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one step at a time…

personal: places lived 4

places lived, 1994-1998, USA

Why not move across country? In Memphis I had a full-time laboratory job, a part-time weekend job at the YMCA, & plenty of time to hang out with friends. But I got restless. No doubt those two visits to San Diego during college inspired me to keep looking west. So in 1993, I took the GRE & applied to four graduate schools in East Asian/Chinese studies. Most of the best programs were on the West Coast, & grad school finally convinced my family to support me leaving Memphis. Things happened quickly though: I was accepted to the University of Washington in March 1994, quit my job in May then moved everything to Seattle in July… without ever having visited the city before!

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personal: places lived 3

places lived, 1988-1994, USA, Memphis

College time! I applied to several across the entire US & was accepted to most, so the decision was not easy. Northwestern University in Chicago seemed perfect, but financial aid figures just didn’t add up. My mom’s income couldn’t handle the extra cost. In the end, being a Tennessee resident meant that I qualified for extra grants if I stayed in-state. Plus, I’d won a hefty Rotary Club scholarship that could only be used locally. So I stayed put in Memphis. Rhodes College may be an expensive, private university, but I went almost for free. And I got to live on campus…

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personal: places lived 2

places lived, 1975-1988, USA

Let’s continue this journey! After a bumpy start with me, Memphis seemed to hit the spot for my parents. Not only did my dad make a decent income, but we were almost exactly in between both sets of relatives: a mid-point between Iowa & Florida. Grandparents could visit us easily & we could visit them, but more important for me was growing up & going to school in Memphis. Those formative years (19 of almost 50) are the longest I’ve spent in a single place so far. And surprisingly, almost all in the same apartment…

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personal: places lived 1

Places lived, 1970-1975, USA

Scrolling through Twitter not long ago, I found an account by a Canadian guy who lives in Japan. He’s celebrating turning 50 by going through boxes of his possessions that have just arrived by boat & posting the contents online… an interesting way to look back before reaching a milestone. I’ll turn 50 this year as well! The exciting combo of lockdown + unemployment gave me time to organize all my photos by year. Task complete, so I thought of this series: a look back at all the places I’ve lived. This will take several posts because I’ve moved around a lot, but feel free to come along…

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guidebook research 2020?

atención, coronavirus, Sevilla

Oh, what could have been. After the Rick Steves reunion in January, the book department & I began working on my research schedule for this year. I’d expressed a desire to do more book work in 2020… although not as well paid as guiding tours, I love the flexibility + the opportunity to add my own text (when approved!). Rick has the final say in all his guidebooks, but the collaborative publishing effort every year is great fun. COVID-19 put an end to those plans. However, I’m not one to break tradition, so I thought I’d share what might have been an incredible research year.

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recipe: gazpacho

recipe, gazpacho, Spain

After spending so much time cooking during quarantine, I’ve decided to post more recipes. Usually I’m on the road so I post about those experiences but this year has been, well, different. And every attempt to reproduce Spanish & Portuguese recipes gives me that much more insight into Iberian culture. Note: Every recipe I post works. I often try a few times to get flavors exactly how I like them. So consider these posts as a base to start exploring Iberian cooking… then you do you.

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lisboa: as varinas

Portugal, Lisboa, Lisbon, varinas, poster

As a tour guide, I’m interested in how the destinations I teach others about were marketed or imagined before I came around. What identifies these places to locals as well as to visitors? Travel posters from Argentina, Spain & Portugal during the mid-20th century revealed part of the story; however, one particular image stands out because of its absence today… the women who sold fish in Lisbon: as varinas.

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portugal: tile reproductions

Azulejos, tiles, vector

The estado de alarma & subsequent quarantine due to COVID-19 gave me time to return to an old hobby: making vector reproductions of Portuguese tile panels. While I’ve never been much of an artist, copying has always come easy… perhaps a result of how I visualize the world & see detail. Whatever the reason, immersing myself in azulejos for a few hours each week gave me some much-needed distraction from what was happening in the world.

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personal: becoming a tour guide

Robert Wright, Rick Steves, tour, Portugal, 2018
• Telling the tragic love story of Pedro & Inês inside the monastery complex of Alcobaça, Portugal · 2018

Help me celebrate a very special anniversary: my first tour as lead guide with Rick Steves twenty years ago. I’d hoped to invite tour members to a surprise party right now, but coronavirus has us in quarantine around the world. At least we can raise a toast together online! To commemorate these past two decades, I thought I’d answer in detail one of the most-asked questions for every guide: how did you get started with Rick? Get comfy cuz this is the long version…

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sevilla: semana santa, favorite moments

Andalucía, Sevilla, Semana Santa, Holy Week

With Holy Week on hold due to coronavirus, there’s no better time to relive some of my favorite moments from previous years. The Vatican may allow a grand procession after quarantine is over, & there’s even talk of celebrating Semana Santa in September. Whatever. Festivities should have begun today. It’s a moment many sevillanos look forward to all year long, including me.

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