Friday, July 12, 2019

Making friends around the globe: how travel brings people together

Friends from the UK, John and Sue Speight, visited Cookie and Keller in Montana, where we took them exploring.
We met on a Southeast Asia cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore, shared two weeks on the road and determined
to keep in touch.  They hope to return to the U.S. and we will visit them soon in their Yorkshire, England, home.

Virginia Mock and Brent Morgan visited us in 
Montana after we spent two weeks together in the
Caribbean.  We met at a musical theater trivia
contest and took them to Tippet Rise Art Center. 



OUR HAPPIEST times are when we're traveling, partly because of the newness and enrichment it brings, meeting like-minded people along the way.
Bob and Sue Hulbert, left, traveled to
Montana and we often visit them in
Los Angeles.  Bob and Keller explored
Saudi Arabia together. We have also
traveled together in San Francisco. 
Here we enjoy Disney Music Center.
Friends. Global, curious, liberal thinking people we've met exploring Australia and New Zealand, the Middle East, the Far East, Europe, the United Kingdom and the Americas -- U.S., Canada, Brazil, Peru.
Barbie and Tom Davidson, right, of New
Zealand, joined us on Times Square
in New York City for Broadway shows. We
met in a chorus on a trans-Atlantic cruise.
Cookie was pianist and Barbie conductor.
WE HAVE a large, loving, fun-seeking circle of international friends and we've met them all on our world travels. They contribute richly to our lives, enhancing our perspective on the world, educating us in new ways, providing insight into their cultures and thought processes, priorities, family life, ideas and goals.
When we lecture about travel, and share our stories and photographs, we remember with fondness meeting people with whom we've stayed in touch.
Carlos Montero of Ecuador, met
Keller on a scuba dive 45 years ago.
Fred Fisher, right, shares our love of
east Africa. Together for paella dinner.
When we say, "You must come visit" we mean it.
And if our new road-tripping friends invite us, we probably will do so, as we've done with friends in Norway, Israel, Australia and elsewhere.
Jerusalem journey, Israel highlight
WE'VE MET many wonderful couples on trans-Atlantic cruises:  Yosh and Shula from Tel Aviv, Ronna and Larry from Florida, Michael and Doc from Washington, D.C., Virginia and Brent from Arkansas, Lawrence and Patrick from Sydney, Australia, Nam and Freida from Melbourne, Bev and Sidway from Denver, while exploring the Amazon, Barbie and Tom from New Zealand, John and Sue from England.
Friends through cruising, touring and trivia contests are planning a reunion.
 And so many others.
Our Yorkshire pals visited us last summer for a memorable trip through Montana's prettiest places, with a dip into Yellowstone National Park, Cody, Wyo., and Red Lodge.
We met on a Southeast Asia cruise from Hong Kong to Singapore, took a sidetrip to Bangkok and prowled the hiking and bike paths of Vietnam together.
Yosh Wichman and Bruce Keller at the Dead Sea.
Shula and Yosh hosted us for a wonderful Israel tour.
When we heard during dinner that Montana was on their bucket list, we invited them. During their visit, they extended an invitation to Yorkshire, and we'll soon be with them again enjoying the cathedrals, history and landscape of their beautiful corner of the world.
Cookie and Shula Romero Wichman
of Tel Aviv enjoy dinner in Las Vegas.
Table mates on our cruise ship, the Speights, invited us to tour
Bangkok with them, here in a tuk-tuk to the Grand Palace. 
OUR ISRAELI friends, Yosh and Shula Wichman, were our trivia buddies and fans of my piano music on a cruise through the Canary Islands with an Atlantic crossing.  We met on a jeep tour of the craters of Tenerife, along with another adventuresome couple, Ronna and Larry Schultz.  We've kept in touch and cruised and vacationed again with these friends, meeting up in Florida, the south of France and Las Vegas.
All these friends are world travelers. 
Our mutual spirit of adventure, love of language, history the arts and architecture fuel our curiosity.  We all share a hope for world peace and these similarities fuel our desire for travel. Yosh and Shula met our ship a couple years ago in Haifa and toured us around the wonderful country, a land I've visited multiple times. It was a magnificent two-day tour, from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.
TAKE A CHANCE on new friendship -- join a table, say hello to the folks across the aisle, ask if there's room for you at the trivia table. It could be the beginning of an enriching new experience.
Venice is captured from the rooftop of the Hilton Molino Stucky Hotel.
UP NEXT:  Venice is one of the world's most visited, photographed and written about cities.  Come with us to explore the palaces, squares, cafes and museums, all of which make Venice so memorable and inviting. Take time to visit the outer "lagoon islands" while you're there, or if you're planning a trip for later this summer. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch a new post each week on travel, the arts, nature and family at

Friday, July 5, 2019

Not utterly undone by the ukulele? Try strumming a few chords

Christene Meyers, aka Cookie, and Bruce Keller, known by his surname, signed up for ukulele lessons.  The pair are partners in life and theater, travel, adventure, and now music study.  Cookie plays many instruments but for Keller it was a new experience. A good time was had by all and new friends were made.

STRUM THE ANCIENT, TUNEFUL INSTRUMENT WITH THE ONE YOU LOVE -- the ukukele is not just a cheap plastic toy played under a palm tree!

"It's not the islands fair that are calling to me. 
It's not the balmy air nor the tropical sea. 
It's a little brown gal in a little grass skirt.
In a little grass shack in Hawaii..."
--from "My Little Grass Shack in Kealakekua, Hawaii"
a famous ukulele-accompanied tune


Our hotel ukuleles were adequate but not expensive, about $59 each. There are fancy
ukuleles to be had for much more, ranging in the hundreds to $12k for a Martin.
ALTHOUGH I PLAY  more complicated musical instruments, the ukulele called to me.
I knew it was more than a cheap plastic toy played under a palm tree.  But the ukulele sounds so lovely and looks so simple, surely it could not be that easy, I reasoned.
So when I saw ukulele lessons on the activities sheet at the Hilton Hawaiian Village I talked Keller into coming along, not just as a photographer but as a participant.
An hour-long lesson at the lovely property on the beach attracted 15 of us ukulele aficionados from all over the world, including Australia and Japan.  With the help of two amiable coaches, we actually played a recognizable song by lesson's end.
IT'S NICE TO have a pretty, calming view when learning anything new.
Tiny Tim made the ukulele famous again,
with his warbling "Tiptoe Through the Tulips."
So we relaxed our wrists and placed our hands on the instrument while our two cheery Hawaiian  kaikamahines  passed out our tune. Quickly, they had us strumming this captivating instrument, using our first finger to strum gently down and up. I thought of Robert Preston in "The Music Man," coaxing the youngsters to play. (We sounded something like that. It wasn't exactly harmonious.)
THE UKULELE is a member of the guitar family. It usually has four nylon or gut strings, as ours did at the resort lesson. More sophisticated playing involves pairing the strings in courses to give the instrument a total of six or eight strings. That's for another lesson. Our coaches promised the ukulele would be an easy instrument to learn.  While we were far from wizards, we did master a few simple chords and basic strumming patterns.  We tuned our instruments to G, C, E and A, and worked on a song -- "You Are My Sunshine."
Spanish guitar master spotlighted
Ukulele masters through the years range from British comic George Formby back in the 1930s and 1940s to Tiny Tim and his mournful "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" on a 1968 Johnny Carson Show to young "America's Got Talent" whiz kids and perhaps the world's most famous virtuoso player Jake Shimabukuro.  He is the instrument's equivalent of
Proper ukulele technique begins with holding the
instrument correctly.  A Hawaiian born teacher assists.
Pablo Casals on the cello or violinist Jascha Heifetz.
THE HAWAIIAN-born ukulele master grew up playing traditional Hawaiian music with his mother but quickly segued into more complicated repertoire. He strums and plucks a variety of sounds and styles from the tiny instrument, from "Ave Maria" to jazz and show tunes and George Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."
Shimabukuro grew up playing traditional Hawaiian music on the ukulele, and has stuck with the instrument for 25 of his 29 years.

Jake Shimabukuro is considered the modern day
master of the ukulele.  He is a true virtuoso.
"I feel people get bored of playing the ukulele because they hear other things and they want to be able to play other things," he says. "But... I've always felt there was so much more to explore, and I really love it."
So might you, if you brave a lesson.
The Hawaiian word means, literally, "jumping flea."  You might be jumping for joy if you make the ukulele leap.

If you open your heart to adventure, and meeting new
people. you'll soon be sailing with friends around the world/

UP NEXT: Travel enhances our lives more than any other aspect. It encompasses so many wonders -- nature, theater, dining -- and makes the world more accessible. Come with us to discover how relationships develop at sea, on airplanes, on a ship's tour, a boat excursion or a restaurant table. With a curiosity to learn about other cultures, strangers become friends. Up your international contact list and enrich your life, remembering to explore, learn and live. Catch us Fridays for a novel take on travel, the arts, family and nature at