THE “M’S” HAVE IT! MINNEHAHA (HA-HA!) FALLS, MINNEAPOLIS, AND MALL OF AMERICA

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According to the results of my Google search, Minnehaha is a fictional Native American woman documented in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem, “The Song of Hiawatha”. She is the lover of the titular protagonist Hiawatha and comes to a tragic end. The name, often said to mean “laughing water”, literally translates to “waterfall” or “rapid water” in Dakota.

The name does make you chuckle, don’t ya think?

Minnehaha Regional Park, where the 53-foot falls are the star attraction, is one of the most popular sites in Minneapolis and was highest on our list to visit.  Walking/hiking and travel photography are our “thing”, and there were plenty of opportunities for both.  Besides, the park is also home of Sea Salt Eatery, a popular casual seafood restaurant reputed (on Trip Advisor) to have tasty fish tacos.  The great outdoors and delicious food; what a perfect combo!

The Metro Transit train stop was just across the street from the park, and the falls were located a short walk through lovely gardens, once we entered the park.

We arrived before the restaurant opened, so enjoying the gardens and watching the falls was a great way to pass the time before the restaurant line started forming.  (The lines get long, so we wanted to get ahead of the rush.)

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The fish tacos?  As tasty as the reviews stated, and dining alfresco was a lovely way to enjoy our brunch along with the hypnotic sound of the rushing water over the falls.

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Fueled up, we were ready to rumble, and hike along Minnehaha Creek (which flows over the Minnehaha Falls) to see where it met the Mississippi River.  The scenery along the creek was beautiful, and it was interesting to see the confluence—the perfect fishing spot for this fly fisherman:

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Taking a different path back and going the (unintended) long way back to the station gave us the opportunity to see more of this 167-acre park.

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The remainder of the afternoon was spent walking the city and checking out two sports stadiums—homes of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins—both located in downtown Minneapolis.  The glass building of the football stadium made for some fun photography!

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“The times they are a changing.” This is Bob Dylan, then and now.

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The following day was a cold and rainy one, so we planned everything just right for our Minneapolis visit!  The first day was spent all outdoors, and our second one indoors.  We took the train out to the University of Minnesota to see my friends compete at U.S. Masters Swimming Nationals.  The weather at Minnehaha Falls couldn’t have been better, so we didn’t mind having a rainy day where we had planned on spending it indoors, anyway.

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Georgia Masters Teammates: Malena, Marianne, and Ed

It was great seeing a few of my teammates, but I was most excited to see our friends from Oregon, Allen and Carol.  “King Frog” (as I have called him since he broke the 200 Meter Breaststroke World Record in his age group) has been my breaststroke mentor on the U.S. Masters Swimming Discussion Forums, since I joined USMS in 2010.  We (and our spouses) became friends and look forward to seeing each other at national competitions.  (We even met up at the FINA World Masters Swimming Championships in Montreal, in 2014!  King Frog broke a World Record then, too.)

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“King Frog (Allen) & Carol

After lunch with King Frog and Carol, we took the train out to Mall of America.  Shopping wasn’t the draw (we don’t particularly enjoy it); however, the spectacle of it all was what we were curious to see.

The mall completely surrounds an amusement park, and I managed to find plenty of photo ops. at the rides and throughout the mall.  The massive Lego sculptures were especially must-photograph features, as was the irresistible Crayola Crayon store where the colors on display were so cheerful.

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Coming up next:  HITTIN’ THE ROAD TO WISCONSIN

 

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNEHAHA, MINNESOTA—THAT’S A LOT OF WATER!

“Minn” in the Dakota language means “water”, and there’s plenty of it in Minnesota—more than 10,000 lakes!

How did we end up in Minnesota, anyway?  It all started from two separate paths that met up perfectly in Minneapolis.  U.S. Masters Swimming Summer Nationals was scheduled for early August, 2017, and it’s a state we had never been to during our travels.  I had also missed the National Senior Games when it was held previously at the very same pool, so I thought it would be a great opportunity.

Meanwhile, I had been telling Bruce over the past four years how great the American Steamboat Company’s “American Queen” was when I took my mom on a paddle wheel cruise down the Mississippi, from Memphis to New Orleans.  It was an experience I thought he would like very much.

One day last year, Bruce greeted me at the door holding the new American Queen Steamboat Company brochure, exclaiming, “I found a cruise for us!”  I figured he had finally decided he wanted to try one of their one-week cruises from Memphis.  Instead, he picked out their 23-day re-positioning river cruise that paddles down the Mississippi from Red Wing, Minnesota to New Orleans!

It just so happened that cruise was scheduled for one week after Nationals, and he had a plan.  (I sometimes wonder what’s rolling around in his head when he takes breaks from his glass work, kicks back on the bed, and stares at the ceiling…)  “How about if you swim at Nationals, and then we’ll rent a car and do a road trip around northern Wisconsin?  We can return the car back in Minneapolis, and then we’ll take the cruise?” he asked.

Adding up the days, this plan amounted to five weeks of travel—piece of cake for me, but not so much for Bruce.  “Are you sure you want to be away for THAT long?” I asked.  “We did a seven-week road trip two years ago, didn’t we?”  Yeah, good point.  “What about your Etsy business?”  I asked.  “We’ll take it with us!” he replied.

Fifteen minutes later, I was on the phone and the cruise was booked.  (By booking immediately before the early-booking deadline, we saved $3,000 and were able to get one of the lowest-priced cabins that book up quickly.)

Fast forward to May of this year, the swimming part of the plan started to unravel (as you may have read in my July 8 post).  Due to injuries, I didn’t know whether I would be able to compete at Nationals after all.  The entry deadline was prior to my open water swim, and I wouldn’t have time to prepare for my usual competitive events.  (There’s a big difference between swimming the 200 Meter Butterfly or Breaststroke in a Nationals competition and a 1K freestyle fun race in a lake.  Others may argue with me on this point, but I’ll take the 1K as the easier-on-the-body-and-mind event.)

The deadline came, and I knew I wouldn’t be ready to compete at Nationals, so I let it pass.  We decided to go anyway, see (and cheer on) our friends, and stick with our travel plans.

We arrived in Minnesota on August 1 and took their excellent Metro Transit train downtown to our hotel.  The afternoon was spent taking a long walk down to the river and across the bridge for lunch, and then back downtown.

Here are some scenes from our first day in Minneapolis:

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Downtown Minneapolis

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Across the bridge from downtown Minneapolis

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Minneapolis has a thriving foodie food truck scene!

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Next up:  The M’s have it!  Minnehaha (Ha-ha!) Falls, Minneapolis, and Mall of America

 

 

 

 

 

BY THE NUMBERS: 3,700 MILES, 10 STATES, 5 WEEKS, 4 RIVERS, and 1 HECK OF A GOOD TIME!

Two years ago, I blogged along the way throughout our seven-week road trip and enjoyed every bit of it.  Rather than being a chore, I took delight in spending many evenings in our hotel rooms editing pictures and writing about our adventures.  While I kept busy on my little netbook computer, Bruce intently studied maps and read up on each place we visited.  It was a wonderful way to reflect on the day and look forward to days ahead.

This time, after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to wait until the end of our trip to start writing.  Sure, I took many notes along the way during quiet moments, but I resisted the urge to post to my blog, knowing I wouldn’t be able to keep up as our travels progressed.

Besides, as time goes by, and I hear crazy stories, I am less inclined to announce to the World Wide Web that we are going away for five weeks.  My last name appears in a couple of newspaper and magazine articles on this blog, so it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist to find my house.  Blogging in real time would be like posting a note on the front door that reads, “Welcome!  We’re not home; step right in and help yourself!”, even if we do live in a gated active 55+ community with vigilant neighbors!

Having returned on September 4, the mail has been read, bills have been paid, laundry has been washed, our Etsy shop (www.CookedGlassCreations.Etsy.com) has been restocked, and more!  We even prepared for (and experienced) tropical storm winds and rain as ugly Irma ripped through town on 9/11.

Posts will be spotty as Bruce and I get our fall/holiday craft show circuit underway and life gets busier again, but I’m ready to roll.  Write on!

Rather than saving my “By the Numbers…” post for the end of the series as a wrap-up, I’ll give a hint as to what’s to come as these blog posts progress:

3,700 Miles:  1,400+ by rental car, and 2,300+ by steamboat paddle wheeler

10 States:  Many of them repeats; however, four of them (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Missouri) were new.  My grand total so far = 39 states traveled.

5 Weeks:  August 1st – September 4th, 2017

4 Rivers:  Mississippi, Ohio, Cumberland, and Tennessee

1 Heck of a Good Time:  Read future posts to hear about the best of it!

 

Coming up next:  Minneapolis, Minnehaha, Minnesota– That’s a Lot of Water!

 

GEORGIA GAMES PRESS RELEASE: THE TABLES WERE TURNED!

I’m used to submitting press releases rather than being the subject of one!  After writing press releases for several Griffin-area non-profits over the past eight years and submitting them to Griffin Daily News, I’ve gotten quite used to contacting the editors of our local newspaper.  The tables were turned, though, and I received a request from the assistant editor for a photo of me to accompany a press release somebody else was submitting about me!

As it turns out Georgia Games staff member, August Lynch, submitted the following release:

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YOU HAVE TO SHOW UP TO WIN!

It sure feels good to be back!

Ironically, just after submitting this article to Swimspire, my body decided to crap out on me all at once. After putting in several months of good training in the pool where I was feeling great (and racing my best breaststroke times in four years), my body rebelled. One day I felt great after a terrific workout, and the next day, I didn’t. That following day, an elbow injury from February and a shoulder repetitive stress injury from March—both land-based injuries that had not affected my swimming at all—decided to join me in the pool.  For the trifecta, I aggravated the scar tissue in my hip—again.  (Oh, and did I mention autoimmune issues returning with a vengeance?)

A visit to my orthopaedic surgeon resulted in a diagnosis of elbow tendonitis, shoulder bursitis, and a knowing smile about my hip.  We both knew that it took two months to heal last time I aggravated the scar tissue, and it will take two months to heal again.  “Don’t sweat it; you’ll be fine,” we both said with that smile to each other.

Meanwhile, I kept thinking to myself, “How do I listen to my body if it doesn’t give me any warning?”  It sure makes training iffy.

It has been over two months since my body took a dump on me. I’ve been very diligent about doing the PT exercises Dr. Andrachuk prescribed.  (Knowing I’ve had quite a past history in physical therapy over the years and was always diligent about doing my exercises, we both decided I would be fine on my own.)

Fortunately, I have mostly recovered– perhaps about 80%. I saw Doc at the end of June and received a positive report. Other than wanting me to lay off full butterfly and backstroke for awhile longer (I just started back at breaststroke), he said my prognosis was good for a complete recovery.  “Let pain be your guide,” my past physical therapist always told me.

Although I missed the National Senior Games and will not compete at U.S. Masters Swimming National Championships, I did a few test swims in the pool to see if I could handle swimming (not exactly “racing”) an open water 1K race.  I was fine, so I competed in the 1K at the Georgia State Games Open Water Meet, today.  (I usually swim the 3K and 1K; however, I knew not to even THINK about that yet!)

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What a blast!  It’s always one of my favorite events of the year; I LOVE open water swimming!  It felt great, and I was able to kick it up a notch to about 75% race-pace effort without repercussions.  What a glorious feeling to be back in the groove again!  I won a gold medal, too!!  (I will admit, however, that I was the only one in my age group.  Hey, you have to show up to win!)

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It has been tough (both physically and mentally), and I am still very unsure what my body will be able to handle in the future. I am fearful of injuries– especially since they almost always come without warning.  (For example, I’ve had two spontaneous floating rib dislocations and one at the sternoclavicular joint.  WTF?)

Whether I will be able to TRAIN to RACE in the future remains to be seen, but even if my future means “swimming” my races rather than “racing” them, it feels GREAT to be back!

STAYING SELF-MOTIVATED AS A SOLO SWIMMER

After writing two articles for Swimspire , I was asked by Julia Galan to continue with my “Solo Swimmer” theme and write a series of articles for her website.  The following article was recently published, and appears here:

Whether you swim with a team or solo, all of us swimmers have had our issues staying motivated at one time or another. Being a solo swimmer can make it even more difficult if there isn’t anyone around to encourage you. Self-motivation is the key to happiness and success when going it alone as a swimmer, so read on for tips on how to stay fired up to keep on swimmin’!

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Why do you swim?

First, it’s important to answer this basic question: Why do you swim? It’s very difficult to stay motivated to do anything you don’t really want to do. Are you swimming just because your doctor told you to swim for health reasons? Is it because you love running and cycling, but you have to swim to compete in triathlons (your latest New Year’s resolution)? Or, do you love the way swimming makes you feel, both mentally and physically? Maybe it’s because you swam as a kid, and you want to do it as an adult on your terms, rather than having a coach constantly barking orders at you. Hey, maybe it’s even for several of these reasons.

The bottom line is this: If you know why you swim, it will help keep you motivated to get wet.

Embrace habits that make you happy

Are you a morning person or a night owl? What time of day are you more likely to make swimming a habit? Work, family, and other commitments will dictate your available time slot for swim workouts; but, if you have a choice, swim at a time you are most likely to stick with on a regular basis. This is one of the advantages of being a solo swimmer – we have more control over our swim schedules than team or workout group swimmers do.

For me, I find it easiest to stick with a routine of swimming first thing in the morning. I’m not necessarily an early riser, but swimming is my first appointment of the day. Nothing else gets scheduled on any day until the afternoon, whether it’s helping my husband with his part-time business, doing volunteer work, scheduling appointments, or running errands. My friends also know I don’t check e-mail or make phone calls until after I return from the pool. Besides, I don’t function optimally until after a workout, so it’s just as well! I’m a much happier person during and after a swim!

Set flexible goals

By now, you have probably heard and read plenty about the benefits and how-to’s of setting goals; but I’ve learned a few things about my personal goal-setting that puts a different spin on the well-known S.M.A.R.T method of setting goals (Specific. Measurable. Achievable/Attainable. Realistic. Time-bound. There are variations on this acronym, but you get the picture.)

I add an “F” to my acronym. S.M.A.R.T.F. isn’t a word, I know, but the “F” is the most important part of my goal-setting: FLEXIBLE.

Until I added “flexible” to the equation, nothing took a hit to my self-motivation more than the constant frustration of failing to achieve my specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound goals!

Case in point: After nailing U.S. Masters Swimming National Qualifying Times (NQT’s) in the 50 Yard Breaststroke at a September of 2010 meet, I thought a S.M.A.R.T. goal would be to aim to achieve NQT’s every year. Congenital physical issues led to a series of repetitive stress injuries (mostly non-swimming related), though; so, my goals were constantly derailed. Ultimately, I had hip surgery in late 2014, resulting in a multi-year succession of failed S.M.A.R.T. goals. Can you say, “FRUSTRATION”?

The moral of the story? Write your goals in PENCIL! Being flexible will help you stay motivated. If a road-block conspires to keep you from achieving your specific goal, reassess your situation, shift gears; and, start the S.M.A.R.T. process over again.

Although my hip injury prevented me from making NQT’s, I still wanted to compete at a swim meet that took place just a few days before my hip surgery. I was unable to kick breaststroke (or kick much of any other stroke for that matter), so I needed to reassess my situation. Rather than miss competing at one of my favorite meets of the year, I got my surgeons approval to compete, and then asked him to write a medical excuse to the chief official explaining I couldn’t kick breaststroke. My breaststroke races were swum instead with an in-pool start, breaststroke pulls, and no pull-outs, while my legs flopped behind like an injured frog. The 400 Freestyle was swum without a block start or kicking, and no hard pushes off the walls at each turn. My race times suffered tremendously, but I still won the points I needed to achieve one of my other goals of winning the Georgia Grand Prix Series for my age group. Had I not raced that day, I would have failed at a goal that took the entire year (and several meets) to achieve; and, I would have missed out on a trophy that I now enjoy as a symbol of my perseverance.

Set long-term and short-term goals

What do you hope to gain from swimming? For me it provides so many physical, mental, and social benefits that my long-term goal is a no-brainer: I want to be able to swim and compete for the rest of my life. In order to be able to achieve that goal, I need to stay healthy and avoid injuries that force me out of the water. Working backwards from there, that long-term goal dictates how I set all of my short-term swimming goals. I may have a goal to make NQT’s in breaststroke; but, if my hip starts feeling the effects of my training schedule, I need to reassess, switch gears, and adjust my goals until I’m ready to ramp up again.

Often, my workout goal (a very short-term goal) changes multiple times in a single workout. I may go to the pool on “Fast Friday” with the goal of conquering a USRPT (Ultra Short Race Pace Training) set of breaststroke, but if my hip is fatigued or sore, swimming multiple race-pace 50’s of full breaststroke is out of the question. Out goes the kick, and I swim it as breaststroke pulls instead to avoid injury. Then, the remainder of my workout gets adjusted accordingly, depending on how my body feels.

What is your long-term goal? Keep it in mind as you work backwards and break it down into shorter segments; and, remember that flexibility is key!

Variety is the spice of life!

Are you having a difficult time staying motivated because you are bored or burned out with your current swimming routine? Adding variety will help keep things fun and challenging—keys to staying self-motivated.

If you are a lap swimmer who only swims freestyle to stay fit, but you get bored staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool as you swim lap after lap, consider learning another stroke. In addition to taking adult swim lessons or hiring a coach by the hour to teach you, there are plenty of free resources available to teach yourself backstroke, breaststroke, or even butterfly. My favorite videos are at http://www.GoSwim.TV (you can subscribe for free), but there are also many other good ones on YouTube.

How about entering a competition? Although I highly recommend joining U.S. Masters Swimming for their numerous motivating resources (and to be able to compete at USMS swim meets), there are other options available. YMCA has excellent swim programs and competitions, or you could check with your local recreation department. Another option is to compete in your state’s annual pool or open water swim meet that is open to all ages (stategamesofamerica.com). If you are 50+ years of age, check out your state’s Senior Olympicsprogram. None of these organizations require you to be an expert swimmer, and you will find competitors of all skill levels and ages at these meets.

Having a competitive event to look forward to will keep you motivated to train and give you a built-in goal to shoot for.

On the flip side, if you are a burned out competitive swimmer, how about changing it up a bit to fire up your motivation? If you are a stroke specialist, give yourself permission to take a year (or season) off from your best stroke and focus on a different one. Can’t decide which stroke? Train for the individual medley, and you will get to add three other strokes to your specialty! This give you plenty of training options and adds a lot of variety to your training.

Are you a sprinter? Try long distance events, and add an open water race into your meet line-up for the year. If you are an open water swimmer, see what it’s like to race between the lane lines and add a flip turn to your freestyle.

Perhaps your motivation has reached such a low point that you don’t even want to get out of bed to swim. If that happens, just think about how good it feels after a workout. You’re energized and feel a sense of satisfaction afterwards, right? If you skip your workout, you will deprive yourself of those great, healthy feelings! Get up and just go swim for ten minutes. If after that time your motivation still hasn’t kicked in, try doing something fun. Join the water walkers at the shallow end and socialize with them as you walk laps in the pool, go for a walk on the beach or bodysurf (if you’re at the ocean), or get out on deck and do some yoga. ANY exercise will feel better than NO exercise; and, perhaps you will regain your motivation to swim a few laps. If not, don’t beat yourself up; tomorrow is always another day!

Remember, as a solo swimmer, you have complete control over what, where, when, and how you train and swim! Just never take your eye off your long-term goal and forget the “why”, because “why” you swim is what will keep you motivated to take the plunge, time after time.


Elaine Krugman is a U.S. Masters Swimmer (55-59 age group) and writes articles for the Georgia Masters Newsletter.  She also writes a blog about three of her passions:  travel, swimming, and chocolate; and, she’s happiest when the three intersect! Check out Elaine’s blog here!

FATHOM: OUR FINAL CHAPTER

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“Gratitude” doesn’t fully describe how I feel about the experiences Bruce and I shared during our three Fathom Impact Travel cruises.  There were so many memorable experiences that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.  Any impact we made in the Dominican Republic and Cuba came back around in such wonderful ways—all described in the many blog posts I have written about our January, March, and April visits.  Search “Fathom” on this blog site, and you can read about them all.

On our last cruise, as planned, we reunited with some passengers we had previously met aboard Adonia; but, we also unexpectedly saw others from our January and March cruises.

Each one of us had re-booked a Fathom Impact Travel cruise for similar reasons, and all of us were eager to continue making an impact.

When Fathom’s Adonia sets sail on May 21 to the Dominican Republic, it will be her last sailing under the Fathom flag.  Her lease expires, and then she will sail to Europe to become a P&O ship once again.  All of her crew with the exception of the Impact Travel Staff will sail with her.

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The Dominican Republic flag (left) is the only national flag with a bible on it.

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Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

Adonia will be missed.  As a former 6-star Renaissance ship (before the company folded), she’s a classic beauty built in a style no longer seen in new ships.  Beautiful mahogany, crown molding, etched glass, impeccable craftsmanship—these are all abundantly featured throughout the 704-passenger ship.

Fathom may be all about “Impact Travel” rather than the vehicle getting us to our destinations; but, what Adonia did for Fathom was to provide a more intimate atmosphere for its passengers, enabling them to meet and share experiences more easily.

A favorite place to bond with our fellow cruisers was on the aft deck outside of “The Conservatory”, the buffet and casual dining area of the ship.  It became a popular meeting place for travelers to hang out with a cold drink, and swap stories of their Impact Travel activities.  Friendships were made and cemented, especially during sea days when there was no concern about the time.

When Bruce and I taught arts and crafts classes aboard larger Royal Caribbean ships, we often commented about the many people we saw disembarking that we never saw during the cruise.

Not so aboard Adonia.  Between the cohort meetings, workshops, dining room unassigned seating, and Impact Travel activities; we at least recognized everybody during disembarkation.  We also left with many more e-mail addresses and friendships than we ever had before.

On May 28, Fathom as we know it will end.  The following is an official statement I received upon request from Tara Russell, President of Fathom, regarding Fathom’s future:

There is a macro trend around the hunger for greater meaning and purpose in our everyday lives – people want to live their best story and long to go deeper. This exists independent of Fathom and manifests daily as a growing audience of consumers work to combine their purchases and experiences with their values. Fathom addresses this growing desire through travel experiences. Fathom invites travelers to get closer by traveling in new and exciting ways. Fathom heightens human connections between travelers, with new local friends and other cultures, and in any relationship a traveler may touch.

During our first season, Fathom trialed this purpose-driven concept by testing traveler appetites for travel-deep experiences with 7-day journeys on the MV Adonia to the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Nearly 10 percent of Fathom travelers who joined these sailings returned quickly to participate again and our customer satisfaction scores were among the highest in the corporation. In short, the Fathom concept was very well received.

We always intended to serve our much broader corporate audience of 12 million travelers. The popularity of the Fathom experience with travelers who sailed with us inspired us to move quickly to expand the Fathom concept – onboard, onshore and in new and creative ways to serve an even greater audience.

Going forward, Fathom Travel experiences will live aboard countless other ships operated by our nine sister brands and offer beyond immersive experiences in many geographies. Fathom is designed to intersect and inspire the lives of travelers anywhere through heightened human connections that unlock human potential and connect travelers to a bigger story.

Already, we are providing Fathom Travel experiences on-ground to travelers across six Carnival Corporation brands in the Dominican Republic. We are honored to leverage our collective scale as we come alongside our Dominican friends to create enduring contributions to the lives of families and communities. Soon Fathom experiences will also be offered on board our sister brands.

Fathom looks forward to serving the 12 million people who annually travel with Carnival Corporation, as well as the millions of new travelers who long to go deeper into our growing community. We’re nearing the end of chapter one, but there is much ahead for the rest of the Fathom story and the best is yet to come! 

As of today, I have not received any definitive answer if Fathom will ever again have a dedicated ship for its Impact Travel mission.  If it does, I doubt it will be intimate and casino-less like Adonia. 

Thanks for the memories!

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Marcia (IDDI), Steven (IDDI), Me, Wilmers (IDDI), Colin (Fathom Impact Travel Staff Manager), Bruce, Raymond (IDDI)

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Frank (Entrena)

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Marvin (wait staff) remembered us from our previous cruise and visited us often on the aft deck for chats.

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Tomasito, leader of the Cuban band aboard ship

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Mauritza, Jessica, Brandon, and Len.  We cruised with Jessica and her dad on the January 1st and April 9th sailings.

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Mauritza and Jessica

 

 

HABLA INGLES? TEACHING ENGLISH IN THE DR

Before I post “FATHOM:  OUR FINAL CHAPTER”, I can’t locate the article I wrote about teaching community English in the Dominican Republic during our second cruise in March.  (Either I forgot to post it, or it disappeared from my blog!)

In between our two morning work sessions at Chocal, we spent an afternoon teaching “community English” in the small farming town of Cupey, Dominican Republic.  The bus ride to this community of 4,000 was an extremely bumpy one in some areas where we traversed unpaved rocky roads with large pot holes.  What a relief when we finally arrived into town and were able to drive over paved roads once again!

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Along the way, there was some interesting scenery, to say the least.  Although I managed to get a quick picture out the window of this cattle drive, I missed one when a man was walking his two bulls alongside the roadside.

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The best shot that got away, though, was the guy walking a pig.  Yes, you read that right—a PIG!  He even had a leash of rope around its neck.  This wasn’t just some small pot belly pig, mind you; this was a HUGE pink pig munching away happily at the grass along the roadside!

When we arrived at the community center, we were greeted by the families who would become our students for the afternoon.  After introducing themselves to us, one-on-one, we were divided into groups and assigned to a student for each teacher.  A few of the families had opened their homes as a meeting place for the days’ lesson, so we walked down the street to the house where we would be teaching.

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Bruce was assigned to a cute little girl, and I was assigned to a woman by the name of Doris.  We sat on the front porch facing our students and used the manual we were provided to conduct our lesson.

The students had been taking classes and studying on their own, but working with Fathom passengers was a supplemental opportunity to converse with Americans and learn more.

The lesson they had worked on prior to our arrival was entitled “Nature”.  They had learned the English name for several animals, so we were instructed by the facilitators from Entrena to review the lesson before moving on to “Classroom”.

My student, Doris, was a bit shy and unsure of herself.  To break the ice, I thought it would be fun to make the sound of the animal I wanted her to say in English.  I also had pictures to point to that had the English word written under each animal; but, I thought making her laugh would ease her nervousness.  At least, I thought it would make her laugh.

Imagine my dismay when I started barking (a pretty good rendition of a dog, I thought), and she pointed to the horse and said, “Horse”.  Ohhh boy; this was going to be a long afternoon…

Knowing my bark was the best animal sound in my bag of tricks, I immediately switched tactics and pointed to each animal for Doris to say in English.

NEXT!

The “Classroom” lesson had items such as a pencil, ruler, desk, chair, chalkboard, teacher, student, etc.  One of the students in the picture was wearing a backpack, and that was one of the words Doris needed to learn.  No can do; she just couldn’t get that one down.  I had offered her plenty of positive feedback (“Good!” and high-fives) when she got even close on the other words, but she couldn’t get past “back” to even get to the “pack”.  How I wish the little girl in the picture had carried her books to school in her arms, instead…

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My student, Doris

Bruce’s student got bored quickly, so he was moving on to other lessons to keep her interest.  She wanted to stick with the ones she was good at, though, and move on to a new one when she found the lesson to be too difficult.

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Bruce and his student

They were sitting right next to me and Doris, so it was easy enough to ease drop.  I only wish the little girl had ease-dropped on my barking and yelled out, “Dog!”

It was an enjoyable afternoon, though, and the students appreciated our efforts.  After the lesson, we met back up at the community center for some group photos.

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OUR REUNION WITH THE WOMEN OF REPAPEL

Although we were hoping to teach English at the University for our final Impact Travel activity, the students were on break for the Easter holiday.  Instead, we returned to RePapel, the women’s co-op that turns waste paper from the local community into recycled paper products that are sold for a profit.

I knew from our previous visit that our group of fellow Fathom passengers would be greeted by the women with enthusiastic singing and clapping.  It was fun, though, to watch the surprised expressions on the group as they walked up the street to the co-op and heard the women singing up ahead.  Smiles broke out as they rounded the corner and saw the women of RePapel dancing and clapping as they sang to us.

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One-by-one, I scanned over the singing ladies and recognized each one from our January visit.  It was Claribel I was looking for, though, because we had made such a positive connection when we worked together last time.  Would she remember me?

Claribel was off to the left side, and I quickly took a photo of the women.  When she spotted me, her expression changed as if she was deep in thought.  A few seconds later, she flashed a huge grin as she remembered who I was.  I made a heart sign with my hands (as she did to me when we said goodbye in January), and she ran over to greet me with a big hug.

Making paper with the ladies is so much fun, because they keep up a positive energy with their singing.  In between songs, Claribel and I communicated as we did last time—through hand gestures and my (very) broken Spanish.  She asked me if Bruce and I had children, and then I asked her the same question.  Claribel responded that two of her seven children were twins.

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As it turned out, there was a family on board with teenage fraternal triplets, and they were standing right behind me as Claribel and I talked.  The mom chimed in saying, “You have twins?  I have triplets!”  Claribel didn’t quite understand the word “triplets” until I grabbed three of my fingers and held them together with my other hand and held it up.  In perfect English, Claribel exclaimed, “Oh my GAAAD!!”  We couldn’t stop laughing.

This is typical of what it’s like to make recycled paper (and paper bead necklaces) with the women of RePapel.  Never a dull moment!

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My friend, Claribel

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Fredy is from Colombia and also has an apartment in Atlanta.  We enjoyed getting to know him during the cruise.

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The women were ripping up waste paper into small pieces that will get thrown in a washing machine for a cycle– the early steps of the paper recycling process.

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After a cycle in the washing machine, the paper/water mixture gets scooped up and tossed into the blender for a whirl.  Next, it is dumped into this bin.  Bruce was given a framed screen to dunk into the mixture.  Once the screen is covered, it is lifted and drained.

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The IDDI facilitator joined in the production line. Here,  she is taking the piece of paper she had removed from her screen and getting it ready to place on the drying rack out in the sun.

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We also made paper beads and strung necklaces to be sold in the gift shop.  Bruce and Fredy show off their creations.

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I’m modeling the necklace I made.

The following are scenes from the community.  Some of the pictures were shot from the bus window as we arrived, and others were taken during a walking tour we took after we worked at RePapel.

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This concrete floor was made by Fathom Adonia passengers.  The homeowner was given the choice of what color to paint it, and yellow is the most popular choice.

Next up:  FATHOM:  OUR FINAL CHAPTER

OUR THIRD VISIT TO THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC; OUR SIXTH AND SEVENTH TO CHOCAL

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Type “Chocal” into the search box above, and a list of several blog posts will appear that I have written about Chocal, the women’s cooperative chocolate factory and cacao plantation in the Dominican Republic (the DR).  In all, Bruce and I participated in Fathom’s Impact Travel program at Chocal seven times; three visits during our January 1st Fathom Adonia cruise, twice on our March 12 cruise, and twice on our final visit to the DR, during the week of April 9, 2017.

Those earlier blog posts included information about how Chocal was established (although I didn’t mention how the factory replaced what was once a nightclub hangout for drug dealers and other criminals).  I wrote about the benefits Chocal has provided the thirty women and 130 families of the Altamira community.  The chocolate-making process was also described, from bean to bar, including photos I shot of the cacao processing machinery.  Our volunteer contributions were also detailed including the impact our work groups made on Chocal’s production.

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Although cacao beans are very bitter to bite into, the white pulp surrounding the beans is sweet and delicious!  I was given the remainder of the seeds in this pod to suck on and enjoy– about half of the 50 seeds it contained.  

Since then, the cumulative impact has grown as more and more Fathom passengers volunteered at Chocal.  As of April 15 of this year (the one year anniversary of Fathom Adonia’s first sailing), 4,419 passengers have visited Chocal and sorted 5,186 pounds of cacao nibs, resulting in 152,994 finished chocolate products.  In addition, since the neighboring cacao plantation nursery was added to the Impact Travel program, 29,920 cacao seeds were planted.  Of those, roughly 75% will grow to become cacao trees. In three years, those trees will be each produce about 20 pods ready to harvest each May and November for the next 30-40 years.  Each of those pods will contain about 50 seeds—enough to produce a 2-ounce bar of chocolate to be sold in the Dominican Republic.  (In addition, Chocal exports cacao nibs to Canada and the U.S.A., earning $2 per pound.)

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The inside of a cacao seed is very bitter!

Bruce and I made a personal impact at Chocal as well, bringing a box of ear plugs to the factory workers (when we visited in March) with promises to send more if the workers cared enough about preserving their hearing to use the ear plugs regularly.

I also brought memories with me during that second visit, giving each of the workers photo notecards I had made of the photos I had taken of them last January.  Their reactions and expressed gratitude was gratifying and left a lasting warmth in our hearts.

Our final Fathom Adonia voyage was during the week before Easter (a very important holiday in the DR), and we were there the day before and day of Good Friday.  As a result, many of the women of Chocal were home cooking and preparing for the holiday, so we didn’t get to see some of them again as we had hoped.  Still, our two visits were special, memorable, and heart-warming.

We arrived once again with an armful of photo notecards—this time, made with photos of our Chocal friends holding the cards I had given them in March; and, we brought another box of ear plugs to keep them well-stocked for a while.

Our bus driver, Diosiris Dipre (“Dipre”) was the same one we had last March, and he appeared very happy to see us again!  His sincere gratitude for such a simple gesture of giving a photograph reminded me of how random acts of kindness can make such a positive impact.

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Our bus driver, Dipre & IDDI facilitator, Juan

Gumarcindo, the nursery’s manager, also welcomed us warmly once again and laughed heartily when I gave him another photo card.  I wish I would have remembered to take another picture of him holding his card, because the photo on the card showed him holding the card I gave him in March that had the picture I took of him in January on it! We got so busy working at the nursery, I completely forgot.  It’s another one of those photos that got away…

Our IDDI facilitator on the bus with us this time was Juan, an IDDI rep we had seen during previous visits, but hadn’t gotten to know, since he was on the other bus in the past.  The guy is a hoot, and we had a lot of laughs with him during both of our days going to Chocal.  His grandmother works at the factory, and even though she didn’t speak any English, we managed to form a bond through smiles and gestures.

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Juan

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Juan’s grandmother

Steven, another IDDI facilitator was there once again, and he seemed happy to see us and start another round of teasing, picking up from where we left off in March.

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Steven & Bruce

As we saw the women, one-by-one, throughout our time at the factory, each one recognized us and greeted us with hugs.  It was nice to be remembered once again!

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At one point, though, I had a brief moment of sadness when we passed through the office to work in the packaging area, and Bruce noticed the box of ear plugs we had given them in March.  The box was sitting on top of a high pony wall in the exact same place where it had been left after I demonstrated to the president how to use the ear plugs.  When Bruce saw what appeared to be the unused box and told me about it, he had a disappointed look on his face.  He said, “I don’t think they’ve touched those ear plugs since you gave them the box.”  My heart sank, and I wondered whether I should even give them the second box I had brought.  Not giving it a second thought, I doubled back to check the box for myself.  Just as I opened it and noticed it only two-thirds full, Milagros (the factory manager) walked in and exclaimed, “Si!  Si!!” as she pointed to her ears and smiled.  The workers were in fact using the ear plugs, and they were very grateful to receive more!  That made my day.

After our work session officially ended and the others shopped in the gift shop, Bruce and I stayed behind to give one last push of sorting beans.  As a final parting “gift”, Steven took me back into the factory where we had molded chocolates, gave me a plastic glove, and told me to hold out my hand.  In it landed a palm-ful of warm chocolate from the bowl we had worked from to create our little chocolate works of “art”.  I will never forget how gooood that chocolate tasted as I licked every bit up!  I savored it slowly knowing it could very well be the last visit we ever make to Chocal.

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Coming up next:  OUR REUNION WITH THE WOMEN OF REPAPEL