Category Archives: travel

America is not the greatest country in the world

I’m first generation American, a position that gives me, I think, an interesting perspective on this country. I was bilingual until kindergarten when I came home from my half day of school and informed my mother that “this is America and we speak English here.” After that, I no longer was willing to speak German, a genuine loss when I visit my family in the Black Forest where most of them still reside.

Speaking a second language was not considered an asset in this country which arrogantly calls itself “America,” despite the fact that that is the name of two entire continents of which we are only one single country. In contrast, my mother spoke 3 languages while living in Europe, learning her fourth, English, upon arriving here in the mid-60s.

Growing up, we were encouraged to work hard in school because my mother saw education as the only means available to create a life better than the one into which we were born. My brother is a doctor and I hold an advanced degree. We own homes, have retirement accounts, travel, and generally have comfortable lives. In spite of childhoods consisting of a single parent home, Medicaid, and the shame of food stamps and free lunch, we made it.

Through hard work and social programs, my brother and I achieved what in many regards is considered the American Dream. So, why aren’t I more of a believer in the claim that America is the greatest country in the world? Well, it seems like there are quite a few reasons.

The income gap in the United States is outrageous. I don’t know about you, but I will never be convinced that a CEO is entitled to receive a salary that is on average 361 times the salary of the average worker. I’m not suggesting that the rest of the world is perfect, but America really excels in compensating executives at a more outrageous level than any where else in the world.

Do you have any idea how much our country spends on the military? How does the number $649 BILLION sound to you? It’s an amount comparable to the spending of the next eight countries – combined. Granted, this amount is less than what is budgeted for K-12 education,  but it remains an incredibly large number.

Speaking of education, when I was in Greece last month, I spoke with a couple from Scotland and asked them how college “worked” in their country. How much does it cost? Who pays for it? Their response – tuition is free and students are only responsible for related expenses such as room, board and books. The cost of those items can be met with loans, which essentially have an interest rate close to zero with repayment of the loans not beginning until the borrower reaches a certain level of income. Doesn’t that sound a lot more fair and reasonable than our government, which is the largest lender to students, earning interest off citizens trying to improve their lives?

During my travels I’ve been struck by the price of groceries (low) and the quality of public transportation (high) in the European countries which I’ve visited. Access to health care, while not perfect, does not seem to bankrupt families in the way I’ve observed it occurring in this country.

Solar and wind energy seem much more common in Europe and vehicles are more compact and fuel efficient than those found in America. Homes are smaller, not requiring the same resources to maintain, heat and cool. Vacation time is more generous, as are family leave policies when it comes to child rearing, with tax incentives available to soften the blow of losing an income while a parent stays home to raise a child.

America has been good to my family, but it is not the greatest country in the world and we need to recognize that. While it once may have been a true beacon of freedom and opportunity for all, that time has passed. A country which separates families seeking asylum, fails to provide preventative healthcare to the poor and the underemployed and has different justice and education systems for people depending upon the color of their skin really doesn’t sound all that great to me.

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Filed under Education, Europe, ideas, musings, Observations, politics, Rant, travel

(Not) Letting go

As of mid morning on Monday my hair still smelled like woodsmoke from Saturday night’s bonfire on Herring Cove beach. I washed it later in the day, but delaying the shampooing allowed the odor to linger in a lame attempt to cling to the week I had just spent at the Cape. It ended too soon.

After my adventures in Greece earlier this summer, I came to the realization that 2 weeks in Greece was essentially the same cost as the house I rent in Wellfleet. Hmmm. That was striking. Maybe it was time to let go of of this twenty year tradition for the sake of experiencing new destinations…

But, the magic of the Cape seems to get me every time, even when getting there is a clusterf*ck of traffic. Morning walks to the ocean, swimming with my dog in a pond that feels like our own and enjoying friends and low key entertaining…I just don’t know how to let it go.

Difficulty letting go has been a theme for me, it seems. This annual vacation, my Volvo wagon, lovers, specific articles of clothing…I hang on to things that have personal meaning that is sometimes irrational and beyond physical properties. I suspect it comes from unresolved childhood issues and a general lack of stability growing up. I mean, by the time I was in 6th grade I had attended three different school districts (and 5 separate buildings) and moved at least 8 times, which certainly didn’t lend much in terms of consistency to my life.

Perhaps all of that upheaval created a need for some constants in my life, beyond my brother and oldest of friends, and the annual trip to the Cape has simply grown into an event that is beyond a mere beach vacation. It’s a touchstone of my summer.

As I drove east and then south to Wellfleet, I did so with the mindset that this was it, end of an era, and I felt okay about it. Seven days later I knew that somehow I would find a way to continue this tradition, even with an anticipated return to Greece and a trip with my youngest son to Spain. At least for the next year. It’s just too important to my emotional and mental health, and my dog, to abandon.

What do you struggle to let go of?

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Filed under aging, beauty, Cape Cod, favorites, friends, Greece, love, musings, relationships, road trips, Spain, Summer, travel, vacation

Still swept away by Greece

This summer is flying by, don’t you think? I can’t believe it’s been almost three weeks since I got back from Greece. It some ways it feels like forever ago that we were there, however, I’m still successfully mentally resurrecting the sense of pleasure I felt being there just by closing my eyes. That country definitely is staying with me.

I’ve been to a fair number of European countries over the years, but there’s something about Greece that really rang a bell for me. It was effortlessly beautiful with blue skies, bright perennial flowers and white washed buildings. The hills were arid and reminded me of the mountain in Palm Springs, another favorite place for me. The ocean was everywhere. My eyes simply never grew tired of the sights before them.

The Greek people are wonderful, gracious with their use of English and seemingly always interested in providing hospitality that goes a little beyond the expectation. After nearly every Taverna dinner we were provided with some small treat – a scoop of ice cream, a shot glass of a local liqueur or hunks of watermelon. After a life changing* bowl of chick peas that had been slow cooked in a bath of olive oil, onions and salt, I was given a bowl of watermelon tasting ever so slightly of the garlic cut with the same knife. My satisfaction with the meal could not have been greater.

Returning to a particular island has occupied my thoughts since I got back home – Paros, the last of the three islands we visited. The reasons for the fondness I have for this place are purely emotional. I felt very comfortable there. The island isn’t too big, the towns are picturesque without being fussy and the food and drink both stellar. There were also two things that occurred that gave me a sign from the universe that I was in a good place, the right place even.

The first was when son and I travelled to a different town on the island, Naoussa, which was to the north of Parikia where we were staying. It was late morning when we arrived on the bus and walked through the village on our way to finding a beach. Imagine my surprise to hear someone seated at a sidewalk cafe calling my name. It was a group with whom we had enjoyed the previous evening’s Farm to Table feast down island and now here they were! How random is that?!

The second affirmation came on the bus. I had purchased tickets for my son and I for a particular destination from which we would take a hike. He decided prior to departure that he didn’t care to go, so I went solo. As the bus driver’s helper came down the aisle to collect tickets, it turned out the beauty rich, but euro poor, young woman seated behind me did not have the necessary fare for her ride. I was able to offer her my extra ticket which turned out to be exactly what she needed. The smiles exchanged between she, the bus employee and myself could have lit up a room. It was a simple, happy moment.

I’m going to figure out how to get to Paros again and create some more of those. We all need simple, happy moments, right?

*Only slightly hyperbolic

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Filed under aging, beauty, Europe, favorites, Greece, musings, Recommendations, Summer, travel, vacation

Eternal life and other things I brought back from Greece

My relationship with souvenirs is complicated. I find it easy to buy things for friends when I’m traveling, but have grown into a person who doesn’t want to bring another thing into my home unless it serves a practical purpose. With a couple of exceptions, that is.

Here’s what I brought home from my most recent trip:

A miniature Parthenon for our family collection.

A bag of oregano to add to Greek salads and anything else as the mood strikes.

A couple of key chains and a bracelet for my son because I love the power of the evil eye symbol.

A jar of orange marmalade for my morning toast.

Some pretty stones and small pieces of marble I picked up while walking. They were warm from the sun and I thought I might give them to friends who might appreciate their beauty and need evidence that one never knows where they might end up. I mean, those rocks probably never imagined they’d make it to upstate New York one day!

Refrigerator magnets as gifts.

Vivid memories and hundreds of pictures.

And, about that whole eternal life thing…On our final night in Athens, G and I walked the Plaka and I noticed a copper necklace with a medallion bearing an intricate design. As I admired it, the vendor shared that it was a symbol for eternal life. My son told her I was buying it, even without the added origin story. He was right.

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Filed under Europe, favorites, Greece, ideas, Observations, Summer, travel

Catching up – CivMix & Silvia

I’m really enjoying being a part of CivMix! The site is still being developed, but I think you will find there to be some cool features, both in terms of content and interface, once the website is fully fleshed out.

Here are my most recent posts over there. Why not give a read and some feedback – here or there!

Dispatch from Greece

What makes a meal memorable?

I want to get away – Part I

…and Part II

 

 

 

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Filed under Albany, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Greece, ideas, Local, Observations, Recommendations, travel, vacation, Wine

Cats of Greece

Enzo

I’ve never really been a cat person. My mother didn’t like cats because they walked all over counters and tables and my brother is allergic, so there were no cats in our house other than the kitten I hid for a couple of days in my closet when I was six.

Enzo, of course, changed things when he took up residence in the DelSo last year. He is the sweetest cat ever – unless you’re a mouse, in which case he will catch you and proceed to torment you until you squeak for mercy. That kind of makes him a perfect house cat, though, doesn’t it?

I had been told that there are cats everywhere in Greece, but nothing really prepared me for the presence of beautiful cats and kittens most everywhere we wandered. They frequented the same tavernas and cafes we did and, in general, seemed to come and go wherever they pleased.

“My” Paros cat

There was one cat that became “mine” for the duration of our stay on Paros. He seemed to have a fondness for the narrow street near our AirBnB and after noticing him the first morning, I came to expect to see him daily. One morning he wasn’t there when I left for my early walk and I was very relieved to see him in his spot upon my return.

Here are some of my other favorite felines.

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Filed under favorites, Greece, Observations, Summer, travel, vacation

DelSo & CivMix

I’ve been doing this DelSo thing for what will be a full decade come December 9th. Wow. I don’t know how that happened, but, I’m also unclear how it is even possible that I will retire in less than 6 years. Boom. Just like that. Incredible!

Over the years, I’ve written about lots of different topics and there have been times that I’ve offended people. I’m aware. What does sometimes take me by surprise, though, is when someone references something I wrote and it’s a person I never imagined reading my words. Wild and gratifying in a way parenthood is most definitely not.

Relationship angst and posts about food and travel are usually the most popular subjects and find the largest readership. Everybody loves a little indulgence and drama, right?

I’ve removed only one post ever, upon request from someone I’ve known a long time. I regret deleting it and would be hard pressed to do that ever again.

There was one post which I significantly modified to add anonymity to the identity of a friend who had died after years of struggles with various substances. Editing the post didn’t change the fact that he was gone.

Often, the posts that vex me the most when I am writing them, are the most audibly received. I get comments or shares, which is particularly welcome when I’ve hit the Publish button even though I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the final product.

I know I make people uncomfortable at times with my positions, or the degree to which I share my personal shit, but what I put out belongs to me – my impressions, my thoughts, my trying to understand the only life I’ll ever have. My truth.

In the past 8 years or so, I’ve been gratified by the opportunity to write for other platforms – both print and digital. All over Albany totally provided my first exposure through their weekly “What’s Up In the Neighborhood” feature and I’ll forever appreciate Mary and Greg for the support they provided to me. I wrote for two Hearst Times Union hosted blogs and have also contributed photos to their website.

It’s been fun to write for other “projects,” but I’ve always maintained my distance and refrained from aligning myself exclusively with an alternate web interface. I’m DelSo Silvia.

A number of months ago, I was approached and invited to write for a new website sort of envisioned as a second generation All Over Albany/Metroland love child. Interested, I agreed. Here’s what I’ve published over there most recently, at CivMix. Maybe you want to check it out? Post a comment? Give a follow?

One thing, remember that the website is still in beta. The site will grow in options and performance and, hopefully, interest to you, DelSo readers.

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Filed under aging, Albany, DelSo, favorites, ideas, Local, love, musings, Observations, Recommendations, relationships, Restaurants, secrets, SEEN, travel, writing