October in New Mexico: The Air is Alive on the Oak Flat Trail

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Scrub oak on the Oak Flat Trail, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico,
photo Denise Ames

October is alive in all its splendor. My favorite month! October and hiking fit together in New Mexico, and there are plenty of areas to hike in the fifth largest state by area in the U.S.

I recently ventured to a new hiking trail, the Oak Flat Trail, located in the Cibola National Forest east of Tijeras, New Mexico, about a 20-minute drive from my hometown of Albuquerque. The trailhead is located in a massive camping area with room enough to accommodate hundreds of campers. But strangely, the site was closed to campers, so the eerie quiet spread over us. There was only one other car in its vast parking lot.

Undeterred, we made it to the Oak Flat Connecter trailhead and started on a slight downward incline. The area is 7,660 feet above sea level, and is relatively flat, except for the initial decline. 

The one thing I love about October in New Mexico is the air. Although the fall colors are stunning and the azure sky sparkles above, it is the air that dazzles me the most. It is hard to describe the air, since it is mostly a feeling.  Everything in the October air is clear, it is like seeing through a filter that has filtered out any cloudiness or imperfections. What emerges is a crystal synthesis of light bouncing off other light. A yellowish hue that dances through the air. I can see why painters love to paint in this atmosphere, since it enhances the sights of everything around me.

View from the Oak Flat Trail of the Cibola National Forest, NM, photo Denise Ames

It is delightful to walk through woods and catch moments when the air sparkles and glistens, as if it is showing off another reality that I am privileged to be given a fleeting glimpse of. What better way to connect with nature than to have her show off one of her most stunning features: pure air unmasked from any imperfections.  

The hike featured some already-turning-brown scrub oak dotted across the open areas. The official name for what I have always called scrub oak, also called oak brush or white oak, is Quercus gambelii, with the common name Gambel oak. It is a deciduous small tree or large shrub that is widespread in the foothills and lower mountain elevations of western North America. In fact, one of the trail connectors we ran into was Gambel Oak Trail.

Although the scrub oak is not particularly attractive by itself, blended in with other trees and scrubs it is a pleasant juxtaposition of diverse flora on a mountainous landscape. I looked for squirrels dashing about collecting acorns for winter consumption, but they must have been hiding from me that day.

We took one of the connecting paths cleverly called Easy Pickins to a scenic overlook of the valley and other mountaintops from the crest of one of the hills. (I never figured out what was easy to pick.) It was fun to climb upwards in search of the perfect view of the surroundings.

We next encountered a foreboding named trail in the labyrinth of trails crisscrossing our small section of the vast Cibola National Forest: Deadman Trail. We wondered if the dead men were the prey of hungry bears packing away the calories in preparation for their winter hibernation. We were on the look-out for the elusive animals but did not record any sightings.

We trekked down Deadman Trail for a while and then decided it was time to backtrack to the Oak Flat Trail. We climbed back on the Oak Flat Connector Trail and headed to the deserted parking lot. Our wobbly legs had been given a workout and we were delighted to witness some stunning views along the way.

As we climbed into our car and headed out of the campground, I said to myself a note of gratitude that October in New Mexico did not disappoint me on this hike, it was magical once again.  

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program GATT, Global Awareness Through Travel. GATT is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in Nature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

October Splendor: Hiking the Pine Flat Trail in the Cibola National Forest, New Mexico

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Pine Flat Trail, Cibola National Forest, New Mexico,
photo Denise Ames

It is October! My favorite month of the year, and it is particularly spectacular in New Mexico. The air takes on a lightness that feels uplifting and warming at the same time. The air magnifies colors, especially yellow and blue, that results in an intensity that is breathtaking. Everything explodes with vibrancy.

The weather has cooled in the last several weeks, and hiking in high altitude areas with sporadic tree cover is enjoyable now. In the summer the intense sun was suffocating, making hiking miserable after a few steps.

The high country of the Cibola National Forest beckoned me to hike one of its trails. My partner, Jim, and I accepted the invitation and we hiked a trail that was new to us that we had scouted in the high temperature summer: Pine Flats Trail.

photo Denise Ames

It was about a 20-minute jaunt by car from Albuquerque, via Interstate 40 (east) to the Tijeras exit on Route 337. We proceeded on the paved highway heading south of Tijeras until we noted the sign for the Pine Flats picnic area and trailhead. The parking lot had fewer cars than some of the more well-known trails in the area, such as Otero Canyon Trail and Tunnel Trail. We noted a huge gathering of people having a picnic in the shady picnic area, a rare sight these days, since the art of picnicking seems to have declined.

Our first encounter on the tail was a trio of horses and riders. A former horseback rider and lover of trail-riding on horseback, whenever I see horses clopping through the forest I am transported back to my youth and the lazy days of marveling at nature’s beauty astride the strong but friendly creatures. A true delight.

Pine Flat Trail, Cibola National Forest, NM, photo Denise Ames

We decided to stay on the Pine Flat Connector trail that led us into a wood-shaded path with a steady incline to the hill’s summit. The Connector took us to Gamble Oak Trail that wound its way deeper into the National Forest on very walkable but rocky trails. Since our legs were fresh and the cool temperatures were invigorating, we decided to extend our hike into new territory.

We stopped to marvel at the scenic views from atop one of the less rugged hills, and counted our blessings for living within a 20-minute drive from such a wonderful place of natural beauty. Although we had to dodge a few mountain bikes, the bikers were courteous and seemed to enjoy the fall weather as well.

View from the Pine Flat Trail, Cibola National Forest, NM,
photo Denise Ames

After climbing for a couple of miles, we decided it was time to head back. We usually back-track on a trail instead of looping around, since I find going back the same way is an excellent way to discover what I missed. True to form, I noticed all kinds of flora that had passed me by just an hour or so earlier.

The leaves were not turning their fall colors as of yet, but were posed for the big transition soon to come. Actually, we encountered some scrub oak that had decided to turn a light brown in an early celebration of fall. They contrasted sharply with the intense pine green of the ponderosa pines.

Pine Flat Trail, Cibola National Forest, NM, photo Denise Ames

Once we reached the end of the trailhead (or beginning, depending on your orientation), we marveled at the incline of the trail. It was gradual enough that we didn’t notice its ascension. But we certainly noticed that going down was much easier.

As we headed towards our car, I made a nod of appreciation towards the beautiful forests that had opened their arms for us to share with them their beauty on a magnificent fall day at the beginning of the brilliant fall month of October in New Mexico.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program GATT, Global Awareness Through Travel. GATT is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in Nature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Savannah, Georgia: Farewell Thoughts

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

I recently visited Savannah, Georgia with a group of women relatives for our annual reunion. It was really fun but I also got to see the city of Savannah up close for several days. I would like to share with you my impressions of the city.

Our farewell dinner was a lavish affair held at the Local 1110 Restaurant. It was within walking distance from our Airbnb and several of us took off on the trek. Although I switched out my comfortable Aertex for more dressy shoes (they had a slight heel) they were extremely comfortable. I have long since passed the days when I will endure uncomfortable shoes. After arriving. we made our way into the sparkling restaurant nestled in a quiet neighborhood, I love these small neighborhood restaurants.

Although mask-wearing was pretty lax in Savannah, interestingly our waiters donned them religiously. He warned us that the restaurant was short-staffed (what else was new) but he did a good job of keeping up with our requests.

I immediately spotted a specialty gin and tonic on the Happy Hour menu, and quickly ordered one. It arrived in all of its splendor, with plenty of ice and an interesting gingery taste. It tasted so good! We ordered a variety of starters and entrees that we shared as a table. However, I insisted on my own Cesar salad. A couple different deserts rounded out the tasty fare.

The Grey Restaurant, Savannah, GA
photo Denise Ames

We all walked back to the Airbnb over the uneven sidewalks, luckily no one turned an ankle. We spent the rest of our final evening together chatting away and playing our favorite game of chicken foot until 3:00 a.m.

The next morning was a flurry of activity packing up and arranging rides to the airport. I had decided to stay a few extra days and arranged to rent a car at the airport. My daughter wasn’t leaving until 6:00 so we decided to do a bit more exploring in Savannah until our final good-byes. My daughter found an interesting place for lunch: The Grey Restaurant.

The Grey Restaurant, Savannah, GA, photo Denise Ames

The Grey is a Southern restaurant  that is co-owned by John O. Morisano and Mashama Bailey, the latter of whom also serves as head chef. The Grey is located inside a former Greyhound bus depot in downtown Savannah. Morisano invested millions of dollars to make the restaurant Streamline Moderne in style and design. The depot’s former diner became the Grey’s dining room. Curved booths are blue, representing the Greyhound bus logo. The bar is horseshoe shaped. There are numbers painted on the walls representing the station’s former boarding gates. The kitchen is the former ticket booth. In 2017, The Grey was named Eater‘s 2017 Restaurant of the Year. The following year, The Grey was named one of Time‘s Greatest Places.

The Grey Restaurant, Savannah, GA, photo Denise Ames

I remembered the co-owner Bailey from an interesting documentary that I saw on Netflix a few years back called the Chef’s Table. Bailey is featured in the 6th season. I ordered the Crab Beignets and side salad. Despite all the fanfare, it was not very memorable and rather tasteless.

Jones Street, Savannah, GA photo Denise Ames

One area I wanted to see in more depth was Jones Street. Our trolley guide pointed out the street on our tour the previous day explaining that the street was made famous for the expression “Keeping up with the Joneses.”

According to Wikipedia, “Keeping up with the Joneses is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world referring to the comparison to one’s neighbor as a benchmark for social class or the accumulation of material goods. To fail to “keep up with the Joneses” is perceived as demonstrating socio-economic or cultural inferiority.”

Jones St. Savannah, GA, photo Denise Ames

There are different origins of this idiom and one refers to Jones Street in Savannah. Although it is not the most common origin story of this idiom, it is worth mentioning because the street is supposedly the prettiest street in Savannah. I wanted to find out for myself.

As I strolled down Jones Street I could see why the expression could be attributed to Jones Street. It was indeed a beautiful street, quiet, charming, and dripping with old money. It would certainly take a great deal of money in the mid-1800s to live on this street, but I know that there were more pretentious mansions in the US at that time that could outdo the relatively “modest” homes on Jones Street.

Jones Street, Savannah, GA, photo Denise Ames

I love this expression—keeping up with the Joneses—it says so much about American culture. It is one of the drawbacks of a society that is based on market-driven economic forces and the consumption of goods and services as the drivers of prosperity. Although I have found that a market-based economy is vastly superior in terms of well-being to a socialist/command economy in which the government directs the market, it does have its downsides and fevered competition to consume more and outdo one’s neighbors is one of them. I have tried to heed my own instincts and not get caught up in the frenzied consumer game. I am grateful that I have a choice in my consumption patterns and I try (although not always successfully) to consciously choose goods and services with care.  

It was time to say good-bye to my daughter. We traveled the short distance to the airport and she boarded her Jet Blue flight for JFK in New York. I had a lovely time in Savannah but now I was about to embark on a new adventure at Hilton Head Island in South Carolina, a short drive from the airport. I fondly reflected on my wonderful time in the “Hostess City of the South” as I headed north to a new state: South Carolina.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program Gatt, Global Awareness Through Travel. Gatt is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in cultural tourism, cultural travel, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Historic Preservation in Savannah, Georgia: The Remarkable Foresight of Six Women

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Historic district, Savannah, Georgia,
photo Denise Ames

I recently visited Savannah, Georgia with a group of women relatives for our annual reunion. It was really fun but I also got to see the city of Savannah up close for several days. I would like to share with you my impressions of the city.

Another full day in Savannah for our group. We started it off with a brunch at Belford’s in the old district of Savannah. It was a bustling place and known for their bottomless Mimosa. I decided to refrain from the temptation since alcoholic consumption early in the day saps my energy and gives me a pounding headache. I did take sips from my daughter’s drink so at least I got a taste of it.

I split a Seafood Frittata and salad with my daughter-in-law’s mother (I think consuegra is a name for this relationship in Spanish, I wish there was one in English). It was delicious, topped off with good southern ice tea, although I like it unsweetened.

Belford’s Restaurant, Savannah, Georgia photo Denise Ames

Savannah has passed a law that you can carry around your alcoholic drinks on the city streets. So, all the Mimosa drinkers got to-go cups, I got one for my ice tea. I think they are trying to imitate New Orleans, I wonder if this is a good idea.

Properly nourished our group walked to the place to catch our trolley tour of the city. It was such a beautiful day that I was looking forward to sitting on an open-air trolley looking at all the sumptuous gardens and historic houses. It ended up that all the mothers and daughters sat together, it was sweet to see everyone nestled together.

First Baptist Church, Savannah, Georgia

We had a wonderful tour guide, a quintessential southern woman. I enjoyed her easy, unrushed narration, perfect for such a lazy day. I particularly enjoyed learning about how Savannah preserved its historic houses. According to our tour guide (and an article I read), “When the economy collapsed around the beginning of the 20th century, many historic properties throughout the city were abandoned and fell into disrepair. In 1955, local journalist and artist Anna Colquitt Hunter gathered six friends together and founded the Historic Savannah Foundation with the intent of saving just one house—but they started a preservation movement. Over the past 60 years, HSF has restored and rehabilitated over 400 decrepit properties throughout the city; the foundation has been a catalyst for Savannah/s architectural, cultural, and economic rebirth.” I find it amazing what a group of committed women can do.

Flannery O’Connor house, Savannah, Georgia

Another interesting tour site was the First African Baptist Church, which claims to be derived from the first black Baptist congregation in North America. While it was not officially organized until 1788, it grew from members who founded a congregation in 1773. It also served as a stop on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War.

One of my favorite authors is the American novelist Flannery O’Connor who grew up in Savannah. Her childhood home still stands today at 207 East Charlton Street. As a young girl, O’Connor helped her family raise chickens, and she actually taught one of them how to walk backwards!

Union General Sherman burned Atlanta to the ground during his infamous March to the Sea towards the end of the Civil War. When he arrived in Savannah, according to legend, the city’s beauty inspired him to spare it. Instead of destroying Savannah like he did Atlanta, Sherman sent a telegraph to President Lincoln offering the city to him as a Christmas present. Although the fact that the mayor of Savannah wisely pledged no resistance to Sherman may have helped spare the city.

Congregation Mickve Israel, Savannah, GA

Located in the Historic District on beautiful Monterey Square, Congregation Mickve Israel, founded in 1733, is the third oldest Jewish congregation in America. The current synagogue was completed in 1878 and features unique gothic style architecture. Condé Nast Traveler to name Congregation Mickve Israel one of the 15 Most Beautiful Synagogues in the World. 

On a personal note, I found one of the most memorable sites on the tour were two wedding parties taking place on different squares. One was a party of black and white people mixing easily together in a relaxed fashion. Also, an Indian wedding took place, complete with the groom on horseback (no elephant). I thought to myself, Savannah has come a long way as far as far as diversity and tolerance is concerned.

Wedding part at one of Savannah’s historic squares, photo Denise Ames

The tour sadly ended. Some of us decided to walk through more of Savannah on our way back to the Airbnb, others decided to Uber their way home for a foot rest. Since I was wearing the most comfortable sandals in the world (Aertex), I decided to walk. Our destination was another roof top bar at a boutique hotel for a drink, I decided that a Diet Coke would provide me a needed pick-me-up.

Wedding party at a roof top bar, Savannah, GA, photo Denise Ames

We finally made it to the hotel and were pleased to find that the Indian wedding party we saw on the tour were continuing their celebration at the roof top bar. Flashes of colored sari’s floated with the breeze, and everyone seemed happy. We luckily found seating and enjoyed our cool drinks while scanning the cityscape five floors up.

Dinner was early, 6:00, so we called an Uber and traveled the short distance to our Airbnb. Our lovely day in Savannah came to end. Next up our farewell dinner.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program Gatt, Global Awareness Through Travel. Gatt is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in cultural tourism, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Savannah, Georgia: The Most Haunted City in the U.S.?

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Street scene Savannah, photo Denise Ames

I recently visited Savannah, Georgia with a group of women relatives for our annual reunion. It was really fun, but I also got to see the city of Savannah up close for several days. I would like to share with you some of my impressions of the city.

My first full day in Savannah our group enjoyed a lovely brunch at B. Matthews Restaurant and then a stroll down scenic Bull Street admiring the historic park-like squares unique to the city. After a brief rest, I headed with the group to relish a refreshing drink on the roof top of J.W. Marriot hotel the Savannah River. What a beautiful view, complete with a slight breeze and the cool air of the approaching evening. The peach colored ginger-gin specialty drink caught the attention of most of us. It was so energizing and pleasing to the eye.

Roof top relaxing, photo Denise Ames

After a leisurely hour on the roof top, I decided along with a few others to walk to our restaurant for dinner. Since I love to walk and have the perfect shoes (Aertex sandals), I can put on the miles.

Restaurant, Savannah, Georgia, photo Denise Ames

Traipsing across more uneven cobblestone walkways and brick sidewalks we finally made it to the Cha Bella Restaurant nestled into a historic Savannah neighborhood. They boast that “almost all of our menu is sourced from within driving distance of our restaurant.” It was delicious, but on the pricey side.

After dinner another walk back to the riverfront for a Ghosts and Gravestones Sightseeing Tour. I was pleased to find out that the tour would be on a sightseeing, open-air trolley with minimal walking. We presented our tickets and off we went.

I was surprised to find out that Savannah has claimed to be the most haunted city in America. However, with a little research I found this claim to be somewhat dubious: other sites point to New Orleans as the most haunted city followed by Chicago (remember Al Capone), while Savannah rests in the #3 slot. I would concur that New Orleans has more ammunition to the claim of #1 most haunted city over Savannah, Chicago seems a little more unconvincing.

I wondered why Savannah claims to be haunted? The tour guide along with my own research gave a number of reasons, such as losses during battles, disease, piracy, and general superstition. Even though the tour guide did not mention it, I had a hunch about the impact of slavery on the haunting fears.

A “haunted” dining room from our ghost tour, photo Denise Ames

Ante-bellum (before the Civil War) Savannah was heavily involved in the slave trade and slaves served the wealthy elites of Savannah until the end of the Civil War. Since most of Savannah’s wealth revolved around slavery—the cotton industry, financing of slaves and cotton, and investment companies—the city was complicit in making money off the whole unsavory enterprise. The screams of slaves being ripped apart from their families or loved ones while being sold on the auction block, or the sounds of slaves performing back-breaking labor transporting cotton from warehouses to ships had to uncomfortably settle into some residents’ unconscious minds.

A “haunted” sitting room, Savannah Ghost Tour, photo Denise Ames

The horrendous institution of slavery was manifested in tales of ghosts inhabiting the living world. In other words, the tortured souls of slaves did not neatly disappear but continued to haunt the city that economically thrived on slavery. Even after slaves were freed at the end of the Civil War, Jim Crow discrimination continued for decades.

Although the people of Savannah rationalized the existence of slavery in the daylight hours, during the night, when the rational mind sleeps and the unconscious mind is actively trying to make sense of our world, I speculate that the contradictions came to life in the form of ghosts, eerie sightings, and unexplainable occurrences.

I was disappointed in the Ghost Tour. Perhaps it was because we were on a trolley riding around the haunted sites, separated and distant, rather than walking along the old sidewalks and feeling the spirits of the night air flowing around us. Just explaining it with stories didn’t work for me. But as I reflect back on the insistence exhorted by the tour guide that ghosts were part of the Savannah landscape, I find that my theory about how the institution of slavery influenced the ghost stories seemed like a reasonable explanation.

After the ghost tour, we were eager to get back to our Airbnb and sit around, talk, and play our favorite game of chicken foot. The night for us was just beginning.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program GATT, Global Awareness Through Travel. GATT is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in cultural tourism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Savannah, Georgia: A City of Squares

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

I recently visited Savannah, Georgia with a group of women relatives for our annual reunion. It was really fun but I also got to see the city of Savannah up close for several days. I would like to share with you my impressions of the city.

B. Matthews in Savannah, Georgia
photo Denise Ames

Savannah is known for its superb southern cooking and our group was only too willing to experience the taste sensations. After mouth-watering BBQ the night before, we had reservations for brunch at B. Matthews Bistro in an old Savannah neighborhood.

Crab Cake Benedict, photo Denise Ames

There were many unusual selections but I settled on Crab Cake Benedict, egg on English muffin with sauce and eggs. It had a taste of the South with a side of savory grits. Yum! After our breakfast the eight of us decided to walk around old Savannah. After a while, some got tired and returned to the house, while my daughter, my daughter-in-law and her mother, and I decided to walk along scenic Bull Street heading towards our Airbnb.

Johnson Square, one of Savannah’s 22 squares dotting the city,
photo Denise Ames

The street was delightful! The day was delightful! The humidity, which can be stifling in the southern city, was low, the temperature mild, and the beautiful live oaks provided cooling shade. We were particularly enchanted with the squares located at frequent intersection along Bull Street. I read where “the squares and parks of Savannah are the community’s most beloved icons.” Originally city planners had designed 24 squares, luckily 22 remain today.

I find the fact that these squares that take up a large chunk of urban land to be an anomaly in American cities. Where urban land is often priced according to the square meter, Savannah has devoted generous tracts of land to “unproductive” squares. However, now these places of tranquility and beauty are paying for themselves by helping to attract over 14.8 million visitors in 2019.  

General Oglethorpe, founder of the colony of Georgia in 1696, came up with the idea of laying the city of Savannah out in a grid pattern with squares, which are open areas made for public use, spaced out throughout this grid. These Squares were originally used to practice and drill for the militia,

As our group of four strolled along Bull Street heading away from the river, we marveled at the enchanting squares. Located at Bull and St. Julian Streets, Johnson Square was our first intimate look at a square. It was designed in 1733 and named for Robert Johnson, the Royal Governor of South Carolina when Georgia was founded. Johnson Square was the first of Savannah’s 24 squares and served as its commercial hub. In the center stands a monument of General Nathanael Greene, a Revolutionary War hero and Savannah patriot. It is only a 3-minute walk to the Old Pink House Restaurant, a Savannah icon. Alas, we couldn’t get reservations for our group.  

Chippewa Square, Savannah, photo Denise Ames

We next stumbled upon the striking Chippewa Square, located at Bull and McDonough Streets. It was designed in 1815 and named to commemorate the Battle of Chippewa in the War of 1812. In the center stands a bronze statue of the colony’s founder, General James Edward Oglethorpe, who faces south protecting Savannah from the Spanish in Florida. It is also known as Forrest Gump Square since the bus stop scenes from the Oscar winning motion picture were filmed on the north end of the square.

Chocolates

While strolling along Bull Street an artisan chocolate shop caught our eye. This was no ordinary chocolate shop but one for the wealthy and try connoisseurs. Chocolate was concocted into whimsical shapes. My daughter couldn’t resist and bought four different chocolate pieces, totaling around $10. I said it was for the elites. I savored every bite.

Our next square was the Madison Square, at Bull and Macon Streets, It was designed in 1837 and named to honor James Madison, the fourth president of the United States. In the center stands a monument of Sergeant William Jasper who fell during the Siege of Savannah in 1779. A granite marker denotes the southern line of the British defense during the 1779 battle.

Our final square before we called it quits and called an Uber back to our Airbnb was the Monterey Square located at Bull and Wayne Streets. It was designed in 1847 and named to commemorate the 1846 Battle of Monterey during the Mexican American War. It was the battle of the Mexican War in which a Savannah unit of the Irish Jasper Greens fought. The square’s monument honors Casimir Pulaski, a Polish nobleman who was mortally wounded during the Siege of Savannah while fighting for Americans.

Carriage tour in old Savannah, photo Denise Ames

My serene feeling visiting the squares lasted with me a long time. I felt tension leave my body as I looked up at the towering Live Oaks laced with Spanish moss. I marveled at the foresight the people of Savannah had when they preserved these jewels scattered across the urban landscape. I was beginning to appreciate Savannah more and more as I shut the door on my Uber ride.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program Gatt, Global Awareness Through Travel. Gatt is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Savannah, Georgia: The “Hostess City of the South” Hosts My Family Reunion

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

A scene from one of the many park squares in old Savannah, photo Denise Ames

When I think of Savannah, Georgia I pull up images of the Old South. Maybe it is because I am a historian, Savannah was a central part of the Old South’s culture, economy, and politics. After the end of the Civil War, it fell into near oblivion but with determination and foresight, it staged a remarkable comeback in the 1990s. I visited the venerable city in September 1991 and another time in the 1970s. I visited Savannah again in September 2021.

This time I would travel to the city with a group of female relatives and assorted extended family, a total of 8 of us ranging in age from 25 to 75. Oddly enough it is a reunion with my ex-husband’s family. But it must work, this was our 12th reunion. We had planned a 2020 trip to Savannah, but COVID-19 thwarted our visit. In fact, it was March 13, 2020 when COVID morphed into global pandemic status and the whole world shut down. It was at the last minute that we cancelled our plans, fearing that if we did travel to Savannah we may end up stranded with no way to return home.

A family reunion, playing a dominoes game, lots of laughs in a Savannah Airbnb

A few words about our “girls’ weekend” as we have been calling it before sharing with you details of my Savannah trip. The group consists of my daughter, daughter-in-law and her mother, my niece and her mother, my niece’s step daughter and her mother, and me. An odd assemblage of women who loved to get together. Some of us met others for the first time. But we immediately formed a bound, like a tribe. Eight of us in a lovely, refurbished 3-bedroom house, with a queen-sized pull-out couch. It was a lot of fun.

I was the first to arrive at the small-sized airport in the “Hostess City of the South,” a rather cumbersome nickname for a city. I waited about 30 minutes for the next group to arrive so we could Uber our way to the house. It was refreshing to see so much green and the wonderful white pines lining the highway to the city. I was expecting the worst as far as humidity and heat were concerned but it looked like we lucked out with a “cool” spell and I found the weather very tolerable, especially in the shade.

Not our neighborhood, but near historic Savannah, photo Denise Ames

Our Airbnb house was located on East Anderson Street about a mile from the historic old part of the city. The neighborhood looked a little rough, but our Uber driver assured us that the area was undergoing gentrification. We found our house and indeed it had been nicely renovated. We noticed that many houses along the busy street had been refurbished to their former splendor, as ours had been. We finally made our way in and found the place very clean and comfortable. The back screened-in-porch was a delightful addition.

After exploring the house, we all agreed that we were hungry. Where to eat? Barbeque was the go-to-compromise. BBQ is popular in Savannah and numerous places popped up in our search. We finally settled on one near the old part of Savannah, appropriately called Savannah Smokehouse BBQ and Brew. Can’t go wrong with pulled pork garnished with assorted BBQ sauces and to celebrate the fact I was in Georgia, I ordered fried okra and tried the peace barbeque sauce. We next meandered along the streets making our way to the Savannah River. 

Along the Savannah River water front, photo Denise Ames

Numerous restaurants and bars lined the shores of the historic section next to the Savannah River. We settled into one of the outdoor establishments and sipped on wine as container ships, old-time steam ships, and other craft floated by.

Surprisingly to me, the Port of Savannah/Brunswick is the 4th largest in the United States as of September 2021. Only Los Angeles, Long Beach, and New York/Newark rank higher. The port was created in 1744 to export cotton and tobacco from the area’s plantations and to sadly import slaves from Africa, until the slave trade was abolished in 1808.

Port of Savannah, photo Denise Ames

Operated by the Georgia Ports Authority, the Port of Savannah is now home to the largest single-terminal container facility of its kind in North America and is the 3rd fastest growing port in the nation. Click this fun link to see a container ship make its way to the port on the surprisingly narrow Savannah River.

Now the exports flowing from Savannah’s ports include wood pulp, paper and paperboard, food, and clay, while imports include furniture, retail consumer goods, machinery, appliances, and electronics.

Savannah River, photo Denise Ames

As I sat and watched the constant stream of ships chugging their way upriver to the port, I reflected on the importance of trade to the city. Goods from the interior were transported to the port city for export, while goods from the port city were transported to the interior. It really is a remarkable feat of coordination, efficiency, and knowledge all residing on layers of wealth and investment that has built an interconnected economic infrastructure.

It gave me pause as I marveled at the intricacy of the whole trading operations and its capacity for change and adaptation. Even though cotton is no longer “king” as in the antebellum era, and the trade in human beings has been thankfully disbanded, trade in commodities continues unabated. Our tiny group of visitors wouldn’t be sitting in a river-side restaurant enjoying a variety of consumer goods without the coming and goings of those ships. I did a little toast to the container vessel as it passed by.  

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program Gatt, Global Awareness Through Travel. Gatt is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Joy and Disaster at Smascott Orchards: Upstate New York

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

Goodbyes photo Denise Ames

My family reunion in upstate New York came to and end. All departed except me. I was staying on a few more days with my daughter and her family before catching a Jet Blue flight direct from JFK to Albuquerque. Now I would be able to spend more fun time with my grandchildren!

One of the things we love to do when I visit my family in upstate New York is to go to Smascott Orchards, a U-Pick farm located in Kinderhook. Blueberries, strawberries raspberries, blackberries, bing cherries, tomatoes, and assorted greens were now in season and awaiting our eager and nimble hands to pick them.

“Princess” at Smascott Orchards, photo Denise Ames

We decided to take “Princess,” a green 1995 Range Rover Discovery. Built like a tank, and showing signs of wear and age, the kids love to ride on top when they go to the orchard for short, slow rides in-between fields of produce. We loaded up containers for our pickings, a picnic lunch, the dog, and off we went.

My grandchildren picking blueberries, photo Denise Ames

After days of rain and mud, it was nice to have only partly cloudy skies. It didn’t look like we would get drenched again until afternoon. We pulled into the busy orchard and an army of people were on hand to check us in and give us some containers. Our first stop was the blueberry patch. The bushes were loaded with luscious-looking and sweet-tasting fruit. We all set to work.

The twins, now 4 ½, were able berry pickers. They each had their own container and plucked away with concentration and gusto. My 9-year old granddaughter was a seasoned berry picker, and tasted as many as she put in her pail. Of course, I had to tell my grandchildren the story once again about my dad and his blueberry-picking days. As a youth he lived in the swamp lands of Tomah, Wisconsin, where blueberries were plentiful but hard to find. For the best picking, he told me that he followed “the Indians” (Ojibway were in the region during the 1930s), who knew the best patches of blueberries in the dense thickets. I love that story, and they did as well.

Blueberry bush, Smascott Orchards, photo Denise Ames

After picking cartons of blueberries, we turned to raspberries. They were a bit picked-over and we did not net as many as we did the blueberries. Strawberries were also a bit picked over, but we made a substantial haul, same with the blackberries.

Now, on to the bing cherries. The low hanging fruit had already been pillaged, so my grandchildren eagerly scampered up into the trees to snare a respectable stash of the sweet fruit.  

Twins picking bing cherries from a tree, photo Denise Ames

My daughter dashed over to pick a supply of assorted greens, while my grandchildren scampered up the ladder to the top of the camouflage-green Discovery. I walked along the rows of produce to gather some tomatoes. I glanced over to the hulking SUV and the grandchildren were chatting away gripping the roof rails as Princess inched its way toward the tomato open greenhouse.

Usually, all three kids clamor down from the roof top but this time, only my oldest granddaughter climbed down, the twins stayed on top, unsupervised. Our attention had turned to selecting the most beautiful ripe tomatoes amongst rows of beautiful tomatoes. Just as we had finished our picking we heard a blood-curdling scream coming from the vicinity of the Discovery. Stunned, the four of us raced to the SUV.

My grandson, who uttered the screams, was extremely distraught. His sister had stood up on the roof and walked along the top and inadvertently stepped on the fragile sunroof glass. The sunroof shattered into thousands of tiny pieces of glass scattered about the interior. Luckily, she was not hurt and seemed shocked by all that had transpired because of her somewhat innocent explorations. My grandson quickly assured us that he was blameless.

Although my youngest granddaughter was initially targeted as the perpetrator of the disaster, my son-in-law next turned the blame for the incident upon himself, since he usually doesn’t leave them unaccompanied on the SUV roof. We all took our stab at blaming ourselves, while my youngest granddaughter seemed relieved that everyone had turned their accusations inward instead of towards her.

Strawberry picking, Smascott Orchards, photo Denise Ames

Dark clouds were starting to form in the sky and a few errant raindrops started to fall. We turned our focus to extracting the last bits of glass from the sunroof, cleaning up the glass strewn across the interior, and fashioning a makeshift cover for the sunroof. My fold-up hair brush served as a clean-up tool for the remaining sunroof glass, while we painstakingly collected the glass in an old blanket that we transported to the trash receptacle. We took one of the thick rubber floor mats and placed it over the hole in the sunroof, wedging it snugly into place. At least, it would get us back home.

The Smascott Orchards escapade taught me several lessons. First, the joy of spending time with my grandchildren in nature is something I always treasure. Watching them scuttle up a tree or pick berries with attention are memories grandparents hold dear. Also, when disaster strikes, blaming is useless, while working together to arrive at a solution is paramount.

Blueberries from Smascott Orchards, photo Denise Ames

We exited the orchard and they tallied up our sizable bill. They did a thorough check of the Discovery to make sure that we did not embezzle any produce in any cavities of the vehicle. Sadly, they said they have lots of theft of produce so they have to instill draconian checkout measures. I felt like I was at a border crossing with agents checking my vehicle for any contraband. Luckily, they didn’t check our stomachs, since we probably pilfered an untold number of pints of fruit in our bodily cavities.

As we sped home, trying to avoid torrents of rain that seemed to be following us, I felt a wave of satisfaction come over me. It was a fun family day, complete with moments of joy and happiness, along with the inevitable period of confusion, disaster, and anger. All in a day at the orchards with my grandchildren.   

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program Gatt, Global Awareness Through Travel. Gatt is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Family Reunion: Observations on Passivity and Letting It Be

Dr. Denise R. Ames

After a fun New England road trip with my cousin Paula, we congregated in Craryville, New York for a 4-day family reunion.

Green River, near Great Barrington, NY, photo Denise Ames

The first few days of the family reunion were fun. Even though the water was frigid, we had a wonderful time swimming in the nearby Green River and picnicking along its pebbly beach; we also had rousing games of water volleyball and chicken foot, a domino game. But our time together was drawing to a close and after a day of watching the rain wash away our good cheer, we were anxious to do something besides sit in the barn.

We decided to make reservations for a farewell dinner at an upscale Italian restaurant in Hudson, NY. It would be a nice contrast to the barn and no indoor plumbing lifestyle we had become accustomed to during the reunion.

Family reunion, restaurant in Hudson, NY

Everyone dressed up as much as barn living would allow, and we all looked very swank as we made our way inside the upscale restaurant. No one would have guessed that we had lived in a barn the last several days. My grandchildren were on their best behavior, only one brief outburst and that quickly dissipated. It was late and they were real troopers. I guess living in a barn builds resilience. It was a memorable evening and I made a toast that I was grateful to have my family all together.

I live in New Mexico, which has about a 40% Hispanic population. (In NM we use the terms Hispanic, Anglo (white), and Indian or Native to describe the tri-culture state.) So often when I take a hike or go for a road trip in my home state I often encounter Hispanic families (sometimes Native as well) out enjoying themselves in nature. It is usually an extended family, with all the generations represented from young to old. They pile into a big van or truck and seem content to be together doing what many would consider mundane things. They have elaborate picnics, take a hike, wade in streams, and often blare music. I greatly admire the close connections they have with each other. When I am by myself and see the Hispanic families, I long for the close connectivity I have when my family is together.

My family reunion was a time for me to trade in the individualistic tilt of my Anglo (white) culture and enter into the world of a Hispanic family. We do mundane things—a river swim, a game of chicken foot, a picnic, or a hike through the woods—but the main point is that we just enjoy each other’s company. We do not try to accomplish a particular goal or learn something new, it is just being.

In fact, a certain passivity takes over me (not always though). I wonder why? I have read that traditional cultures are often more passive than modern/progressive cultures. I see this passivity unfold as I observe Native people in NM patiently waiting at a doctor’s office for their appointment with their children sitting quietly near them. My grandchildren, in contrast, can barely sit still for very long, they are always on the move, always active.

Strolling through the Green River, photo Denise Ames

Since I can be an impatient, restless, assertive person at times, I marvel at how a passive nature takes hold of my being when I am in the bond-with-the-family mode. I don’t feel the need to draw attention to what I consider my individual accomplishments. In fact, I relish feeling ordinary, like how many people have probably felt over the centuries when they are in the family cocoon. When I am in the cocoon, my individuality falls away while the family develops a collective mind. We are all in sync, all of one mind, even though we pick different flavors of ice cream, we are a family enjoying eating an ice cream treat.

Reading a book, Hidden Hill, photo Denise Ames

So now when I see people that belong to traditional cultures acting in their passive mode, I will appreciate it more, since I have had that experience as well. Even though going against the cultural norms of one’s group is difficult, at least for a temporary moment I can relax, enjoy, and participate in the collective family.

Family travel is a good vehicle for entering the passive mode. We are away from our normal activities, which are often frantic. We don’t have to replicate our home life, but deviate from it as we wish We don’t have to schedule events to within the half-hour. Recognizing the difference between passivity and activity is a good first step. 

As the family reunion came to end, I reflected on the enjoyment and appreciation I have when we are all together. I feel relaxed, content, and don’t daydream about being anywhere else more glamorous or prestigious. My ego lays placid as I am just happy on being just where I am.  

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; GATHER, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program GATT, Global Awareness Through Travel. GATT is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in cultural tourism, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rain, Rain, and More Rain: A Family Reunion in the Mud

by Dr. Denise R. Ames

After a fun New England road trip with my cousin Paula, we congregated in Craryville, New York for a 4-day family reunion.

Green River, near Great Barrington, MA, photo Denise Ames

The first few days of the family reunion were fun. Even though the water was frigid, we had a wonderful time swimming in the nearby Green River and picnicking along its pebbly beach.

My son and daughter-in-law had managed their stay in the tent for two nights. Even though they had the advantage of a close outhouse, the rain had seeped into the tent making everything damp and miserable. Mosquitos were taking their toll on my daughter-in-law, her extremities were covered in pink, raised blotches. The muddy trail from the tent to the barn, the central gathering place, was becoming impassable for the Gator utility vehicle, and it was difficult to hike because of the torrential rains. They decided to cut their losses and reserved a hotel room in nearby Hudson. Turned out to be a smart move.

Pool at Hidden Hill, NY, photo Denise Ames

Oddly enough, Hidden Hill has a swimming pool. Although the house was in shambles, the previous owners decided to build a gorgeous pool before tackling the house. It is set on a level part of the hill side, replete with a flagstone patio surrounding the pool. My daughter even installed a hand-held nozzle and shower head discreetly located behind some trees to act as a shower. She even has a propane tank to heat the water. The pine needled shower floor kept us from wallowing in mud. Such luxury.

We all loved the pool and everyone thrashed about in the cold waters. My son had sent a volleyball net and balls via Amazon for water volleyball games in the pool. We had several rousing matches, occasionally broken up by thunder storm warnings and ominous darkened skies. Once again, I showed my adventurous side, braving the cold pool waters and diving for errant balls in pitched volley ball games.

A game of Chicken Foot in the barn, photo Denise Ames

One evening we had a birthday party for Paula’s son, replete with grilled salmon, vegetables, big salad, bread, and crowned by a fruit-filled, layered birthday cake. We topped off the evening with presents for everyone who has a birthday before and after July. The hose to the sink had sprung a leak, so dishwashing not only entailed the person washing and a person drying, but a person holding a finger over the leak. My handy daughter later fixed it.

Our family reunions always involve a stimulating game of chicken foot, a fun game with dominoes that somehow always involves good-natured humor and wise cracks. My oldest granddaughter gloated about her win, and I was humbled by my loss. We retired to our respective accommodations eager for another fun day.

Muddy paths at Hidden Hill, NY, photo Denise Ames

But that fun day did not happen. It was a long night of ear-splitting thunder, bolts of lightning, and torrents of rain. It didn’t stop. I was awake half the night wondering if our camper would survive. The next morning, I awoke to sheets of rain pelting the landscape. I waited, as long as I could for a break in the rain, then darted out to relieve my bladder. I noticed a huge tree limb was down blocking one of the trails to the outhouse while the other trail was a sheet of mud sliding down the incline. The outhouse was inaccessible.  

In fact, the rainfall in July in upstate New York turned out to be a record, according to an old-timer passing by the barn and stopping to chat and rainfall records. Heavy rains hampered our day, restricting outside activities and preventing us from pool volleyball. At least we got in some games of chicken foot during the day. Out of boredom we drove to Hudson to do some shopping, darting in and out of shops as the rain kept pelting us with its fury.

Blocked access to the outhouse, Family reunion at Hidden Hill, NY, photo Denise Ames

Mother nature doesn’t care if we scheduled a family reunion or not. It dictates the terms of how we interact in the world, and for several days in upstate New York, the terms she imposed were I am dumping lots of rain on all of you.

Living close to the elements, whether in the barn, camper, or tent gives me a renewed appreciation and respect for nature. Even though modern conveniences are a fingertip away, many of them cannot dictate to nature how it should behave. That is one thing we will never be able to conquer.

About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames

Dr. Denise R. Ames’ varied life experiences—teaching, extensive travels, scholarly research, personal experiences, and thoughtful reflections—have contributed to her global perspectives, balanced views, and cultural insights about the world. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded Center for Global Awareness, an educational non-profit. She has written nine books, plus numerous blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units.

The Center for Global Awareness offers three programs: Global Awareness for Educators, globally-focused books and educational resources for educators and students grade 9-university; GATHER, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection, a study and conversation program for self-organizing groups of lifelong learners; and their newest program GATT, Global Awareness Through Travel. GATT is Dr. Ames’ travel advisory service that supports travelers to see the world with new eyes, learn from the past, understand others, and reflect upon one’s own personal journey and place in the world. She incorporates five pathways—a holistic world history, cross-cultural awareness, multiple worldviews, significant global issues, and personal well-being—into her unique approach to gleaning all the wonders travel has to offer us.

Dr. Ames lives in sunny Albuquerque, New Mexico with her partner, Jim. Her family includes two adult children and their spouses, and three adorable grandchildren.

Dr. Denise R. Ames has written 9 books for the Center for Global Awareness, check out their titles! Global Awareness Books  Email Dr. Ames at drames@global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in cultural tourism, Nature | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment