Don’t Mess with Magpies

A magpie flies over its rightful turf — the Alberton Oval, home of the SANFL Australian Rules Football Team, the Port Adelaide Magpies.

Magpies, it seems, are iconic and demonic at the same time. In the past, they have been viewed in Chinese culture as birds who bring good luck and joy. In many Western cultures, the magpie has had more sinister qualities and has even symbolized evil like its cousin the raven.

This good vs. evil framework works well in sports. Magpies are often mascots for athletic teams (e.g. the Australian Rules Football teams, Victoria’s Collingwood Magpies and the South Australia National Football League’s Port Adelaide Magpies just to name a few.) Scavengers and survivors, magpies are quite intelligent and definitely deserve a certain amount of respect.

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The Friday Travel Ahh….

© Stephanie Glaser

As anyone who travels knows, there are missteps, mishaps and misadventures, but then there are those perfect moments when we say: “yeah, this is why I travel.” A Travel Ahh..

This series of photos was taken at a beach in Sanur, Bali. My son, Eddie, who was five at the time, was intrigued not only by a traditional fishing boat but by some local boys who were playing in the water. Eddie slowly made his way over to check things out. The local boys included him in their water games. Eddie definitely had some Balinese buds by the end of the day. This, to me, is a little slice of the world in perfect harmony.

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Getting Schooled in Aussie Slang

Some of my crazy but lovable year 8’s
© Stephanie Glaser

Teaching eighth graders, who are pubescent pundits, is challenging no matter where you are. But when you are teaching in a new country and you don’t know their slang, it’s just plain brutal.

I discovered this the hard way when, as an exchange teacher, I bumbled my way through one year of instructing Year 8’s in Adelaide, Australia.

I already knew a few tidbits before I arrived. For example, never say, “I root for the team.” The connotation of that statement would be that I do way more than cheer for my team to keep their spirits up. I also knew not to freak out when kids would say that they wore their thongs to the beach; they meant flip flops not G-strings.

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Avoid the Oops — Not Trying the Food

Time to suck it up!

Steph’s note: The adventures of travel are unpredictable and Travel Oops is all about celebrating the unexpected results. However, there are some travel oopses that you definitely want to avoid. Here is advice about the Avoidable Travel Oops.

The Avoidable Travel Oops: Offending your hosts because you don’t want to eat the food they offer.

Most travelers have had a dilemma like this: you don’t recognize what is on your plate; it smells like feet; it may even slither or crawl on the plate or it is of a hideous texture that induces immediate gagging. What do you do? Refusing to eat the food, in most cases, is an insult. Telling your host you are full may backfire since you might not get anything else to eat, and let’s be honest, it’s a pretty bogus excuse anyway.

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In Paris: “I’ll Have Cheese of the Head, S’il Vous Plaît”

How could France produce the beautiful Eiffel Tower and serve something so atrocious like head cheese?
© Debbie Bacharach

“Well, I know fromage means cheese,” my mom stated as she, my dad, sister and I tried to read a menu at a restaurant in Paris. The menu, understandably, was completely in French. None of us could speak the language, but my mom could recognize some words.

“I’m not sure why it’s listed in the earlier part of the menu. Usually, in France, cheese is served as dessert,” she wondered. Oh, well — whether at the front or the back of the menu, cheese was a great start. How could you go wrong with cheese?

“I’m also not sure what the phrase after fromage means,” my mom added. Our waiter came by and waited patiently as we stumbled through our order. Ultimately, we felt reassured that, at least, cheese would arrive.

By the way, the phrase on the menu after “fromage” was “de tete.” We would find out later the translation was “of head.” We were ordering head cheese. Basically, flesh and other bits from the head of a farm animal set in a jellied mold.

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Leaving our kid with a stranger in Bali (But it’s Putu!)

Eddie and Putu, best buds.
© Stephanie Glaser

Steph’s note: This story is more of a Travel Oops when I tell it in the United States, and I see people’s reactions. It still doesn’t seem truly like an oops to me. 

Everybody on the island of Bali treated Kurt, my kids Eddie and Kasey, and me like VIPs  — Brangelina even. Asian tourists often asked to take photos of the kids, who are blonde and blue-eyed, or even pose for pictures with them. We happily consented.

There were no strangers in Bali. We made friends with everyone we met and even flew kites with local boys at a beach in Sanur. Each driver we hired to take us sightseeing instantly became our best friend. Putu, a young, skinny man who had spiky black hair and wore a mint green button down shirt, was our favorite.

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No skirts, no service — at least in a Greek church

Indira and I model our burlap sack chic with our Byzantine Bouncer in the background.
Photo: © Stephanie Glaser

In many countries around the world, displaying bare legs or wearing shorts when you’re a woman in a sacred place is a definite foreign faux pas. However, it is easy to forget this while traveling during a scorching hot summer in Greece.

On one particularly blistering day, on the island of Paros, my friend Indira and I arrived straight from the beach  — in shorts — to visit a beautiful Orthodox church.

Fortunately, a practical employee had provided a basket full of Orthodox sanctioned itchy, unflattering burlap looking sacks that passed for skirts.

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