Washington D.D. – Growing up, you were always told that it’s impossible to be in two places at once, especially two different countries that are oceans apart. But what if that’s not true after all? What if I told you that I was in eleven countries during the course of one day and eight countries the following weekend?
On the first two Saturdays of every May, a large number of foreign embassies in Washington, DC open their doors to the public from 10 am to 4 pm. This year had 42 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe participating in the Around the World weekend and all 28 countries of the European Union for the EU weekend.
Since you couldn’t possibly fit in seven per hour one weekend and almost five per hour the next, planning ahead is the best approach. Thankfully, a majority of the countries are within easy walking distance of each other on or near a section of Massachusetts Avenue known as Embassy Row.
Pictured above are dancers from Estonia and a stamped passport from the cultural tour around the world embassies in Washington D.C. in May.
The enormous German Embassy is considerably off the beaten path, but the EU weekend had shuttle buses to make it easier to get there and to other groupings of embassies that are several blocks away from Massachusetts Ave.
For the Around the World weekend, the best starting point is Dupont Circle where the friendly folks from Cultural Tourism DC will give you a map showing the locations of all participating embassies, and you can also buy an official Cultural Tourism DC Passport for $5 to have stamped at each country you visit. For the EU weekend, the European Union Delegation building is within sight of Foggy Bottom Metro, and they’ll be happy to give you your map, free passport, and various other “I Love EU” goodies.
The moment you step through the door of any of the embassies, you have legally departed the United States and are in Sri Lanka, Morocco, Latvia, or whichever country owns the site. Many of the buildings are posh Beaux Arts mansions constructed during the Gilded Age by contemporaries of the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers.
Colombia and Chile both have lavish grand staircases that you can’t help but imagine a woman in a turn of the century ball gown with long gloves gracefully descending. They’re showing off a lot more than extravagant architecture and furnishings though. This event is all about exposing visitors to their culture, music, art, history, food, and people.
South Korea could be heard from a block away as the DJ blasted K-pop while visitors from all over the world grooved on the dance floor. Meanwhile, children in Botswana had the opportunity to make a colorful paper windsock before having a chance to sample a traditional Botswana’s snack. While the ginger infused pineapple juice there was delicious, most Americans were probably not adventurous enough to sample the dried caterpillars, regardless of how much protein they may have. The Portuguese Ambassador himself greeted many of the visitors to his country before they watched an informational video, snacked on delightful custard tarts with Port wine, and were given t-shirts with the statement “Portugal: 900 Years Young.”
Travelers who dropped by Morocco truly felt transported across the Atlantic. Their courtyard was transformed with large cushions placed on beautiful carpets under tents. Ladies in attire quintessential to West Africa offered small pastries similar to baklava and hot tea from a gorgeous silver teapot while live music was played. Henna tattoos were also available there for a fee.
A top destination of the Around the World Embassies for foodies was Chile. They offered samples of bread dipped in olive oil with herbs, red and white wine, mussels flavored with cilantro, several types of fruit, and pisco sour cocktails. Lovers of dance particularly enjoyed the Kyrgyz Republic. A trio of ladies periodically performed choreography typical of their country. Elements of Bollywood integrated seamlessly with movements similar to those used in belly dance with a hint of Russian influence.
In Estonia, dancers were not only performing, but inviting members of the crowd to participate and learn how to do something a little like a mix of English Country Dance popular in the 19th century and Polka. The Latvians got some entertaining reactions from sharing samples of their traditional beverages. To be fair, they did warn innocent victims that the herbal liquor called Black Balsam was very strong. Many Americans still were a little unprepared for the 90 proof liquid blending spices and pure vodka. Those visitors who are familiar with the Czech Republic’s Becherovka, on the other hand, found it to be delightful.
For those who are intrigued by a particular region but are hesitant to travel there due to safety concerns, this is a perfect alternative. As a single woman, I would not feel comfortable traveling to Iraq or Afghanistan, but I found the embassies to be charming and the people exceptionally friendly. Notably, in the Iraqi Embassy, a woman in a stunning traditional dress was selling paintings of her homeland. When she’s not painting, she’s a forensic toxicologist here in the United States. She loves the country of her birth, but she is very excited about soon receiving her permanent Green Card.
Traveling around the world gives a unique opportunity to expand a person’s horizons and help them appreciate the beauty in our differences and in similarities they may never have imagined previously. Passport DC gives the opportunity to get a bite sized vacation to countries that many people would not ordinarily think of when planning their next trip, and in some cases, countries that most Americans have never even heard of. Want to see the world but don’t want to spend hours on planes or trying to recover from jet lag? The first two weekends of May in Washington, DC make it simple. This is your chance to prove your physics teacher wrong because thanks to this event, you really can be in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and South America without ever leaving the capital of the United States.
The featured photo: The Luxembourg Embassy in Washington D.C. Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg stayed after the Nazis invaded her country in WWII.
Now this was a brassy happening Brassy in Washington D.C.
Coyright (c) 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
There is no Reprieve from writing. Call it passion, obsession or both.
The writing demons in my head woke me up early in the morning, somewhere between the night and the day.
The persistent insomnia caused by the flow of ideas perpetuates itself from day into the night and vice versa. It is a dream come true for any writer; that is fluent writing time without blocks.
It is especially important now as I am moving into the publishing finale of my “Shifting Sands Short Stories.”
It is in this quiet time without outside disturbing energies, that I manage to write the most. Plus, I have the rest of the day to reflect on the morning production to improve it and carry it forward.
Just to illustrate how early this morning’s start was is that when I checked the Daily Post prompt for today @reprieve around 6 or 7 a.m. there were no responses yet. As I write this some five hours later, there were 64 interpretations of the “reprieve” prompt.
I find the reprieve theme very fitting before the Memorial Day long weekend. It will be a good quality time spent grilling, gardening and at my favorite spot on Murray Lake.
On Monday, I like to go to the Memorial Day parade in Lowell to honor the veterans at the Oakwood Cemetery.
Sexton Don DeJong makes the cemetery a place to observe history with his historical cemetery walks. DeJong has compiled the cemetery info into several books over the years. Watch for more stories.
I am grateful for this much-needed time off for all of us to restart again.
Copyright (c) 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Lowell, MI – I was born with history in my blood in the wee hours on Victory Day, May 9th to the cracking of the fireworks and the fragrance of the blossoming lilacs.
Before the semantics & politics of the new regime, May 9th was the national holiday in my homeland of Czech Republic.
Every year, on this day, my mother Ella lovingly says this sentence:
“I thought they were bombing, but the country was celebrating your birthday. The entire earth blossoms for you.”
Now, my mom Ella is not exactly the most humble person. She loves to show off. She takes that after Grandpa Joseph of Vizovice.
Annually, the country celebrates the anniversary of its freedom from the Nazi occupation in 1945. The holiday has been moved to May 8th based on the age-old dispute, “Who was first, the chicken or the egg?” That is the dispute over which army freed former Czechoslovakia first.
Was it the Soviet or the American army?
The Soviets freed the capital Prague on May 9th, while the Americans freed Plzen in West Bohemia on May 8th. Maybe, the switch was due to the fact that Plzen is home to the famous brewery, Pilsner.
The country boasts its love for beer, and often takes first place in consumption between the top beer consuming trio of Germany, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.
However, in our immigration hearts, the holiday will always be on May 9th, even though we love Czech Pilsner.
So, by default, the love for history has been circulating in my blood from the first day of birth.
Our immigration Konecny saga started with the infamous occupation of the country by the Soviets in the Prague Spring of 1968. The era of hardline communism ensued after the invasion for decades to come under President Gustav Husak.
I am also the child of the 1989 Velvet Revolution led by my hero, late president Vaclav Havel who was part of the Prague Spring 1968 reformation movement.
I can trace the origins of my writing to that tumultuous time in our lives.
My paternal grandpa Antonin was the keeper of the “Chronicles of the Stipa JZD” which was the Stipa Agricultural Cooperative, while my late Aunt Martha secretly worked on the Konecny family genealogy. My grandma Anezka was a first grade teacher at ZDS Stipa and a poet.
“You can’t deny genes,” said Martha’s colleague Mrs. Fickova at the funeral wake on Jan. 11th held at the Stipa Senk.
After Aunt Martha’s death on January 7th, 2017, I started the Facebook page Ancestry Konecny on:
Every morning before I start writing, I check social media for inspiration and to get a feeling for the day.
I made me a cup of French Roast coffee and smelled the bouquet of lilacs from our gardens on the ranch. It took 20 years for the fragrant shrubs to come to their full beauty. Not quite like the historical ones on my beloved Mackinac Island, but they’re getting there.
Yesterday, my husband Ludek and I feared for the budding wisteria because of the early morning frost. We had to put out the fan to keep the wisteria, sprawling on the octagon pergola, warm.
Then, as always I gather my thoughts based on analyzing the previous day, and what I have learned from it, that is worth bringing into the future. I always remember the socialist propaganda, “Tomorrow is already yesterday.”
I pinned to the top, “Spring into the Past” museum tour 2017 organized by the Tri-River Historical Museum Network on the new museum page.
I also made sure that the 23rd annual Covered Bridge Bike Tour in Fallasburg is correctly dated for Sunday July 9th.
I looked in the mirror, after finishing most of this post, and I realized I am very fortunate, and that any victory comes at a price. I’ve come to that conclusion not from the image that I see, but by the person I reflect in my writings.
I have a head full of graying hair, a happy smile on my face, a caring husband and family, hundreds of fans and well-wishers from all over the world, and the determination of a Taurus.
My short story collection “Shifting Sands” is ready for June 1st publication on kindle and Amazon.
And speaking about karma or karmic energy.
My friends from the Fallasburg Historical Society (FHS) Tina Siciliano Cadwallader and Tracy Worthington are planning a book signing event for the “Shifting Sands” fiction short story collection at the Fallasburg one-room schoolhouse museum on June 25th from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
I’ve just found out that mom Ella is going to bake a cake for the book signing. And I have received tulips and irises from Doc Em, based in Fixin, France, and a video from Josephine & Dominik Pala of Hastings.
Life is good. As Doc Em says:
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
Everyone is invited to Fallasburg on June 25. Come and enjoy the beautiful Fallasburg Park, the pioneer village, the history and mom’s cake.
With this post, I would like to thank everyone for all the support over the years, especially my neighbor Catherine. Because only Catherine knows who I really am.
“You make me who I am.”
Lowell, May 9th 2017
Copyright (c) 2017 Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
May 1st traditions in Czech Republic & around the world
By Emma Palova
EW Emma’s Writings
Lowell, MI – Every year, I observe May 1st as May Day in the renaissance Czech tradition with warm memories of the socialist past. If I close my eyes, I can still see the parades, the tribunes and the socialist propaganda with the slogans and the banners on the backdrop of the blossoming lilacs. The socialist patriotic hymns were blasting from the loudspeakers.
May Day pole tied with ribbons signifies love and spring.
May Day pole with ribbons in Bannister, Michigan
Today, Czech Republic still celebrates May 1, as an official holiday with a day off to commemorate the union manifestations in Chicago in 1884. Only this time around, without the parades or the slogans.
May Day is also known as International Workers Day, and protests are scheduled in Chicago for today with displays around the country in reaction to policies proposed by President Donald Trump.
But most of all, May Day, was a great day off known for its official opening of the beer gardens, and the infamous “march of the thieves.”
The organized labor from the factories marched in the parades, while some individuals used the opportunity to steal from the gated factories because of less supervision. Therein the name “march of the thieves.”
First and foremost, May is the month of love, not just labor.
And I write about all this in the memoir “Greenwich Meridian” with a light heart and a smile on my face with a touch of nostalgia.
I admire the old Czech country for being able to keep both the old socialist holidays, take on new ones, and tamper with the most important holiday of all that is the liberation of the country from the Nazi occupation in 1945.
New politicians with new agendas changed the date of the liberation of former Czechoslovakia from May 9th to May 8th based on the controversy who really liberated the country, whether it was the Soviets or the Americans. The question at hand; who was the first and where?
Having lived in many countries around the world, our family always honored the holidays of that particular country, otherwise we would have time off all the time.
Looking at my calendar last week for a summary, I found amusing that Canada also has Easter Monday off as an official holiday, just like the Czech Republic.
However, any holiday can take root in any country as I have witnessed in my hometown of Vizovice.
I remember our neighbor bus driver Mr. Hlavenka in Vizovice, used to celebrate Fourth of July by taking the day off in the old socialist era.
I’ve always wondered, how did he know about Independence Day with all the propaganda against American capitalism.
But, May 1st has deep agricultural connotations as well. People gather wildflowers and crown a May king and queen, weave floral garlands, and set up a maypole.
They also have bonfires to encourage the fertility of the land and animals in the coming year.
It is fascinating how different traditions and believes take roots in different countries, and how they continue to evolve.
Lowell, MI – As the nature awakens, we celebrate Earth Day today. The first widely recognized Earth Day was held in 1970 when an environmental Teach-In group planned an event for April 22.
But every day is an Earth Day celebration to recognize the greatest resource of all, and that is our planet Earth.
To celebrate the Earth Week, I started my annual walk to the Franciscan Life Process Center (FLPC) on Monday. The 1.8 mile hike on a gravel road has been a staple of my mental and physical sanity since 1995 when we moved out into this northeast corner of Kent County in West Michigan.
I marveled at the untouched nature coming to life; plants vigorously emerging from the wet dirt from yesterday’s rains, robins hopping under the pine trees among the new ground cover.
Crisp morning air and dew covered the new grass and stems.
The area consists of preserved farmland thanks to late philanthropist Peter Wege, apple orchards, woods and streams. Wild flowers are now popping out in the woods, and morel mushrooms are around the corner, or should I say around the stumps.
I love the farm markets with the local produce starting soon with local asparagus.
Different trail systems like the Fred Meijer River Valley trails and Lowell Area trials meet here at the confluence of Grand River and Flat River. We’ve been blessed with an abundance of natural resources from the Bradford Dickinson White Nature Preserve in Lowell Township, Wege Wittenbach AgriScience center, Sessions Lake and Fallasburg Park. Hundreds of inland lakes dot the picturesque region.
The Midwest entices with its variety of seasons, landscapes, Great Lakes and diverse communities.
Lowell, MI- Yes, indeed. Today is Emma’s Day, according to the Czech calendar. My mom Ella gave me the name based on a novel she read a long time ago.
The guy in the novel kept writing letters to his love, always starting with:
“Dear Emma, ”
I love you.
Many years later, I would receive letters and postcards from all over the world with that same greeting in Czech:
“How are you?” mom always wrote.
I loved the name so much that I gave it to our daughter who is now Doc Emma. Emma permanently lives in romantic Burgundy, France. The romantic name originates in France.
Today is also Emma’s birthday. Every year, she has a double celebration. Happy birthday and name day, dear Emma.
My lifelong friend Eva of Kromeriz loved the name too, and she named her daughter Emma.
When I moved to America, and started going to St. Pat’s Church in Parnell, I came across another Emma, who sings in the choir, and she also has a matching great last name Darling.
And until this year, Emma was the top name for girls around the world.
And how about poet Emma Lazarus, Emma Watson and Emma Stone?
“We’re losing the first place now,” singer Emma informed me earlier in the year.
Both my husband and son wished me a happy Emma’s Day, earlier in the day. I usually get early spring flowers. This year, I got a purple primrose.
In the Czech calendar, names are attributed to each date. And people celebrate their name days much like birthdays, with family and friends. They get gifts, and a cake.
Due to the recent influx of new names, some dates in the Czech calendar double or triple up on names.
I’ve always wondered why Hallmark never really picked up on these charming name days, other than Saint Pat’s.
Name days are often based on the names of saints. For example Saint Terese Day is on Oct. 15 and Saint Mary is on Sept. 9. The wildly popular name day Catherine falls on Nov.25. Saint Martin is on Nov. 11. Saint Joseph/Saint Josephine falls on March 19.
Mom Ella’s name day falls on Oct. 5. Her real name is Eliska. She has always hated that name, so she changed Eliska to Ella. It is pretty much the same name.
Mom Ella just called me from Venice, Florida as I was writing this post. They’re getting ready with my dad Vaclav to head back up North to Michigan.
“See I gave you inspiration with that name,” she laughed.
“Thank you, mom for the lovely name.”
In many villages in Czech Republic, the Saint Days are big parish and community feasts. People bake for these feasts, butcher a pig, go dancing, and some dress up in traditional costumes. Rides come into towns.
Follow me into Easter traditions in Czech and Slovak republics.
Which traditions do you celebrate, how and why?
Copyright (c) 2017. Emma Blogs, LLC. All rights reserved.
Lowell, MI- The first day of spring means new beginnings to me after the long winter. And even though everything is yellowish brown outside, I have a vision of everything turning green soon.
As I drove to a meeting this afternoon, there were still tree limbs on the sides of the road, remnants of the last winter storms with high winds.
However, by the parking lot, I found some new green stems pushing out of the hard ground. Also some trees are starting to show tiny buds and the willows branches have a sharp yellow color.
My friends at the meeting said they were excited about the afternoon because they would be outside picking sticks from their yards.
“Yes, picking sticks sounds good,” T.G. laughed. “I also have a great spring report.”
I couldn’t agree more. After long months of being trapped inside, anything outdoors sounds good.
T.G.’s spring report turned great as well. You can see it in the feature photo. T.G. has a beef cattle breeding farm. And with it spring brings calves, new life. The pictured black Angus cow just gave birth on the first day of spring to the calf by her out in the pastures.
According to T.G., this breed of cows, always gives birth to calves outside, not in the stables.
Annually, I take an inventory of the past winter and the toll it has taken on life. Some of our dearest have not survived the winter. We have lost my dad’s last living sibling, Aunt Marta. She passed away on January 7, 2017 in Stipa, Czech Republic. In February, we lost our first neighbor on Downes Street, whom we met, when we moved out into the country in 1995. That was Allegonda (Connie) Kazemier, born in the Netherlands.
The Lowell community lost a great artist, Jan Johnson, who has inspired generations of artists in the Greater Grand Rapids area.
But, I also look at the positives that have come out of this winter’s hibernation.
Winter gives me an opportunity to focus on some things that go unnoticed during the pretty live seasons of spring, summer and fall.
This may include projects that I have been procrastinating in finishing. Most of them have much to do with writing, and the development of writing projects.
But, this time I’d like to write about personal development, and by this I don’t mean weight loss or other personal gains and losses.
Over the winter, I’ve changed a lot of things in my lifestyle. I still suffer from insomnia, so I use the early morning hours to meditate and to organize my thoughts.
This gives me sort of head start into the new day. I like to go through daily readings in the morning before I start writing. It’s still dark outside, and I can only hear the fan by the wood stove humming. Sometimes, I see the Big Dipper in the northeast corner of my studio view.
I am not as dead set on goals as I used to be. As long as I get through some piles on my desk, and see sentences materialize in front of me.
I enjoy discovering new blogs. I find them a constant source of inspiration, and support. I found support in the Daily Post prompt @luck last Friday on St. Pat’s Day. As I browsed other blogs, I came across “My Invisible Illnesses.” The author among other things writes about fibromyalgia, a mysterious condition, that some docs laugh at.
Over the winter, I’ve learned to nurture my love for art so I can share it with others.
I’ve gained new appreciation for our Konecny family roots in the Konecny Saga, and I am working on how to share this so others can do their research as well.
I immerse myself in arts for reprieve and inspiration.
I still like to develop new projects on top of unfinished ones. I know it’s a no no, but I usually get back to the unfinished stuff as well.
I have discovered that the energy behind different projects keeps changing. Sometimes it rekindles old feelings, and gives them new light.
With spring I like to refocus and reign in some of that spring equinox energy. The warm sun is doing wonders on the mind and the spirit, as I pull tight jeans over the body.
I’ve increased the spiritual awareness of being and existence with the help of many of my spiritualist friends. I will dedicate a separate chapter to them, as I credit them with a lot of my improved health-being.
I am looking forward to this spring with a new set of eyes of appreciation and gratitude for simply being.
I dedicate this Spring Equinox Energy post to my son Jakub Pala.
“We did it,” said Josephine Marie Palova, at the end of a week-long babysitting sting in Hastings.
Yes, we did it. We made it through winter stronger.