Here is a relatively recent speech I penned for Toastmasters. I submitted it to the humorous speech contest. Enjoy!
I worked as an editor in South Korea. Here is an article on the House of Sharing, a house set up by the Korean government for the “comfort women” of WWII.
This essay is about going to the spa in South Korea, with a feminist angle.
I have many clips on Ohmynews, a citizen journalism website that was popular in South Korea but is no longer operational. Here is Meet the President’s Neighbor, which includes an interview and photos with long-time (now deceased) peace activist, Concepcion Picciotto.
This piece is on the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC.
Here are my reviews (books, products) on Elevate Difference, previously Feminist Review.
This piece on a working retreat in Italy was published (several years ago) on an online venue, Adventures for the Average Woman (www.ideagems.com).
With only two hundred dollars in my pocket, I took a plane from Istanbul, Turkey where I had been teaching English to Milan, Italy. Who says you need a lot of money to travel these days? It is in my times of unemployment that I seem to travel the most, often quite comfortably. Italy was one of those cases.
The train to Domodossolo rounded a bend and I gasped at the sight of the lake with the mountainous backdrop. The next stop was my destination: Pettenasco, Italy. The train station was small; it was also closed. The telephone booth worked, but not without a phone card. Fortunately, among only three people at the station, one man was able to lend me his phone. I called Centro d’Ompio, a spiritual retreat where I was to be a working guest for the next two months.
A handsome Georgian-Italian man picked me up in a sporty blue car and drove us uphill on a narrow winding road. I considered it might have been my last glimpse at civilization. Upon my arrival at the retreat, I forgot about civilization. I was amazed at the loveliness of the retreat and the kindness of the staff.
The retreat is nestled on a wooded hill overlooking Lago d’Orta, the lake that welcomed me on the train ride. The altitude offers breathtaking views of the surrounding villages and landscapes. From this height, all you can see is nature’s splendor: from the surrounds of the retreat to the lake with its fairytale island to the panorama of mountain pinnacles.
Three buildings housed on the grounds provide accommodation for at least 75 people. Meditation rooms, trails, and a pool offer relaxation to guests who need rest from their spiritual journey.
My train journey had left me tired and hungry. So we pursued the latter. I was escorted to the dining room where I was fed a scrumptious salad. After meeting a few staff and finishing my meal, I was taken to my quarters.
Staff, including working guests, reside at a group house located ten minutes downhill in a small community referred to as Pratalungo. The rustic lodging houses 15 staff members who share a kitchen, common room, two toilets, and a shower.
I settled into my room. It was basic but functional. It had a bed with fresh linen, a table, and clothes rack. Just outside my door was a litter of kittens scampering around. In the distance, I could hear cowbells. What a difference from Istanbul! I snuggled into bed and fell into a deep sleep dreaming of both mosques and mountains.
In addition to lodging, working guests receive meals. Much more than just salad, meals consist of sumptuous international vegetarian cuisine, including eggs and dairy products, up at the retreat. Desserts are a highlight at every dinner. The tiramisu outshines them all. Enjoy it with a cup of cappuccino (two free cups a day) or a glass of wine (working guests enjoy a discount).
A typical day starts with the brisk 15-minute uphill walk. (It’s a good way to work off those calories!) Breakfast begins at 8:30 and usually comprises various types of cheeses, scrambled eggs, porridge, cereal, and croissants. In exchange for room and board, working guests are asked to work 30 hours a week. Work often commences at 9:00, perhaps with dishwashing. Another two to four hours may be spent with housekeeping, gardening, or kitchen work. The retreat strives to offer a variety of work, however, some days may consist of six hours of cleaning or gardening. It can be difficult to adapt to the physical demands of the work schedule if you are like me and used to desk jobs.
I also had to get used to the multicultural environment where English wasn’t always spoken. Many of the working guests came from nearby Germany. Others were from the U.S., Canada, Norway, Sweden, and England. They ranged in age from their twenties, most common, to their forties.
During our time off from work, we hiked or visited a nearby waterfall. Lago d’Orta is a twenty-five minute walk downhill. It’s a great place for a swim or a picnic. Otherwise, Orta and Stressa are great towns to visit.
Il tutto, while the work is physically challenging, it is not necessary to have skills, you simply need to have the energy to complete your tasks, the desire to work in exchange for room and board, and the willingness to adapt to the multicultural environment. Centro d’Ompio is only one retreat of many that offers a working vacation. If you don’t mind washing dishes on your next vacation, consider being a working guest. As a mid-thirty unemployed female, I quite enjoyed my extensive vacation.
For more information about working guest programs, search under “volunteer in Italy” or “farm internships in Italy.” Here are a few websites that might also be helpful:
Volunteers work in exchange for food and accommodations at farms, home stays, ranches, lodges, inns, and hostels.
Under “Italy,” you will often find Centro d’Ompio’s advertisement for working guests. Program duration is 4-6 weeks.
This program accepts interns during the spring and summer. There is a $250.00 fee that goes to the Spannocchia Foundation. The program introduces participants to farming, tourism, and Tuscan culture. It lasts 3 months.
Check out “sustainable living and farming work” among others.