is a country on this globe that has been in control of its own destiny for a mere two decades. Yet …

It has the highest GDP of any other country in its region. It is listed as a High-Income Economy by the World Bank. The United Nations lists it as “Very High” on the Human Development Index. It is also ranked highly for press freedom, economic freedom, democracy, and political freedom. On the State of World Liberty Index, this country ranks 1st out of 159 countries.

This country is a democratic parliamentary republic. It identifies itself as a “non-welfare-state” with a flat income tax rate of 22% that is paid by both worker and company. With no “exemptions” to be calculated, this country collects income tax fully as the income to which it is applied is earned. No need for a tax industry.

This country has the lowest ratio of government debt to GDP among all EU countries. It has a mandatory balanced budget, almost non-existent public debt, free trade regime, and competitive commercial banking.

Its government operation is based on technology with everything from national elections to the payment of taxes being handled by e-services. The ratio of government bureaucratic employees to citizens is the lowest in the EU.

This country supplies more than 90% of its own electrical needs and locally mines its own oil shale, making it nearly 100% energy independent.

It has a 99.80 percent literacy rate among young people aged 15-24. It has less than a 2% high school dropout rate. Post-secondary students who choose to pursue a trade or technical education are as respected and valued as those who choose traditional university.

The biggest challenge this country faces in its breathtaking charge forward is a pressure to rapidly upgrade its post-soviet era health care systems. They have chosen to keep control of health care in the public sector in order to continue to focus on inner efficiencies. They have a comprehensive plan with a 2015 goal line.

If the young new United States of the late 1700s had access to technology of the early 21st century, it would have looked like this country – the fiercely can-do spirit is the same for both.

Even as this new young country is emulating all of the principles that made the United States great, the United States is now sadly, and rapidly emulating the bureaucratically stifling policies that are destroying the economies of its socialistic western European neighbors.

I didn't know anything about this country before I closed my eyes, stuck a pin in the map, and chose it as our vacation destination for this summer. A big part of our yearly trip planning is the research and discovery before we ever leave home.

Thanks to their technological advancement, I won't have any trouble finding wifi hotspots. So I'll be reporting in on our in-country impressions as we travel around the country.

As the United States of America slides further into mediocrity, it might be a good idea to check out the immigration rules for Estonia.

estonian%20flag.jpg

June 4, 2011

How We Choose Our Holiday Destinations

Even more than when we chose to visit Montenegro a few years ago, we are getting the question "Really? Why there?" Followed by the question "Where the heck is Estonia?" Followed by mostly blank stares.

Estonia1.JPG


The answers to the "Why there" question are pretty much the same for every trip we plan.

First is time. We don't believe that it is worth our time or money to plan a trip to another country if we can't devote a minimum of three weeks - preferable four - to that visit. Your first week is spent overcoming jet lag and acclimating to a slower, schedule-free pace. You devote most of a second week to the must-sees & must-dos. It's in the two 'bonus' weeks that you will have the opportunity to become more of a traveler than a tourist. You will begin to discover what is unique about the personality of a country and its people. You will make new friends and learn new ways of looking at life. Estonia appears to be a country that will teach us much about life and will easily hold our interest for a month.

Second are seasonal concerns. Because I still work as a community relations manager for a Barnes & Noble store, my busy seasons follow the school year calendars of my public school customers. I can't be gone for long periods of time at the end of spring when they are all spending the last of their book budgets to wrap up the fiscal year. I can't be gone at the end of summer when they are gearing up for the coming school year. And, except for a week or two in January, I can't be gone for more than a long weekend the rest of the year because of school fund raising events. This leaves us with a block of time from roughly mid-June to mid-July, making climate an overriding consideration in destination. Mid-summer in Estonia looks to be glorious. And given the northern latitude of the country, they cram much of their festivities into the short season of light and warmth. We love to experience local festivals and cultural celebrations.

Third and most important is ignorance. The more ignorant we are about a potential country, the more we must learn to make a trip successful, the more fun the education is.

Who knows? Maybe in a previous life, I was an adventurer. Perhaps I traveled with those brave explorers who sailed their ships to the edge of the known world. Perhaps I accompanied Lewis & Clark across North America. I just know that "to boldly go", is the way to go.

If I am unable to find a DK, Forder's, or Frommer's guide book devoted entirely to the country on my radar that makes me happy. If the only books I can find written about the country are in its own language that makes me happy. I spent hours and hours of research trying to find a cottage to rent for the week we are going to be in a non-touristed area of southeast Estonia. I griped and complained the entire time. I loved it.

The curse in this world of Google & wikipedia, is (although easy to discover information) how much harder it is to come by that feeling of being a discoverer. And at the same time, the blessing is in the gems of information you learn about the destination of your choice. Information that sends you down delightful paths and to corners of a country you won't read about in guidebooks or on the country's tourist information website.

Six months ago, the only things we knew about Estonia were their love of choral music and the famous "Singing Revolution"; its capital city, Tallinn, is on the Baltic sea just a stones throw from Helsinki & St. Petersburg; and those three cities are (sadly in our minds) hit-and-run Baltic sea cruise ship stops.

tallin-estonia.jpg


A few years ago, we came very close to planning a trip that would have included time in each of those three cities before heading north to Lapland. (I still need to visit the land or reindeer some day.) We opted for Galicia instead and discovered horreos and precebes.

So here we are, six months into our trip planning for Estonia. Travel is booked. Apartments and cottages are rented. Rental car is hired. IDPs renewed. Contacts have been made with new friends. Friends we will meet and break bread with for the first time as guests of their beautiful country.

Let the discoveries begin.

January 2, 2011

Gifts For Friends in Other Countries

A very sweet & thoughtful friend in Switzerland learned that a friend of hers (from France) was coming to St. Louis for a steel guitar convention.

She asked him to bring me a small gift. So he & his wife travelled to Switzerland, picked up my gift, carefully packed it in their luggage, and brought it with them to St. Louis.

When they arrived, they called to asked me to meet them during one of the breaks in their convention.

So, I drove the 45 minutes from SW County to their hotel downtown; paid the parking attendant $10 to ignore my car was in a loading zone for 20 minutes; and visited with them for a few minutes before bringing the bag holding my gift home.

When I got home, I opened the bag to discover two gift boxes of Lindt Chocolates. One was Batons Kirsch Kirschstengeli -32 pieces. The other was Lindor - 20 pieces.

So very sweet of her to think of me. And so sweet of her to want to send me a representative product of her country. These are the same candies she brought with her when she visited a few years ago.

I didn't tell her then, and I won't tell her now, that Lindt is a very commonly available chocolate brand all over the US. That I can walk into any number of stores and buy the very same chocolates - for a fraction of the total cost of getting those two boxes to me.

So why am I writing what sounds like a very ungrateful, even snarkey, note about this?

Because, it holds a mirror up for me to view my own gift giving habits when I travel. The gifts I take to friends in other countries are harder to decide on than when we first started travelling. Back then, in Italy for example, you couldn't get some of our most common products in the local markets - peanut butter, for example. Now, it's hard to imagine anything you can't find in a Coop. And what you can't get in the local market, you can order on the internet.

January 1, 2011

Falling-away Blogger

If blogging is a religion, then I'm a falling-away blogger. Never mind daily -- I've stopped going to blog mass entirely. I don't seem to be able even to hit the high holy days any longer. Haven't posted since August 31st, 2010!

My excuse is the cooking project I'm involved in right now - Pomodori e Vino. But the truth is, I'm only responsible for one post a week, so it really isn't a valid excuse, is it?

I bet there are thousands of bloggers out there who, like me have let their blogs languish. And I bet that today there is a flurry of dormant blogs being dusted off with a New Year's resolution post just like this one.

I resolve to start posting again. Although, I'm making no promises that this will last any longer than a hungover frat boy's remorse.

Deborah & Dan

About Me

Adventure addict. Animal lover. Book reader and bookseller. Untrained cook. Bootlegger. SlowTraveller. Wife. Mother. Grandmother. Poor speller.

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