Tired Feet….and a Regenerated Spirit!

I recently received this email from a person who was in my audience at the Society for Human Resource Managers annual conference where I was speaking on “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™-Creating Workplaces of Passion, Purpose, and Productivity”:


I recently attended the SHRM conference in Orlando and had the accidental privilege of hearing you speak. After walking around the convention center all morning, I found myself lost on the third floor with blisters on my heels. Unable to go any farther, I hobbled into your session. I’ve never been so glad to be in pain!

Initially, I had not planned on attending your session because I had seen you several years ago. I bought your books and I even got to meet you in person at a book signing. Boy, did your session re-energize my spirit! I currently work for a younger manager who believes that employees are just a Craigslist ad away. He even told me, a dedicated employee of 25 years, that “anyone who’s been here more than 5 years is complacent and worthless.” Needless to say, our workplace is not the happiest place in the world. Our manager does not even say hello when he passes by. It’s very demoralizing to go to work everyday.

But your session gave me renewed hope that I can possibly make up for his ignorance by using acts of kindness to perk up our staff. I have already dug through your books and found ideas for a short survey that I can give to the staff as soon as I return to work.

Thank you, Barbara, for the kick in the pants I needed to reverse the negativity in our workplace!

Cynthia Pearce
HR Director


I immediately wrote Cynthia to thank her for the affirmation and to encourage her with even more ideas of small things that cost little or no money. Just this week she wrote back with this reply: “In the spirit of appreciation, I asked the chef to save all of the leftover Ice cream novelties for me to share with my co-workers when I pass out paychecks tomorrow. It’s very warm here, so I’m hoping my ‘Ice cream (I scream) my appreciation of you’ goes over well! Thanks again for the motivation.”

One of the joys of my mission is helping people create fully engaged workplaces of caring, creativity, FUN and ultimately greater productivity, and the best news of all is that it DOESN’T have to cost money. Way to go, Cynthia — you are making a difference!

Go to www.barbaraglanz.com/ideas and check out the archives for even more ways to make your workplace a great place to be. You can also subscribe to my free monthly email newsletter, “Spreading Contagious Enthusiasm™,” for a new idea every month.

Customer Service in Houston

The people of Houston really know how to treat their guests! Recently, I was the closing keynote speaker for the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce.


The night before, I had stayed in the Royal Sonesta Hotel about two blocks away from the conference hotel since that hotel was full from another convention.

The next morning I needed to be at the conference hotel at 11:00 to check out the equipment and do a sound check before my keynote at 3:00. I had had a late night and needed to do some work in the morning, so by the time I was ready to leave, I realized I would not have any time for breakfast, and I needed the energy to be at my best for my client.

When I got down to the hotel lobby, I quickly found the restaurant and hurriedly asked the waitress there if they had a banana, explaining my rushed and rather desperate situation. (I figured a banana would hold me until lunch!) She ran to the buffet, grabbed a banana, and brought it back to me. When I asked her how much I owed, she simply smiled and said, “You just have a wonderful day.” How long has it been since any restaurant EVER gave you something for nothing? I was touched. ( A huge thank you to the service at the Royal Sonesta Hotel!)

Again, I hurried out to the lobby to walk the two blocks to the conference hotel, lugging my big computer bag, a bag of “show and tell” things for my presentation, and my huge purse. When I got outside, the wind was blowing so badly that I panicked. I rushed back inside to see if I could possibly get their shuttle to drive me over to the hotel. You see, they were videotaping me that day, and the walk over would have completely ruined my hair! ;-)

I ran to the front desk, literally begging for the shuttle as I explained my predicament, but the person on duty said he was sorry, but it had gone to the airport and would not be back for 30 minutes. Dejected, I began to leave to make the dreaded walk over when a limo driver who had been waiting in the lobby and who had overheard my pleas, came up, smiled, and said, “Ma’am, I would be glad to drive you over.” My hero!

He loaded all my stuff in the trunk, gave me a bottle of water, and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll get you there on time.” Because these hotels were on a one way street, he had to drive several blocks over and down and then make a U-turn to get back on the right side of the street, so it was no easy task.

When we arrived at the conference hotel, he let me out of the car and unloaded all my “stuff” as I thanked him profusely and held out my credit card. He just smiled, shook his head, and said, “This is my gift to you. You just bring all those ladies a message of hope and have a wonderful day.” And of course, I gave him a big hug right there in the driveway! (Just for the record, his name is Osman Omar of VIP’s Transportation. If you ever need a ride in Houston, you can call my hero at 206-724-8067.)

After these precious experiences and then the amazing women I met at the Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce conference, I can hardly wait to come back to Houston!

To read more wonderful customer service stories, check out Barbara’s books at www.barbaraglanz.com/store/books.

Human Family

I just read this poem and was struck by the depth of truth. As I have traveled the world and spoken on all seven continents, one of the most poignant lessons I have learned is that EVERYONE HAS A HEART. It is just more difficult to reach some than others, usually because of past experiences of not being loved. IF we could only internalize this truth, we could live in peace instead of in fear. Thank you, Maya Angelou, for these precious words.

Appleton interns

by Maya Angelou

I note the obvious differences in the human family.
Some of us are serious, some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived as true profundity,
and others claim they really live the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones can confuse, bemuse, delight,
brown and pink and beige and purple, tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different although their features jibe,
and lovers think quite different thoughts while lying side by side.

We love and lose in China, we weep on England’s moors,
and laugh and moan in Guinea, and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland, are born and die in Maine.
In minor ways we differ, in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.

To learn more about Barbara’s work around the world, go to www.barbaraglanz.com

Fiji Trip–January 2 – 17

January 14

Today was a quiet day. I slept in, had breakfast and then worked on email and writing my journal on the front porch with the breeze blowing through the palm trees. At 12:30 I had another Indian Head Massage – nice but not nearly as good as the one at Octopus. Lunch was a special wood-fired pizza which we all enjoyed—we even saved the leftovers for a cocktail party that evening.

We found out that this resort is only 6 months old, so everything is new, and we heard that the prices will be going way up at the end of the year, so book your reservations NOW! ;-) Later in the afternoon we took a kayak snorkeling trip across the water to a new resort they are currently building. The most exciting thing I was were several very large bright purple starfish and a whole school of squid.
That night there was a kava ceremony and native music. Even though the young people continued partying, Nancy and I came back and read in our air-conditioned room!

January 15

Today we packed up to leave for the last segment of our trip. You put all your bags (we had 8 between us!) out on the porch and the poor staff guys have to carry them down to the shore where they go in a separate boat to load on the big boat, Ocean Dreams. Then we all boarded about 11:00 am and rode for 4 hours to Blue Lagoon, which is the furthest resort in the islands.

At this resort Nancy and I are slowly getting back to reality – although we have two bedrooms (they upgraded us), we have NO AC!!!! So, we did not sleep nearly as well here as at the other resorts. It is VERY hot and humid and not always breezes, especially at night, so we realized how spoiled we had been at the earlier resorts!

After lunch we snorkeled and swam, then read a bit and joined the group for cocktails at 6:30. It was quite interesting snorkeling here as the schools of fish, especially the little turquoise neon ones, just surrounded us and made us feel as if we were part of them. Many swam right in front of our masks and even bumped us occasionally. We saw some much larger fish here and some that we had not seen before. My favorites are the yellow and black angel fish. We have six marine biologists with us on this trip, so it is really fun learning from them all about the various species of coral and fish.

After dinner, they did a “Survivor” contest with some fun events – questions about Fiji, a puzzle, a throwing contest, and finally one super last question about all the resort stops on the boat. Our team, the “Monkey Fish,” won first place, a champagne breakfast on the beach!

January 16

We got up early today for a cave snorkeling adventure at 8:00 am. About 12 of us went in a small boat to a large series of caves about 30 minutes away. On the way, we passed three different native villages much like the one we saw at Octopus. We arrived and had to climb several fights of stairs to the main cave. It had huge high ceilings, was about 20 meters deep, and the water was very cold.

At the end of the stairs, you simply had to jump in. The guide told us to take our snorkel tubes off and just wear our fins and masks since our snorkels could get caught as we went into the next cave. This famous cave was the site for the filming of the movie, “Blue Lagoon,” and he showed us the rock that Brooke Shields sat on in the movie. We can’t wait to rent the movie and watch it again!

It was very dark, but the guide had a flashlight so we could see into the next cave. To get there, you had to dive through a tunnel underwater for about 10 feet. We were a bit hesitant at first, but I finally decided to take the risk, Nancy followed, and we were both glad we did. The second cave was completely dark, small, and about 60 meters deep. The walls were high and very impressive. However, you had to go back through the underwater tunnel to get out again, so the young people were impressed that Nancy and I did it! ;-)

When we got back to the beach again, there was a small market of native goods. We took the boat home, snorkeled there again, swam and read until dinner. The rest of the group went on a shark dive which is one of the special offerings of this resort. They saw many bull sharks which came right near them – an awesome (and sometimes scary) experience!

After dinner, there was a crab racing contest – really fun. They dumped a bucket of small crabs, and you could pick as many as you wanted for $3 each. All the money went to support the primary schools in the area. They wrote a number on the back of each crab, put them all back into the bucket again, and then drew two large circles in the sand around the bucket. The race began when they dumped the bucket in the middle and whichever crabs ran to the outside of the circle first, won. We all wildly cheered our crab(s) on! Prizes were bar credits, so everyone had fun, and a good deal of money was raised for the children.

That night it rained VERY hard for most of the night, so it was extremely humid, and so with no AC, I got the worst night’s sleep of the whole trip!

January 17

Time to leave for home! We did get a little later checkout so Nancy and I could go snorkeling one last time. Then we showered, packed up, and got ready to get the boat for Nadi. I had to borrow twine from Katie to tie up my gigantic plaid bag with all my purchased souvenirs – I will feel like a “bag lady” for sure when I arrive in LA and Sarasota!

Everyone met at Katie and Ashley’s bure for a final glass of champagne, and we all said our goodbyes. Then we boarded the Ocean Dreams ship for our 4 – 5 hour ride to the airport. On the way to the ship, we saw the most beautiful double rainbow we had ever seen – the arch went all the way from one side of the land to the other. DSC03065 Bruce is on the same flight as Nancy and me, so we grabbed some quick dinner and changed when we got to the airport It is an 11 hour flight to LA and then I am going to stay overnight there and fly to Sarasota on the 18th. (I had my days al mixed up since we left on the 17th and also arrived on the 17th since you gain a day coming back.)

It will really be hard to get back to reality again after such a wonderful vacation. I am grateful to Katie and Ashley for planning such a spectacular wedding trip and also for the blessing of being able to make the trip, both financially and physically. What a beautiful world we live in, and I feel so very blessed to have experienced so much of it in the last few years!

To learn more about Barbara’s professional work, go to www.barbaraglanz.com.

Fiji Trip — January 2 – 17

January 12

We left Octopus today on a small boat to Paradise Cove. This truly IS paradise! Although the coral is not as good for snorkeling, the water is much calmer, the waves are few, and there is more to do here. Everything is free except the diving – kayaks, paddle boards, guided hikes, snorkeling trips, and the food is wonderful.

Our bure is HUGE and gorgeous, and we are the only ones on the beach, so this has become the cocktail party place at 6:00. Unfortunately, it is also the most expensive one here, but Nancy and I waited too long to make our reservation, and this was the only place left. In the main room, it has a beautiful four poster bed covered with soft white curtains (just like you see in the movies), an L-shaped couch, and a large screen TV.

Our bathroom is also huge – open air with all kinds of plants, two showers, and double round sinks.
Nancy gets the big bed here, so I am sleeping in the back room which has twin beds, another couch, and a very small extra half bath. Every day the maid puts lovely fresh flowers on our beds and throughout the bathroom area as well as water and soda in the refrigerator. We decided that this is the perfect place for a Honeymoon! (And we truly are sharing Katie and Ashley’s honeymoon with them as they are traveling with us until the 17th when we leave for home.)

We arrived, had lunch (there are always several choices like rice paper wraps, sticky beef salad, chicken stir fry, and of course, hamburgers!) Then we all took out kayaks and paddled partway around the island, came back and snorkeled off the beach, and then swam before dinner. That evening was a movie under the stars around the pool with pop corn and ice cream. It is amazing how well we are all sleeping here. I guess no stress IS the recipe for happiness! ;-)

January 13

Another quiet day—I got up about 9:00 (breakfast here is from 6:30 – 10:00, so we loved that!), had breakfast, worked on email and my journal, read on the porch, and then after lunch, we had our first big adventure here. They took us by boat to another area of the island where we snorkeled for over an hour. It was absolutely breathtaking to see all the brightly colored fish and coral! I saw an eel, “Nemo” fish, angel fish, jellyfish, and all kinds of different colored varieties from rainbow to neon blues, tiger stripes and polka dots. The coral ranged from fushia to lime green to all shades of purples, browns and tans.

Afterwards we came back and swam in the ocean in front of our bure. The view is so spectacular here that I want to cement it in my mind forever and ever! I feel so very close to God in this peaceful place. We showered, then read for awhile until the gang of 12 came over for our nightly cocktail gathering (mostly wine and beer…) Then, before dinner, we all hiked up to Sunset Point. Unfortunately, the sun was in another part of the sky so we couldn’t see it, but the view was lovely.

Dinner here has some choices unlike Octopus Resort, so I had risotto with muschrooms and prawns – delicious! We all laugh because whenever we cannot finish our meals, we just pass them to Ashley, the groom, and he polishes them off! ;-) After dinner we went back and read until our eyes began to droop. When I got up in the night to go to the bathroom, I just happened to look up (remember it is open air), and I saw more stars than I have seen for years – what a magnificent world God has created!

Stay connected for the continuation of the trip and added pictures. For more information on Barbara’s professional work, go to www.barbaraglanz.com

Fiji Trip — January 12 – 17

January 9

Today was “play day” for us all. The guys took a hike to the top of another very high mountain where Katie, the bride, and her accomplices had buried treasure for the groom to find. All the girls met for a spa day and fun bachelorette games. I had a massage and reflexology, and we learned lots about Katie and even more about Ashley (some things I think he would rather NOT have had us know…..;-)

Then we all met for lunch, snorkeling, swimming and reading. Nancy and I had a pina colada around the pool and ate deep fried banana chips (like potato chips). The food is all inclusive here, so we are all eating way too much – will have to work hard to lose it all when I get home, but it is worth it! ;-)

We all met at 6:30 at Beth’s bure for cocktails and the wedding rehearsal. We nearly died laughing when Katie and Ashley appeared. Only a photo can explain their outfits! Oh, how I wish I had ever had a body like Katie’s – they looked like high class strippers…..and we were all delighted and envious of Youth. We encouraged them to wear the costumes to dinner to the delight of the whole resort. After dinner, everyone called it an early night and headed home for a great night’s sleep.

January 10

Today is the big day! Beth and the girls have been busy doing flowers, rehearsing the wedding vows, and pressing the dresses. Since the bures are stretched out across the beach (our neighbor told us that ours was 280 steps to the bar! ;-) , they blow a conch shell whenever meals are served – 6:30 – 9:30 Breakfast, 12:30 – 2:00 Lunch, and 8:00 Dinner . (The exchange rate is 1.8 Fijian dollars to the US dollar.). We all met for breakfast and then Bruce, Nancy, and I snorkeled for an hour. I still am overwhelmed with all the amazing different colored coral and all the varieties of tropical fish—God certainly is a great Creator! I had brought an underwater camera, but I goofed and wound it the wrong way, and I think I lost every picture. ;-( Oh, well, they will be forever in my memory.

After lunch, I had an Indian head massage – the BEST! Then I took a shower and got dressed early because the bridal party was coming over to use our bure to get ready since we have the only one with AC. One exciting thing in the afternoon was when a helicopter landed on the beach right in front of us to drop off a couple of backpackers who had missed the boat from Nadi! Can you imagine what that must have cost?
There are several different levels of accommodations here – from the most expensive Beach Villas (ours because it has AC) at $550 Fijian a day to Garden Bures a bit off the beach for around $400 Fijian to the dorms which are $40-$60 a day. These rooms are ideal for young people who are backpacking. (The exchange rate is 1.8 Fijian dollars to the US dollar.)

The rest of the Bauerle family (my maiden name) are known for being a bit “last minute,” so the bridal party did not get to our bure until nearly 5:00 pm and guests were arriving on the beach at 6:15. Beth still had to make the flower crown, all had to do hair and makeup, and everyone needed to get dressed. Champagne did help, but it was a rather hectic time! ;-) No one but the photographer knew how to French braid, so SHE even ended up doing Krista’s hair!

It was really fun to be a part of the family prep time with Katie, the bride; Krista, her sister and a bridesmaid; Shelly, the groom’s sister and a bridesmaid; and my sister, Beth, who is the mother of the bride. When all was said and done, everyone looked gorgeous, and the guests had vodka punch so did not seem to mind waiting the extra 45 minutes to start. After all, it IS Fijian time! ;-)

The wedding was lovely on the beach at sunset under an arch with native flowers and the chief of the village presiding. Katie was the loveliest of brides and Ashely looked very handsome as well. The mothers each spoke to their children, the bride and groom said their vows, and then the KISS! The most fun was the “silly” pictures afterwards. Since taking care of my longer hair here has been nearly impossible, I ended up wearing my short, fun wig. It was VERY windy that evening, and right in the middle of the “silly” pics, my wig began to blow off. We all got a good laugh and some goofy pictures! ;-)


After pictures, we had a lovely outdoor dinner with champagne and wine with lots of toasts and fun stories. Then the dancing began! It truly was a fairytale wedding, and I feel so blessed that I was able to be here for Katie and the family.

January 11

Today was a “catch up” day. The rumor was that the party last night (Nancy and I went to bed about 1:00) lasted until 4:00 am with skinny dips in the ocean and one non-named guest who poured all the leftover booze – red wine, white wine, champagne, vodka punch and even partially finished cocktails—into a big bucket and drank it. Needless to say, some people did not make it to breakfast! ;-) We are definitely the old folks here. Most of the young people who came to the wedding are marine biologists and many finishing up their doctorates or post docs. They work hard and play hard and have come from Australia, Sweden, and the US. It has been fun to be a part of a “young” group again.

I worked on this journal after breakfast and then Bruce, Nancy and I went snorkeling after lunch. I had had trouble with my goggles fogging up, but at last I found a solution – you scrub the inside of the goggles with baby shampoo and a toothbrush. Who could have known that except experienced divers? Anyway, the water was a bit rough, but we saw even more beautiful fish than the other days. I hated to come in! It is especially fun to be with Bruce since he points out things we might otherwise miss. At one point he saw a large clam and dived down and put his hand into it to show us how it would close up. He was smart enough, though, to move fast or he might have lost a finger!

I swam afterwards, lay in the sun a bit, and then showered and went down to have some quiet time with my sister. She did a phenomenal job of planning and executing the wedding, so now she can relax the rest of the trip. I did do one rather “wild” thing to tease my kids. Beth painted a butterfly on my chest, just above my bra, with permanent markers so it looks like a tattoo. She is an amazing artist, so I will have fun with it until it wears off.

Everyone met for our last night of cocktails at Beth’s bure since several of the gang are leaving tomorrow. The rest of us are going on to Paradise Cove in the morning. Since I have bought so many gifts and souvenirs, I needed an extra bag (I will have to pay $200 Fijian dollars, but it is worth it.) Anyway, the manager here told me she had a bag that someone had left that I could have. When she brought it over tonight, though, we all had a good laugh. It is HUGE! We are going to try to roll it as it is way larger than the airline will allow. I guess I will NEVER learn to travel light!!!!!

We finished dinner, said our goodbyes, and all went to bed early as we have to check out by 10:00 am and have our bills settled. We all hate leaving this lovely place, but it will be another adventure to experience a different island.

For continuing updates, go to www.barbaraglanz.com/blog www.barbaraglanz.com/blog

Fiji Trip — January 2 – 17

January 6

Today was a quiet day. We had a late breakfast and I worked on the computer doing email and writing until early afternoon. We then had lunch around the pool and a swim, had showers, dressed and went to the main street for our “souvenir” shopping at Jack’s. I bought my grandsons the instruments that the Nadi cannibals used to subdue their “victims”—a brain scrambler, a skull crusher, and wooden swords. Being boys, they will love the stories! I also bought gifts for girl friends and my other family members, so we had lots of fun. (My luggage was overweight to begin with, so now I am REALLY going to have to pay, but it’s worth it! ;-)

After that we stopped at the little market in town for water and bug spray. The bugs are especially bad when you are eating outside. One fun thing we learned was that there are 4 different levels of taxis – the junky ones, nicer ones, ones that have AC for which you have to pay extra, and private cars. This day we were blessed to have a nice one! He even suggested we leave all our souvenir purchases with him in the car and he would meet us outside the market. We were a bit skeptical at first, but everyone here seems VERY honest, so we decided to be trusting.

He then drove us to the only Japanese restaurant in town, similar to Beni Hana, and we shared the table with a lovely family from Australia. There are many Aussies here, of course, since it is relatively close. When we came out, there was our taxi driver waiting for us, and when we asked him how much it would be to take us back to our hotel, he said, “Whatever you think.” WOW! Have you EVER had a taxi driver tell you that???
We had a glass of wine, packed to leave in the AM, and watched another episode of “Downton Abbey.”

January 7
We had to get up at 6:00 am (which I hate!) to get ready to be picked up to go to the island. We met my brother, Bruce, Ashley, the groom, and several of their friends at the airport and then got dropped off at the boat dock. The little open boat that took us only held 14 people and all our luggage. (We had been told to bring anything we wanted to drink from Nadi as it was all very expensive at the resort, so there were cases of wine, gin, vodka, soda, and mixers – this is a PARTYING group of young people! ;-) It was an 1¼ hour ride, a bit like a bucking bronco, but the scenery was beautiful as we approached the island.

Typical of the Fijian hospitality, there was an island group to serenade us as we arrived. We have LOVED the people here! They all seem to have an innate sense of service. Everyone you meet, even people on the street or throughout the resort, look you directly in the eyes, greet you with “Bula,” the traditional “hello”, tell you their name, ask you yours, and shake your hand. A friend just sent me an article that they have been voted the second friendliest people in the world, and we would certainly agree with that.

The resort is exactly what you would picture on a South Sea island—darling thatched huts (bures) right on the water, everything open, palm trees, lovely bushes, and gorgeous flowers everywhere, and water that is the deepest, brightest shade of turquoise. We have one of the few bures with AC which is a real blessing as it is VERY hot and humid here, even moreso than Florida in the summer. But the good news is you just give up on looking good and doing anything with hair and makeup – VERY freeing! ;-)
The food is extraordinary as well. Breakfast is a buffet with gobs of fresh fruit –pineapple, mango, coconut, watermelon, papaya—and all kinds of eggs, omelets, cereals, etc. At lunch you can choose from specials of the day, a different curry (lots of Indian influence in Fiji), a special native Fijian dish each day, interesting salads and pizzas, or a fresh fish entrée. Dinner is served at 8:00 and is a sitdown lovely occasion with a set menu. They are extremely accommodating to people who are vegetarian or need gluten free as well. We love that they have filtered water, so we don’t have to be worried about where to buy bottled water as we did in Nadi. (I have learned in all travel to never drink the local water or eat salads or any kind of fruit that has not been peeled since that is the easiest way to get sick.)

After arriving, we met the rest of the group, had lunch (I had a pumpkin salad with garbanzo beans and fresh fruit – LOVE trying different local things), unpacked, and then Bruce took us on a snorkeling adventure. He is a college professor in Biology and Zoology and teaches survival at Mesa State University in Colorado, so he is a great instructor! He and Beth, my sister and the mother of the bride, gave me a traveling snorkel set for Christmas, so I was all prepared!

The bride and groom are both marine biologists as are most of their guest friends, so it is a really neat group to be with on an island. They all said it was the best snorkeling they had seen anywhere in the world! I have never seen so many different, beautiful varieties of coral in purples, greens, and tans, and all kinds of beautiful fish. Bruce shared the name of many of the corals and fish and even encouraged me to hold a sea cucumber he found so he could take a picture. When it started to “spit,” however, I freaked out and dropped it! ;-)

We spent the afternoon reading and talking, met the group for cocktails at 6:00 and a lovely dinner at 8:00. We all slept really well with no stress and no commitments.

January 8
Today was the day for adventure! We all met at 9:30 for a trip to the local village with a guide. We were told to cover our knees and shoulders and that we could not wear hats in the village as a gesture of respect for the chief. The half hour climb over the mountain was a challenge for some – many steps up to the top and then a mud path down to the village—but it was an amazing experience. We saw a wild pig on the way and many varieties of forest plants.

The first thing we encountered when we arrived in the village was a lady doing laundry with a tub and a stick and her darling little two year old daughter (with no clothes on) helping her. I was enthralled with the beautiful children in the village – they all shyly said “Bula” and showed us with fingers how old they were. (The native language is Fijian, but most people here also learn English.) They all wanted their picture taken, so I got some darling ones. They lead a very simple rural life with almost no conveniences, and we all came away feeling so very grateful (and almost guilty) for all that we have in America. The electricity, for example, comes on only from 6:00 to 9:00 pm every evening.

We saw them drying the palms they weave for hats and baskets, we visited the local kindergarten, and we saw a man digging for crabs on the beach. We were struck, however, by all the litter around – made you want to help clean it up but decided it would be disrespectful. They eat casaba which is similar to a potato every day, and we saw their rustic cooking sheds and also the area where they have the traditional Kava ceremony.
Kava is a root that they boil and then drink, and they say it “makes your tongue numb.” They also tout its properties for relaxation and stress relief, so they all enjoy drinking it to varying degrees of “saturation!” (We have, however, learned that there is the concept of “Fijian time” that makes one wonder where the stress comes from……;-) There was also a small Methodist church in the village. Interestingly, the Kava ceremony area was right next to the church!

This is such a lush land surrounded by the ocean and dotted by volcanoes, and we learned a great deal about how easily one could survive here just with resources from the land and sea. Each village is composed of just one family, and our guide told us that 320 people lived in Nalauwaki. At the end of our tour they asked if they could bring out their crafts. I bought three brightly colored small round rugs made of many different fabrics for which they are famous and several gifts for the grandchildren. It was lovely to be able to do something to support the village. They were wonderfully welcoming in opening their entire village to us.

After our hike back up the mountain and down again, we had lunch, snorkeled, swam in the pool, read a bit and met again for cocktails and then dinner. Afterwards there was a trivia and talent contest for the whole resort. Ashley, the groom, is famous for his digeridoo playing, so as he performed, our whole group danced “gangnam style” like a flash mob, adding a few at a time until we were all up in front. We actually even won that part of the contest! ;-) Then the young people had their own party until (rumor was) 4:00 am. Ah, to be young like that again!!!!! ;-)

January 9
Today was “play day” for us all. The guys took a hike to the top of another very high mountain where Katie, the bride, and her accomplices had buried treasure for the groom to find. All the girls met for a spa day and fun bachelorette games. I had a massage and reflexology, and we learned lots about Katie and even more about Ashley (some things I think he would rather NOT have had us know…..;-)

Then we all met for lunch, snorkeling, swimming and reading. Nancy and I had a pina colada around the pool and ate deep fried banana chips (like potato chips). The food is all inclusive here, so we are all eating way too much – will have to work hard to lose it all when I get home, but it is worth it! ;-)

We all met at 6:30 at Beth’s bure for cocktails and the wedding rehearsal. We nearly died laughing when Katie and Ashley appeared. Only a photo can explain their outfits! Oh, how I wish I had ever had a body like Katie’s – they looked like high class strippers…..and we were all delighted and envious of Youth. We encouraged them to wear the costumes to dinner to the delight of the whole resort. After dinner, everyone called it an early night and headed home for a great night’s sleep.

The continuation of the trip will be posted periodically or you can read the full account later at www.barbaraglanz.com.

Fiji Trip — January 2 – 17

FIJI TRIP – January 2 – 17

January 2—I left Erin’s home in Portland at 5:45 pm to fly to Los Angeles where I met my traveling buddy, Nancy Cobb from Chicago, at the airport. I arrived in LA at Terminal 7 and had to walk all the way to Terminal 3 and then go through security again, but amazingly, Nancy was in the same security line, so from then on, we were together. Our flight on Fiji Airlines left at 9:30 pm and arrived in Nadi, the capital of Fiji, at 5:30 am, losing a day as we crossed the international dateline. The seats were not very comfortable, but the flight was uneventful. I watched two Polynesian movies with subtitles, finished my Danielle Steel “escape” novel, then took an ambien and got several hours sleep before we landed.

(A side note—I had been so worried about the weight limits of only one bag at 50 #s and one carry-on at 15#s and HOW to do that with being gone for nearly a month, that I lost a lot of time in sleep and worry. Thankfully, it was for naught as even though my bag was 5#s over the limit, not a word was said, and even though my carry-on was WAY over 15#s, it was never even weighed, so I started the trip with that blessing!)

January 4 –We arrived in Nadi, went through customs, got Fijian money, and then waited and waited to be picked up by our hotel, Aquarius on the Beach. The hotel is OK, but when you book something on the internet, you never know what you will really get, so it was a bit disappointing. It is very stark and plain and old, and although the landscape is lovely, the beach is not great, dogs are roaming, and the bugs are rampant (even had a little lizard in our BR yesterday! ;-) The good news is that even though we don’t have the expected amenities like hair dryer, shampoo, extra towels (only one bath towel each), we DO have a room with AC, which since it is so hot and humid, is a lifesaver. I must say that we are REALLY looking forward to the lovely resorts on the other islands!

The town of Nadi is pretty dirty and a typical third world village. Roads and sidewalks are pretty treacherous, and everything is VERY expensive. (Suntan lotion here is $26 Fijian dollars!) The exchange rate, however, is 1.8 so that does help. The best part of this visit so far is the lovely people. Everyone you meet tells you “Bula,” the word for greeting, asks your name, tells you their name, and shakes your hand. They are extremely gracious and very focused on service.

After arriving at the hotel, we had to wait for our room to be ready, so we changed, had some breakfast, and walked a bit on the beach and swam in the pool. Then we got into our room, took showers and a short nap, and then took a cab into the town. We had dinner at Famers Market, ordered a local fish that was excellent, and enjoyed music from a quite good local group. After we left, we got ice cream, water at the market, and took a cab back to watch the first edition of “Downton Abbey” which I downloaded on my new iPad.

January 5 – This was our day for ADVENTURE! We booked an all-day Fiji Eco Tour which started at 9:00 am. We traveled with a darling couple from Australia and a driver, first to the local outdoor Namaka Fresh Fruit market. We were intrigued with all the unusual fruits and veggies we had not seen before and especially the Kava roots which they use for a special ceremony in Fiji.

The driver then took us to the beautiful Garden of the Sleeping Giants to walk through the Orchid Gardens which were originally owned and built by the famous actor, Raymond Burr. The grounds were just lovely, framed by the Sleeping Giant Mountain, huge palm trees, lily ponds, and bright-colored flower bushes. We saw many beautiful varieties of flowers which only grow in island settings. The walk ended with cold mango juice in the outdoor garden.

Our next stop was the Therapeutic Mud Pool. What a fun experience it was! The area has a very hot spring as well as a mud pool that supposedly has many healing qualities. After changing into swimsuits, our guide instructed us to cover ourselves with the mud from head to toe and then let it dry in the sun. Afterwards, he led us to the mud pool where we swam a bit and enjoyed the feeling of the mud in the bottom of the pond. We were even joined by frogs! ;-) Then he led us to another cleaner “pool” where we washed off the rest of the mud. Finally, it ended with a 15 minute WONDERFUL massage outside.

The young man who was our guide was the grandson of the owner and a darling person. (I asked to meet his mother to tell her what a good job she had done! ;-) He told us when we dressed again NOT to take a shower until the next day so that the full effects of the mud could be felt. We were pretty sure we could not stand to do that and you will see from the “rest of the story” that we were right! Everyone there was so caring and friendly and focused on making it a happy experience—we truly enjoyed this part of our day.

After that, we drove to a Fijian family’s Bure in the Nalesutale Village for a typical Fijian lunch of local fish, sausage, a dish of spinach and tuna, fresh pineapple and bananas. Unfortunately, they had nothing we could drink since everything they had was made with water. The chief of the village was our driver and even prayed before the meal. He told us he was Methodist. Most of the island is either Catholic or Muslim with a huge Indian influence as well.

While we ate, he told us a bit about the early history of the island. Originally, the Fijian people were cannibals who came from Tanzania and lived in the mountains. However, when the missionaries came, they instructed them to cover themselves and not to eat human beings. (He laughingly told us that they liked white people the best! ;-) So, the culture changed completely at that time. Today each rural village is made up of one family, and when they marry, they must go to another village for a mate. He said all the villages gather in one village for church on Sunday, alternating places. We were also told that there are strict “rules” in the villages, especially for the women. They must wear their hair short, they cannot wear pants, and their shoulders must always be covered. In the ceremonies the men are always served first, so women still seem every much secondary in the rural culture.

After lunch, we drove through twisty, winding dirt roads to the bottom of the mountain where met met another young guide. There we were given walking sticks to begin our trek up the mountain to the waterfall. We were not at all prepared for the tough climb it was, however – I had even worn a sundress and Fit flops! We followed a tiny winding, muddy, rutted path through the forest and had to cross several streams with slippery boulders for about a one hour trek to the top. Without our guide’s help across the rough spots, I am not sure Nancy and I would have made it, but we finally did get to the top—hot, sweaty, dirty, and covered with bug bites—to swim in the beautiful, cold mountain stream below the waterfall. IT was the first time I have ever swum in a DRESS! ;-) Nan, our guide, helped each of us to climb the boulders to stand below the waterfall and get a massage as well.

Unfortunately, Nancy had a fall and got two bad bumps on her head and some severe scratches on her face. We were amazed with such a rough trip up the mountain that the company had no insurance disclaimers to sign and the guide did not even carry any kind of first aid kit–I guess that is the lesson of a third world country!

The way down was much easier than the way up, thank goodness! We ended this part of the adventure back the the bure with the chief and our guide for a Kava ceremony. There is a lot of ritual with it – clapping, saying “Bula,” the word for greeting, and prayer. The root is mixed with water and then each person individually drinks from a coconut shell. The kava is supposed to make your tongue feel numb and helps with relaxation, so the natives love it, but I only took a sip since we are not supposed to drink their water.

Finally, the driver took us to the town centre to see the Hindu temple there. There was supposed to be time for shopping, but it was already 6:00 pm and we were exhausted, so we just had him bring us back to the hotel. I had had problems connecting to wifi, so I spent the next hour and a half with the young IT person here helping me to download some things on my new ipad. After a much-needed and APPRECIATED shower, we had a quick dinner here and then watched “The Notebook” which I had rented on my Ipad. We both slept VERY well last night after our Fijian adventure!

To watch for each day’s adventure, go to www.barbaraglanz.com/blog