Gate to Elite Town community

A walk in Koh Pich, Phnom Penh… a neighborhood of contrasts

Koh Pich, Phnom Penh

I spent a couple of hours walking around my neighborhood last weekend.  What a place of contrasts. You can see this area on the map in the side bar. I live on Koh Pich, Phnom Penh, which translates to Diamond Island.  The school where I teach is on the island and a Canadian-Cambodian woman of Chinese descent owns all the land.  My street is in a community of houses called Elite Town.  There are some  beautiful completed houses, several are still under construction, and there is available land waiting for a house.

Condo Construction

Outside of Elite Town, along the Mekong River, are rows of elegant-looking condos that are in various stages of completion.  You see cranes everywhere along the skyline although much of the work is done manually.  Some condos have shops on the main floor and the living accommodation in the 2 or 3 floors above.

Many complexes have french names.  The Elysee has a large “Arch de Triumphe” inserted within the building.  The promotional posters show a large sailing ship in the water, although I’m sure a boat that big would not be able to navigate the Mekong.  Our community has a statue that looks like Greek Gods surveying their realm positioned in the middle of a traffic circle and the streets are named after American Universities.

Home Owners

I don’t know who lives in all of these homes.  There are some enormous houses that I have never seen anyone in, or even any lights on. It makes me think of the early wealthy Americans who had “new money”.  The homes built by the Rockefeller and Vanderbilt families were extravagant to show off their success.  The homes I see in this neighborhood remind me of that.

My building is owned by the school/island owner and is divided into 6 apartments, as is the building next door.  The building in back of me has one family living in a house the same size, but they (or someone) wash their clothes in tubs on the ground every day.  I, at least, have a washing machine in my building.

Island Facilities

Besides the Canadian International School of Phnom Penh, there is a swimming pool and golf driving range on the island.  There is a theatre for live performances, an amusement park and an outdoor stage for live concerts.  Coffee shops, restaurants and pharmacies are found.  The convention center hosts displays of Thai products or political meetings, or whatever needs a large space.  The Korean Embassy is also on Koh Pich

Weddings

The outside of the convention center contains smaller rooms used for weddings with flowers and fabric decorating the front. There iwas a framed photograph or 2 of the wedding couple.  I saw many photos of the various couples in traditional dress taken at Angkor Wat.  Several also had a photo of the couple in the white dress and black suit displayed outside the door.

What seemed most unusual to me is that they were celebrating the wedding at 9 am on Sunday morning.  People were all dressed up.  Maybe the party has gone on since the night before, but people milling around outside didn’t look tired enough for that.  I asked some people outside if I could take some pictures.  The police said go ahead, and wanted their picture taken too.  A man and boy wanted my picture taken with them.  I’m not used to being the attraction.

Contrasts in Koh Pich

The thing that is most difficult to adjust to is the people who are working in Koh Pich.  They work so hard.  I was out on a Sunday morning about 8:30 and there were several women out sweeping the sidewalks, streets and gutters.  Construction workers were laying water lines, moving bricks, moving dirt, and pouring cement.  Guards sit all day on street corners directing traffic around cement trucks, allowing traffic into neighborhoods, or just sitting on the corner keeping watch.  These are people who could never even image living in more than a couple of rooms, let alone a penthouse condo.

They work long hours in often unsafe conditions. Many wear flip-flops but no gloves or hard hats.  Some wore safety vests.  Street cleaning women on our street lay in the hammock tied to the fence, but some lay out cardboard on the sidewalk for a resting place.  I watched a family spreading dirt with hoes in a high rise site.  They were barefoot, as was the man helping pour cement for footings.

Phnom Penh is a city of extreme contrasts.  The first world and third world are both clearly visible here and it sure makes me think about how much I have.

 

 

 

 

How to get around in Phnom Penh…living without a car

In North America, especially in rural areas, everyone has a car or a truck to get around.  I’ve had to learn how to get around in Phnom Penh, living without a car.  Most cities have public transit but buses are not even listed as an option in the city guide book.  The most common form of transportation for the locals is a “moto” or scooterbut the most common form for visitors is a tuk-tuk.  The most unusual thing I saw on the road was a scooter with a food cart.  There was an open fire burning in the bottom.

Open fire in his cart as he drives down the road.

 

 

Rules of the Road

To the untrained eye, it would appear that there are not rules at all.   Vehicles generally travel on the right side of the road, but it’s not uncommon to see a scooter coming down the wrong side towards you.   There are a few traffic lights with turn signals and a few traffic circles, but most intersections have no lights or signs.  Right of way is determined by what I call “critical mass.”  When there are enough vehicles wanting to go, they go and everyone else stops.  It is usually led by a bigger car or truck,  and all the scooters follow.  He who hesitates… I have seen a couple of scooters down on the road, but not in intersections.

Pedestrians have no rights.  This is a challenge because sidewalks are in short supply.  When you find one, there are usually trees planted all along the center, or scooters parked, or often cars parked right up to the entrance of a store. There was a wedding tent appeared on the sidewalk one afternoon and everyone just went around it.

I mostly have to walk along the edge and pay close attention.  The sidewalks are not even and have lots of loose blocks and drain covers to navigate.  If you are in a group, single file is the only safe option.  When I cross the street,  it’s important to move quickly but not to run and risk tripping.  The vehicles pace themselves according to this premise.  Again, hesitating is dangerous.

Luckily, my walk to school is only 400 m through a secure neighborhood.  The street I cross in front of the school has several speed bumps so it slows vehicles down enough to cross pretty easily.  The grocery store is another 400 m past the school so I can walk there easily.  The mall with a larger grocery store, dollar stores (1.90 US actually), movie theatre and ice skating rink is about a 20 minute walk from here.

Other Transportation

School Van

The school has a van and a driver.  For official trips, they are available.  I used one to get to the clinic for a required health check up.  It also took me to the bank to open an account.  This van is available to all staff on the Saturday after payday to go to the bank, although I was the only one who took advantage of that yesterday.  There are also school “buggies” that transport some of the students.

School buggy

Tuk-Tuk

This is the most common way to get around the city.  You can wave one down on the street and tell where you want to go.  If they don’t speak much English, you can show them on your phone map.  They hold 4-5 people.  For most trips, they cost $3 or $4 each way.  Since there are usually 2-5 of us travelling together, it is very reasonable.

Regular tuk-tuk

Since arriving here, however, I have learned about PassApp Taxi  It is like Uber for tuk-tuks and you book it on your phone.  It shows you where the driver is.  When you leave, the driver has the route on his phone so you don’t have to worry about explaining where you want to go.  They have some set routes they have to follow, though.  On a trip taken by friends last week, the driver took a different road and the police stopped him and gave him a $2 fine.

This is a cash society here so you just pay the driver what he tells you when you arrive.  I have to remember to keep a stack of 1’s in my wallet for this.  So far, it has been cheaper than what the negotiated rate would have been.  You also get a bill on your phone and it tracks your trips so can select the same destination if you need to go back another time.

The PassApp tuk-tuks are small and a self-contained.  Two people is comfortable but 3 is a crowd.  We discovered this weekend that some of the taxis are getting in on this system and we can book a car for almost the same price.  Five was tight, but if we have 4, it is great.  Air conditioning and seatbelts are welcome.

Pass App Tuk-tuk

Shopping on a Scooter

I try to shop often so I can carry home in my backpack what I need.  When I was first setting up my apartment, I did use a tuk-tuk to bring me home with my purchases.  While at the Cambodian markets, I saw many examples of how creative the locals are at getting their shopping home on a scooter.   I’ve included several pictures to give you an idea.  It’s hard to imagine shopping for a family with only a scooter for transportation.

CISP

Moving to Cambodia…How I got to Phnom Penh

Moving to Cambodia

I am writing this blog from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  It was not my plan for this winter, but I found myself open to opportunities and one presented itself.  I have a 6 month teaching contract at the Canadian International School of Phnom Penh. (cisp) They use the Alberta curriculum and I have a grade 5 class with 24 students.

I will share more about the school in future blogs.  This is how I found myself in Cambodia.

Winter in Alberta

December 2017 arrived with cold and snow.  I had subbed at my previous school and helping my mom after hip replacement surgery complications.  We had completed our house renovations and were waiting for it to sell.  The downturn of the local oil patch-based economy meant we had only 2 showings since the summer.

We weren’t sure where we going to be next winter so we booked a trip to Panama and Medellin, Columbia for January to check it out for retirement potential.  We also found the perfect for us mobile home just 5 km out of Rocky Mountain House.  It’s on a rented lot surrounded by forest.  Possession was January 10.  Everything was settled for the winter…

Come to Cambodia

I awoke one morning to an email from my friend and former colleague, Bernice.  A teacher at her school in Phnom Penh had to leave at Christmas break and was I interested in a short-term contract.  After initially dismissing the idea since we had our plans already made, Pete told me to just go if I wanted and he would stay home for a while and get the new place painted and floored.

I sent in my resume with the required Alberta teaching certificate number and that day had what I thought was going to be a Skype interview with the principal. With 2 former teachers from Rocky already at the school, and the fact I had done a professional development session at the school last February while we were living in Thailand, she really only wanted to know where to send the contract.  By Dec 14 I had agreed to teach and live in Cambodia for 6 months.  I had 3 weeks to get ready.

Preparing to move to Asia again

White board of planning

This called for the “whiteboard of planning”.  I needed a large visual to finish planning for Christmas, a visit by our children, and preparations for this newest adventure.  I needed to pack for 6 months,  and include some teaching resources.  Knowing that our house could sell while I am away meant that I wanted to go through a few more boxes and purge some last items that won’t fit in our new place.  It was difficult to stay focused.

I was able to borrow a few resources from grade 5 teachers at my previous school, scanned them on the copier and emailed them to myself.  That saved a lot of weight in my luggage. A few key books came along with me since I didn’t really know what resources would be available.

Packing

I packed lots of dresses and skorts since I knew what the climate was like, having lived in SE Asia last winter.  I also went through our camping box and selected a few kitchen items I suspected would be missing in my new kitchen, like good knives, cheese grater, extra cutlery etc.  To ensure I had something for breakfast for my first days of school, I added Instant oatmeal packets, just in case.  I tried to buy another pair of sandals, but the stores said they had put the sandals away to make room for boots.  That’s such a Canadian problem.

The airline allowed two 50 pound bags to Asia, which sounds like a lot.  It is until you add 6 months of contact lens solution that’s not available in Cambodia, 2 pounds of coffee requested by my friends, and some Septo bac ordered to help with the septic tank in our buildings.  With a little creative balancing in and out of my carry on, Melissa’s expert rolling of clothes and the use of zip lock bags to compact clothes, I was ready to go.

Packing

Travel to Phnom Penh

I had a great family time over Christmas and said good-by to everyone.  We spent the last 2 nights in Banff, Canada before heading to the airport.  I flew from Calgary to Vancouver to Hong Kong to Phnom Penh.  My flight left at 10 pm on Wednesday and I arrived at 10:30 am on Friday. My luggage took an extra day to arrive but that’s a story for another day.

After paying  $35 for a business visa, a driver from the school and my friend Nancy met me at the door.  I bought a cell phone card just outside the airport for $5 which included 3 G of data and a few minutes of calling.  That was it and it’s good for a month.  Sure beats my plan at home.

Accommodation

My new job included a second floor furnished apartment about a 5 minute walk from the school.  It has a bedroom and living area with high ceilings and lots of windows.  Two of them have screens so I can get some air moving on occasion. There are lots of kitchen cupboards , a kettle, a coffee maker, a toaster, a sink with only cold water and a 2 burner cooktop.  It is like camping.  I also have a good-sized fridge and freezer.  That’s not like camping.

The bedroom has a wardrobe with a few built-in drawers, a desk, TV and the usual hard bed found in Asia.  The bathroom has a shower, sink and toilet.  It took me a few days and lots of questions to discover that the hot water is turned on by a light switch on the outside of the bathroom.  Both rooms have air conditioning units.

There are 2 washers downstairs and a drying rack on the balcony.  My unit is along the side of a large house that’s been converted to 6 suites.  It is surrounded by other houses so I don’t receive any direct sun, which is a good thing in a hot, sunny country.  The school provides a night guard who sets up in the front yard every night.  The community itself is called Elite Town and there are some spectacular homes in this gated community.  I’ll share more pictures of those another day.

Stocking up

Bernice and her husband live in a highrise about 10 minutes from here.  They made supper for me the first night.  On our way home, we stopped in the grocery store in their building for a few supplies.  Milk is $4 a liter, but local beer is only $10.50 for 24.  I was able to buy Shredded Wheat–made in Canada– for just over $5 a box, about the same as at home.  I also got a papaya for a dollar, peanut butter, eggs, canned tuna, cheese, shampoo etc.  It was enough to get me started.

As this is a wealthy neighborhood, there are not the little shops we had in our Chiang Mai streets.  There is a mall about 15 minutes away (all are walking times).  It has high-end products and could be in any city in the world.  It has a movie theatre as well as a skating rink with real ice!  There are a couple of “dollar” stores where everything is priced at $1.90.  Since Cambodia runs on American dollars, that is about $2.50 Canadian.

There is also a department store with a large grocery store, liquor store and bakery where I could find most of what I need.  A tuk tuk home is $2-$3.  My Sobey’s shopping bags and backpack are very handy when shopping on my own.

I will  spend some time in the markets looking for interesting things, but for staples, the shopping nearby has been very convenient and reasonably priced.

Updates

With working every day, I don’t expect to post as frequently as last year, but I want to share what this city is like and how I’m adapting to a new place.  I will also share how it is the same and different teaching in an International School.

 

Travelling without a Plan…Houston to Nashville Road Trip

I love to travel to the deep south of the United States, especially in the fall. While winter is threatening at home, the weather in Texas feels like summer.  The leaves are all gone in Alberta, yet the trees along the Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi are just starting to change colour. The beaches in Biloxi on the Gulf Coast are deserted in October.  Flights are cheaper and accommodations are easy to find. And of course… the Houston Astros won the World Series while we were there so it was definitely a great time to travel.

Plan #1

This trip took many forms and in the end, was not recognizable from our original plans. We wanted to travel to North Carolina by way of Houston to see the fall colours in the Blue Ridge Mountains and visit our son and daughter-in-law who live in Texas. They have an old car of ours that we thought we could pick up there and drive through the Carolinas and be home within our 2 week time limit.  We booked our flight to Houston which was only $180 each for one way.

Change of plans #1

The car wouldn’t start.  It is old and not currently registered in the United States.  My son and a friend spent an afternoon trying to boost it, to no avail. We priced renting a car in Houston and flying home from Raleigh, NC.  but hat would cost about $1200 for 2 weeks because we weren’t returning it to the point of pickup.  That meant we could only travel at most, one week away from Houston.  I booked a flight back home, at $110 each.  Peter’s plan was still to try to get the car running so he was not interested in making plans until he sorted out the car.

Plan #2

The Houston Astros were in the playoffs so we decided to make this a fall sporting trip.  We looked online at the possible sporting events besides baseball.  The Formula 1 was in Austin.  University of Houston Texans were playing football at home and Ole Miss in Oxford, MS had 2 home football games while we were there.  That sounded like a great plan.  We would rent a car and attend some events we had only seen on TV. We booked a rental car for a week for $180.

If we stayed in Houston for a few days we could see the car race and the University Game.  We might even get lucky and get a baseball ticket.  Then we would travel to Nashville for a chance to hear some country music and come back through Mississippi to hang out at a tailgate party in the Grove in Oxford, then watch a home game.  We would return to Houston for more baseball then fly home.  We might even fit in a little golf along the way.

Change of Plans #2

The grandstand tickets for the Formula 1 in Austin were sold out on their website, although there were a few for some of the curves along the track.  It would be a very hot day standing in the sun in one spot.

There was a Dynamos soccer game in Houston on Sunday afternoon with seats. That seemed a better plan. We decided to watch the start of the race on TV on Sunday then go to the soccer game.

That left Thursday to golf at Tour 18.  It is an 18 hole course “inspired” by famous PGA courses including Amen Corner at Augusta and the 17th Island green at Sawgrass.  I only had a few of my clubs tucked into Peter’s bag and no golf shoes, but it was fun to play with my son and husband, and I enjoyed the heat. Peter was 2 under through Amen Corner so he really enjoyed it. The Texas fairways are rough but very thick and fluffy so the balls sits right down in the bottom.

No Plans…Let’s see what happens

Friday was a day to tour around Houston. There were some neighborhoods with so much debris still piled up on the street in front of their houses as a result of Hurricane Harvey.  It consisted primarily of demolition materials removed from flooded homes.  Some houses were having roofs re-shingled.  For the most part, though, it was hard to believe that they had been under so much water a couple of months ago.

We spent the evening at the Beer Market Co.  The playoff game with the Yankees was on.  It was exciting to watch a home playoff game with locals all cheering for their team, and then to have the home team win.  It was almost as good as being at the game, but a lot less expensive.  The quality of craft beer in the USA has continued to improve over the years we have travelled there.  I had a delicious Lemon Ginger Radler.

Plans that changed me

Our kids were busy on Saturday so we decided to volunteer with a group from their church, Bayou City Fellowship.  We met in an area of the city that was needy before Hurricane Harvey and even more so afterwards.  The church had received supplies and donations from around the country for the past couple of weeks.  They had made up bags of cleaning supplies and had many boxes of toiletries, bleach, garbage bags, blankets, towels, toilet paper and paper towels.

Other church members arrived with vehicles full of supplies they had not required in the flood clean up of their own homes.  Mosquito repellent, brooms and mops as well as more bleach were common items.  Someone had donated a couple of cases of new children’s backpacks which brought big smiles to those children who needed one. There were maybe 25-30 volunteers, including several children.

Distribution Process

A large cube truck arrived about 8:30 am.  It contained the donations, as well as some small tents and tables. A large speaker played upbeat music to try to make the day seem a bit more festive. Several people from the line came and helped unload the truck. We set up 4 stations and sorted everything. There were 3-4 people in each tent to distribute the donations. Those volunteers who weren’t at a station helped those in line with their things or just talked with them to see how they were doing. We had to be aware of family groups and give an allotment to each family, not to each member.  This was difficult as several small groups claimed not to be together. Apparently the line to receive supplies had begun to form about 6:30 in the morning.

Many thanked us although several didn’t speak any English.  One woman was thrilled to get a broom!  The odd donated bottle of dish soap or laundry soap created great excitement and work gloves and masks were much appreciated. It was difficult to chat as the line was long and moved steadily.  It was really hard when we ran out of supplies before we ran out of people after about 2 hours.  I got to go home and sit by the pool in the sun.  They had to go back to their damp homes.

Things that struck me about Volunteering

  • Some of the volunteers had been flooded at home too.
  • People are people whether they have or whether they need.
  • I wanted to feel proud about offering to help in a place that needed it, but it wasn’t about me.  I was honored and humbled to have been given the opportunity to serve others.
  • We were asked to see the change in us as a result of being part of this day, to see the world in a new way.

If you want to know more about the continuing relief effort of this group in Houston, check out the church link above.  It includes some moving stories.

Our plans send us north

It was hot on Saturday, but Sunday morning began with a thunder-storm.  When it rains here, it really comes down, even when it’s not a hurricane.

We had several recommendations about trying Airbnb home sharing service and decided to try it out in Nashville.  We booked a private bedroom and bathroom, plus use of the living room for $118 for 2 nights.  Since it was our first booking, we received a $53 discount after that.  Last minute booking is much easier in October than in the height of the summer.

If you might want to try this service, set it up at home first as they want to send you an email and phone text to confirm your information.  We had our phone plans set to just wifi so this was a challenge.  The app made it easier to communicate with hosts over wifi.  Here is a discount link  to Airbnb

Finding the Natchez Trace Parkway

The roads out of Houston are much like the roads in Houston…filled with traffic.  We chose to take as many backroads between Houston and Nashville as possible.  It is over 1200 km so we planned two days to complete our journey.  Our last-minute planning searches for things to do in Nashville revealed that the Calgary Flames were playing hockey against the Nashville Predators in two days time.  What luck!

Natchez was our first stop.  It is a small city on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.  It looks to me like a cross between Vicksburg, MS and New Orleans, LA.  as it is filled with old antebellum homes and has several walking tours for architecture or views of nature.

It is also the start of the Natchez Trace Parkway, which follows the old trade routes from the SW corner of Mississippi to mid Tennessee, ending in Nashville, a distance of 440 miles.  It has a slower speed limit, no signs or billboards are allowed, but there are lots of picnic areas and historical points of interest. We saw deer and wild turkeys along the way, but on the first section from Natchez to Jackson, MS, we didn’t see another car in our lane.  October is a great time to travel in the south.

We spent the night in a hotel in Jackson, MS, of Uptown Funk fame, and continued on the second part of the trip towards Nashville.  We had a coffee stop in a little place called French Camp, where we hoped to have a scheduled phone conference meeting with Alberta Golf.  It just happened to be the place where all cell service ceased to exist.

Entrance and exit points to the Trace are limited, so we were lucky to find a little cafe in Dennis, MS, run by a woman and her sister-in-law.  There were a few relatives and a couple of locals in for lunch but the chili and grilled cheese were only $5 and tasty.  The service was so friendly and the stories were great.  Small family restaurants are so worth a stop.

Last Minute Plans in Nashville

We arrived in Nashville with just enough time to check out our Air BnB and get to the hockey game.  The Predator fans are serious about hockey!  We saw so many jerseys, scarves, socks and jackets in Preds colours.  We got  tickets at the back of the middle bowl for about $50 each.  It was fun to be part of this crowd since they had secret chants and cheers for different parts of the game. The game ended with a shoot-out and Calgary won.  We were so glad that we hadn’t filled all of our time and were able to fit in the only sporting event that we hadn’t considered before we left home.

 

Our hosts recommended the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Trolley bus tour of Nashville. Both were well worth the time.  The Hall of Fame was busy, but it had a great historical perspective on country music as well as influences from a large number of performers.  There was a wall of gold records and the Hall of Fame itself is a round room with all the inductees arranged randomly on 5 line staves.  The museum commissioned a painting for the room that included a variety of musical styles and transportation methods used as these styles were becoming popular.  They really did a wonderful job in this museum.

Unplanned Hop On, Hop Off Tour

Bill, our driver, knew so many stories about this city.  He told jokes and connected the past to the present in such an interesting way.  He knew who owned most of the recording studios, where Taylor Swift just bought a new penthouse (and the rest of the building under it), how long the line up might be at Hot Chicken as well as the growth in the number of hotels in the city and why there is a full size replica of the  Parthenon in Nashville.  We were enjoying his performance so much that we decided to stay on the bus for the entire route and hop off on the second loop if we saw something we really wanted to see with more time.  As it turned out, most of what interested us were within walking distance after we got off the bus.

It was well after 3 when we finished all the exploring and we wanted to eat some Tennessee BBQ.  Jack’s had a combo plate we shared with ribs, brisket and pork shoulder and 2 sides. According to our trolley driver, mac and cheese is considered a vegetable so we had to check it out.  They served the meat without sauce, which is served on the side.  There was the choice of Tennessee sauce which is vinegar based and tangy, Texas which is think and tomatoey and St. Louis which was sweet and smoky.  That was my favorite.

Unplanned Music…But what else would you do in Nashville?

Broadway is the main street in the downtown area.  Even though the hockey arena has the same address, most of the buildings from the arena to the river are small bars that have live music from 11am until after midnight.  Some are 2 or 3 levels with music on each level.  Up and coming musicians perform for 3 or 4 hours.  You can go in and listen for a bit then move on if the music isn’t to your taste.  Most of the songs are covers of country stars with a few original tunes in the mix.

We listened to a couple of guys sing in Margaritaville after the hockey game.  They were entertaining with their spin a song wheel to help them with their playlist.

The second night we went into Barlines Bar in the Omni Hotel.  It is across from the convention Center and was really busy when we arrived, but they found us a table right at the stage.  We listened to Hali Hicks.  She had a session guitarist, Jeffrey Weaver, playing with her for the evening.  With her voice and his masterful playing, it was great entertainment.  The local craft beer was excellent and then the Flames vs St. Louis game was broadcast on the screen beside the stage.  And then game 2 between the Dodgers and Astros started on the huge screen behind the musicians.  Could we have planned it any better?

Back to Mississippi

Our son went to college and also got married in Mississippi so we have been there a few times before.  The land near the river is a flat agricultural floodplain where they grow cotton and soybeans.  Cotton was being harvested while we were there.  They kill the leaves which exposes the cotton and makes for easier picking.  It was strange for us to see bales of cotton as large as haystacks would be in Alberta.  The eastern part of the state consists of large pine and oak forests.

We returned on the Trace towards the NW part of the state where Oxford is located.  Our Airbnb hosts lived in the country on a beautiful acreage.  They were so gracious and made us feel like family.  If you want to learn about the people and get a real sense of the place, then this kind of accommodation might be right for you.  We don’t have much experience yet, but it felt like an upscale hostel stay.

We also spent a couple of evenings with our daughter-in-law’s parents in Grenada, MS.  They were so hospitable and even though we technically are family, they treated us so well.  Those who live in the southern part of the United States really have their own culture and way of seeing the world.  It made me think of the Canadians who live in Quebec and want to protect their language and culture within a larger country.  Being kind and gracious to visitors is certainly part of that culture.

Change of Plans #2 Again

Our plans to attend the Ole Miss football game in Oxford seemed too complicated to be worth pursuing.  Tickets were $90 each for a college game although the resale sites had better prices.  We weren’t able to connect with any of our son’s friends to meet up and trying to find parking in this football crazy town (think The Blind Side) made our plan more energy than it was worth.  We decided to change our plans and head south to the Gulf Coast.

Biloxi was a short overnight stop. The beach was white and the sunset spectacular.  The Star Hotel was reasonably priced with friendly staff and the restaurant across the street had a nice wood fire, delicious seafood, local beer and the Astros playing game 6.

Even though we made our road trip based on our wish to attend the football game in Oxford, it was okay that our plans changed. If we hadn’t headed north, we would have missed out on Nashville, the Flames game, our wonderful hosts at Country Living BNB, visits with our Mississippi family and a wonderful night on the Gulf coast.

Being retired and having flexible travel time makes planning on the fly much easier than when I could only travel on school holidays, to the places everyone else wanted to visit.  The fact that we have family living in the area helps reduce the anxiety of having a place to stay.  Try it on your next trip.  Leave some time open for opportunities to present themselves or people to come into your life.  You won’t be disappointed.