BOLT in the Time of Rona

These are trying times for us all. Kathy and I are safely in Vietnam and doing well. We are practicing social distancing which is not so easy for these 2 Black old lesbians! This blog is about some of the things Kathy and I are doing to stay physically well, mentally strong and emotionally positive during the pandemic.

I assume we’ve all read all the information about hand washing, avoiding crowds, corona statistics, etc. In fact, I feel like I’m reading the news more than I should. We feel a lot of concern for our family and friends all over the world. There’s a lot of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Here are some of the things we can all do instead of spending time in worry or the 24 hour news cycle.

Spend Time in Prayer, Meditation and Quiet

I think this is probably the most important thing that we each do daily. We give each other time and space, every morning and evening, to attend to our individual spiritual practices.

Get Plenty of Fresh Air and Exercise

Even in “shelter in place” situations going outside for a walk or exercise is allowed, and even encouraged. But people are asked to keep their distance from others. I’m participating in the Girl Trek 30 Day Walking Challenge. I’m also extremely grateful that we have a pool and I swim daily. Kathy goes out for a daily walk. She says that if she didn’t walk daily her days would feel very empty.

Keep Mentally Active with Reading, Hobbies and Creative Activities

I’m writing this blog and fool around with Pinterest pages. Kathy has created a YouTube channel. We both read and play brain challenging computer games. These are all great ways to pass the time when faced with stay at home situations.

Keep Your Immune System Strong

There are lots of beautiful fruits and vegetables here in Vietnam and we have found plenty of healthy choices for food. We drink lots of water. Devise at home self care rituals. A silver lining of the pandemic is that we have plenty of time for rest.

Reach Out, Be of Service, Stay in Touch

Even with social distancing or quarantine I think we can find ways to connect with and help one another. If you are member of a 12 Step fellowship there are phone and online meetings. You can brighten someone’s day with a phone call. You can arrange a treat to be delivered to a neighbor or friend or offer to shop for an elder. We’d love to hear from you. Please share your ideas for thriving during these difficult times.

BOLT❤️Da Nang!

Kathy and I are really enjoying our time here in Da Nang. This coastal city in central Vietnam has so much to offer. I love all the photo ops and keep my camera phone handy at all times.

We love talking long walks along the clean beach and breathing the fresh clean air. There is usually a nice breeze blowing too.

In Da Nang you are literally surrounded and by water as the lovely and peaceful Han River runs through town.

The river has played a significant role in the development of Da Nang. There are 10 bridges crossing the river. The city is on both sides of the river.

One thing we really love about Da Nang is the towering Kwan Yin statue that watches over the city. I really feel the energy of her loving compassion.

There’s an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables in Da Nang. I especially like visiting our local market, Bac My An.

Being right on the ocean, Da Nang seems to be a seafood lover’s paradise.

I’ve been super pleased with the vegetarian options I’ve found.

One of the best things about Da Nang is our ex pat people of color community. We meet frequently for brunches, game nights and outing.

We are looking forward to at least another month here in Da Nang and have found a great apartment with a rooftop pool, 2 blocks from the beach!

We have found the people of Vietnam to be friendly, helpful and kind.

We are very happy here and feel quite safe. I know people have concerns about the Corona virus but Vietnam is currently considered one of the safer countries to be in Southeast Asia. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions, comments or concerns.

BOLT Reviews: Ba Na Hills

Take a deep breath, face any fears of heights you may have and ride the world’s longest non-stop cable car to the beautiful Golden Bridge.

I had been looking forward to seeing this bridge since I knew we were coming to DaNang, Vietnam.

Little did I know, Ba Na Hills, home to the Golden Bridge, offers much, much more.

Bà Nà Hill Station (or Bà Nà Hills) is a hill station and resort located in the Trường Sơn Mountains west of the city of Da Nang, in central Vietnam. The station, advertised as “the Da Lat of Danang province” by local tourism authorities, was founded in 1919 by French colonists. The colonists had built a resort to be used as a leisure destination for French tourists. Being located above 1500 metres above sea level, it has a view of the East Sea and the surrounding mountains.

Today it is home to a world class theme park and a must visit when in DaNang. There are several levels of the park with cable cars and walking paths connecting each level. The Golden Bridge is the first stop and of course, everyone spends lots of time marveling at the bridge and taking pictures.

There are meticulously maintained gardens and lovely statues to enjoy. We certainly got a lot of walking done on each level.

There is a whole amusement park level full of rides, exhibits and arcade games!

I was especially impressed as all the games and rides were included in our admission price of 750,000 Vietnamese Dong ($32 USD). Its really a great place to take children of all ages. You could really spend the whole day just on the amusement park level.

We enjoyed a modestly priced Asian buffet ($14 USD) and there are lots of snack options throughout the park.

We went with a great group of people which of course made the whole outing more enjoyable. I highly recommend BaNa Hills to anyone visiting this part of Vietnam. If you have any questions or comments please leave them here. We’d love to hear from you.

A Visit to Tu Hieu Temple

We are in Vietnam, in the beautiful and historic city of Hue. Today we visited the root temple of Thich Naht Hanh, the world renown Buddhist monk and mindfulness teacher.

This is the temple where Thay, as he is affectionately known by his students, received his monk and where he wishes to end his days.

We understand that Thay is currently in Bangkok for medical care but I felt his influence and presence at this peaceful spot.

We enjoyed our time here, walking mindfully throughout the beautiful grounds.

Portions of the temple closed to visitors and are reserved for the monks only. We understand there are tours and meditation teas available.

For today we felt very happy and blessed to just stroll around. We do hope to find and return for a meditation retreat soon.

A Hidden Gem in Chiang Mai!

Horizon Village and Resort is a wonderful place to spend a relaxing day in Chiang Mai. It’s not on the usual list of tourist spots and even many long time residents don’t know of it.

Thanks to my friend, Keidra, who is a tour guide here in Chiang Mai, I discovered this hidden gem.

For an inexpensive fee of 85 baht (less than$3) you can enter the resort and spend the whole day exploring. There are waterfalls, a botanical garden, petting zoo, labyrinth, and more.

You can rent a bike for 75 baht for all day, which was a great way to explore the massive grounds. You can also rent a golf card or take a tram ride.

There are several restaurants and a coffee shop. We enjoyed a delicious, moderately priced lunch.

After a day of bike riding a visit to the resort pool (100 baht admission) was a perfect way to end the day!

There are all sorts of hidden gems and special ways to spend a day or longer in Chiang Mai. Contact Keidra for some great ideas or to book a tour.

Furaha Kwanzaa!

Kwanzaa is an African-Americans celebration of life from 26 December to 1 January. Dr. Maulana Karenga introduced the festival in 1966 to the United States as a ritual to welcome the first harvests to the home.

I have celebrated Kwanzaa for over 30 years and Kathy and I have celebrated together for the past 14 years.

Kwanzaa is a holiday rich in symbolism and culture. I love it’s rituals, principles and lack of materialism.

This year we celebrated Kwanzaa in Chiang Mai, Thailand. We hope this will be an annual event.

Kwanzaa has seven core symbols:

1. Mazao: Crops – Mazao symbolizes the fruits of collective planning and work, and the resulting joy, sharing, unity and thanksgiving part of African harvest festivals. To demonstrate mazao, people place nuts, fruits, and vegetables, representing work, on the mkeka.

2. Mkeka: Place Mat – Just as the crops stand on the mkeka, the present day stands on the past. The mkeka symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation for people to stand on and build their lives.

3. Muhindi: Ear of Corn – The stalk of corn represents fertility and the idea that through children, the future hopes of the family are brought to life. One vibunzi is placed on the mat for every child in the family.

4. Mishumaa Saba: The Seven Candles – Candles are ceremonial objects that serve to symbolically re-create the sun’s power, as well as to provide light. There are three red candles, three green candles, and one black candle that are placed on the kinara.

5. Kinara: The Candleholder – The kinara represents our ancestry, and the original stalk from which we came.

6. Kikombe Cha Umoja: The Unity Cup – On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, the libation ritual is performed to honor the ancestors. Every family member and guest will take a drink together as a sign of unity and remembrance.

7. Zawadi: Gifts – On the seventh day of Kwanzaa, gifts are given to encourage growth, achievement, and success. Handmade gifts are encouraged to promote self-determination, purpose, and creativity.

Kwanzaa celebrates what Doctor Karenga calls the Nguzo Saba  (the seven principlesl. These seven principles comprise Kawaida, Swahili word meaning “common”. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles.

  • Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
  • Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Ujamaa (Cooperative economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Our Kwanzaa celebrations always include an opportunity for our guests to come up and speak on one of the Nguzo Saba and what it means to them.

Our Kwanzaa celebrations are always joyous events filled with lots of love and laughter.

Children are always a key part of our celebration. I hope we are creating memories and instilling pride in our rich culture.

Wherever you are you can celebrate Kwanzaa and most importantly, we can all practice these principles every day!

Our Colorful Chiang Rai Trip

Chiang Rai is known for its colorful edifices. Our lovely group of 10 set off from Chiang Mai to explore the Blue and White Temples and the Black House. We left at 6 am for the 4 hour drive to Chiang Rai in a comfortable air conditioned van. Our driver, Pituk, was friendly and helpful. We made one stop half way there at a local hot springs. There we had a restroom break and were able to purchase some local fruits, goodies and clothes.

Arriving in Chiang Rai our first stop was Baan Dam. Commonly known as the Black House it’s a park containing a diverse and sprawling series of buildings, displays, sculptures and installations. The park and highly eclectic contents are the life’s work of local and nationally renowned artist Thawan Duchanee. We spent a delightful hour exploring the grounds and exhibits.Our next stop was for lunch. Lesson learned: don’t ask your driver for restaurant recommendations. Leelawadee was overpriced with not very good service. The food was delicious though and we had a nice view of the river.Full from lunch, we ventured on to the Blue Temple. For me this breathtaking temple was the highlight of our trip! I understand that this is a fairly new temple. It is built at the site of a ruin of an temple abandoned 80 to 100 years ago. In 1996, the villagers decided to rebuild a temple here. The construction started in October 2005, the White Buddha was completed in 2008 while the main hall was only completed on 22th January 2016. There are so many intricate carvings and paintings to enjoy!Our last stop was the White Temple which is the most famous temple in the Chiang Rai area. I’m sorry to say that the temple was closing when we arrived. It turns out there is a special event there right now where they illuminate the temple in the evenings. As we only had our van until 10 pm we had to leave for the 4 hour drive back to Chiang Mai before the illumination began. We did get some good photos, both of our own and a very kind Thai lady who shared hers with us.Overall our trip was wonderful. I especially enjoyed the time spent with members of our beautiful Chiang Mai community and visitors!