Libya – A Total Eclipse – An Intergenerational Travel Adventure

With Libya in the news again I’ve been thinking about my trip there in 2006 and how my experience was enhanced by the kindness of ordinary people. Maybe I got special treatment — my travel buddy was my 9-year-old grandson and I’ll go on record to say that there could not be a better duo! A grandma and a cute kid will open doors the world over.

I’m a solar observer and the golden grail is a total solar eclipse. The eclipse of March 29th 2006 path of Totality covered a swath of the North Africa, and Libya was forecast to get around four minutes of totality. Hog heaven.

I signed up for an eclipse tour sponsored by Sky and Telescope Magazine but when I saw the singles supplement cost I had second thoughts; in casual after dinner talk with my daughter and son-in-law I broached the possibility of taking Ben. Their response was a heartening “we trust you and what an awesome experience for him”. It was an awesome experience for both of us.

Ben and I flew out Tucson to Heathrow via BA (direct overnight flight) and despite ample time to make our connecting flight to Milan, horrendous lines at Terminal 4 security meant we missed the connection and did not arrive in Milan until 10 p.m. Six weeks ago, another negative experience at Heathrow served to reaffirm my resolve to avoid Heathrow if at all possible. A hair-raising taxi ride to our hotel — our driver seemed intent on overtaking anything that moved. Always ask an Italian taxi driver to show you his tariff card prior to getting in the cab and avoid surprises at the end of the ride. Set routes such as airports to hotels have a government approved and enforced tariff.

I’d promised Ben that his first night in Italy he could eat pasta and gelato! He held me to that so midnight found us sitting at sidewalk cafe, the Duomo in clear view and this child chowing down on a massive plate of pasta and sausage. He took his gelato to go and we strolled the Duomo Plaza much like seasoned Italians. What fun.

We had to get to Genoa by 4:00p.m. where we were to meet up with our group and the Italian Cruise ship. A quick Internet search in the hotel lobby and I figured the 2:00p.m train would be perfect timing. Italian trains can be a great bargain. Think of all the possible discounts (group, mid day travel) and ask! For Ben and I it was a senior fare and a child fare. Not offered at the ticket window but once I asked, no problem and the discount was around 35% over regular fare. We spent the morning in Milan visiting the Ferrari shop — kid friendly and what boy hasn’t heard of a Ferrari. The salesman was taken by Ben’s enthusiasm and gave him a baseball cap with the Ferrari logo – I didn’t even get a sales pitch. We took the elevator to the roof of the Duomo – he loved it, I hate heights! The views from the rooftops out over Milan were worth conquering my fear for. And of course there was more gelato to sample when we got down.

The train station was replete with it’s own traps. Beware of strangers who approach you, ask if you need help. Tell this seemingly kind stranger what train you are looking for and he’ll grab your suitcase, urge you to run because the train is leaving and then hold your luggage up for ransom when you board the train. I described this experience later to others and found I was not alone. I stood my ground with one of these unauthorized porters and refused the 10 Euros he demanded. The man was increasingly aggressive, blocking my way and refusing to give me the suitcase. My Italian is limited but the few phrases I used calling for help attracted the attention of a policeman and as he approached, the “kind man” took off. As Ben put it, “wrong grandma to pick a fight with”. I’m not so sure, I think without the police intervention I may well have lost my bag. No such thing as trolleys and Skycaps at Italian train stations and there are always steps. Travel light is the order of the day.

Our first port was Naples and we visited Pompeii — what fun for a child. Stray cats and ash entombed mummies were a hit. It was a bit of a zoo — hoards of tour groups shuffling after guides. We broke ranks and used our own guide book to visit areas that I thought would be of greater interest to Ben and it got us out of the shuffle-along line. Naturally the tour ended with a gelato for him courtesy of a charming, older man who complimented me on my “beautiful child”. A little bit of flattery warms a grandma’s heart but I did decline his offer of a tour of Naples!

Next stop was Sicily and we took a bus to Taormina to visit the Roman amphitheater. Spectacular. And then the excitement built during two days at sea. Our liner was one of the first tour ships in some time to dock in Tobruk and we watched with great delight the exchange of bouquets between our portly captain and welcoming dignitaries. Prior to the trip, there had been a lack of clarity about visas and cost involved but on the day that we were to embark for the eclipse site, the Libyan authorities waived surcharges and without exception treated us as treasured guests. We went by bus about two hours into the desert to the eclipse site and found a tent city in place. Vendors of food and drink, bands, boy scout groups performing traditional dances, drummers and of course camels. It was a joyful and colorful scene.

Silence and a stilling of the air enveloped the camp as first contact with the Sun approached, followed by murmurs of delight as the cloudless sky afforded flawless views of the encroaching moon shadow, and then a universal gasp followed by a hush as Totality descended. It was an eerie, rippling light that engulfed us; the temperature drop during Totality was significant; the Shadow Bands were prolonged and obvious on the flat sand. I heard Ben’s voice shouting “diamond ring, see the diamond ring”. As the shadow moved off and the sun reappeared excitement took over and “Awesome” “Amazing” rang out in many languages. It was my first total eclipse that hadn’t been obscured by cloud. I turned to see Ben being interviewed by a Libyan TV crew. He told them that his grandma had made all the gold colored telescopes. They turned and looked at me in my wrinkled linen and obviously thought the child was delusional because they made no effort to interview me! Once again I was playing second fiddle to my grandson. I was told, confess to not seeing this, that most of the Libyans at the camp averted their eyes and knelt in prayer as we approached Totality, that there is a long tradition in the Muslim faith of praying during an eclipse.

Ali Shuffle Jump Rope Exercise – Cheapest Way to Lose Weight

The Ali Shuffle jump rope exercise and other Ali Shuffle exercises are basically known as washing machine exercises. Most have proven to be great training exercises that help in toning muscles along the hips and waist and are known to augment an athlete’s flexibleness and efficiency. Doing the Ali Shuffle washing machine exercises is one of the most inexpensive methods to lose weight while keeping your body fit.

Whether you’re simply doing the jumping rope or the Ali Shuffle jump rope exercise you are still getting the complete benefits it offers. One thing great about doing this exercise is it is fun to do and enjoyable. You can do it anywhere since you can bring your skipping rope with you anytime even during your travels. Most people have skipped the rope some time during their childhood and engaging on it now to keep fit, you will discover how beneficial it is to your cardiovascular system. Unlike when you were a child its main purpose is the fun of playing it with schoolmates and friends.

Aside from the cardiovascular benefits it offers, the Ali Shuffle jump rope exercises help improve your balance, flexibility, coordination, speed, lateral movements and timing. Performing a 15 to 20 minutes will provide you a whole body workout. Although, it does not develop your muscle size but it will surely increase your muscle efficiency. This is the main reason most coaches in sports use it to complement their athlete trainees’ strength and weight training exercises. Haven’t you noticed, most athletes have been using this type of workout as part of their daily training exercises particularly boxers. Full body fitness and coordination is what skipping rope has to offer and no other exercise had come to rival this. Basically, the washing machine exercises is focused on working out the legs but it also tones the chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps and forearms. Simply put it is an excellent exercise in improving lean muscles.

The great thing about the exercise is that it cost less than most of the exercises being introduced in the market. A single piece of jumping rope can only cost you between $3 -$10. Being a do it anywhere exercise it does not require a big space. In fact, you can do it in a space as small as a prison cell. Learning how to skip rope is far easier as well compared to all other exercises you’ve seen in working out your whole body.

Now, if you don’t have any experience doing the jumping rope it is advisable to start slowly and do not exhaust yourself until you reach the point that you cannot hardly walk. 100 repetitions a day is enough as a start until your body adjust to it. Then you can start increasing the number of repetitions per day. Even if the exercise is very easy and starting slowly to gain the most out of it is the best way to do it. Yes, you may feel you can go for more but you need to take it easy and be patient until you gain momentum doing it every day.

Whether you are trying to lose weight or whatever goals you have, the question is are you ready to do the Ali Shuffle jump rope exercise? If not, why don’t you grab your rope now and have a great jump and jumpstart your whole body fitness workout.

The Top 10 Must-Have iPod Apps For Travelers and Expats

We all know that having the right tools is critical for success in any endeavor. When you travel or live overseas though, having the right tools becomes essential to completing your daily tasks. While you may be familiar with more traditional resources like guide books and maps, today I’d like to educate you on how to leverage up-and-coming technology to smooth out those rough points in your overseas adventures.

The technology that I’m referencing is Apple’s iPod applications (apps) for the iPhone and iPod Touch. These revolutionary tools can do it all if you know how to make proper use of them. But with thousand of applications available to download, the task of finding the right apps can be daunting. That’s why I’ve spent the time and energy researching them all and have consolidated my recommendations into a Top 10 list of Essential Apps for any traveler. Before we start though, a little background on iTunes for those who are not familiar.

Background on iTunes Apps

The applications referenced can be uploaded to any iPod Touch or iPhone. Traditional iPods like the Basic, Nano or Shuffle do not use applications unfortunately. All applications can be downloaded from the iTunes store. iTunes must be installed on your desktop to download the applications. Apps typically range in price from FREE to $4.99, although there are a few I will be suggesting that go as high as $14.99. All transactions are processed via credit card through iTunes and delivered instantly.

The Top 10 List of Essential Apps for Travelers

1. iMetro- $1.99 to upload. This App provides metro maps for 28 cities around the world, ensuring that you don’t need to waste your precious money on taxi fares. The metro maps are scalable, so you can zoom in or out to find your way. There are quite a few metro apps out there, but I like this one best because of the large number of maps that you get for the low cost. Another bonus: The price just fell from $4.99 to $1.99 in June!

2. Sit or Squat- FREE. This user-maintained database identifies free toilets that you can use around the world. To date, over 65,000 toilets have been identified by users. All you need to do is enter the nearest address, city, zip code or intersection and it will pull up a list of the nearest toilets. Note: Please make sure and check out the great reviews and comments for each toilet!

3. Gate Maps- $.99 to upload. This app provides airport terminal layouts for over 30 International Airports. It is an application that runs offline, which means there won’t be any charges for uploading data overseas. Savvy travelers know to check the map of their arrival airport in-flight so that they can speed off to their destination upon landing! There’s nothing better than knowing where you’re going in advance, huh?!

4. Flight Track Pro- $9.99 to upload. This Application integrates with TripIt, saving your flight itineraries to the app. Flight Track Pro then keeps you up-to-date on delays, gate changes, cancellations and more. The offline mode allows you to check your most recent flight details without the use of wifi. A bit spendy for an app, but just think of the headaches it could save you! Well worth it, in my book…

5. Packing Pro- $3.99 to upload. This handy packing check-list will make sure that you don’t end up in the Caribbean without a swimsuit! Create your own list from scratch or work from one of several custom templates.

6. Spend- $.99 to upload. Love, love, love this app! It absolutely solves the problem of how to keep track of all the daily cash transactions that occur on vacation or in everyday life overseas. Now you have a top-notch tool not only for accounting but for budgeting as well!

7. WifiTrak- $.99 to upload. This handy app locates free wifi signals nearby. Perfect for the traveler on the move!

8. HiConverter- $.99 to upload. This fantastic conversion tool incorporates all the usual bells and whistles such as temperature, currency exchange rates, distance, etc. It also includes the features of the popular App Tipulater which allows you to calculate the tip on a bill. Oh wait, did I mention that it also includes a few surprises like Clothing and Shoe size conversions? Pretty great, huh?!

9. Lingolook Flashcards- $4.99 to upload. These fabulous flashcards list 500 translations of the most common words travelers need to know to get around, all in an easy-to-use flashcard format (100 actual cards). Bonus: 300 of the translations come with an audio clip from a native speaker to help you perfect the pronunciation! The cards are available in 7 languages: Spanish, Italian, French, Japanese, Chinese, Hindi and German. The hands-down best part of this app is that it lives in the phone and requires no data transmissions overseas (saving you BIG MONEY)!

10. Lonely Planet City Guides- $14.99 to upload. Just in case you don’t feel like lugging the big guide book anymore, feel free to download a Lonely Planet CityGuide instead! For $14.99 you can access 1 of 20 major cities. Designed as a stand-alone application, this program does not require a data download, saving you roaming charges. It is GPS-enabled though so you can find your location on the application’s city maps. Amazing what innovation can do, huh?