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The finished product

For anyone who has spent any time in Chico, the mural on the side of Taylor Hall, a building on the CSU Chico campus, is iconic.  The mural has been there since the early 1980’s.  The mural, “Academe”, was created by John Pugh; a Chico State art student at the time.   The original painting took 5 months to create.  John has since become a world famous muralist, well known for his large trompe-l’oeil murals.  His murals can be found all over the world.

A few years ago Taylor Hall was torn down and has been replaced by a new, more modern building.  There was a lot of discussion as to what to do with the mural.  As the painting has become an important symbol of the Chico State campus, the university felt that it was important to have a new version of the same mural, placed in the same location on the new building.


Putting the pieces back together. Look closely and you can see blue tape where the pieces join.

I had a chance to talk with the artist as he was working on the project.  I found the explanation of his process of recreating the same mural quite interesting.  The artist described his process as such: he traced and took many pictures of the original painting; then he spent about a month in his studio (in Truckee, CA….my hometown, coincidentally) recreating the parts of the painting, like a bulletin board; he brought all the pieces back to Chico and put the painting back together like a big jigsaw puzzle, using a particularly strong adhesive material and touching up the places where the new pieces join.  John explained that the new painting is much stronger and will have a longer life than the old version, as the products and colors he is able to use today are much improved.


My view every morning.

I am by no means an artist.  But I have an appreciation for art and those that make art, whether it be music, paintings, ceramics….the list is long.  I love that, every morning when I walk to work, I have the privilege of seeing this amazing piece of art.





Alice revisits Tunisia


Throughout the year that I spent in Tunisia, I called my host mother “mom”, not maman (French) or oumi (Tunisian).  One day, towards the end of my stay with my family, my host mom and I were spending time together, as usual.  She had noticed that I never used the French or Tunisian term to address her and she wanted to know why.  In her mind, using the English word kept me emotionally separate from her, as if I didn’t think of her as my mom.  Additionally, she didn’t (and still doesn’t) speak English.  So the English term really had no emotional meaning for her.  I explained to her that calling her maman or oumi had no meaning for me too.  It was like using some random word to address her.  I really felt (and still feel) that she is my second mother.  By my using the English word, I was conveying how I truly came to feel about her.  She quickly understood my perspective and started crying, with happiness.

Fast forward 26 years….As a 44 year old woman, I went to visit my Tunisian family for 2 1/2 weeks, for the first time in 24 years; I had visited for 8 days when I was a university student.  My family has moved to a different apartment; the new apartment is bigger than the small apartment I had lived in with them.  My two sisters live at home and my  brother is married, with two children, and lives overseas.

And how did it feel visiting after so many years?  It felt as if my seat at their dinner table was still warm.  I arrived at their home and immediately settled in, almost like I had never left.  It was quite a surreal feeling actually.  My host sisters speak perfect English, so it was not a problem communicating with them.  My host parents, on the other hand, do not speak any English.  They speak Arabic and French. So the first few days were not easy, as far as communicating is concerned.   Now, let me clarify some things here.  When I lived with my family as an exchange student, I arrived in the country with 4 years of high school French under my belt and I had never heard a word of Tunisian .  So, my French was not great but I could get by.  When I left the country to return to the United States, I was dreaming in Tunisian and French; I had come a long way in my language skills.  Again, fast forward 26 years, and I felt like I was back at ground zero in the language department.  However, the lack of language did not in any way impede in my feelings of being ‘home’.

While visiting in 2013, I shared my host sister’s bed.  When I got into bed with her, I felt as if I were 18 again.  It was like a teenage slumber party revisited.  We stayed up late, talking, laughing, and sharing.  The rest of the visit felt the same way.  I spent time hanging out with my host mom in the kitchen, cooking with her and learning how to make a few things.  Slowly, my Arabic brain came back to life and we began to talk about more and more things.  It felt so comforting being back in the kitchen with her. When I lived with my host family, I spent a lot of time helping my mom in the kitchen.  I do not love cooking, never have,  but the kitchen was where we formed a lot of our bond.  And my host father?  He was the same man; he was kind of behind the scenes in the family.  He is a quiet observer, never very outspoken.  When I visited, we didn’t have too many exchanges, but we shared space-eating or watching TV together.  However, as in the past, he noticed everything.  For example, I visited in the Winter, and I hadn’t brought a robe or slippers; my host father noticed right away and (in Tunisian, and I happily understood) told my host mother to get me a robe and slippers….always keeping an eye on his brood, including me.

In the summer of 2014, I had the pleasure of introducing my husband and daughter to Tunisia and my Tunisian family and friends.  We stayed in the Medina at an amazing guest house-Dar Ben Gacem.  We had an unforgettable 10 days.  We spent time wandering through the Medina.  We visited many cultural and historical sites-Sidi Bou Said, Carthage, El Bardo Museum, Hammamet, Kairouan, El Jem Coliseum.  Most importantly, we spent invaluable time with my Tunisian family and friends.  It felt as if Mom and Baba were finally getting to meet their son-in-law and granddaughter.

And my feelings being back in the country of Tunisia?  I felt as if I had come home.  I have been fortunate enough to travel to many different countries, but there is something very special about Tunisia.  The Tunisian people have an especially warm, comforting way about them.  Being tall, blonde, and blue eyed, I will never fit in in Tunisia; I will always look different.  At first glance, Tunisians generally make the assumption that I am a tourist and they want to try and get something from me (a sale or two).  However, once they realize that I am not a tourist and that I can speak (ok, maybe not that well) Tunisian, everything changes.  It is not what they can get from me anymore, but what they can give me or do for me.  It is the most amazing experience really.  Their language  and culture is so important to them.  Tunisians feel that their language is very very difficult.  As a result, anyone who takes the time to learn the language and culture is deemed a “daughter or son” of Tunisia.

I guess I have become a daughter of Tunisia.  I am definitely a daughter to my host family.  It seems that time doesn’t change all things… is still “mom” to me.

As for Alice in Wonderland, I can completely understand how she felt when asked, “Who ARE You?”  Her response, “I–I hardly know, sir, just at present– at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.”  My experience in Tunisia changed me;  the experience has had an immeasurable effect on my path in life and who I have become…..

Update: Since working on this blog post, my host father has sadly passed away.  I will always remember him as a very kind and loving man.


For a special experience in the Medina:


The ‘Other’ California

When I meet new people on my travels, a common question asked is “where are you from?”  My answer is Northern California.  For those that have never been to California, a common perception is that California is sun, beach, surf boards, and palm trees.  These things do exist in California, but predominantly in Southern California.  The Northern part of the state has beaches but the coastline is much colder and more rugged than in the Southern end of the state.IMG_9452

There is a lot more to California than the Pacific Coast.  When questioned in detail about my origins, my response is that I am from a small town in the northeastern Sierra Nevada Mountains; a town called Truckee.  Truckee’s current population is about 17,000.  The town was much smaller 30 years ago, when I was growing up; the population was around 3000.

Since Truckee is located in the high mountains (it sits at an elevation of about 6000 feet), there is quite a lot of snow in the winter.  Yes!  There is snow in California, a lot of snow.  Located on a major interstate highway (80), the town is the gateway to many well-known ski resorts – Northstar at Tahoe, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Soda Springs….to name a few.  Beyond the snow, Truckee is also one of the coldest places in the United States, especially during the summer months.  It is not uncommon to have a day time temperature of around 80 F and the night time temperature (on the same day) at or below 32 F!


The many train tracks that go through Truckee

Truckee holds an important place in California history.  It grew as a lumber and railroad town, with the building of the Transcontinental Railroad.  At one point, the town was home to a large population of Chinese laborers working to build the railroad connecting the East and West of the United States.  Today, the train goes right threw the downtown area of Truckee numerous times a day


Donner Lake

There is a beautiful alpine lake, Donner Lake, located on the West side of Truckee. This lake is named after a well known group of people known as The Donner Party.  Throughout my childhood, I was enthralled by the story of The Donner Party, as the story took place in what felt like my back yard.  During the 1840’s, there was an increase of pioneers from the East that wanted to settle in the new territories of Oregon and California.  The Donner Party was one such group of 87 people.  The party was given advice to follow a new route to California.  As a result, they found themselves in the rugged Sierra Nevada mountains when a particularly harsh winter began.  The group ended up at what is now Donner Lake, for almost 4 months.  In the end, 48 of the original 87 pioneers survived their ordeal.


The rugged Donner Summit

Today, Donner Lake is an amazingly beautiful place, surrounded by homes and activity. It is the place that I see first when I visit Truckee.  It is the place that reminds me of my childhood and the incredibly beautiful area of California I call home.  It is the place that holds special memories of my lifelong friends.

The part of Truckee that I carry with me through life are the friendships that were made and have lasted 35+ years.  For some reason, unbeknownst to me, small-town childhood friends are the long-lasting kind of friends.  They are the thick and thin friendships that don’t need nurturing anymore; they are infinite.  They are the kind where your friends are able to complete memories of events that you can’t remember, but were part of.

Last weekend, my son and I attended a family memorial service in Truckee.  Typical of the weather in Truckee, Saturday was a beautiful, clear Fall day.  Sunday, the weather changed quickly.  By 2 pm, chains were required on 2 wheel drive cars traveling over Donner Summit-the high pass we needed to cross in order to return home.


Highway 70, Beckwourth Pass


Belden Town on Highway 70, Feather River Canyon

I do not enjoy putting chains on; I don’t think anyone does!  Luckily for me, there is another route I was able to take to get home.  The route, highway 70,  is through Sierra County and quite rural.  Driving through the high Sierra Valley, I found myself reflecting on the diversity of California which prompted this blog post.  I drove through areas along the highway where the population of cattle is much higher than the population of people!  I feel very fortunate to live in an area of extreme beauty and diversity.  In a 4 hour drive, I can go from the dense, urban setting of San Francisco to the sparsely populated High Sierras.

For further reading:

Truckee, California

Truckee Historical Society

Trip Advisor: Truckee

Truckee Chamber of Commerce


The Big Easy: A Family trip to New Orleans

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What can I say?  I am in love with New Orleans!  My husband, son, daughter, and I recently went to NOLA for a 4 day visit.  It was my husband’s second time there.  After his first trip, that was work related, he came home raving about the city.

My son will be moving out soon and we wanted to take a trip, just the 4 of us.  New Orleans was the overwhelming choice, and what a great choice we made!  When the kids are 8 years apart in age, it can be a little tricky to find a vacation idea that both will enjoy; New Orleans was just the city!

The first night, we arrived at the apartment (we rented a little apartment, through Airbnb, in the Bywater area; we were about 1.5 miles from the French Quarter), dropped our bags, got an Uber, and asked the driver to take us somewhere fun.  She dropped us off on Frenchmen St. We had a great first evening listening to amazing music coming out of all the open doors and windows of the bars, walking around the French Quarter, and ending the night with beignets at Cafe du Monde.

So started a fun 4 days……

Some of the highlights of our trip were:

walking around the French Quarter and learning about the culture and history of the area, including a Friday night ghost story tour.

taking an airboat tour of the swamps and getting a chance to see alligators, turtles, and other wildlife; including holding a baby alligator-the highlight of the trip for my daughter.

trying many southern dishes, including fried alligator, gumbo, cheesy grits, and some amazing southern style barbecue.

going to a Saints football game-the highlight of the trip for my son, the football player of the family.

listening to the nonstop music found on every corner.

experiencing the famous southern hospitality; it is true-some of the nicest people I have met!

and the colors-bright, happy, beautiful colors everywhere.

More details to follow about my experiences in New Orleans….

Here is some further reading on this great city:

The Official New Orleans Travel Site

New Orleans ghost stories

Traveling to NOLA with kids

Who I am and Why I am here

Blogging U.This blogging thing is new to me.  I never saw myself as a writer.  I have always seen myself as an observer of people;  I guess you could say that I am curious.  Along with my curiosity, is my passion for travel and experiencing the world.

Everyone has a story to tell and I love to hear them.  The world is small and really not as complicated as it seems to be.  Most people around the world are the same; they want to be healthy, happy and prosperous.  The cultural road to attain these goals may be different;  that road is what interests me.

Each time I experience or revisit a city or country, I learn so many things about people, food, art, music, customs, etc.  My vision for this blog is to share these experiences and stories here.  My ultimate goal is to have this blog as a place to exchange information and stories from around the world.

The more we (world citizens) know about each other, the better we can understand each other.  Maybe, just maybe, that understanding can someday lead to a more peaceful world.

Mama loves Mambo

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Saint Patrick’s Day in Washington DC. I couldn’t stop listening to this guy and his bag piping friend

Music is constantly running through my head.  Almost every morning, I wake to a song going through my head.  Turn on the radio and depending on the song, it will transport me to a particular moment in time-in an instant.  I may not have heard the song in 25 years, and somehow my brain remembers all the words as if it were yesterday.   I joke with my husband, that if I could empty my brain of ALL the lyrics that are taking up space, my brain would probably work much more efficiently!

While growing up, our house always had music going through it.  Between the kids and my mom, someone was listening to music, and loudly.  My older sister, Ann, has had the biggest influence on my musical taste.  She is 6 years older than me and, for some strange reason, always included me in her teenage world.  One of my earliest musical memories was of my sister and me in the kitchen at my grandmother’s house.  My sister had a small, portable turntable, with a microphone attached to it-the predecessor to the modern karaoke machine.  The Jackson 5 was the band of the time and we had many 45s of their music.  We would put their music on and SING….”ABC is easy as 123.”

After the Jackson 5, came the John Denver phase, the Grateful Dead phase, the Genesis phase….you get the picture.  Let us not forget the Beatles-they were always represented in our house, along with the other ‘phases’.

At the same time that I was being influenced by my sister’s musical tastes, I was also developing a taste of my own.  By 8 or 9, I knew all the words to many Who or Grateful Dead songs, along with the words to the latest Donna Summers, Earth Wind and Fire, and Kool and the Gang songs or any of the pop songs of the day.  (Yes, I was a 70’s/80’s child)

At age 10, my sister took me to my first concert.  It was a weekend long event, with many bands playing-The Doobie Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band, Pure Prairie League, and others.  To this day, every time I hear the song “Amy”, by Pure Prairie League, I am instantly transported back in time.

When traveling, one of my favorite things is learning about the music of the area or country in which I find myself.  Thinking about it now, I can still remember the words to my favorite Arabic songs from my time in Tunisia.  This was one of my favorites…..

My family and I just returned from a 4 day trip to New Orleans…music heaven; that is for another post on another day.

Always curious….What connections do you have to music?



Papa Loves Mambo

A Weekend in the City

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I am one lucky girl.  I don’t work in the summer.  I get to spend time with my kids having some summer fun; my husband and I try and squeeze in some time for the two of us.  A few weeks ago, we had a weekend together in San Francisco.  San Francisco is not a new place for us.  It is a short 2.5 hour drive for us to get to the City.  So, we find ourselves going there often.  Fortunately for me, I also have family living in the City and have spent time there since I was a young child.

When arriving in San Francisco,  I always park my car in the Sutter-Stockton parking garage, and I leave it there for the duration of my stay;  parking is a premium in SFO, and I have found this garage to be one of the best deals in town.  One of the fun things about San Francisco is that it is a very walkable city.  Yes, there are the famous hills that you have to go up and then down, but the hills are part of the charm of the city.

On some visits, I stay with family or friends; on this trip, we decided to stay in Union Square.  I have stayed in numerous hotels in this area.  It is a nice, central place to be.  As usual, we parked our car and left it until Sunday.  Upon arrival, we decided to walk to Valencia Street, in the Mission. My husband and I weren’t very familiar with this area and we wanted to experience something new; I had been there once before and liked the feel of  it.  I  recently read that this area hasn’t been gentrified, but hipsterfied.  There are a wide array of restaurants and cafes to choose from and interesting boutiques to browse.

To get to Valencia from Union Square, we found ourselves walking through the Tenderloin.  This area is well known for its crime and drug problems, but it also has an interesting history of art, music, and culture.  It is home to amazing street art, numerous theaters, and wide array of restaurants.

Another fun adventure we had was the Union Street Festival.  We hadn’t planned on attending this event, and it turned out to be a great time…..especially for people and puppy watching.  Of course, we didn’t drive, but walked to Union Street, from Union Square.  This was a fun walk, as we found ourselves going up and down the famous hills of SFO, through the Russian Hill neighborhood.  It was a particularly beautiful, clear day and we could see the entire bay and Coit Tower, fog-free.  We stumbled upon a mini-neighborhood park, called Molinari Mana Park.  Typical of our adventures, we stopped and chatted with a man that was tending the gardens of this little gem of a park.  He told us to walk down the steep stairs for an amazing view of the bay…..and what a view it was…….

A fun time is had by all at the Union Street Festival.  The festival has been going strong for almost 40 years.  The street is closed off for about 6-8 blocks, with tents set up.  There are many different vendors, selling their wares and numerous places to taste wine and beer and eat a multitude of different foods.  All the bars and restaurants on the street are in full swing.  It seemed like an excuse for many to have some drinks; every bar had a long line going out the door.  My husband and I found ourselves at one such establishment, watching people.  It was great, as this is one of my all time favorite past times.

We ended our day with dinner in the North Beach neighborhood.  This neighborhood is historically the Little Italy of San Francisco.  This is also the area where I have many fond memories of my childhood; my great aunt and uncle lived here and were part of a big Sicilian family.  One of the many interesting things about the North Beach is that you can go from Italy to China in a few footsteps, as the two areas overlap.  You can have great Dim Sum for lunch, walk a few blocks, and have amazing Italian food for dinner.  The North Beach is also the area where some of the famous characters of the Beat Generation hung out in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Vesuvio’s Cafe and City Lights Books were the places to find them.

Chinatown in San Francisco is the oldest and largest in the country.  It dates back to the Gold Rush era in California.  When walking through the streets of Chinatown, I feel as if I am in Hong Kong (where I have spent a lot of time). Every time I am in Chinatown, I have to go to the Eastern Bakery to buy Char Sui Bow(steamed pork buns) for my kids.  On this particular visit,  there was Mexican music playing loudly and the usual Chinese lady was there to help customers.  She doesn’t speak much English and she is often a bit grumpy.  I think that she is starting to recognize me and we had a little chat.  I even got her to smile….

Next time, I need to take my husband to the great cinnamon toast/coffee shop my daughter and I found last year.  The nice thing is that I know the next time is soon and there are so many new places to explore in San Francisco.





Photos Capture The Joy On Playgrounds Around The World : Goats and Soda : NPR

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From the U.K. to Kenya to the West Bank, photographer James Mollison exposes not only inequalities among rich and poor countries, but also the intimate moments that unfold during recess.

Source: Photos Capture The Joy On Playgrounds Around The World : Goats and Soda : NPR

This article got me thinking about playgrounds and children around the world.  I would love to see more pictures of playgrounds.  Please post a picture of a playground near you in the comments box.

Carnegie Libraries

11031040_10206829525807497_6299490668037490125_oLast week, as I often do, I drove from Chico, CA to Monterey, CA.  I am accustomed to this 4.5 hour drive, as my father lives in Monterey.  As I mentioned in a previous post about elderly parents, my father needs a lot of help.  I won’t go into specifics here, but he is becoming less and less independent as the months go by.  Anyways, the route I usually drive takes me through the rice fields of the northern end of the Sacramento Valley.  It is really a beautiful area; an especially rural area of Northern California, filled with rice fields, dairy farms, orchards, a few houses, and lots of farm animals.  Right now, the rice fields are full of water and the area feels as if you are driving through Southeast Asia.

Along the way, I decided to stop at a little library in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by agricultural fields.  I have driven by this library hundreds of times and never stopped.  The library is called The Bayliss Public Library.  On the front of the library, there is a sign stating that the library is “a point of historical interest.”  A library, in the middle of rice fields-a point of historical interest?  On the other side of the door there is another sign, explaining that this particular library is a “Carnegie Library.”  The library was built with funds donated by Andrew Carnegie.  The name is quite well known throughout the United States;  it is attached to famous buildings, schools, and libraries.


Andrew Carnegie was born to a poor Scottish family in 1835.  He immigrated, with his parents, to the United States in 1848.  By 1861, he was a wealthy steel tycoon.  In 1901, he sold his steel company for $480 million dollars; this sale made him the richest man in the world.  Carnegie decided to give all of his money away through philanthropic projects; he invested his fortune in education and science research, global peace, museums, and……libraries.

Between 1883 and 1929, Andrew Carnegie donated the funds to build a total of 2,509 libraries in 11 different countries; 1689 libraries were built in the United States.  California was home to 142 of these libraries.  Today, 85 of these library buildings are still standing, and only 36 are still being used as a library.

So this leads me back to the little library standing out in the middle of agricultural fields – The Bayliss Public Library.  This particular library is the most rural of the Carnegie libraries built in California.  It was built in 1917 for $4 thousand dollars.  It is only open on Tuesdays from 10-6.  So, if you ever find yourself driving on Bayliss-Blue Gum Road, stop by on a Tuesday and check it out!

For further reading about Andrew Carnegie and his libraries, follow the links below:

Carnegie Libraries of California

Carnegie Library

How Andrew Carnegie Turned His Fortune into a Library Legacy