florencelincereflections.wordpress.com

Creative Outlets

When I was younger it was all the rage to have a diary. In fact, I was given a diary on my eleventh birthday and I remember being pretty excited about having a place to keep my personal thoughts, ideas and dreams.

I had no illusions that I would be able to write anything as compelling as Anne Frank did or even pen the outline for the great American novel in my diary. However, I did think I was destined to be a journalist when I grew up.

Perhaps it was my youth, perhaps it was my naivete, perhaps it was just not the right time for me, but when I did try to write in that diary I realized I had nothing to say. I was advised by the giver of the diary to write about my day, my dreams, my problems, even my life. I would have, except it was all downright boring.

I realized that I did not want to spend my time writing about the chores I completed, the books I read, the homework I needed to do, or the fights with family or friends I had that day. Writing it all down seemed like a colossal waste of time. I then decided that the diary would be for super special events in my life and I put it away in a drawer.

Fast forward to 2004 and the advent of Facebook, the whole world’s diary – a place where people share the chores they accomplished that day, the fights they had with family and friends, the books they read and what score they received on the latest on-line game.

My yearning to share and write went beyond Facebook and I needed an outlet to share my thoughts, and so my blogs were born. In the beginning I decided that I had something to say and I wanted an outlet to say it and so I became the journalist I wanted to be. Although I am not paid by some famous newspaper to share my thoughts, I do write about those things that mean something to me; I write about the people I meet when I travel internationally or even just when tootling around town. I write about what it feels like to be part of the human race. Mostly I write about things that mean the most to me in no particular order and in no particular rank of importance.

Everyone needs a creative outlet I suppose. I just wish so much of what gets shared on some of these outlets was really worthy of my time. I am pretty selective in what I read and even more so on what I respond to, which is why I dumped Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr. I just figured that reading someone’s private diary is not what I should be spending my time on.

I wish there were a way – gently – to tell people that they do not need to share their private diary entries with the whole world. There is a reason a diary came with a lock and a key; some things should just remain private.

I do not know what happened to that first diary I received all those years ago. I do know I never filled its pages with my hopes, my dreams, or the places I hoped to travel to. My blogs are now my creative writing outlet and I try to remember that blog posts are not a dumping ground for what should be a diary entry. Besides, I’m sure they have a Facebook app for that.

Florence Lince

About.me/florencelince

 

An Expat Still Has The Right to Vote

I hope my blog story is not a surprise to the thousands of American’s living outside of the United States. Unless you have given up American citizenship you are still entitled to vote in every mid-term and Presidential election, even if you no longer live here full-time.

Mike and I haven’t been in the United States for the past three elections – be they mid-term or Presidential. That however has never stopped us from casting our vote. We were in the country of Panama in 2012 when we cast our vote in the Presidential election.

Many of the American embassies will forward your election ballet to the United States – free of charge. Each country has their own procedure for doing this and their own timeline but it is an option for expats. Allow at least three weeks lead time however for them to get your ballet on American soil before the deadline.

The last day to register to vote in these mid-term elections was October 6, 2014. Knowing this, one of the first things Mike and I did when we arrived back here in the US in July was to update our voter registration information so that we could vote in the mid-term elections.

Here are some helpful links in case you are an expat but you have never registered to vote:

Vote from Abroad.org

Democrats Abroad

Republicans Abroad

According to the Association of American Residents Overseas,

Many U.S. elections within the past ten years have been decided by a margin of victory of less than 0.1%.  All states are required to count every absentee ballot as long as it is valid and reaches local election officials by the absentee ballot receipt deadline which differs by state.

The right for US citizens who reside overseas to vote was not part of the election standards until 1986. That year the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) was put into law.

Seeing that someone went to all the trouble of giving me a law to use I think it only fair that I do so as much as possible.  I hope you will join me.

Florence Lince

About.me/florencelince

Will All The Real Bloggers Please Stand Up

Recently I interviewed for a writing job. What I heard them say during the interview process made me do a double think. Their stance was that bloggers, and blogs in general, were considered worthless poppycock because of the lack of journalist integrity shown by blog writers. Blogs, as far as they were concerned, were badly written, the bloggers did not have credible sources and no blogger did any research on their topic. They wrote just what they thought off the top of their heads. In essence, every blog on the internet was baseless as far as they were concerned.

Since I have three blogs I listened to all this hyperbole with my eyes wide open and my mouth firmly closed shut. If you know me at all this was a momentous occurrence.

Who on earth were they trying to sell this ridiculous notion too I wondered?

According to the latest statistical data, there are 172 million blogs on Tumblr and 75.8 million blogs on WordPress.  That’s a whole lot of nothing going on.

Now, I am aware that not every blog online is active. I have seen many of them in my searches on various topics and sadly I know the blog has been deserted. There are, however, plenty of blogs online to read on a variety of subject matters; travel, food and civil rights are among my top three.

Most people who are blogging that I have read are knowledgeable on their chosen topic, passionate about what they are doing and able and ready to write a blog to help others. I guess I don’t read the blogs they were referring too because none of the blogs I read fit the stereotype of the blogger that they opinioned.

Maybe I am just fussier than most. I don’t read every blog out there of course and over time some blogs are no longer relevant to me and I look for something else to read. I also have to be moved greatly to even post a response on a blog because some blogs are interesting but do not require my feedback. It also depends on the mood I’m in when I read them.

I know this company just wanted to make their job seem more than it was, but to disparage an entire enterprise with nonsense and downright lies made me wonder. If their objective of being a leader in the communication industry was so tenuous that they had to disparage bloggers in general, did I even want to work with them?

So, to all the blog writers and bloggers I read and follow, keep up the good work. Get your references annotated, make your links bold and bright and keep up the good fight. I’ll be reading.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

 

 

Nordic Heritage Day

Yesterday Mike and I attended the very first Nordic Heritage Day here in Olympia, WA. Mike and I love attending ethnic fairs and festivals and earlier in the week I had connected with the President of the local Sons of Norway chapter to learn more about this festival.

As is usually the case we met some awfully nice people who are very proud of their heritage and simply wish to share it with others. Mike and I are only too glad to learn more about other cultures and their way of life while we are here in the US and deciding on what countries to explore next.

Going to festivals and fairs is therefore research for when we grab our passports and head off again to live among and with the locals.

I therefore created the video, using original Norwegian music, to highlight some of the sights we saw yesterday at the very first Nordic Heritage Day.

Florence Lince
http://about.me/florencelince

Eat Your Veggie’s

As many of you know Mike and I visit Farmer’s Markets in every city that we have lived in and traveled too. Because the ‘famous’ farmer’s market here in Olympia has become a tourist trap and the prices are through the roof I have been hunting for an alternative farmers market. We are after all eating vegan which means we eat an awful lot of vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains.

My research led me to the Tumwater Town Center Farmers Market which we visited this past Wednesday.  The market was started in 2006 when the City of Tumwater met with a group of local farmers and farmers market advocates.  Their three main goals were to:

  • Create an open-air location for healthful shopping, workplace events and information-sharing for state, city and library employees.
  • Increase consumer access to fresh produce by being able to buy directly from local farmers.

And lastly to

  • Provide a public space for state employees and others to gather.

One of the unique features of this farmers market is the access to a community booth where local groups can display information of importance to the community as a whole, or to promote an event. This past Wednesday, September 3 Dahlia growers and enthusiasts were asked to enter their blooms into a contest to choose the best Dahlia. There was no cost to enter and the grand prize came from Barn Nursery.

Any public group, state or municipal agency or nonprofit organization may sponsor the community booth for a market day. The cost is $15. The booth may be used for outreach on topics of public interest or for public education on topics of concern to the community. The booth is not to be used for soliciting, political, or religious activities.

In addition to being a place where local farmers can sell their produce directly to the public they have hot food vendors, fresh cut flowers, and live entertainment. These are some of the upcoming special events being held at the market;

September 24 – Cider Day

October 8 – Harvest Festival

October 22 – Pumpkin Paloosa

Three of the market regulars also participate in the Community Supported Agriculture program. Often times called the CSA program consumers pay in advance for a variety of in-season produce which they pick up on a weekly or monthly basis. Costs vary according to the farm and what they grow. You can purchase a full or a half share. (To learn more about CSA programs click here. You can also search to see if this program is offered in your community.)

The three vendors whom you can arrange CSA’s with in Tumwater are;

8 Arms Community Bakery (baked goods) This could be dangerous!

Kirsop Farm (produce)

Stoney Plains Organic (produce)

The market has an active Facebook page.  If you live in the area Like it to get updated vendor information on the weeks market activities.

The Tumwater Town Center Farmers Market will conclude its 2014 offerings at the end of October. The market is located at the corner of Capitol Blvd. and Israel Road and is open every Wednesday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The market is also served by local transit which runs every 15 minutes during the day. They have a picnic area so that you can enjoy the live music and a hot lunch while shopping for your vegetables. Mike and I tried Lupe’s Tamales and you will learn more about Lupe in an upcoming post.

Because we did not get to this market sooner we missed out on the Kettle Corn vendor and some of the other fruit growers because their seasons are over. Perhaps next year…

 

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

An Expat In My Own Backyard

We have now been back in the US for two months. This is our first full month in the Olympia, WA area and only our second week in our apartment. We have transitioned pretty well to life here in the US and we now have a little bit of furniture to make our lives more comfy.

We have a bed, a dresser, a sofa and two chairs with an end table and a lamp. That’s it, and that’s how it will stay. It cost us a little over $1000 for all these pieces.

Our kitchen did much better because Mike and I both love to cook. Because we have transitioned to a much healthier lifestyle (Mike as a vegetarian and me a vegan) we splurged and bought a refurbished vitamix machine. We also bought a rice cooker / steamer and a coffee pot. Where we really splurged was in getting a large stock pot so that I could make large pots of soups and spaghetti sauce. Our freezer is already bursting with frozen veggie soup and sauce.

Mike and I are however walking around still looking shell shocked over the high cost of food, utilities, and in general just everyday items. We realize more than ever that we had it really good while living in Panama, Mexico, Croatia and even Spain. The cost of food was not nearly as high as it is here and we always had fresh produce. It is hard to reconcile paying the higher costs with being here. Why does it have to cost so much more to live here in the US?

Why is our rent so high ($775 a month) and we are still paying for the utilities?

Why is the cost of food so much higher here? At the local farmers market a pound of apples is $2.79 a pound. I mean these apples are not being imported they are being grown here so why is the cost so high?

What on earth is the reason that taxes on a utility bill such as our internet and phone service are $20 a month? The TAXES are $20 a month. The bill for service is already almost $70. Who else feels like they are being ripped off and why can’t we make it stop? While living outside of the US internet was $20 a month and phone cards were $5 for about 60 minutes of talking time. There is no rational explanation why these costs are so high.

I find it funny that so many people talk about moving to the US because it’s the land of opportunity. What we honestly have that other countries do not have is the luxury of having electricity or gas. We also have a wealth of options when it comes to grocery shopping since all of our stores look like big box stores. What all these people coming into the US do not realize is that they honestly have it really good in their own countries. They have fresh fruit and vegetable markets, they have a fresh bread bakery in every neighborhood, they have smaller options and selections in their much smaller mom and pop grocery stores but they have everything they need. Less is more. Really!

I guess once an expat, always an expat. I’ll think of my time living back here in the US as just another stop on our travel adventure. I’m already looking forward to living someplace where the costs for everything aren’t so high. We are after all paying for all these freedoms we have here.

But $20 in taxes on landlines and internet every month? The old saying is that you can’t go home again. They are right, especially once you learn that living at home is a rip off.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

 You might also enjoy Mike’s post – The Fleecing of America.

The City of Murals

Having traveled to four continents and over 28 countries thus far I have to say I don’t think I have ever lived in a city with more murals than can be found here in Olympia, Washington.

A mural is defined as any piece of artwork painted or applied directly on a wall, ceiling or other large permanent surface. It is most common in a mural for the architectural elements of the given space to be harmoniously incorporated into the picture.

Olympia is home to the world’s largest solidarity mural. This 4000 square foot mural begins with a giant olive tree with branches and leaves. These leaves are called talking leaves with each one representing an organization from around the world which represents solidarity, activism or community service. The mural was erected in honor of Rachel Corrie who was born here in Olympia but killed in Gaza. The artists who participated in creating this mural were local, national and international artists and activists.

This mural is 4000 square feet.  It is the largest solidarity mural in the world.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mural is 4000 square feet. It is the largest solidarity mural in the world. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It was created in memory of Rachel Corre who was born in Olympia but died in Gaza.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

It was created in memory of Rachel Corrie who was born in Olympia but died in Gaza. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This website, for the Olympia Rafah Solidarity Mural Project, has a wonderful interactive aspect which tells you which organization painted and supported the mural ‘leaves’.  It will also allow you to see the leaves close-up.  Rachel Corrie was a young activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer while defending the home of a Palestinian family in Gaza. The mural is located on the corner of State Street and Capital Way.

Not all murals are political in nature.  This one is for a local Italian restaurant - called, you guessed it, Trinacria.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Not all murals are political in nature. This one is for a local Italian restaurant – called, you guessed it, Trinacria. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Trinacria is a Sicilian restaurant located on Capital Way.  It is open only for dinner and doors open at 5:00pm. I can personally attest to the fact that the cannoli’s are made fresh when ordered and the owner, who is from Sicily, uses good rigotta cheese.

This mural is located near a local Thai restaurant.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mural is located near a local Thai restaurant. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In almost every alley in between buildings you can find a mural.  They are literally everywhere in this city.  You just need to keep your eyes peeled.  This one is located near a local Thai restaurant.

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Some murals are two murals in one. This building is so large they put first one mural here and then used the second half of the building for the other. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of the other famous murals in Olympia.  This one is found on the side of The Old School Pizzeria.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

One of the other famous murals in Olympia. This one is found on the side of The Old School Pizzeria. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mural depicting all of the Marvel Comic Book Hero’s was copied from a 300 piece puzzle entitled the Marvel Super Heroes Fantasy Jigsaw Puzzle.  Can you name all the super hero’s?

Some art is frustration art.  It can be beautiful however.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Some art is frustration art. It can be beautiful however. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This mural is located on the same stone wall as the mural for Trinacria.

Participating in the painting of murals is a big deal here in Olympia.  This past August 24th was the 4th Annual Community Mural Painting Project.  Residents and painting enthusiasts meet and help to paint a new mural every year.  This year the mural was located at the Olympia Little Theater.  I will have to make it over to the site to take photos of the finished project and I’ll share them in an upcoming post.

I could not find a website to tell me how many murals there are in Olympia.  As I see and find more I will record them in snapshots and then share them from time to time.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

Are You A Copycat?

I take and use my own pictures on all three of my blogs. I have tried to stress the importance to my husband as to why we should not use photos found either on the web or from any of those supposedly free to use photo sites on our website or blogs. Recently a forum issue came to light on a travel site that I monitor and I thought I would share it here.

A long-standing travel agency contracted with a social media company to create their media presence (Facebook company page; website, etc.) back in 2011. This social media company went to the internet and without thinking downloaded photos that they found on a photo sharing site believing that any photo on the internet is free to use.

In May of this year the travel agency received a letter from a lawyer telling them that they were being sued by the original photographer for $25,000 for each picture they had pirated. This was not a joke. This was a real legal firm and the legal action is valid.

The travel agency owner proceeded to call a copyright attorney to get clarification. What he learned was a real shocker and an eye opener. It seems that a large number of artists (both photographers and drawing) and some unscrupulous law firms have created a whole new industry and the almost perfect scam with copyright laws.  The legal firm the travel agency contacted (Quarels and Brady) told them that this particular photographer has sued various people over 23 times for copyright violations in using his pictures which they downloaded from one of those free sites. The issue, the artist is claiming, is that he suffered a financial loss from people who download his photos but do not purchase them and your company benefited from using his photos (most of the people being sued are business owners), and they have you.

As you read this you might be thinking that you must be safe because you posted someone else’s photo two years ago and no one reads that post any more? Statute of limitations on suing someone for copyright infringement is three years. What these artists are doing is allowing people to download their photos from these sites, they wait for about 2 – 2 1/2 years and then they sue the person using the photo.  One of the ways they do this is they put their copyrighted pictures on free wall paper sites and people will download them to their computer and then use the picture on their website or Facebook, thus violating copyright laws and here comes the lawsuits. The key here is that the artist holds the copyright on the photos. He is downloading them so that you can see them, not to use them. That is the largest key factor here.

According to the legal firm of Quarels and Brady it is the perfect scam because there is absolutely no risk to the artist and the law firms that are involved in these scams take these cases from artists on a contingency basis so the only cost to the artist is the $300 lawsuit filing fee.

Those unsuspecting folks who download these photos and who are getting these letters demanding payment in the mail are suspicious when it does not come certified but regular mail. The agency owner was told that these law firms are doing mass mailings of these lawsuits so they are trying to keep costs down.  Their theory is they send out 500 of these lawsuit threats and they will collect on about 150 of them with just the letter but it is enough for them to make money on this. The travel agent who was being sued is still negotiating and the photo in question he had on Facebook he has since taken it down and every other photo he did not take personally has been removed from all of his social media. The other thing the agency owner was told was that by law we are responsible for any photo someone else posts to our Facebook page because you, as the owner of that page, are the one that is liable.

You are now wondering how the photographer found out that someone downloaded his photo, right? According to the research done by Quarel’s and Brady the artists have created web crawler alerts so that every time someone uploads their photo they receive a notification which they tuck away for future reference. There are hundreds of artists doing this because they have found an easy way to make money.

Bottom line, to be completely free of this, make sure you know the owner and where any picture came from that is placed on your website or on your business Facebook page. Or better yet, don’t use anyone’s photos but your own and copyright your photos when you put them on your website or blog.

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

 

Hey America, What’s Your Hurry?

Three years ago Mike and I embarked on our travel adventure. We left the US with two suitcases each and a camera to take pictures of the places we traveled too. We also took our American mindset with us.

Where this mindset really got an awakening was in every café and restaurant we visited on every other continent and in countries around the world. When we first began to travel we would sit down in a restaurant and huff if we didn’t get our menu and our water within two minutes. We would wonder if the waiter was on strike if they didn’t return to take our order in five minutes and heaven forbid if the food wasn’t served within 15 minutes we wondered if they forgot about us all together.

Then life and living outside of the US took hold. We learned to enjoy our time out and we learned that other cultures actually spend more time socializing with each other than stressing about making the next big meeting or being somewhere on time. Other people in other cultures actually learn more about each other and communicate with each other without using text messaging and email because they sit and talk to one another face to face over a cup of coffee or a meal.

These are the times I will remember most, good times with family.  How about you?  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

These are the times I will remember most, good times with family. How about you? © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

We also learned that no restaurant would hurry us or expect us to pay within an hour’s time of sitting down. Most cultures would wonder what our hurry was if we asked for the check within a two hour time frame. In some countries we literally had to beg to get the check so that we could be on our way. We learned in all these other countries to relax and enjoy our food, our surroundings and the company of those with us.

Recently, after returning to the US, I made lunch dates with several people I hadn’t seen in a very long time so that we could sit, chat and catch up. I chose the restaurant and we proceeded to talk, for 3 hours. Because of our recent travel lifestyle I was so comfortable in being in a restaurant for hours on end that I had forgotten that in the US people expect us to eat and be gone within an hour of entering their establishment. It was after we had been chatting for an hour and a half that I realized that the waitress was coming by more often to see if we needed anything and she would take away an item or two. Around two hours in she stopped bringing us water to drink thinking that perhaps if our throats were dry we might just go away. It was around 2.5 hours in that I realized that all the tables in the place had been full, then emptied and then full again but never once was there anyone standing around waiting for a table. At 3 hours we got up to leave and the place was mostly empty. The waitress didn’t even say goodbye.

Having lunch with one of my favorite people, my cousin Phil.  My living harder idea has already begun.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Having lunch with one of my favorite people, my cousin Phil. We talked for 3 hours. We had many new memories to share with one another. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Years and years ago in my family Sunday was family day. We would visit with family and be together all day eating and talking and playing games. I still remember those days fondly and I’m glad we did them. What other cultures have that many Americans have lost is the art and mindset that sitting and chatting with other people on a daily basis is more important than making a fortune for your employer or that rushing to get things done is productive and worthwhile.

In Croatia they say that work is something you do in between drinking coffee.  They have the right idea.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

In Croatia they say that work is something you do in between drinking coffee. They have the right idea. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

I have to wonder that at the end of our life are we going to recount how fast we ran our errands and how quickly we did all our chores so we could make the next big meeting or make a deadline? Or will we think back to the good times we had with family and friends? Will we remember the picnics and the dinner parties and the birthday’s we went too and the sound of a child’s laugh?

As I said I will also love harder.  We were out to dinner last night with my brother Paul and his family.  This is my niece Natalia.  Spending quality time with her means more to me than just about anything.  © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

This is my niece Natalia. Spending quality time with her means more to me than just about anything. © Photo by Florence Ricchiazzi Lince

Yes traveling and living in others countries is something that I won’t soon forget. I also won’t forget that taking the time to eat and socialize with others is just as important as working. I won’t be in a hurry to leave a restaurant when I’m bonding with the person I’m with because that relationship I’m building means more than speeding to get to my next appointment. In our short time living outside the US and learning how other cultures live I have to wonder, America, what’s our hurry?

 

Florence Lince

http://about.me/florencelince

The “In’s and Out’s” of Spain

I love decorated doorways, courtyards and windows.  For some reason I tend to take a lot of pictures of these things.   In the country of Spain I had a wealth of them to choose from.  In every city we toured and in every region of Spain everyone seemed to like flowers in their window boxes and doorways or entrance courtyards with intricate carvings or decorations.  My last video on Spain is therefore a retrospective of the many decorated windows and intricate doorways and entranceways I found during our time there.

Mostly what I wanted was to create something using music with a Spanish guitar as the main instrument.  While Flamenco may by the most famous dance associated with Spain to me it is the playing of a Spanish guitar that invokes movement and rhythm and that which sets my heart racing.  The song Pure Paradise performed by Armik therefore does this slide show justice.  Enjoy.

Florence Lince

about.me/florencelince