Ugly Tourists


WE’VE ALL ENCOUNTERED THEM, the tourists who don’t speak the language and keep repeating themselves at ever increasing volume when the waiter or clerk doesn’t understand. We’ve seen these tourists try speaking slower, enunciating every word and then turn to their companions and complain about the stupidity of the waiter before they yell, “Checko!”

Then there are the ones who don’t try to communicate verbally. Instead they pick up their empty coffee mug, rap the bus boy on the arm with it and hold it up for a fill. Yep that’s the way to make yourself look good.

Tourists are obnoxious in other surprising ways. We arrive at our place in Mexico and begin setting up for the winter which entails many repairs (tropical climates are harsh in their own way), and setting up the satellite, etc. In the process we discover that our Internet isn’t working properly.

Our caretaker/manager tells us that last year a guy staying next door told her that the owners of the house were friends of ours and that we said he could hook into our wi-fi, which he did because our caretaker took him at his word. When my husband saw the man, he set him straight and asked, “Would you do that in Canada?” to which, he answered no? So what is it about being away from home that gives some people permission to cross lines?

Ostensibly, we travel for new experiences, so what’s with the tourists who arrive at their destination and complain bitterly. “The Internet connection is sporadic.” “The Internet connection is slow.” “The …” Lady, did you ever think you’re lucky to have the Internet connection in a country that has much bigger concerns for its citizens. If you want everything to be as it is at home, stay home.

But, wait, there’s worse to come.

While we were in the fruiteria an old male tourist came in asking for snow peas. He waved a scrap of paper that had something written on it at the young lady behind the counter. Not surprisingly, she looked puzzled as I could see the words made no sense in Spanish or English.

When that didn’t work, he made crude gestures of peeing to try to get his message across. What would make him think that the words peas (chícharos) and pee (pis) would be the same in Spanish? And what would make him think his gestures would be acceptable here anymore than at home?

I was furious that he would be so crude with the two young girls working in the store and let him know exactly what I thought of his behavior. I didn’t want to let him get away with it and I wanted the girls to know that I, for one, would defend them.

This particular episode got me to thinking of the times I had witnessed the ugly tourist and hadn’t spoken up. I won’t make that mistake again.



Once a writer …

images (4) I’ve been challenged by Linn B. Halton, author and managing editor of the online Love a Happy Ending Lifestyle Magazine, ( to join the Lovely Blog Hop to share some of the things that have helped shape my writing and my life. Thank you, Linn.

First Fond Memory

Riding on the sleigh under the moonlight with my father, the bells on the harnesses tinkling harmoniously along with the squeaking of the horses’ hooves on the hard packed snow—a romantic memory of a harsh life on the lonely prairie.


No electricity, no radio, no TV. What’s a kid to do? Read and read and read. Anything I could get my hands on. Books from the storage area in the little one room school house, Little Lulu comics when my dad could afford to buy me one.


A bit of magic come to Earth laced with the frustration of only being able to take out three books at a time. Only three? How to choose? Back then, at least one had to involve horses.


Travel has been paramount and I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen much of the world. My lifelong dream was to go on safari. That trip met every expectation and more. There’s no describing the silence, the vast spaces unmarred by civilization, the animals in their natural habitat—it’s a beautiful sort of time travel to another world.


Learning never stops. From the one room school house to university, from formal education to daily life, we always learn. Through my writing I’ve learned to be a more discriminating reader. I’ve also become an excellent proof reader and substantive editor. Two ways I can help other authors.


Joyful, frustrating, easy, painful—all of those and more, but never ever dull and never ever something I would give up. Once a writer, always a writer.

And now I nominate Anneli Purchase.

Adventures in Morocco



It was 1972. They were young Canadians—young and naïve—traveling through Morocco at a time when that country was crawling with hippies looking for cheap drugs and cheap living. Supposedly, one could rent a room in a shack, eat, and smoke pot for as little as a dollar a day.

They weren’t hippies. They stayed in a hotel, hired a guide, and ignored the hippies’ scorn when they rode the horse drawn carriages. “At least we’re contributing to a family’s income by hiring this driver,” she said.

Walking the streets they heard a constant litany of:

“Journal, monsieur? Journal?”

“Non, merci,” he said.

Promptly followed by, “Hashie, Monsieur? Hashie?”

“Non, merci.”

“Let’s rent a motorbike and drive around,” he said.

“Let’s not,” she said when they heard that the bike shop owner wanted them to leave their passports as security.

They hired a driver to take them out to see the country side.

“Big mistake,” she said as they careened down the three lane highway, the middle lane being used for passing—from either direction.

“We’re playing bloody chicken,” he said.

Somehow they survived to fill their army canteen with freshly squeezed orange juice for the train ride to Marrakesh where they found more hippies, snake charmers, the marvels of the market, more hippies, more offers of hashie, the dying vats, great food, and more hippies.



The Mali I love – as it was then

Many years ago I lived and worked in Mali as a CUSO volunteer. I shared a house with another volunteer, who subsequently married a Malian and still lives in Bamako. For now, she says they are okay, but of course I worry.

The experience for a young Canadian was eye-opening to say the least. We were fortunate enough to be able to travel extensively. Segou, Mopti, Tombouctou, Gao … We enjoyed the hospitality of Malians and had great respect for their ability to cope in impoverished conditions. Wide warm smiles greeted us wherever we went.

I cannot and do not want to picture the devastation and destruction northern Mali is now enduring.

Here are a few pictures of Mali as it was then.





See also:

To Mexico We Go

“Darn! Where’s my list?” It’s likely to be found somewhere under the pile of papers needed for the trip, or wedged between passports, or even where it’s supposed to be under the paperweight on my desk.

We’ve done this trip so many times you’d think a list would be unnecessary. You’d be wrong. A five-month move from Canada to Mexico requires a whole lot of preparation, some of which can’t be done until the last minute.

  • Cancel car insurance
  • Buy health insurance
  • Dog to vet—five days prior to departure
  • Water off and breakers off
  • Heat turned down
  • Light on timer
  • Etc., etc., etc.

We’ve done this trip so many times you’d think we wouldn’t need suitcases. You’d be wrong. We do leave the “hot weather clothes” in Mexico, but we still seem to pack too much stuff and every year we have at least one suitcase that is overweight and no matter how well we pack, something always spills.

  • Some clothes that go back and forth
  • Laptops, Kindle, cords and chargers
  • Prescriptions
  • Tins of Christmas cookies
  • Christmas presents
  • Stuff we can’t get in Mexico (Febreze, Ombrelle)
  • Etc., etc., etc.

We’ve done this trip so many times you’d think the packing would be a breeze. You’d be wrong. At the last minute we remember the eight gingerbread men cookies for the kids next door—our Mexican family. We’ve left space in one of the carryon bags, but they don’t fit. This necessitates a last minute repacking. Hopefully they’ll arrive unbroken.

“Oh, God! My passport! Where is it?” Frantic searching through the first carryon bags we planned to use does not produce the passport. It has to be here somewhere. A mad dash down to the garage and the passport is found in the new carryon case we’re using. Wipe sweat from brow, heave a sigh of relief, put the dog in the back of the truck and off we go, thanks to the kind heart of our next door neighbor and friend who, unlike us, has remained remarkably calm through it all.

Going back to Canada we’ll have suitcases inside of bigger suitcases and yes, we’ll need them all again next year.

The Trip I’d Love to Relive

Of all the places I’ve visited where would I most like to return to?

An easy question this time!

I’d go back to Kenya and safari on the Masai Mara.

I’ve traveled extensively in West Africa, Central America, and Europe. I’ve been to Hong Kong, Australia, and Bali. I live in Canada, have been from one end of the country to the other, have traveled some in the US, and spend winters on the Pacific coast of Mexico.

But my dream trip had always been to go on a safari. That trip lived up to every expectation and I’d go back anytime. It’s almost impossible to describe the intensity of emotion when on a safari.

Picture yourself in the vehicle, the top raised so you can stand and look out around you – all 360 degrees of country side with no buildings, no telephone lines, no signs of humans at all. The driver turns off the motor and complete silence engulfs you. “Look,” someone whispers. There, just a few feet away from the vehicle, you see a lioness nursing her cubs. She flips over and the cubs, firmly attached, flip with her.

Or imagine yourself sitting at the bonfire in front of your tent camp. The earth trembles as a herd of elephants lumbers past somewhere in the darkness. Lions grumble behind you. You turn and see only the lanterns hanging on the posts in front of each tent. Thirty some miles away you see the fire of another tent camp. No one speaks. To do so would almost be a sacrilege.

And you? What trip would you like to live again?

On the Hunt

For the purpose of this story, picture the bag blue.

It starts many years ago with the carry-on bag Air France gives you when you fly with them. A lovely mini-suitcase that folds in on itself for storage. You love that bag and mourn the day you finally have to throw the worn and ragged little bag out.

You move on to other suitcases and other tote bags. None seem quite satisfactory. The straps dig into your shoulder, the luggage is large and cumbersome and too damn heavy to cart through airports.

You are delighted to find a bag with wheels, but dismayed to discover that those four little circle things on the bottom don’t do the job. As you dash through the airport in Mexico City the case falls to one side or the other. You are forced to pick it up and make your way through the crowds repeating endlessly, “Con permiso.”

In Costa Rica, you fall in love with leather duffle bags and buy a set. They are beautiful, but so impractical. Empty, they are heavy. Full they are heavier, and lugging them from the airport to the train to the metro to your hotel in Paris is a true test of your endurance. But they make it all the way from Paris to Africa and back to Canada where they are stored in your basement for many years until you finally give them a loving caress and donate them to charity.

Meanwhile you’ve adopted the one bag approach to travel—a small carry-on—which has its pros and cons. Big pro—you are through customs, and home in bed while the other passengers are waiting at the luggage carousel. Big con—there is no room for your lovely souvenirs so you have to tote a couple of plastic bags that always manage to develop a tear or two.

Your spouse buys you a big bag that could hold the kitchen sink, but it has so many pockets that you can never remember where you put things. And of course no wheels, so that’s a bust.

New airline regulations alter your travel style. You are forced to check bags with the liquids like your shampoo and conditioner. You find a good bag with wheels that does the job, but still need a carry-on. Luckily the local luggage shop has a wheeled case that will suit. It has a zippered pouch just the right size for your laptop. Cords, e-readers, prescription glasses, and toothbrush fit inside along with a few other essentials. And it’s not too big or too heavy to heft easily into the luggage bin above your seat.

You’d still like to find (or perhaps design) the perfect bag. What would it have that others don’t? An additional outside pouch for your passport and wallet? A unique retro look? A wad of money stashed in the lining?