Marie Spodek


Marie Spodek

Ten days after I graduated from Augustana College (1965), I was in Kashmir, India, in a houseboat...preparing to teach English as a second language at St. Xavier's College, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India. What a long ways from a one-room country school house in South Dakota. Less than a year later, I traveled from Bombay to Dar es Salaam on a third-class boat to visit with many of my students who had traveled from East Africa to Ahmedabad for their education...

In 2006, we headed to East Africa to visit my daughter in Uganda, the country I couldn't visit in 1966 because of a revolution/revolt/disturbance. That visit is chronicled in this blog.

Now, in 2012, Bill and I plan to share our quilting knowledge with a group of women affiliated with the Ahmedabad Women's Action Group (AWAG) organized by our good friend Dr. Ila Pathak. Additionally, we will be renewing friendships with others in Ahmedabad dating back to 1965! On the way home, we plan to visit my daughter and her family who live and work in Abu Dhabi.

So, we visited Abu Dhabi, and then in February, 2013, we visited a SERVAS friend, Deet Lewis, in Antigua, Guatemala.

We are now preparing our next adventure: bicycling through southern France, more or less following the Garonne River tow paths. We will be staying with SERVAS members during our biking trip....No guides, no agenda...just the two of us!

Europe » Italy » Liguria » Moneglia October 31st 2019

We managed to find a very very isolated place, on the side of a hill...price is right, Wifi is great, a functioning TV, VERY other guests, since it is now OFF season...The ride here was terrifying! We made the mistake of driving up from Moneglia, not down from the toll road. A very SCARY road! One and a half lanes and many twists and turns. It is really good that Bill is of the generation that learned to drive a stick shift, because that is what we have. We both think that they have made the gears mesh better, and if he stalls the engine, it restarts itself! After we arrived, we knew that we weren’t driving anywhere in the dark...and then realized that we had no wine, forgot to ask if the water is ... read more

Europe » Italy » Liguria » Deiva Marina October 31st 2019

Last week, we spent four nights with Joanne, a lovely and lively SERVAS host in a villa in Buonconvento, Tuscany. Her house has a stone date of 1731, but Joanne has found records of a “building” from at least a hundred years before....most likely a building for animals. Today, it is a traditional 2 story home that shares a courtyard with two other owners. A vintner occupies the largest home and she not only produces wine, but teaches cooking classes. The wine is GUASPARINO (Fattoria Resta) and we have to say that it was one of the BEST red wines we have ever tasted. She often gives a leftover from the cooking class half bottle to Joanne, who shared it with us. This is a second home for Joanne, who holds three passports: English (birth), Canadian ... read more

Europe » Italy » Emilia-Romagna » Rimini October 19th 2019

Are we RICH? In order to take a trip like this? We don’t consider ourselves rich, but we are grateful that we can afford to pay our credit card bill each month. For timely payments, Capitol One grants us options: points or cash back. We choose points. We saved until we had enough points to pay for both airline fares AND a rental car for three months. Through, we found a person to care for our dogs in exchange for a place to stay for three months. Through SERVAS, we meet people in their own environments. And when all else fails, we use to find a really cheap place to stay...we aim for under $50/night, and that often, but not always, includes breakfast. We carry a box of cereal, cheese, etc., and of course, ... read more

Europe » Italy » Lombardy » Cantu October 11th 2019

This morning, I am thinking about toilets…in Europe. They are all different, and more or less effective. Some years ago, when I was writing a book about designs for sustainability, I did some research on how toilet design was changing…and found a hilarious article about the necessity for a reliable product to use when testing flushing effectiveness, that is, without having to depend on volunteers off and on during the day. I think that the final product consisted of peanut butter, and other organic ingredients. At the time, manufacturers tested for volume as well as different consistencies…at some point, they even had a chart that I saw in one of the big box stores (some toilets were better than others re: volume or amount)…. I don’t believe this research has reached least not the countries ... read more

Europe » Switzerland » South-West » Versoix October 9th 2019

Some of you have wondered WHY this three month trip....well, in part, it is because Bill and I are not getting any younger!! That’s a fact. In particular, I was/am hoping to recapture some of the excitement and clarity-of-thought that we both remember from our year-long 1994 excursion. Until climbing the mountain, I wasn’t sure if we could accomplish that. However, while walking in weather-turning-to-snow, and being afraid because we might have taken the wrong path, I concentrated on putting one foot in front of another, in front of another, in front of another, and focused on NOT falling down the mountainside. I thought about not panicking, and not getting mad because I didn’t know what was coming up... I won’t kid you. There have been some moments in the last month when I have been ... read more

Europe » Switzerland » South-West » Versoix October 4th 2019

Well, this was an interesting SERVAS stay...when I emailed, I mentioned our two preferred nights, and they replied, well, come for one night, and we will see about the next...turns out that this young couple (with a three-year-old) had just joined SERVAS...apparently, the interviewer blabbed on and on about how great it was to get someone young and never really mentioned how it works. As in...the expected stay is for two nights. The host, not the traveller, can suggest additional nights. So we got out the SERVAS list from France and showed them that French very often indicate that one night is NOT OKAY. We explained that the first night is not really for visiting. One New Zealand host summed it up nicely as she turned us down, stating, “I am only here for one of ... read more

Europe » France » Alsace » Mulhouse October 1st 2019

Oh, my, oh, my, oh, my!!! We had NO idea that such a museum even existed...and so very glad that we went...although, since our host decided to accompany us, and this was his upteenth visit, maybe we went through too quickly, but we won’t go back... It is worth your while to click on the link to read more about the history:é_de_l%27Automobile Ultimately, the woolen fabric factory went under, but the owner never gave up his obsession with collecting cars...Today, Mulhouse has kept up the tradition...the cars are beautifully displayed and lovingly maintained. At some point, the workers were striking and they broke into the hidden part and discovered ALL these cars in various states of reconstruction...they burned one and stated, ”there are 600 more to burn.” Of course, they weren’t burned, but I think ... read more

Europe » France » Alsace » Mulhouse September 30th 2019

We visited METZ, because Bill’s great grandfather came from Metz. Apart from the B&B with no WiFi, it was a good visit. The cathedral was closed Sunday until 2 we found a place to eat and waited and WOW! What a treat...glad that we waited... Most cathedrals do canned music, but here we heard a REAL organ being was peaceful and beautiful...This cathedral has more stained glass than any in the world and it took about 300 years to complete...and somehow, it wasn’t damaged by the wars... So, that was worth it all... As some of you know from FB, I am always collecting photos of manhole covers and whatever else someone sticks in the ground. Here we did find several covers with Metz, but also a couple of cute little dragons...Apparently, pre-Christian, a ... read more

Europe » France » Alsace » Mulhouse September 30th 2019

Oh, my, we managed to stay in a B&B in Metz without an Internet connection...Yikes! How does that happen any more? And trying to send a real message on my phone is a nuisance...PLUS, it turns out that many people do NOT bother to look at their email...but they don’t give us cell phone numbers so that we can text... We stayed with a lovely couple just outside of a house a bit newer than ours (1882), but a lot more primitive...However, the outdoor toilet has been updated with a REAL FLUSH one...The one bedroom is on the first floor (and the other SERVAS couple, from Seattle got it because they arrived first), but the upstairs is equipped with about 10 beds (single & double) in a DORM...our host/hostess slept at one end, and we ... read more

Europe » France » Upper Normandy » Dieppe September 25th 2019

Today, I ran...on the London/Paris bike path...well, you know, my shuffle was just the right temperature and the 70% chance of rain held off until it POURED at exactly 10 am... Saw some really really gorgeous gardens along the bike path, still with some great looking veggies... We needed to update our cell phone coverage, so drove into the town...Bill executed a PERFECT park job, figured out how to pay for the parking space with his credit card (which we use ALL the time!) Found the telephone place and there was a “wonderfully proficient in English” person who explained everything perfectly...Then, it POURED...and we got soaked, because we really don’t want to buy yet another umbrella when we have so many back home! Want to mention the app Vivino... which we use back home to ... read more

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