Asylum: Chaos on the Border

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Border Wall

My husband and I spent a long weekend in Tucson a few weeks ago. The topic of the border wall, and US military activities along the border are not only salient for Arizonans but in your face. 

We ate lunch with friends in Tubac, 40 miles south of Tucson, and 20 miles from the US/Mexico border.  Every car returning from Tubac to Tucson is stopped by the military and checked by a dog for drugs.  There were at least 30 cars parked in the parking area as we passed.  I don’t know if the cars belonged to the many military personnel on patrol or people who were stopped. Either way, a lot of human manpower  in one location.

As four older white adults, we didn’t raise many eyebrows at checkpoint.  I’m sure if we sported young brown Hispanic faces our experience might be quite different. Ironically, we weren’t even crossing the border. This stop, is not at the border but rather between two U.S.communities.   According to my friends, our cursory stop was the shortest wait they had at this particular check point.  Sometimes, cars are backed up for 30 to 40 minutes.    

While visiting,  we attended a presentation by a national expert on Asylum. The expert told us that the rules were changing so quickly that no one could provide a clear answer to anyone wanting accurate information about what steps to take to seek asylum. 

I had hoped to tour the wall while visiting the southwest for a better personal understanding of what we are talking about when we say the U.S. is building a wall to “protect” us.   We are going back in March to Tucson with a different set of friends. Unfortunately, all the tours by the Border Community Alliance, a Tubac, Arizona nonprofit, committed to wider public knowledge of border issues are booked through March.  My husband and I may drive down to the border crossing at Nogales just to view what is going on.  But Tripadvisor recommends against American tourists going further south than Tubac unless on a legitimate tour.

I heard on National Public Radio (NPR) today.  That we have just changed Asylum regulations again.  Anyone who is visibility pregnant is not allowed into the country even if they have a legitimate already assigned court date to determine if they qualify for asylum.  Since these pregnant women are stopped at the border trying to get to their court date, they miss the appointment.  One of two things happens; best case scenario they get another court date after the baby is born or they are disqualified for asylum because they failed to show up for their court date and were unable to provide notice.  The obvious reason for this policy is to keep their babies from being born in the United States and qualifying for citizenship.  There is an churlish unfairness  underlying this change in policy. Poor, probably homeless and abused pregnant women  are trying to follow our rules and we are constantly changing them without notice.

The border problems have not been part of the Democratic debates but they certainly should be part of every American’s civic discussions.  We are a country of immigrants. We should be able to agree on a policy on how to process entry into the United States that is easily understandable for individuals legitimately seeking asylum, protection from persecution or fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, or political opinion.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Message on Statue of Liberty Plaque.Statue of liberty

McCall Winter Carnival: The Happiest Place in Winter

Snow Sculptures at McCall 2020 Winter Carnival

Friday, January 24 was the start of McCall, Idaho annual Winter Carnival. This family centri event is bound to please all the snow hounds in your household with everything from gorgeous snow sculptures to fireworks, parade, dog sledding and mongrel racing. Of course there are all the snow events; downhill skiing, skating, cross country skiing, snow shoeing, and sledding. We go almost every year and I am always amazed by the local creativity and work that goes into the sculptures.

We go every year. I remember the kids finding the big piles of snow to crawl on better than the sculptures. Their dad is still delighted by snow. He likes to knock it off our cabin roof. He loves to chop wood and fill the wood stove to make our cabin really cozy. The Winter Carnival offers something for everyone, a place to make family memories of good times in snowy weather.

Best Things to do on the Big Island in Winter

20161126_161724Volcano National Park: Plan an entire day including the round-trip drive from Kona or stay in the park at Volcano House.  The active lava lake spewing red fire creates fine strands of golden fiberglass, called Pele’s Hair, after the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes. They’re formed when lava is ejected into the air and small droplets are caught by the wind, which then cools and stretches them into very thin strands.  This melted gold is breathtaking to see and touch but be careful it can cut your hand.  Touring an active volcano is a good reminder that earth is always changing by forces outside human control.  Be sure to take a tour with a ranger to have a better understanding of man’s relationship to nature.  Before man brought predators to the islands, large birds and flora were the only inhabitants.  Our ranger described how the birds became large and flightless because of the lush vegetation.  Imagine a five foot tall owl greeting you as you walked the rainforest.

Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens (near Hilo): The flora in this garden is absolutely stunning.  The pathway winds through a rain forest, past water falls to the ocean.  If you are lucky, you will be caught in a rain storm providing a sense of why everything stays so green. This garden reminded me of Mother Nature gone wild with her paint brush.  The number of exotic flowers and colors was astounding.

When you go to the Gardens, make a quick stop by Rainbow Falls in Hilo. This is a state park, no fee and the falls are right by the parking area.20161125_160808

Honokohau Settlement and Kaloko-Honelieh National Historical Park: This is a national park and takes either your Golden Eagle pass for entrance or $5.00 a car.  Once a thriving Hawaii settlement (1200 A.D.) the park provides remnants of the past including a massive wall surrounding a long ago demolished palace, a place of worship, wood carvings of Gods and individuals re-enacting activities from the period.  We saw a man in a loincloth making rock tools.  We also saw live sea turtles on the beach.

A short walk away is Honokohau Boat Harbor. There is only lava to sit on but the area provided the clearest blue waters and most variety of fish for snorkeling of all the places we stopped to snorkel.

20161122_163454Akaka Falls State Park:  There is a short loop walk to see amazing falls in a tropical rainforest setting. Cost of entry is $5 per car to park in the lot at Akaka Falls State Park or $1 for walk-ins (if you park on the side of the road outside of the park boundary). The 0.4-mile loop trail to the waterfalls is paved, although there are some stairs. Plummeting 442 feet, it’s easy to see why Akaka Falls is one of Hawaii’s most famous waterfalls. A viewing area includes protective railings so that you don’t fall over the edge while capturing the waterfall’s slender but powerful plunge into a gorge created by years of erosion. My kids had fun doing pictures for snap chat of the falls going into their open mouths.

Waipi’o Valley Lookout: On the way to Akaka Falls stop at the Waipi’o Lookout. Take the time to view “The Valley of the Kings”  at the end of the Hamakua Heritage Corridor. Once an important site for Hawaiian history and culture, it’s also a place of dramatic tropical beauty. I could feel a sacred spirit surrounding me when I viewed the gorgeous valley.20161122_142250

Beaches: We spent three days visiting various beaches up and down the Big Island Coast line. As my son remarked, “The best beach is relative.” At one beach, there were shady trees, gentle water lapping on the shore and children building sand castles. At another we had to drive over lava in a four wheel drive vehicle and hike to a length of white sand with life guards because the surf was rough.  Guide books can describe the various attributes of the beaches to you but the ones you like best will depend on what you like to do sun, surf, snorkel.  The water at all of the ones we visited were glorious variations of blue and  the temperature of the water warm.  All Hawaiian beaches are open to the public.  The government of Hawaii has done a good job of providing clean rest rooms and showers where ever practical.

Kona Coffee: Kona is known for coffee and there are many places to take free coffee tours.  The purpose of the tours is to sell local coffee.  I found the opportunity to learn about how coffee is made very engaging.

Local Restaurants worth trying:

  • Merriman’s at Waimen pioneered Hawaii’s farm to table cuisine. Plan on eating luscious local dishes in an elegant environment. This is a high end restaurant but worth the price.
  • Kona Pub and Brewing: A fun outside restaurant which provides good food while allowing the beer connoisseurs in your group to try out different flavors. Examples of beers are Big Wave Golden Ale, Lemongrass Luau, and Lavaman Red Ale. Prices are comparable to brew pubs on the main land.
  • Lucy’s Taqueria, Hilo. We ate here twice because it was inexpensive, had lots of options for vegetarians (we have one in our crowd), food was served quickly and it was scrumptious.

Most of all take the time to enjoy your surroundings and the people you are with.  The Big Island is big, beautiful and tranquil. Don’t plan so much that all you are doing is rushing hither and yon.

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A Week of Adventure on the Big Island

The Big Island, Hawaii is a land of white, black and green sand beaches, flowing lava, gorgeous flowers and rainforests. If you want to go to fancy restaurants or walk long stretches of sandy beaches with small waves choose a different Hawaiian Island. I say this from experience.  We have been to Hawaii five times and visited three different islands.  If you are like us and like to  set  out each day to explore a new locale, the Big Island is for you.

My family of four(my husband and I, my 17 year-old-daughter and my college-age son) spent  Thanksgiving week  in Kona at a Vacation by Owner condo near the water. Exploring the island requires a rental car.  Since some of the so-called roads  are like traveling the moon in a rover, I would recommend an SUV.  We would be giggling as bounced we bounced along in our jeep and see some cars turning around because they were too low to navigate the terrain.  I likened it  to the jostling  on the airplane (our flight in was really rough and we were at the back of the bus).  My son, Scott, said, “Yeah and we’re on the ground.”

We carried snorkeling gear, beach chairs and towels and boogie board with us every day. No telling when that special black rock road will lead to great snorkeling.  Flip-flops are a failure on lava.  Bring a good pair of hiking sandals.  When headed towards the rainforest have rain gear with you.  You will need it.  Buckets of rain can pour down on you without warning and then disappear in a few minutes.  The rain is warm but you’re still wet. The scenery is so breathtaking it’s hard to know when to stop taking pictures and just sit and soak in the view.

I had clothes for a week and I spent most of my time in a two piece swim suit, long-sleeved sunbrella shirt and sun visor. I burn badly so sun screen and lots of it was a must.

The nights were mild. We never needed long pants except at the high elevations when we went to the Volcano National Park. The temperature dropped to the low sixties causing me to pull on my lightweight workout  jacket.  At the volcanoes, we wore our hiking shoes not our sandals.

 

When looking for places to eat, we would ask our trusty friend Siri for local restaurants and then make our decision based on reviews and dollar signs. We found many unlikely places to dine off the beaten track with great local food distinct from the usual tourist fare. Of course, Kona coffee is world renown for its dark color, thick texture and strong body flavor.  A daily cup helps keep the group going.20161123_115528.jpg

Our adventure was appropriate for teenagers, young adults and active seniors. Young children would have a terrible time driving so much and many of the beaches were too rough for children to just play in the sand.  For people seeking active adventure, the Big Island has so many choices the hardest thing you will do each day is decide where to go next.

Rollin’ in the Last, Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer!

Rollout those lazy, crazy days of summer…You’ll wish that summers could always be here (Nat King Cole, 1963)

2016 was my first summer of retirement.  What a glorious time, I have had! Pete and I opened summer with a grand circle tour of the Wyoming and Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Driving from Boise to Jackson Hole, the  Teton’s highlight was biking at twilight along the Snake River. Then on to Buffalo, Wyoming to visit family and enjoy Wyoming’s wonderful summer weather where cool breezes keep the air moving and the need for air conditioning down.  In Cheyenne, Wyoming where I grew up, I am still blessed with many long-term friendships.  These friendships have remained strong  over 20 years of living in different cities with annual visits home.   All but one friend  and my husband beat me to retirement. Some of my friends have had health struggles.  One friend is recovering from a stroke, another a heart condition, another just getting over a knee replacement surgery.  All have new grand children to report on. When I sit down with my Wyoming friends, it feels like yesterday when we left.  Over the years and across the miles, our shared adventures and linking life lines have kept us together.

We finished our roadtrip with our annual visit to a Colorado Rockies game, a must for us and plans to meet Wyoming friends in Arizona next year to watch spring baseball.  Our final stop before heading home was Golden, Colorado where Pete has family and the hops from Coors Brewery fills the air.  Clear Creek runs through town, like the Boise River but much smaller.  These rivers provide the focal point for both communities though their original historical roots are quite different. Golden was a mining town and Boise was the  Lewis and Clark route, the Oregon Trail and home to Fort Boise. Our drive home took us across Utah,  setting of glorious rock formations.  Traveling in Utah always leaves me thinking about Mormon families pushing their hand carts across the vast landscape, a hardy group for sure.

The  friendship/family tour was our only trip this summer.  Boise (consistently ranked as one of the top outdoor cities) is a fabulous place to spend the summer and we also own a cabin in McCall, Idaho welcoming us over the long holidays including Memorial Day, the Fourth of July,  a late July family vacation and most recently Labor Day.  Labor Day trills  the siren call of summer’s end.  The air is starting to turn and Boise hosts the fabulous Boise Balloon Festival.

 Our cabin in McCall is tiny (about 1200 square feet) but it has big arms, welcoming 5 co-ed college students (guests of my son) and Pete and I two weeks ago. Labor Day we hosted Kayla’s 17th birthday extravaganza with  4 of her friends. Kayla’s birthday is September 6th. We celebrate her birthday every Labor Day in McCall. In recent years,  neighbors from Boise have bought a place too. We share or more accurately mooch  dinners and boat rides from them.  Our kids are together in college and they have a daughter from China who is a freshman in high school. The weather never cooperates with our beach and water plans. But somehow we manage to get out on the water. One Labor Day, we were wrapped in blankets on a boat. This year I actually got a brain freeze as I shot across Payette Lake on a jet ski.

So what I have I learned from my first summer of retirement?

  • Family and friends matter  more as one ages, make the time to cultivate and grow existing relationships.
  • Good health is a blessing and shouldn’t be taken for granted.  Exercise regularly, eat right and make time for preventive health visits.
  • Be thankful for every day God  has given me.  Jump out bed and enjoy the day!

Mustang Girls

mustang girls
My sister, Jane, at her 50th high school reunion in Cheyenne, Wyoming with our 1965 Ford Mustang.

I grew up in Wyoming, the cowboy state. Wyoming has a population of about half a million; spread over approximately 100,000 square miles (about 6 people per square mile). Winters are long and cold. The wind blows most of the year, great in the summer for blowing away mosquitoes.  Wyoming cowboys and girls (the few there are) are a hardy, independent, eccentric group.

I was reminded of how quirky Wyomingites are with a story my sister shared from her fiftieth high school reunion last week in Cheyenne.

First, she sent me a picture of a 1965 yellow  Ford  Mustang with a black faux leather roof. Her note said, “This is our car.”  The picture did look amazingly like the car Jane and I drove in high school and college.  I texted her, “Does look just like our car.”  She texted back, “It is our car.” A guy at her reunion had bought the car from our dad for $600 in about 1977, refurbished it and kept it in pristine condition all these years.  Only in Wyoming with such a tiny population would you run into someone who knew you and owned your car for almost 40 years.

I remember the day in 1965 when, Dad brought the mustang home. He drove up in front of our house in Cheyenne.  I looked out the picture window and was thrilled.  The car was only a year old, very few miles,  yellow with a hard top, automatic gear shift in the center console,  creamy leather interior smoothed like butter over bucket seats.  Quite a “ride” for two girls from Wyoming!  The mustang went back and forth to high school though we lived about four blocks away from school.  Then it traveled to college when my sister needed a car her senior year for student teaching.  I was a freshman at the same school so I was one of the few freshmen on campus with access to “wheels”–a literal joy ride!

The Mustang stayed with me all through college after Jane, graduated. The car had two busy summers while I was in college. During that period, I was Lady-in-Waiting (1971) and then Miss Frontier (1972) for Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world’s largest out-door rodeo.  I spent those summers traveling with a Native American Dance troupe, attending civic functions around Wyoming, Nebraska and Colorado, and riding my quarter horse, Debbie.  The car took me everywhere “pony  style”, the nickname for the Mustang’s compact design . Because the “Frontier Days Royalty” had all kinds of outfits for the rodeo, the tiny trunk was frequently filled to the gills with a variety of colored boots and hat boxes filled with expensive felt cowgirl hats.  The back seat carried white silk blouses and buck skins (the official outfit), along with several hand-tailored western suits for night shows and rain gear.

The Mustang and I travelled down to Arizona when I attended graduate school at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. The problem with the Mustang in Arizona was it didn’t have air conditioning.   I only went to graduate school during the school year so the heat problem was limited to late August and early June.  But driving back to Wyoming was a bear.  My sister flew down to drive with me the spring I graduated (1975).  The car broke down in transit back to Wyoming.  Now ten years  old, Dad got me a  brand-new Mercury Bobcat to go to Washington State University in Pullman where I worked on my doctorate.

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 Bobcat and I in Pullman, Washington

 

After the Mustang retired from driving girls, the car was parked behind our house in Cheyenne, out in the open.  Dad used it as his golfing car, carrying his golf clubs out to the Country Club every day in summer.  A young man at the time cruising the alley spotted the car and stopped to inquire if Dad wanted to sell it.  And so a good long-term family friend went to another apparently forever home.

If the Mustang could talk, it would have many tales to tell. Jane and I would drive  from Cheyenne to Hastings, Nebraska for  college and back  on I-80.  We were almost always speeding. The speed limit at that time was 75.  One time, when we were going almost a 100 miles an hour, I could feel us barreling off the road.  I remember shouting at Jane as we were heading off, “Slow down!”  She calmly replied, “Too late now!”  as we swerved into the high grasses.  Fortunately for us, much of the road between Wyoming and Nebraska is flat plains.  We just rolled to a stop, backed up and were off down the road again.  Thinking of our escapades now gives me shivers.  But in the late sixties we would drive like the wind, with reckless abandon, racing everywhere to the next big adventure.  After all we were Mustang girls, who grew up on the wild, windy, Wyoming plains.

Ride around girls,

Ride around girls,

Don’t you ever slow that Mustang down!

 

Zip lining at Tamarack: A Bucket List Experience

 

Tamarack
Tamarack zip line
 

Zipping from tree top to tree top, I felt like an eagle soaring high but going so fast I would never be able to spot prey.  While in my fantasy I was an agile winged bird of prey, in reality I looked like a rotating chicken on a spit because I never could keep the line straight as directed and found myself twisting around.  I could only take in the splendor of Cascade Lake and the mountains when standing on the wooden perches waiting my turn.  There were  9 in our group but the tour can accommodate up to 10. The first zip, the tour guide, had to pry off my hands from what he described as the “clutch of death”.

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My helmet is askew from spinning
For safety purposes, everyone is tethered onto the tree platforms in-between zips. The highest perch was 125 feet. The platforms are  sky-high tree houses about 12 feet square with a tree rising through  middle of the platform and serving as the structure.  The tree is partially covered with padding to avoid out of control humanoids slamming into bark and surrounded by tethers to keep the tour group from accidently pitching over the side and becoming a causality of the exercise.

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Tree top platform for taking off.
The correct position is a tucked canon ball with one hand on the zip tether for guidance and the other free floating for an airbrake if necessary.  An air brake means you stick you your hand out and madly grab for air to slow yourself down in an awkward flapping maneuver. The demonstration of this  technique looks like  sky diving without a parachute.  Fortunately, I was never going fast enough to try to stop myself.  On the other hand, if you aren’t going fast enough to reach the landing you are to grab the safety cord so the tour guide can pull you in.  The second zip,   zipping in my own little zone, I didn’t hear the guide shouting at me to grab the safety line.  I came to my senses just in time to avoid an incident of hanging out in the middle of line needing to be fetched in by guides.  When this happens, you are called “fish on a line”.  That gives you some idea of how ungainly a non-moving zipper can become, hanging in mid-air waiting to be rescued. My daughter was on a different trip where a younger member (not enough weight, certainly not my problem) had this happen.  Apparently, it took considerable time to fetch the kid from mid rope back up to the platform.

Trying zip lining was on my bucket list partially because my balance problems have eliminated so many of my challenges I easily accomplished when I was younger. Since one is held up when zipping, I thought I could accomplish this adrenal pump even with my limitations.  I did drag my husband, Pete, along.  At first, he said he would take me to the site and drop me off to do it by myself.  But after shrieking at him that this wouldn’t help me at all, he came along reluctantly. In a bind, I can count on him to hold my hand  and pull me up or down areas I can’t accommodate on my own.  It turned out there was another gracious guy on the trip who kept stopping to help me.  His wife had stayed at home and the guides were top notch and helped everyone.

I would like to report that the next day given my excellent condition I jumped out of bed not feeling anything.  Unfortunately, I am 65.  The next day my body felt like I’d been flung around in a dryer.  I had bruises on my thighs from the equipment and a cut on my leg from the suspension bridge.  One cannot be an adventurer without being willing to take the pain with the adrenal pump.  Would I do it again?  Oh yes.  My bucket list also includes  is sailing over the rain forest in Costa Rico.

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My husband, Peter and I, after our zip line experience with a gorgeous view of Cascade Lake in the background.