Dreams do come true


Vietnamese woman-johatcherretreats

Don’t ever give up on your dreams.  Sometimes they come true when you’re not even thinking about them.

Years ago, I was visiting a winery in Napa Valley. In the showroom there was a photographic exhibit of women in India. As I stood in front of each picture, I felt touched and mesmerized by the faces I saw in the photographs.

I wanted to know more about the women and about the photographer who took the photos.  I felt moved and inspired. The colors caught my eye first. The rich intense colors seemed to match the beauty of the women.

I decided then and there that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to make photographs of women around the world.

Immediately the inner critical voices said to me. Jo, you know that’s impossible.  How in the world would you do that?  How could you have the money or the expertise to photograph women in another country?

That was 5 years ago.

As many of you know, I was recently in Vietnam. When I returned home and looked through my photos, I had the most incredible aha moment.

There they were…the Flower Hmong women at the weekly market.  Their ruddy faces, worn by the sun…staring back at me from my computer.  There in front of me were women dressed in colorful hand sewn outfits.

Flower Hmong woman-johatcherretreatsThese women touched me. I was unable to communicate with them except for when I took their picture, I showed them the digital photo I had just taken and received beautiful smiles back.     [Read more…]

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Traveling with the Women of Vietnam

Traveling can teach you many things. My recent visit to Vietnam provided me with new insight about the lives of women in the Sapa Valley region, their ability to live close to the land in very difficult situations and what we can learn from these strong women. Vietnam Rice field waterfalls-johatcherretreats.comAs with so many places when we travel as tourists, we get a mere glimpse into other people’s lives. I don’t pretend to know much at all after a few days journey into a small region of Viet Nam.

Yet the experience made me pause and think about how we live our lives. These women live so differently than me and yet I felt a sense of connection with them and their lifestyle.

I’m always interested in the women. Women of Vietnam [Read more…]

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Things Grandmothers Teach

What I want my granddaughters to know

I am blessed with having two precious granddaughters and a third granddaughter who will be making her debut into the world any day now. There are so many things I want them to know.

Granddaughters and grandmothers have a very special relationship. And wisdom is part of the experience.

I loved my grandmothers. They were both so different, one was a girly type of grandmother and would let my sister and I do her makeup by dabbing rouge on her cheeks, lining her lips with red lipstick and sitting patiently while we combed her hair. 

She had little tea parties for us using her best china. She would serve us saltine crackers spread with butter and cinnamon sprinkled on top.  She played the piano while we danced. Mother Maie taught me about having fun. 

My maternal grandmother was a farmer’s wife.  She was a very busy woman who was always doing things for other people. [Read more…]

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Surviving a Cyclone

“Before you know what kindness really is you must lose things, feel the future dissolve in a moment like salt in a weakened broth.”

                                     from the poem “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye

As I write this, I am waiting to hear that my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter are alive and safe. They have been smack dab in the middle of a Category 5 cyclone.  There is no power, phones or internet as the ferocious Cyclone Pam has ravaged her way through this South Pacific island nation.

Besides the worry for my own family, I am worried about the local Ni-Vanuatu people who have houses made of corrugated tin roofs.  They place rocks on top of the roofs to hold them down during high winds. With this magnitude of a storm, that’s like putting a pin on a stack of papers hoping the papers won’t blow away.

I remember my first real cyclone.  And cyclones, by the way are the same as typhoons or hurricanes.  Depends on what part of the world you reside in.  All are ferocious and many times catastrophic, like this one.   [Read more…]

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When the Unexpected happens…What I learned

A conversation to have with yourself when the worst is over

Here’s part 2 of the story I wrote last week about our scary volcano trip.  If you missed the first part, you can read it here.  And stay tuned for the end to know the real learnings in this adventure.  

I left off when we looked in the back of the truck and it was completely empty.

Where was my backpack?  My purse?  Did they unpack it with the other guests at the last hotel?  For a fleeting moment, I thought, you know, we’ll get our stuff back.  It will just be inconvenient.  I’ll have to just suck it up and sleep in my clothes tonight. 

The driver said he would bring us our bags the next day.  Before we left for the airport. 

Right.  I believed him.  What else to do at this point?

There was no one at the hotel which was dark and locked up tightly.  The owner had apparently given up on us as we were the only guests that night and he’d gone home.   

Hidden Pleasures Resort near the volcano

Our hotel which was locked up tight

Once again, adventure. Boiling pots.

We just wanted to get back to the airport for the flight back the next day.  Please.  I just wanted to see my granddaughters again. 

The three men searched in darkness, to see if they could find someone to let us in our room.  Oddly, they found a set of keys on a ledge somewhere & opened up one of the rooms for us.  So bizarre but welcome.

That night lying in bed, staring at the ceiling of the tiny thatched roof, under the mosquito net that draped around us,  my husband and I wondered, well, who knows we’re here?  Will someone come to take us to the airport? 

We had no food, no water, just ourselves.  We fell into an exhausted but fitful sleep while we waited until daylight. 

[Read more…]

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