Sunday Reads

I haven't written about my reading goals for 2019. I'm keeping my goal very modest this year indeed. I only have 20 books as my target and I'm already behind, lol. I'll likely catch up and read more than the goal but keeping the goal on the lower end gives me permission to do other things.


I've completed three books to date and I highly recommend them all.





In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant--and that her lover is married--she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son's powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.




Hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley share their intimate experiences with patients at the end of life, drawn from more than twenty years’ experience tending the terminally ill. 


 

Shadows Over an African Heart describes how a few dedicated professionals take on a corrupt government, a ruthless band of poachers and other opportunists to save Zimbabwe's elephants. These noble beasts are being abused in cruel tourist ride training centers; while elsewhere small calves are being ripped from their mothers in the bush and shipped to lives of solitude and neglect in Chinese zoos; and in Hwange National Park, entire herds of elephants are mysteriously dropping dead. It's up to the newly appointed ZimParks superintendent, Hector Kaminjolo, his rangers and environmentalists Piet and Jessica van Rooyen, to band together to put a stop to these cruel practices, investigate the slaughter, locate the perpetrators and bring them to justice in 2013 Zimbabwe, where greed and corruption fuels the quest for ivory. This novel is a sequel to the author's other popular novel, Shadows along the Zambezi, set in 2001.


I'm currently reading all the books below and will soon finish several of them.

I'm always interested in early history and how people moved goods over long distances.

A rags to riches story of one of Kenya's most successful & philanthropic businessmen.

One woman's story about how she developed urban gardens in unlikely places.
 
Written by an American missionary to Kenya.

Tell me what you're reading and whether you recommend any books for me to add to my list.


Update

Thank you everyone for your comments, thoughts, prayers and questions. This post will update on the recent information I shared here.

I made the journey from Vancouver to Grande Prairie, Alberta to attend the funeral of my cousin's son who was pallbearer at my late mother's funeral almost 2 years ago. He had been in hospital since around Christmas after finishing chemotherapy and radiation and passed away on March 8th, 2019 at the age of 46 years of age.

There were a great many people at the funeral and his work mates and friends were a big part of the funeral services which was nice.  I was able to visit briefly with so many relatives most of whom had travelled from various places in the northern parts of British Columbia and Alberta.

It took about 17 hours by car to drive to Grande Prairie from Vancouver (see the map for the route north which I'v marked in black ink).  My brother and I left last Thursday evening about 9 p.m. We arrived at our destination at approximately 2 p.m. the next day.  We lost an hour due to the time change. After the funeral, reception and cemetery service we drove about 5 hours southeast to Edmonton where we spent three days resting and visiting with one of our cousins.

While in Edmonton we found out an uncle is now suffering from dementia & has recently been admitted to a long term care facility.  We went to find him and had a lovely visit.  I  was surprised to find him very cheerful and talkative. I'm grateful we had such a nice visit as we do not know if we will have a chance to see him again before the inevitable occurs. His memory was fairly good while we were present.  He even remembered just how long he was in the facility (3 days) and that he'd been transferred from another institution.  The next day we were invited by another cousin to visit for a barbecue dinner. We actually saw him at the funeral but he is now home for the next half a year since work breaks up every year in Spring and recommences in the Fall.  After dinner and a brief visit with his family, we started the long 13 hour return journey home leaving at 7 p.m. and arriving home at 7 a.m. (8 a.m. in Alberta).

The black line on the map below shows our journey to Grande Prairie. The blue line shows our side journey to Edmonton and the portion back home to Vancouver. Most of the photos were taken through the car window so they are not the best.  But they will give you some idea of the geography and weather during the trip.  You can click on any photo to enlarge.


A photo taken as we pass through Jasper National Park.

Signage as we take short cut to Grande Prairie through Grande Cache.

Some stretches of the road you can see miles ahead and it's flat.

Then you come to this view of the mountains.

It was early morning through here between 6-7 a.m.



On the outskirts of Grande Prairie the land flattens and you find a lot of this kind of equipment since it's oil and farming country.

Entering the City of Grande Prairie. In my view it isn't a very pretty city but has had tremendous growth over the last few decades.

A rather nice looking college and city library.

 ~~~~

While we were in the north the weather warmed up considerably. 
When we got back to Vancouver the weather was even warmer with near summer temperatures.
However the forecast for the next while is a bit of rain. 
I need to get out in the garden as this year I have an allotment in addition to my balcony garden which means twice the work for me.  Hopefully I'll be able to grow a lot of vegetables to eat over the summer.

 
Now that I'm home again I'm also hoping to resume my travel photos from my recent travels to Paris and Nairobi. 
I may also do one more post from my most recent trip to share a few more photos of the area.
Joining in with Skywatch Friday

and

wishing you all a wonderful weekend.

Blogging Interrupted

πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™ Hi everyone, I lost my cousin Vince to cancer last night. He fought a good fight. May he #RIP and may his family be comforted. He stared death in the face and chose to go out in a positive way. He was an inspiration to many and to those who cared for him in hospital too. May we all be as brave and as gracious when our time comes. Vince's dad just passed a few months earlier of the same cancer. Praying for his mom and brother left behind and for the funeral arrangements and the people who will travel on winter roads to attend funeral services.πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™


πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™ Also praying for my friend Eunice currently battling for her life in Kenyan hospital. She has been ill for a number of years and was starting to show encouraging improvements. Recently she fell off boda boda (motorcycle taxi) and her health has been incredibly set back. Undergoing MRI and then we wait and see. Kindly pray for all needs to be met, wisdom for caregivers and healing of the body and strength for her family. πŸ™πŸ™πŸ™




I will resume blogging at the right time. 

Thank you for your understanding.

A Tourist goes to Versailles Palace

I wondered whether it would be cold in Paris in January and whether the cold might hinder my tourist plans.
Before leaving I googled the weather trends in Paris and learned that the expected temperatures were not so cold. In fact, the temperatures were even a few degrees warmer than where I live. Nonetheless one can never be too sure and I wanted to make sure to be warm enough without packing a lot of heavy clothing. In the end I packed some walking shoes which I wore on the plane, some socks, a few long sleeved pullovers, a few pair of trousers, hat, gloves, scarf and a medium weight jacket with hood.  It was just what I needed for the weather we experienced and in the end I didn't wear all the tops I took with me. In my last post here, I mentioned that the hotel I booked was across the street from a laundromat and I made sure to do laundry the day before travelling to Kenya. That way everything in the suitcase would be fresh even though I didn't plan on wearing the same things while in Kenya.

We weren't going to be in Paris long and we quickly determined that we also wanted to take at least one day for a day trip outside of Paris. I suggested Versailles Palace and my nephew was in agreement. He researched the metro and train route and off we went. The fare was much less than taking an escorted tour to Versailles. We also booked our tickets on line. My nephew did all that and all I had to do was tag along. Thank goodness for millennials who operate on smart phones so easily and seemingly with no issues. Whenever I try to do the same it seems like I hit a technical stumbling block of one kind or another no matter how hard I try.

The trip to Versailles was very straightforward. The hard part for me was going up and down stairs at the various stations. In some places one has to go down several levels. This was very difficult for me and I had to really take my time due to my knee issues. Fortunately I had the foresight to take my accelerator walking poles with me and I made sure to take them to Versailles. I had no way of knowing just how much walking I was going to do on the palace grounds and just how useful my poles would become.

It was a drizzling, overcast day the day we travelled to Versailles but we were both excited nonetheless. I was also pleased that we had found our way on the transit system with ease and there were no mishaps along the way. I didn't take any photos during our journey as my hands were full.  The metro and trains were also very full and I didn't want any issues with theft while on the public transit. Unfortunately I was also feeling rather poorly that day and very tired though I had a full night's sleep.  I thought it was jet-lag. I didn't realize until much later that I somehow contracted a very bad cold and flu which would be with me for more than half of my journey abroad.

Reaching Versailles by train is the cheapest option. From Paris, the total cost of a round trip to Versailles is 7,1€ per person all included. The mΓ©tro and RER have common ticketing. Just go to your nearest mΓ©tro station, and buy your tickets to Versailles-ChΓ’teau – Rive Gauche. In fact when we purchased our tickets there were a few options. One could purchase from a ticket agent (with added bonus of being able to ask questions first) or purchase from a machine. I remember that the agent gave us a different stop (I cannot recall the name) to the one I gave above (picked from a website). When we got off at the stop we were across the street from a few coffee shops and we stopped to get our first cup at the Starbucks, the well known American coffee outlet. We then had to walk about 10 minutes (perhaps less) at a leisurely pace to get to the parking lot beyond which is the entrance of the palace.

As you approach the parking lot you can see the palace beyond it.  The tower in the middle which is draped with some kind of printed, beautiful covering is where the Royal Chapel is located. It is undergoing some much needed renovations to the roof and other areas.


The Palace of Versailles was declared the official royal residence in 1682 and the official residence of the court of France on May 6, 1682.  It was abandoned after the death of Louis XIV in 1715, however in 1722 it was returned to its status as royal residence.  The palace is one of the most visited historic sites in the world and receives over 10 millions visitors per year.

Land costs around $5,000 (£4k) per square meter in the town of Versailles, so the value of the palace's land alone is $40.7 billion (£33.39bn). The building itself and contents are likely to worth another $10 billion (£8.2bn), so Versailles could in all likelihood be valued at $50.7 billion (£41.59bn). (FAQ Versailles Palace 2016. References are in American dollars and British Pounds).


My nephew doesn't like his picture taken (nor do I like mine taken) but I managed to capture a few for his memory book including this one of him in the parking lot.

The photo below was taken as we walked up to the gate of the Palace. We were supposed to enter on Side A which turned out to be on the left side as we entered the main gate. Many others were lined up at Gate B. If I recall correctly this was the line for the people who signed up for guided tours. Our admission included audio guides. Security check was straightforward and I was let through with my walking poles with no questions asked. However as I made my way through the palace I was stopped more than once by various security officials and questioned about my poles. Thankfully they didn't raise a fuss when they realized I needed them for walking.

  


There is no way I can do justice to describing the palace and everything in it. I will simply show you the splendour through the photographs and some of the details that caught our eyes as we made our way through the palace. There is just so much to look at. I was mainly interested in the private areas of the palace, that is where the King would sleep or do his work and I will try to highlight those areas when I get to them (hopefully I will remember them).  Overall my nephew and I both thoroughly enjoyed seeing the grandiosity of the palace. It is nothing like I've ever seen before.

I was very happy to discover that we were visiting the palace during a special exhibition. I found this description from a Press Release
For the first time the Palace of Versailles is devoting
a major exhibition to Louis-Philippe, who turned the
former royal residence into a museum open to all and
dedicated “to all the glories of France”.
It is an important moment for the Palace in which the
former royal residence and the historic galleries created
by Louis-Philippe will henceforth cohabit in the South
and North wings The exhibition focuses on the king’s
direct involvement in the project, his interest in history
and his desire to tell the nation’s story in order to
reconcile the French with themselves and make his reign
part of that story.
In a wider sense, the exhibition invites the public to
discover 19th-century Versailles. Part of the decoration
of the Africa rooms, commissioned by Louis-Philippe,
will be revealed. Visitors will be able to discover the
Gallery of Battles, the Crusades Room, the Estates
General Room, the Coronation Chamber and the 1792
room, the last two having been specially restored for
the occasion. One of the statue galleries will be restored
to how it was in 1837. The theatre scenery produced
for the inauguration of the Historical Galleries will also
be erected on the stage of the Royal Opera House.
Finally, in the Grand Trianon, the royal family’s private
apartments, fitted out for the king’s use when he came
to oversee progress with the works to the Palace, will be
restored and refurnished.
Versailles, 7 September 2018
Press Release

These are some of the beautiful paintings that were part of the special exhibit. I believe the room with the huge paintings is called the Africa Room. I tried to temporarily place my poles out of sight under the table but I was quickly and sternly prevented from doing so by the security officials even when I offered an explanation. In retrospect I suppose what I was doing did look like a security concern and these days one cannot be too careful.


This next photo gives a good idea of the sheer size of the paintings. They literally dwarf the people who are there to view them.










This post is quite long so I will end here. More inside the palace and on the palace grounds in the next post.

Our World Tuesday

To Paris!

It's taken me awhile to get back on line to post since I wrote my last post (which you can view here if interested). The snow that fell on my first day back has melted but the forecast calls for a bit more snow.  I haven't been out very much but the sun has been shining daily.

Today I want to share some introductory remarks about my travels.  My main destination for travel was the country of Kenya and the City of Nairobi specifically. I had been planning to return to Kenya for some time but this time I also wanted to see something different either on the continent of Africa or somewhere in Europe.

My very busy nephew and I have been discussing travelling to Paris together for years. After checking the flight itinerary options from Paris to Nairobi I then asked my nephew if a few days in Paris would work for him as it coincided with the new university term.  I didn't expect a definitive 'yes' but he agreed!

Neither of us had many expectations or plans and little time to really prepare for the trip.  We both just really wanted to soak up a bit of atmosphere by sitting at the Parisian bistros and people watching. Of course a visit to the Eiffel Tower was a must for both of us and my nephew said we must visit the Louvre.

Due to his very busy schedule I investigated the travel options to find a fare within his budget and to make sure he had the appropriate insurance.  We didn't travel together. He flew with Iceland Air and I travelled with KLM, my favourite airline.  My flight left very early from Vancouver and I didn't get any sleep since I had to be at the airport  by 3 a.m.

After checking in this is the first line up in Vancouver on the way to first security clearance.

 The departure gate was at the very end of the international departure terminal, a foreshadowing of things to come.

At the departure gate in Vancouver

My flight was routed through the USA where I made a connecting flight in Minneapolis to Paris. As time got closer to departure I worried what might happen in Minneapolis because of the government shut down. Thankfully all went well and I had no problems.  In fact, I was so very impressed with the staff at the Minneapolis airport, the level of service and the professionalism yet friendliness exhibited by all.  Everyone was just superb and they take customer service seriously there. All airports should follow the lead of this fine airport.

Once at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, I had several hours to wait for my nephew. I didn't find any nice place to have refreshment or to relax in the terminal where I alighted.  I waited in the general area for about 30 minutes trying to see if the line at the small cafe would diminish but I eventually left and made my way closer to the terminal where I expected my nephew to arrive. Once I changed locations, I found better waiting areas and services.  Enroute to the "new' terminal I struck up a conversation with a woman from the Cameroon who now lives in Seattle, Washington.  We had a very nice conversation before we parted ways. She was over nighting in Paris and wanted to stay close by the airport before she flew home to the Cameroon for a visit.  Once I found my way to a cafe, I asked a woman if I could share her table due to limited space. She obliged and we struck up a conversation. I learned she was on her way home to her husband in Saudi Arabia after visiting her family in Paris. We studied the transit map together to find my hotel and she advised me to take a taxi to the hotel rather than go by bus and metro (there being no direct route via metro).

Map of the Paris Metro system

I spent some time investigating the transit options to the hotel before leaving Vancouver and didn't wish to spend so much money on a taxi. Neither did I want to ride the bus and metro given the inconvenience of going up and down stairs with heavy luggage and the possibility of being mugged (mentioned in several articles I'd read). When my nephew arrived we decided to take an Uber to our destination. I let him order the Uber and I willingly paid as that was part of our arrangement so he could accompany me to Paris.  The Uber driver was prompt and the ride into the city was very interesting. My nephew and I were both happy and excited to see a bit of the city through the car windows. Our driver wasn't much of a conversationalist but he was pleasant and got us to our destination. Though he got lost very near the end point it didn't take him long to find his way once again.

We booked into the Hotel Boronali a very small, family run hotel in the 18th arrondissment at 
65 Rue de Clignancourt.

 
Not my photo. This is a promotional one.
I chose this hotel because it appeared to be closer to one of the attractions I wanted to see in Montmarte and I'd read that it was one bus ride away to The Louvre.  I also selected the hotel because there was a laundromat across the street.  I planned to do laundry before jetting off to Africa since there are no do it yourself laundromats in Kenya.

We enjoyed staying at the Hotel Boronali.  The hotel was very small but nice and  staff was very professional and helpful.  But in case you wish to stay there one day please note that the hotel has no on site restaurant or bar though they do provide breakfast in the morning and coffee/tea during the day.  There is a lift but given it is a heritage building there is only room for one suitcase and one person at a time (perhaps 2 suitcases if they are stackable). There are many restaurants and bars in the neighbourhood so it isn't a big issue not to have a full scale restaurant in the hotel. There are also several convenience stores, boulangeries and small supermarkets close to the hotel and I felt very safe walking in the area.  Even late into the night though a friend of my nephew's suggested the area is not that safe. For more information about the hotel see here.

While we were there we were so very busy trying to make the most of our short time. We did miles and miles of walking every day (my nephew more than I) and we ate on the run. Thank goodness for the boulangeries.  I did not sit at any bistros as planned except on the last evening when we decided to have a proper French meal before departure. But I did have a version of an American breakfast at a bistro next to the hotel. The cafΓ© crema was delicious.
 

Sorry for the blurred photo.

Thank you for stopping.
Stay tuned for more travel posts. In the next post I will share some of the things we did in Paris.

Changes in Kenya

In yesterday's post I mentioned I'd been travelling and have recently landed back in Vancouver.

I hope to do several travel posts to bring you up to date but for now I wanted to share some changes coming for all those who live in Kenya or those who wish to travel to Kenya for tourism or for work.

Citizens of Kenya and all foreigners living in the country will now be required to apply for a Huduma Namba before they can apply for many other identification papers needed to operate in the country such as national ID cards, passports and so on. Even the elderly will require a Huduma Namba to apply for pensions though the roll out of pensions to the elderly hasn't even begun and has in fact been delayed for going on two years due to lack of money in the Treasury.

Article dated February 1, 2019 in Kenyan paper
(Click to enlarge)

Also, foreigners wanting to visit Kenya are being given shorter visas usually of one month duration rather than three.

All these changes come courtesy of Dr. Fred Matiang'i, Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Security who has been on a mission to rid the country of illegal workers and those who live in the country without benefit of proper identification. For my non-Kenyan readers you can google immigration changes in Kenya for news articles and You Tube videos regarding these changes.

There are many reasons for the changes including freeing up jobs that can legitimately be done by Kenyan locals. Another overriding and important national concern is the number of people who live in the country or enter the country to do damage through terrorist activities.

Of course while I can understand the changes taking place and the hard line stance, unfortunately in the meantime, innocent people will be adversely affected by these changes. People like ex-pat NGO workers and Christian missionaries who are applying for or renewing work permits. Foreigners must now apply for their appropriate visas whilst in their countries of origin.

Tourists who wish to stay longer in Kenya are now being limited to a one month visa though I think one can apply for an extension up to three months. In former days one would get a tourist visa for three months with extensions possible to at least six months. Tourist visas are now available through an on line application and have been for the past several years. I applied for a visitor's visa which took longer to process and approve than the last time I applied. Though it stated it was good for three months, it also said that the length of time I could stay in Kenya would be determined by officials at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) in Nairobi. My passport was stamped with a one month visa but it was only later that I realized it wasn't quite long enough. My stay in Kenya was about 35 days so several days longer than one month. One cannot be cavalier about overstaying a visa,  Fortunately it didn't cause me any problems when I checked in at the airport for the return journey home.

Just to illustrate how serious everything needs to be taken, as I was about to board the plane in Amsterdam for Nairobi, I was shocked to learn of a terrorist attack at the Dusit Hotel located in the very neighbourhood where I had booked lodgings. Momentarily I was in a panic and wondered what to do about accommodations. Friends quickly found me an alternative but I decided I needed to think and pray during the flight about what to do. By the time I landed in Nairobi I felt peace about retaining my original booking. As time went on I had no qualms about staying in Nairobi. I thank God for the peace and the protection while I was there.

Now that I'm back in Canada I'm dealing with Winter.  A late Winter storm has been hitting the west coast for just over a week.

I went from this


and this

Oshwal Center, Westlands, Nairobi

to this

A flock of birds flew past just as I was snapping this photo. Can you see?


While I cannot say I was happy to return to Winter weather it is always good to be home after a long journey especially when a number of important things need doing.

I am grateful that I was kept safe on my journey.  I'll be sharing more about this aspect in future posts.
In the meantime take care and have a wonderful weekend.

Sharing with

Skywatch Friday

Saturday's Critters

and

Friday Foto Friends
though this meme is on break for now.

Hello

Hi friends,

I'm back in this space for a short while.

I've recently been on travels and so I hope to share some of that along with photos in the coming weeks.

I just wanted to pop in and say thank you to those who have continued to pop by here and leave me a kind word or two. It means a lot.

My laptop stayed home while I was away and though I did borrow one I didn't have time to actively visit blogs or to post here though from time to time I tried.

I know Valentine's Day has passed but I wanted to share the beautiful bouquet I received which was a lovely surprise.  I had a spa appointment that day at the Sarit Centre in Nairobi and was gifted with a few more red roses and a lovely chocolate. Later on when having dinner at the Java House, in Nairobi's Westlands area, I was also treated to a delicious surprise of pistachio and hazelnut ice cream compliments of the restaurant.  All in all it was a lovely day.


I have lots to share but for now I leave you with these beautiful flowers.


The Path



I hope you have all enjoyed the first day of this new year.
The last time I posted I said I would be taking an extended break to pursue some personal goals and I will.

 

But before I do that I realized I would like to make at least one blog post in this new and precious year.
These images are already from 2 winters ago when we had a lot of snow.




I'll be taking a new path or two or three and sharing here.

Until we meet again may you be joyful and have good health and love in abundance.

♥♥♥

Sunday Reads

I haven't written about my reading goals for 2019. I'm keeping my goal very modest this year indeed. I only have 20 books as my targ...