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 » France » Aquitaine » Bordeaux December 10th 2019

From Barcelona, we drove through snow, staying halfway between Barcelona and Bordeaux at the cheapest place we could find for which we could pay online, which was a high school/hostel, and finally fell into the embrace of our wonderful friends in Bordeaux, who had a business phone that could call anywhere in the world. I spent nearly an hour on hold with Delta (not Air France through whom we had purchased the tickets). The US/Delta ticket agent was GREAT...his brother had recently been robbed in Rome, apparently with physical issues, so he was sympathetic and he found us fares that did NOT include the $300 per ticket change fees. The cheapest hotel (80 euros for one bed, toilets and showers down the hall) we could find was near DeGaulle airport, so far, so good, as long ... read more

Europe » Spain » Catalonia » Barcelona December 10th 2019

November 11...somehow we were able to reach Visa, and Capital One, and my daughter, who then wired us $500, and we went to a tapas bar for dinner. Capital One stonewalled us totally, but ultimately promising to overnight a new credit card, which they did. The new card was virtually useless inasmuch as it did not have a CHIP...all cards in Europe have one, BUT no one swipes, and NO ONE manually enters the numbers. The hotel patiently did try, and we were able to add one more night. Capital One said that to send us a fully functional chip card would take 10-20 days to reach Spain. Are you kidding us???? We replaced the French Simm card with our Verizon card to call can just imagine how much that added up!!! So we ... read more

Europe » Spain » Catalonia » Barcelona December 10th 2019

As some of you are aware, we were robbed...on a toll road north of Barcelona....very cleverly done. We had stopped at a service area and we were probably identified as tourists because we spoke English. We got back into our car, Bill removed his wallet from his hip pocket and I slid the toll ticket into it, laying it on the console between us. A car pulled up beside us, flashing lights, and the driver gestured to the rear of our car and indicated that something was wrong, and we should pull over...which we did. He LEAPED out of his car, and got us to look up under the fender of the passenger back tire. Apparently, during this ruckus, his accomplice entered our car via the driver side, took Bill’s wallet, my purse, and the day ... read more

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

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