"" Writer's Wanderings

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Throwback Thursday - The Sandlot

Recently there was a news story about some kids who have some organized unorganized baseball on Tuesday nights. The only rule, other than the usual baseball rules, is that parents are not allowed on the field. They are not allowed to scream and yell at the players for good or bad plays. I'm sure it makes for an interesting evening. The kids choose up sides, just like in the old days, and if there are six outfielders and two third basemen, it's okay. They just play and have fun.

It reminded me of my old "sandlot" days. We grew up next to my grandfather's house which was next to an empty lot that never seemed to have anything grow on it. I don't remember there being sand since our land was mostly clay but there was lots of shale which was kind of like coarse sand when it began to break down. It was dusty and dirty and we loved it.

Our bases were whatever we could find that was big enough to get a foot on. Their placement was eyeballed not measured. We played with a softball and a wooden bat. If we had a half dozen kids we were lucky. Our neighborhood didn't have a lot of kids in it.

I loved to pitch. We never called balls and strikes. The idea was to hit the ball and run like crazy so my pitches were thrown to try and make that happen. I thought I did pretty well.

The only adult we had watching our game was probably my grandfather who I'm sure enjoyed our shenanigans. He was our buddy and never reported to our mother when we were off doing something she wouldn't have approved. With a wag of the finger, he would warn us that he knew. That's all it took.

That's where the love of baseball started for me. I went on to intramural play in junior high but that was a little too organized. Some of the fun was gone. Still, the sandlots of the world have produced some great players and organized or not, I enjoy the watching.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Is My Stuff Safe In The Hotel Room?

Yes and no. A lot depends upon you. There is usually a safe in the room. Use it. When you are out of the room your electronics and your valuables should go into the safe. If there is no safe in the room then your valuables can go into the hotel safe if you ask the manager.

We have been known to travel with our electronics in a back pack if they won't fit in the room safe but if you do this, you really have to be careful. Wear your back pack in front of you or turn it around so that the zippers are on the side against your back if you are in a busy crowded area. That is the place where thieves are most likely to operate--probably even more so than in your hotel room.

According to an article in Smarter Travel, hotel housekeeping is rarely the source of stolen items from your hotel room but there is no reason to tempt anyone. Pick up your personal items and tuck them away. Not only will you be making their job easier, you will keep them from unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally) looking them over. Housekeeping doesn't have a lot of time in each room so the chances of someone rifling through your things are pretty low.

A more likely scenario is that you might flip that safety bar that keeps your door from opening more than six inches to the other side to keep your door from locking you out as you run to the ice or soda machine thereby allowing anyone passing by to give a quick look and perhaps snatch something you have out in the open. Always, always lock your door when you leave the room.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Say It Isn't So--Fake Travel Photography!

The untouched beauty of New Zealand
With the phrase "fake news" becoming popular I was intrigued by an article I ran across that showed fake places in the world. Smarter Travel once again got my attention with several pictures that had been photo shopped by some industrious people and presented as actual places to visit. The article is Incredible Places That Don't Exist And Where To Go Instead.

Now I admit that I do spruce up the pictures that I post here. I add a little more color or fix the brightness or tint or crop it to make it more interesting. I do not however take a picture from one place in the world merge it with another picture from somewhere else and then claim it is a unique place in the world to visit. Why would I want to when there are so many amazing places to see that stand on their own?

That made me think about how so many brochures are produced to advertise places to visit and stay. Of course they all want you to see them at their very best so they wait for the best sunny day, hire great looking people to pretend they are enjoying their vacation there and then do the best they can to fix anything that looks distracting in the picture to make it appear to be a little piece of heaven. So what's a traveler who's planning a trip to do?

One of the places I've found to sort out the real from the photo shopped is TripAdvisor. If you search their site for the places you want to stay and/or visit, you can usually find that people have posted some of their own pictures with their reviews. Those are the unprofessional but more realistic representation of what you might expect.

Just remember, the sun doesn't always shine even in "paradise" no matter how the brochures may present it.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Do You Haggle When You Travel?

Many destinations have markets where locals display their wares especially for the tourists. Haggling over price is almost expected and often extremely enjoyed by the tourists who have a knack for it. But by doing so are you taking advantage of those who truly need to make some money for the goods that are most often made by hand? Yes and no. Sometimes what little they may charge for an item will go a lot farther in their country.

As for me, I hate the haggling. I don't really do it but since so many local merchants expect it, they actually engage in it before I even think about it. FYI, I'm also not fond of haggling with car dealers here in my own country if you must know. I have gotten some good bargains and with little haggling when we travel. A $10 leather purse (it was $15), a couple of dollars knocked off the price of a small painting, two pieces of fruit for the price of one. Here's how the scenario plays out for me:

We will approach the merchant's stand and look around. Most sellers will follow you showing you what you must buy. If they get too rambunctious, I will leave. I don't like to be hassled. Otherwise, if I pick something up to look at it I will immediately be told the price. Maybe I really don't care for it that much but you can be sure that if I put it back down, the price will go down as well. I don't usually need to haggle per se, just walk away. The price will go down again or I'll be offered a BOGO. If I'm truly interested, I will take up the offer before the price drops too much. Most of the things I look at are handmade items and I hate to not give the creator at least a fair price for his work.

The truly practiced merchants will tell you their price of an item and then follow it with, "But for you lady, it is. . ." I love the special attention but I really have to love the item before I pay even the reduced price.

Haggle away if you must and yes, I will be in awe of your bargains but I will always feel just a little sorry for the honest merchant who may not have made out quite as well.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When You Travel Should You Give To Panhandlers?

My first experience with children panhandling was on a visit to Tijuana, Mexico. We used to travel to San Diego each year right around our anniversary because Bob always had a trade show then so part of our expenses were a business write off. One year we decided that it would be interesting to visit Tijuana. Everyone always talked of the bargains in leather and other products that were there. So we set out and drove a short distance south, parked our car on the American side and walked over the border through customs and immigration.

Once through the little venue that was right outside of the immigration area, we followed the walkway to the main part of town and were surrounded by a constant drone of children's voices asking us for money or to buy a stick of gum or piece of candy. We had received some literature from those who were trying to curb the practice. On it we were told that the children were forced into begging and that by contributing to them we would only be perpetuating the practice which often involved beatings if the children didn't get enough money.

It was agonizing to walk by them but even if we had stopped to buy candy or give a donation (one little toddler plucked a one string toy guitar with a cup in front of him) we would have been inundated by a crowd of children.

That experience was many years ago. We have never been to Tijuana since and in fact left not long after we arrived. It was too depressing. But we have experienced similar situations in other countries. What's a traveler to do? It is heartbreaking when you see the need.

I read an article not long ago that gave what I thought was a good solution. Since you are not helping out much by perpetuating the panhandling with a few coins here and there and could even in this day and age be contributing to human trafficking by doing so, refrain from pulling out your loose change. Instead, look into some charities or organizations that may be at work in that country and make a donation to them. They will make your money go farther and to those who truly need it. Perhaps it will help to keep the children in school rather than on the street and not be used by adults for their own gain.

And while you are researching those charities, you might even run across one that will allow you to help out for a few hours or a day. Now that could be one of the best travel adventures you may ever have.

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