Posted in Craft of writing, journal writing, Memoir writing, Travel, Travel Writing, Workshops, Writing exercises, Writing Workshops

Flow Writing followed by 3-step Revision

Flow Writing 

In a recent Travel Touchstones: Transformative Travel through Creative JouMe w. handout (2)rnal Writing workshop with lively participants, I explained that I developed the writing exercises as a result of not having the right kind of material from my journals when drafting my coming-of-age travel memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away.

I offered a flow writing activity. 1) Describe a memory from a notable trip. 2) Before writiJulie writingng, prime the pump (brain) with six words that convey feelings about the memory. 3) Then write fast and wild and free without stopping, editing, or rethinking. I allowed them about eight minutes and called time.

I’ll share my timed, flow writing as an example that I wrote during the last three minutes of their writing. Here I  write about the new yoga studio I visited on Isla Mujeres this year.

Feelings: calm, quiet, dark, serene, zen, meditative

Flow Writing Example (think-rough draft)

The new indoor yoga studio is rather zen-like. It’s quiet and serene, like a church. Reverence for the body, the movement, the breath. The others are there for the same. We love Meg. Like a goddess, she floats through the room and offers instruction, like a midwife — birthing her first one-thousandth baby or asana. The space is sparse, empty, ready, waiting for the baby. Nothing to impede our progress. The music relaxes us, Meg’s voice focuses us, and we move to the joy of the breath.

Next I suggested a three-step revision process to illustrate thaMarlene and Julie writingt our first draft is never what we want it to be.

Revision Steps 

Look for any noun that is general and make it more specific. If you have written the word “car,” now replace it with a make or model, Lexus or F-150.

Strike every verb that is not an action verb (was, had been, would have been), and rewrite it so you use an active, powerful, explicit verb. (My example will show what I mean below.)

Then add at least one simile or metaphor to give the reader a deeper understanding of what you are describing.

Revision Example

 The interior room at the Red Buddha Yoga Studio stands rather zen-like. The space feels quiet and serene, much like a chapel. Reverence for the body, the yoga poses, the breath. The other yogis arrived this morning for the same experience I expected. We adore Meg and her unique skill of guiding us through yoga poses. Meg, the goddess, golden and lithe, floats through the room and offers instruction, like a midwife, birthing her one-thousanth asana. The chamber sits with a bare floor wall-to-wall, empty, ready, waiting for the baby. With nothing to impede our progress, the music relaxes us, Meg’s voice focuses us, and we move to the breath that entrains us.

Summary 

From this example, I hope you can see how using a few emotion-packed words before writing focuses the brain on the outcome of a descMarlene writingription you want to write. Allowing the mind to write freely without the “editor” stopping or slowing you, gets words on the page from a travel experience.

Then a simple revision of replacing general nouns and passive verbs with specific, precise and meaningful substitutions can bring the writing to life. Add a simile or metaphor for color and interest.

Do you have other simple ways to edit your work to make it more dynamic and readable?

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Posted in journal writing, Travel Writing, Workshops, Writing Workshops

Treat Yourself to a Writing Retreat

Why go to a “travel journal writing retreat” while traveling? Why not? What better time? Why not here (Isla Mujeres, Mexico) and now (February 7)?

Why?

Get inspired to write your nightly notes or scribbled itinerary or captured conversations while in route. During the “Travel Touchstones: Transformative Travel through Creative Journal Writing” workshop, discover new techniques to trap your memories on paper in words and sketches. Share your journal writing experiences with other travelers. Explore multiple journal writing tools and techniques to use, as well as identify topics you might not have thought to pursue.

Why Not?

You are on a break from your day-to-day routine. This is when you are more open to taking in new perspectives on your travel, your world back home, and/or who you are and want to become.

What better time?

Travel time provides the perfect circumstance for nourishing your creativity. You have more flexible time. Different scenery offers new outlooks. Various people (you might not otherwise spend time with) come and go temporarily from whom you can learn.

Why not here and now?

The Red Buddha yoga studio serves as lovely, soulful place for a writing retreat in Isla Mujeres, Mexico; February 7, 6-9pm. The three-hour workshop costs $50 USD (or equivalent pesos), a bargain for the fun of spending time with like-minded folks and for the years of enhanced journal writing experiences you will log.

Transformative travel happens when …

  • sojourners anticipate, mentally rehearse, and build expectations for the future;
  • explorers experience places, people, and circumstance that challenge and test them;
  • adventurers return home with stories that have transformed their thinking, actions, and perspectives.

For more workshop information, click below.

 announcement-of-isla-feb-7-workshop

Posted in journal writing, Travel, Travel Writing, Writing Workshops

Get Candace Raredon’s “Travel Sketching 101” FREE

I invite you to go Candace Rardon’s website for her FREE e-book, “Travel Sketching 101” launch and giveaway. Even if you are not an artist, this is a lovely book with ideas for sketching–even for those of us whose artistic genius matured and ended in the third grade, like mine.

I tell you about this because I believe her instruction book can greatly enhance our travel journals with images. Visual images, like words, help us collect and retain memories in our travel journals.

REMINDER: I will hold a fun, interactive writing workshop on Isla Mujeres, Mexico entitled, “Travel Touchstones: Transformative Travel through Creative Journal Writing” on Tuesday evening, February 7, from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the Red Buddha yoga studio, #22 Juarez Avenue. You will get to write from 2-3 different prompts, share, practice writing with all six senses, and develop techniques, topics, and tools.

In the workshop, you will get to write 2-3 different entries from prompts given, share, practice writing with all six senses, and develop techniques, topics, and tools.

If want to take advantage of this unique opportunity while traveling for only $50 (or equivalent pesos), please email me (rwileyjones@gmail.com) or complete the form below, as soon as possible to hold your place in the workshop. Pay on site.

Posted in journal writing, Travel, Travel Writing, Workshops, Writing, Writing Workshops

Travel Journal Writing at Schreiner University

Travel Journal Writing 

global-program-logoCommunity  members joined Schreiner University students in celebrating International Education Week, November 14-18 and participated in the Travel Touchstones: Transformative Travel through Creative Journal Writing workshop. Sonja Lind, Ph.D. and the program director of The Changing Global Society initiative sponsored the workshop.

My husband, Lynn Jones and I volunteer at Schreiner University, our local liberal arts university. We encourage and prepare students to expand their learning through travel and study abroad by taking this workshop.su-workshop-3

Experienced travelers from the community and university students explored journal writing topics, techniques, and tools. They participated in two writing exercises and discussion about how to prepare, anticipate, and rehearse before travel.

This prep increases the chances that one will travel more intentionally and more purposefully and as a result, enrich one’s experiences.

The preparation before travel and the reflection after a journey create learning that is deeper, more enduring, and much more transferable in the future.

College students cannot ask for much more out of an experience that is to prepare them for participation in a global world, which is one of the foundational directions of Schreiner University today.

Journal Writing Tips:

  1. Read Globejotting before you take the next trip. (See the bookGlobejotting. cover to your right.)
  2. Take a small journal that will fit in your pocket, purse, or bag. Keep it in a Ziploc bag if needed to protect it from rain, sand, or spills.
  3. Ask a child you meet while riding on public transportation to draw in your journal for you. You can accomplish this, even if you do not share the same language.

What  journal writing tips do you recommend? 

Posted in Craft of writing, journal writing, Travel Writing, Workshops, Writing, Writing Workshops

Travel Writing Workshop October 22, 2016 in Texas Hill Country

TRAVEL TOUCHSTONES

Intentional Travel through Creative Journal Writing

Have you considered spinning memories into stories, essays or memoirs?

Have you captured a trip in journal entries & been disappointed by the results?

Have you traveled as tourist, pilgrim, adventurer, learner, intentional sojourner?

Have you yearned for adventures, but not known how to make them happen?

This workshop will build writing skills and insight into intentional travel!

(Bring paper and pen. No travel experience or writing experience required.)

WORKSHOP DETAILS  rhonda-with-kuwalla-bear

Workshop Leader, RHONDA WILEY-JONES

Registration Fee: $65 (refreshments and materials included)

Saturday, October 22, 9-noon, 18 Antelope Trail, Kerrville, TX

To register send a check by October 15 to Rhonda Wiley-Jones, 18 Antelope Trail, Kerrville, TX 78028. (LIMITED to 14)

WORKSHOP TAKE-AWAYS

  1. Share adventures or misadventures with others in a fun atmosphere.
  2. Reflect how to travel more purposefully, independently, and intentionally.
  3. Practice journal exercises (not to critique but to share if you want) to develop insight & clarity.
  4. Consider types of travel (pilgrims are not tourists) to match with journal writing supplies.
  5. Develop observation skills; build writing skills using the senses; and mix fiction with fact.
  6. Select journaling methods to match your travel circumstances and/or writing style.
  7. Stimulate imagination with tips, ideas, and suggestions shared.
  8. Make new friends and get to know old ones in new ways.

WHAT PREVIOUS PARTICIPANTS HAVE SAID

  • Nicely presented
  • Good interaction workshop-teachingagain
  • Useful handouts
  • Thank you, Rhonda. I’m a fan!!
  • Many useable/practical ideas and suggestions
  • Great class—plenty of time for questions & sharing
  • I was surprised to learn so much in your workshop
  • It never occurred to me I might write & sell articles

 WORKSHOP FACILITATOR 

BookCoverImageThumbPrint

Rhonda Wiley-Jones, M.Ed., author of her travel memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away, is world traveler, journal writer, blogger, fiction writer. She’s conducted this workshop with audiences, such as the 2016 bi-annual Story Circle Network national conference, 2015 Schreiner University’s Global Programs, and the 2013 Schreiner University’s Innovative Learning Program.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Craft of writing, journal writing, Travel, Travel Writing, Writing Workshops

Making Travel Intentional

INTENTIONAL TRAVEL

To travel intentionally. What do I mean by that? I want my journeys to be purposeful, thoughtful and deliberate. I want to make the most of my time and my investment of resources in a trip. I know in the past I have missed moments, experiences and meaning in the midst of being overwhelmed by inconveniences; or from stiff, sore muscles that I typically experience due to travel and/or lack of rest. I always travel with fibromyalgia, so I have to think ahead.

To travel intentionally. One way to do this is to prepare mentally, physically, and emotionally before heading out. Here are some ways I get ready.

IMAGINATIVE ANTICIPATION

I can travel more intentionally if I anticipate my physical needs and take my comfort items, which let me stress less: water bottle to fill, snacks, meds, blanket or scarf, pillow, and NOT too much stuff that I will weigh me down.

I can travel more intentionally if I take time before I leave to think about situations I may encounter, like hosts that want to go, go, go and see everything. I have learned to state my intentions before we leave and again when we arrive. I can say, as an example, “We are coming to visit you and want to spend time with you and the family, to catch up on your lives. Seeing ALL the sites is not our goal, but to spend daily time with your family, the kind of time you spend in your typical week. Please don’t feel as if you must entertain us every minute.”

READ BEFORE YOU LEAVE

I can travel more intentionally if I read about the places we will see, much like I did last year when we went to Peru to visit friends. I like to do Internet searches and to read about the sites and the history behind them before arriving. In this case, I bought a tourist book on Peru. I, also, enjoy reading a book by a local or national author that gives me a feel for the culture. Last year before leaving I read, ­­­­­­­­­­The StoryTeller by Mario Vargas Llosa, a Peruvian classic. If possible, I will visit a native from that country or someone who has been there recently.

EMOTIONAL OR SPIRITUAL PROVISIONS

The thing we rarely do to enhance intentional travel is to anticipate things about ourselves that may influence the trip. For example, are we open to meeting all kinds of people? Are we willing to try our little bit of Spanish (or whatever language) while there? (I’m particularly bad about this.) Are we ready to stretch ourselves by volunteering in the place and putting ourselves in unknown situations? Are we open to trying new foods, especially raw or totally unexpected and unfamiliar items?

And are we willing to prepare ourselves with spiritual awareness that we may need, like patience, tolerance, acceptance, listening, and/or compassion?

JOURNAL WRITING TECHNIQUES

Journal writing techniques range from simple (summarize each day in 5 sentences) to standard (record what you saw and did) to more inclusive (capture your reactions, emotions, or fears to what occurred).  Seize the day’s events, using all the senses. Ask others to write their view of the day’s events in your journal.  I could go on and on.ONLINE PUB Me w.pilgrim's journal

TRAVEL TOUCHSTONES WORKSHOP COMING UP!

I use creative journal writing prompts to help me and others to become more conscious and deliberate in preparation for intentional travel in a three-hour workshop, Travel Touchstones. It offers travelers three major things to better prepare them for capturing the moments and mood, the mystery and magic of their sojourns.

1) Introduce anticipatory questions that will help focus on the upcoming journey.

EXAMPLE: If visiting one country what questions (and of whom) can I ask to learn more about the country’s political system and how it affects global relationships?

2) Discuss kinds of travel and what journal writing supplies fit with each.

EXAMPLE: If traveling to the boundary waters for a nature excursion, what special writing materials will you need in that environment?

3) Offer journal writing techniques that fit various environments and personality types.

EXAMPLE: What theme will be of interest to you in the area you are going to visit and that you plan to write about every day? Food, architecture, education, or ways people dress culturally?

TO REGISTER FOR WORKSHOP

October 22, 2016 from 9:00-noon at 18 Antelope Trail, Kerrville, TX.

Registration fee: $65.00 includes refreshments and materials. Leave questions below in form.

For Texas Hill Country residents to register, please send check to

Rhonda Wiley-Jones, 18 Antelope Trail, Kerrville, TX 78028.

GROUNDWORK FOR INTENTIONAL TRAVEL

I have learned that pre-travel groundwork puts me on high alert for what actually happens, whether it is what I expected or not. I experience more by this preparation.

Some of us are up for anything; but most of us hold back in one area or another that may keep us for gaining the most from our travels.  For those of you who live in the Texas Hill Country, don’t miss this three-hour, fun-filled workshop full of ideas, writing and sharing.

Posted in Craft of writing, journal writing, Travel, Travel Writing, Workshops, Writing Workshops

“To live a life well traveled”

Staff participants at Schreiner University’s Lunch and Learn workshop entitled, “Travel Journal Writing” took note of how important it is to travel thoughtfully. Below are four comments from the post assessment, including the title to the blog post.

“I wish I had known that a trip is not just a trip.”

Early on in the workshop we consider different kinds of travel. Some of us travel as The Way of the Traveler Book.tourists or to visit friends and family. Some of us are more into learning trips, such as the Roads Scholars program. Others may be into ‘adventuring’ like camping, fishing, hiking while others enjoy extreme adventuring, such as skydiving or mountain biking. Then there are the more serious kinds of travel that might be for business purposes or on a pilgrimage for personal insight, or traveling with a mission group to help others. Any of these trips can be an outward journey into the world and/or an inward journey into ourselves.

“The workshop can start one’s imagination in motion for traveling to other places.” 

The group members, using exercise prompts, wrote what they could expect about future travels. Prompts included things like, ‘What makes you shake, rattle and roll?’

  • What makes you shake (or tremble, good or bad)?
  • What rattles or upsets you?
  • What calms you down so you can roll with the punches?

“Loved the connection to prepare students traveling.”

Globejotting.Being on a college campus, I pointed out how valuable these kinds of questions can be for students who will study abroad, work through an internship abroad, or travel in any kind of experiential learning globally. If we as adults and seasoned professionals are unlikely to travel thoughtfully, why would we think students would do so without some prompting.

 

“I have more to learn about the ‘art’ of preflection about travel, as opposed to ‘worrying’.”

‘Preflection’ is the anticipation of what one wants from a travel experience, what one can expect from the place andArt of Pilgrimage Book.1 its conditions, and how one might approach the experience with an open mind. This heightens our awareness and raises our expectations while traveling and when we arrive. Journal writing before we leave about what could be and what we want creates a radar within us to extract more from the experience, making it deeper and richer. Preflection may include what could go wrong, but it will be followed with how one will choose to react and make the most of the experience. This is the beauty of preflection.

Tools, Techniques, & Topics 

In the beginning of the workshop we discuss the reasons or purposes for travel and the place and conditions of travel. These factors influence the supplies one will choose to use while traveling. For example, you may want notecards to stash in your purse or pocket. While others may prefer a beautifully covered notebook, lined or unlined, to motivate them to write. Yet other travelers may prefer a small, plastic covered notebook with pockets in which to tuck tickets or brochures. Those who travel in rough terrain or in rainy weather may need special pencils that write even in the rain.

2015-11-17 15.40.12Where you went, what you saw, and what you ate are not the only topics of traveling journal writing. 

In addition, we discuss tools or supplies, journaling techniques that make for more interesting and challenging journal writing. And then we list topics that one might select to write about. Leaving ready with anticipated topics keeps one from saying, “I don’t know what to write about.”

What books on journal writing can your recommend? What have you learned from your own travel journal writing experience?

Posted in Travel Writing, Writing, Writing Workshops

Count on Writing – Count for Writing

Count on Writing 

I count on writing most days. I count on thinking about writing every day. I count on learning more about the craft by reading about writing.

I count on the fact that I write for many reasons. I enjoy it. I have fun with it. I write to learn more about myself. I write to create worlds I will never experience. I write to learn about my characters. I write to entertain. I write to provide thought and feeling through my stories.

You can see there is little rhyme or reason to that list of aims for writing. Each is true, however.

Count for Writing 

But why would I count for writing?

In the most recently read book on writing, Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark, I discovered the answer in a tool I had never considered in my writing life. Chapter #20 entitled, “Choose the number of elements with a purpose in mind,” tells us that the number of things we list sends a sly message to our readers.

1. Clark states that one characteristic is a powerful declaration. For example:

  • Fiona was embarrassed.
  • Jacob carried himself with self-assurance.

If we write either of those sentences with more description it takes away from the one thing with which we want the reader to know.

2. Clark says that two descriptions provide the reader comparison or contrast.

  • Fiona was embarrassed, because of her elegance.
  • Jacob carried himself with self-assurance and arrogance.

When we write to tell our readers more about our characters, two depictions often provide a paradox. We are one thing and another, both/and, at the same time. This offers a way to see our characters in deeper, richer, and more realistic ways.

Think of pairs that communicate more: ham and beans; sweet and sour; France and Finland; war and peace; moon and sun; Mutt and Jeff.

3) Clark illustrates that three components offers a sense of completeness and wholeness.

  • Fiona was embarrassed, because of her elegance; but never admitted it.
  • Jacob carried himself with self-assurance and arrogance; however, he got things done.

We know much more about these two characters with the third element added to the sentence. They are more fully human. We can see inconsistencies in their character. They become more rounded, realistic folks to the reader.

Three is a magical number that is used in many ways. In terms of a story, we have three acts or the beginning, middle, and end. In terms of the Christian faith, we hold the three-in-one holy (or wholly), the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Our U.S.A. national government is divided into three branches to create balance of power, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

4. Clark informs us that three is greater than four. Three gives a sense of completeness. A listing of four or more, however enters what Clark calls “escape velocity.” A plethora of details can give a moving, literary feel to the writing—if used with experience and skill.

  • Fiona was embarrassed, because of her elegance; but never admitted it, because she stood to lose face with the queen.
  • Jacob carried himself with self-assurance and arrogance; however, he got things done, because of his position.

When we as writers use four or more to list attributes, or inventory roles, compile elements, and elaborate on what went on before, we generate complexity in the story line or complicity among characters. However, if not used skillfully, we can also cause complications and confusion for readers. Use this one with care.

Clark summarizes his chapter this way:

  • Use one for power
  • Use two for comparison, contrast
  • Use three for completeness, wholeness, roundness
  • Use four or more to list, inventory, compile, expand

 

Here is one example to illustrate how these come together in a paragraph.

“I’m a writer. Google my name and see for yourself. You will find throughout my career I’ve been a curriculum writer, a marketing specialist, a training and staff development specialist, an academic advisor, and college teacher. I’ve written different kinds of materials in different jobs, been edited by other people in each, and published my work formally and informally.”

Sentence #1: one for power

Sentence #2: two actions to conduct

Sentence #3: list of five career roles

Sentence #4: three elements of each role

The paragraph pattern is 1 -2 – 5 – 3. Note that the last sentence is a summarizing statement, worthy of completeness in a listing of three things that substantiates I am a writer, as stated in sentence number one.

Here is another example from the introduction of this post:

“I count on writing most days. I can count on thinking about writing every day. I count on learning more about the craft by reading about writing. (3)

I count on the fact that I write for many reasons. I enjoy it. I have fun with it. I write to learn more about myself. I write to create worlds I will never experience. I write to learn about my characters. I write to entertain. I write to provide thought and feeling through my stories. (4+, actually 8)

You can see there is little rhyme or reason to that list of aims. Each is true, however” (2)

Pattern to the introduction: 3 – 4 – 2 (I use “1” frequently in sentences throughout to give power to each.)

This new knowledge improves my writing.

Readers, how about you? Please offer an example of your own and show the pattern for it. This will give you practice and help others see it repeated.

Posted in Travel, Travel Writing, Writing, Writing Workshops

Behind the Gates of San Miguel de Allende (part #1)

All 4 of us 20150219_100633
Rhonda, Jenn, Tilly, Cathy

Some travelers are pilgrims (serious spiritualists), tourists (tour bus advocates), adventurers and thrill seekers (adrenaline rush junkies), or explorers (on-foot surveyors). My friends and I saw ourselves as simple, moderate explorers, not even treasure seekers. Cathy, Tilly, Jenn, and I decided to visit San Miguel de Allende, a new location for all of us. The three of them had traveled together the previous year. I invited myself along for this year’s expedition. They heartily entreated me to join them.

A neighbor of mine in Texas traveled to San Miguel with a native Mexican, as informal tour guide and reported that she found it disappointing, because stores, galleries and restaurants were behind gates and doors. To her it seemed closed off, hard to get a feel for the place, inaccessible.

I shared my neighbor’s experience with the other three women.  All seasoned travelers, we set our intention to get behind the gates of San Miguel.

Parrocia.20150218_142112San Miguel de Allende is not a modern city, but an ancient colonial Mexican village, and as a result, it is built behind doors, gates, fences, and facades that then open up into courtyards that are surrounded by commercial shops or residences. In recent decades the village has grown into a tourist town, which then became home to thousands of artists of all stripes from North America, both the U.S. and Canada. The expatriate artist community today finds bountiful inspiration at a higher elevation in mid-Mexico, though sitting in a valley surrounded by distant, outlined mountains and fertile agricultural fields. The colonial village is known for its churches, cathedrals, and green spaces. The Parroquia, a primary landmark is not a cathedral, but the local parish church. Follow the parroquia link to see it in the midst of the city and as a Neo-Gothic example of architecture. The pink exterior makes it easy to find.

During the summer of 2014, Jenn researched flights and found a reasonable fare on Volaris. We booked. I called a friend in my hometown that travels frequently to San Miguel to ask recommendations for lodging. We booked the Hotel Quinta Loreta on her endorsement. We each took to the Internet to see what to do and see in the city for our trip.

Our itinerary started from the fishing village Isla Mujeres, Mexico, where we all spend a month or more each year. We ferried across the channel from Isla Mujeres to Cancún. Best Day shuttle took us to the Cancún aeropuerto, where we traveled by Volarias, a no frills Mexican airline to León, an hour and a half flight. No frills meant we carried backpacks for luggage and even had to buy water aboard the flight. We were an hour later than expected and had not made shuttle arrangements from León to San Miguel. Cathy approached a young man with a wife and baby, to ask if he spoke English and could he advise us. He spoke English and recommended we hail a taxi to the bus station and go from there by bus.

When we arrived at the bus station, we were weary and thirsty from our day’s travel—a low cost adventure for each of us. We could make out multiple bus lines—some we had heard of and others we had taken before. We understood the peso price ranges, but also realized that the wait time for even the cheapest one was costly in terms of wait time. We grumbled and debated.

Cathy walked outside, negotiated a cab ride, bargained with him, then he raised the price. I joined her and we ganged up on him to insist on the lower price. He conceded. We piled our backpacks in the trunk. Three of us scrunched in the back seat and let Tilly sit in front with the driver. Because she speaks Italian, she can make her way with Spanish better than the rest of us. She learned his nombre, Carlos, so we could at least be friendly enough to call him by name.

The car without adequate shocks bounced us through croplands and desert-like terrain with the mountains always in view. Sunlight followed us all the way to San Miguel and set as we arrived. The driver asked for an address and directions.

I had a name, Quinta Loreta Hotel, and an address, but oops, no directions. Because he was unfamiliar with the city, we suggested he drop us off in the center of town, circa de Artisan Mercado, next door to the hotel. He shook his head with disgust.

Carlos stopped at a gas station for directions. He then drove and drove, and looked this way and that way. Without a word spoken we knew he was as lost as we were.

It crossed my mind, could he be taking us on a wild-goose chase? Could he actually know his way and we become victims of a “give me all your money,” scam and dumped? Or worse?

Carlos asked another local taxi driver for directions. That seemed smart of him and reduced my fears. We rode until we were in an industrial looking part of town. Not yet panicked, it crossed my mind again, what if?

He asked another taxi driver. We turned around and headed in the other direction.

We were lost before we arrived.

By this time, we suspected he was fuming over the negotiated cost of the ride and the time he was killing not making another fare.

We arrived around 9:00 p.m. with cheers for him and gave him the agreed upon price and a substantial tip, hoping to appease him. We did not wait for his response to our tip.

The receptionist gave us keys to our rooms and vague direction to another restaurant, because  the hotel’s restaurant was closed. Worn-out, hungry, and fatigued from dehydration, we trekked out to find it.

Soon we heard American English-speaking voices, a couple out to find an Italian restaurant to which they had been directed. Yes, we would love to follow them the six- to eight-minute walk they had been assured it would take. We walked and talked; we looked and searched. Our energy waned. Finally, the couple determined that our 20-minute journey must not be the right direction. We walked back to our starting point. By this time of night, the gates of the city were mostly closed. The streets felt deserted. Our weary feet hobbled over narrow cobblestoned lanes cluttered with Easter-egg colored confetti. We speculated on the reason the streets were full of trashed confetti. We slowed our pace and wondered if breakfast would be our next meal.

Down the way, a light above a heavy wooden door slung back, to welcome us. A peek inside had the feel of Cheers—where everyone knows your name. People, hunched over tables, talked and laughed, as if they did this every night of the week.MeLeaningOnCathy.20150215_213741

We stepped inside out of the damp mountain chill into the warmth and savory aromas of the establishment. José stood waiting to serve us with humor and a quick wit; margaritas and molten volcano bowls of chicken MoltenVolcanoBowl.20150215_212737with cactus, pepper and onion arrived bubbling hot. We had arrived at Milagro and found sustenance behind a single gate in San Miguel on a cool February evening.

My return to the monkish room that evening revealed heat and A/C were not part of my accommodation. The stored blanket in the closet felt like the batting was lead. I thought, Ah, this should hold the heat in for the night.

I was chilled to the bone and took a quick hot shower that did not knock the chill from the room or my body, so I crawled into bed with my thermal Cuddle Duds shirt on. That should do it. After half an hour, I was up to find my TravelSmith  blanket and wrapped it around my feet and legs beneath the covers, like leg warmers. I had to scooch down because the maid had made the bed with no extra length to cover my shoulders. I’ll have to fix that tomorrow. I curled into a fetal position, pulled the sheet over my nose, and finally fell asleep.

It was no warmer the next morning.

(More to Come)