By Jessica Voigts
Book: How to Make an African Quilt: The Story of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali by Bonnie Lee Black
Mali is the 5th poorest country in the world (UN Human Development Index), and has one of the world’s lowest literacy rates.
This year’s Passports with Purpose project is to raise $115,00 for buildOn to construct three schools and fund three adult literacy programs in southern Mali. Steadfast in their commitment to break the cycle of poverty and illiteracy in Mali, buildOn has sustained their school construction program in the country amidst the current civil unrest north of the capital.
Passports with Purpose is an annual event; a fundraiser by travel bloggers to help communities in need. Created in 2008, it has changed lives around the world, by building wells in Haiti with water.org, libraries in Zambia with Room to Read, houses for families in India with Land for Tillers Freedom, a school in rural Cambodia with American Assistance for Cambodia, and donations to Heifer International.
But Mali is so far away, one might note. How can we get involved? Here’s a personal story, of living in Mali and helping others. It’s an inspiration to get involved, to support Passports with Purpose and other philanthropic organizations working in Mali…
It’s one of THOSE books. You tear through it, unable to put it down. Read while cooking, eating, even postponing sleep until you just can’t keep your eyes open any more. I’m very happy to share my latest read, one of THOSE books. Yes, it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year. Written by Bonnie Lee Black, How to Make an African Quilt: The Story of the Patchwork Project of Segou, Mali is an incredible read.
A former Peace Corps volunteer, Bonnie headed to Mali and changed lives (her own, included). If you’ve ever wondered if your NGO or Peace Corps or volunteer work has made a difference, this is a book to dive into and savor. For you will recognize many common truths about working overseas – the joys and challenges, the amazing people, the interest and hard work of some to better their lives, and the powerful role that educators play in this transformation.
In this book, Bonnie shares the inspiration and tracks the progress of an unusual project to help people help themselves. After working with the Peace Corps in Gabon, she headed to Mali to build a welcoming home, peaceful garden, wondrous community. She worked with young girls to teach them how to crochet plastic bags into something useful, in a class that taught hard work, crafting, and ways to make money from their work.
These Malian women’s new skills can – and will – make a difference in their lives. It’s the power of education to better lives; it’s the vision, strength, and hard work of one woman to implement change and empowerment. I can honestly say that Bonnie Lee Black is a hero – in more than one sense of the word. She knows her SELF. She works tirelessly to educate and assist others, all with a sense of humor and grace. And yes, she changes lives. As you can surmise, I highly recommend this book – it’s a treasure.
Read more about Bonnie Lee Black and her Mali project at Wandering Educators.
Don’t forget to check out the page where you can contribute $10 to build schools in Mali and get a chance on a fabulous prize at Passports With Purpose.
Note: The book covers are linked to Amazon.com. A Traveler’s Library is an affiliate of Amazon, and during the holidays, when you are shopping on line, we appreciate your going to Amazon through our links. It costs you no more, but it helps us pay the rent on this space.
In 2013, with your help, Passports with Purpose will raise $115,000 for the organization buildOn to construct three schools and fund three adult literacy programs in the Sikasso region of southern Mali, Africa. And they’ll do it $10 at a time. Act before December 9!!
According to psychological studies, people have differing thresholds for the amount of money they will spend on impulse. Where do they stop and think before spending? I don’t know about you, but for me $10 is about the threshold between impulse buying and think-first spending.
Should I buy that new book about Provence in 1970, when chance brought together three food writers who changed the face of American cooking? I could get a Kindle edition of Provence, 1970: M.F.K. Fisher, Julia Child, James Beard, and the Reinvention of American Taste for $10.65.
Should I get the current release (FINALLY in English!) of Jo Nesbo’s 2nd Harry Hole novel, titled, enticingly,Cockroaches? It’s $9.46 at Amazon, with free shipping for Prime customers.
Should I look at what Amazon has on their Black Friday Deals Week?
Or should I put that $10, and any other $10s that come my way toward winning some fantastic travel ,while at the same time helping build a school and literacy programs in Mali. Did you say LITERACY? Well, that decides it. Passports with Purpose gets my tenners.
I have been participating in Passports with Purpose for five years now. And it always excites me. This year is no exception.
Since I loved my visit to Cambodia, I was particularly interested in building schools for Cambodia, and in 2009 Passports with Purpose raised double their goal of $14,000 to build a school and provide water and gardens for a village in Cambodia with American Assistance for Cambodia. Each year more people have heard about and joined with Passports with Purpose. Ten dollars at a time.
This year’s modest goal is $115,000 to build a school and provide literacy programs for one of the poorest countries in the world, Mali. You can help get to that goal with your $10 contribution which gives you a chance at some fantastic travel prizes.
Travel bloggers have gone out of their way to contact people in the travel industry and round up the most desirable prizes. Here are just a few examples from my friends who have written for A Traveler’s Library in the past.
- My friend, Susan Lanier-Graham at Wander with Wonder has teamed up with the Fairmont Princess in Scottsdale to offer a package worth $900. Read all about the Fairmont Princess Passports with Purpose prize at her site.
- Mara Gorman, who writes about family travel at Mother of All Travels, shares her love of skiing with this incredible ski pass worth $700. And it can be used at ski resorts in the U.S. or other countries. Check out the Passports with Purpose prize ski pass.
- Another friend, Donna Hull, teamed with Pan Pacific Hotels in Seattle to sponsor a two-night stay worth $1480. She tells you all about this Passports with Purpose prize at My Itchy Travel Feet.
The prizes range wider than hotels and tours, too. Clothing, other travel gear, electronics–just about something for everyone. See the entire Passports with Purpose prize catalog here. Just $10 at a time.
You may win a prize, but the REAL winners are the children in Mali who will have a school to attend. And the adults who will be able to learn to read.
These Major sponsors deserve your thanks, too. Please patronize them and tell them you appreciate their sponsorship of Passports with Purpose.
Expedia (platinum sponsor)
Book: Capital Punishment, by Robert Wilson. 2013
Watch out London! Robert Wilson has unloosed his awesome research to uncover the deepest, darkest vilest secrets of your grand city. In Capital Punishment, a London thriller, his new hero, Charles Boxer, freelances for a firm that specializes in negotiating with kidnappers. The trail of the current case leads to India and Pakistan as he tracks down the missing daughter of an Indian film star/entrepreneur/investor with some shady connections.
Like Wilson’s other books– set in Portugal and Madrid, Spain (Reviewed here: A Small Death in Lisbon; The Hidden Assassins 2006; The Blind Man of Seville, 2003) the complications are Byzantine in their twists and turns. The number of characters can be staggering.
I have to agree with a reviewer on Amazon who complained that in the middle of Capital Punishment, a bunch of new characters drop in out of seeming nowhere. In the last third of the book, Wilson does a good job of keeping the reader up to speed on who’s who, so stick with him through the slightly baffling middle third, and you’ll find that the seemingly random assortment of players in the London thriller makes sense.
I think the complexity of Wilson’s novels focuses the reader’s attention on the fact that it isn’t just our everyday world that has become more complex and influenced by international forces–but the darker world of crime as well.
While “whodunit” definitely keeps the plot moving here, the underlying question of motivation provides the deeper meaning to the book. Is it terrorism? Is it personal revenge against an amoral, if not immoral, businessman? Is it love? Is it the conflict between India and Pakistan? Is it a struggle for International power between rival gangs of thugs? Even a London thriller may be motivated by forces far away.
Wilson was a finalist for the Steel Dagger award for thrillers for Capital Punishment, but didn’t win. He had previously won the Golden Dagger for A Small Death in Lisbon. Who knows what the judges are looking for? I certainly don’t. I can only tell you what is similar and what is different about Capital Punishment compared to other Wilson books.
Wilson once again anchors his story in a very specific location, which he has said is very important to him. In an e-mail discussing his Spain books, he told me, “It is only by seeing a place and feeling its atmosphere and breathing its air and smells and watching its people that a novel starts to germinate in my mind.” However, instead of sticking with London, this story wanders into India and Pakistan. Since those locations are, as it were, supporting players, we don’t get as detailed a picture of them. And while we get lots of names of neighborhoods and streets and bus lines in Capital Punishment, I didn’t feel immersed in the culture as I was when I read his novels set in Spain and Portugal.
Unlike his other books, that segue between two very separate time periods, this book is more linear in its development, which is neither negative or positive–it just is. Some readers have objected to the extreme violence found in Wilson’s earlier books. Although there are still some characters who take lives with no more thought than taking a Tylenol, I didn’t think the London thriller was nearly as bloody as the prior books. That will please some readers and dismay others, I suppose.
Finally, my only reservation about this book. While I thoroughly fell in love with Falcón, the detective in the Madrid series despite all his neuroses and struggles with commitment, I came away feeling nothing for Charles Boxer. The mother of the kidnap victim was more interesting. The various bad guys were more interesting. His African ex-wife who is now a cop was infinitely more interesting. Heck, the kidnap victim was fascinating–and could star in her own series.
But Boxer? Whether because of his need to partially hide himself as he played his role as negotiator, or because of British reserve–I never got a real handle on his personality. I certainly was not left salivating to read more episodes of his life–unless they continue to feature the mother and the kidnapped daughter and/or his African ex-wife.
Having stated my gripes, however, Robert Wilson remains my favorite contemporary thriller/mystery writer. I recommend Capital Punishment to you if you like a mystery with a bit of intellectual challenge. And, despite my misgivings, I will be in line to read the next in the Boxer series, because Wilson being Wilson, I think he’ll find some of the missing notes from the first book.
Note: Wilson also wrote a series of books set in Africa, where he lived for a time. I don’t mention them only because I have not read them. I found it interesting that Portugal, his current home, gets its moment in the current book, and there’s an echo of Africa in the backstory of Boxer’s ex-wife.
The publisher provided me with a copy of the book, which you can purchase at Amazon as hardback, paperback or in e-reader version. I am an affiliate of Amazon, so if you choose to get there through links on this site, you’re supporting A Traveler’s Library. It costs you no more, so why not? Thanks.
WEDNESDAY MATINEE: Le Week-end
Movie: Le Week-end
This review is adapted from Reel Life With Jane, where I first wrote it as a rave for Hollywood–and Hollywood on the Thames for recognizing that life and love does not stop at 30-something. VMB
In the British film, “Le Week-end”, a couple in their sixties (Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan) travel to Paris for the weekend to revisit the scene of their honeymoon 30 years before. We get silent clues about their relationship as they ride the train into the city, each engrossed in his/her own newspaper. Even the choice of newspapers (see the picture above) tells us this couple are not on the same page.
He wants only to get to the hotel and settle down, she–to the delight of the viewer–wants to see all of Paris, and keeps feeding euros to the driver to keep him driving as we get a tour of all the gorgeous streets of Paris.
Boredom has crept into their marriage, turning her shrewish and him desperate. At times, the sharp dialogue sounds like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, ” except that it is interspersed with moments of true affection and plenty of humor.
When they arrive at their honeymoon hotel in Montmarte–after a lot of uphill climbing, which somehow they had not noticed thirty years ago–they discover that it has gone downhill and she insists they leave.
Maybe younger viewers won’t get it, but the over-60 crowd will understand that just because your knees rebel at climbing the steps to Sacre Couer with the same speed as in your 30s, life is not over.
The question is, how to stay alive while you are still living.
The couple are co-conspirators in life — used to playing supporting roles for each other in such capers as running away from a restaurant bill. Jeff Goldblum as a thoroughly obnoxious American writer serves as a catalyst for some painful truth telling at a dinner party that turns into denouement.
Le Week-end definitely rates as a movie for the traveler’s library. (Not out on DVD yet, the film just starting making the rounds of American theaters in September). As they enjoy the couple’s struggles in “Le Week-end,” viewers are treated to scenes in Montemarte and along the Seine and in expensive Parisian hotels and restaurants. Ahh, Paree, ageless City of (ageless) Love.
Isn’t it amazing how you go shopping with a great list, and as soon as you get home you discover there is something you need that somehow did not get on the list–so you need to go back to the store??
That’s kind of what happened to me with Ten Perfect Gifts for Travelers Who Read this year. So could we, maybe, make it TWELVE Perfect Gifts????
Great Product that does Good for Philippines
I have been so saddened by the pictures coming out of the Philippines as people deal with the aftermath of that tragic typhoon. As I was wondering what I might do that would help people, I remembered Doy Bags. I have recommended Doy Bags as gifts before. I have given Doy Bags as gifts just about every year since I discovered them. So what is a Doy Bag? They are products–mostly book bags and purses, made of recycled materials–principally soft drink cartons. They are colorful and durable and clever and one -of-a-kind and a practical gift. They are made by a women’s cooperative from the Philippines that employees more than 500 women, many the sole support of their families. They create jobs as well as helping to keeping thousands of pounds of material from being scattered on the ground or piling up in landfills.
What could be a more perfect gift for a Traveler Who Reads? An International, eco-friendly, fair-trade, practical and pretty gift. And, you would be providing work in the Philippines to people who are totally shaken by the recent events. I checked with the company, and their factory is in the Manila area, which was not touched by the typhoon so their workers did not suffer directly, but the whole country is devastated by the disaster and it touches just about everyone’s lives. Check out the Doy Bags site for a complete list of their products. Prices for gifts for travelers range at $5.99 for an adorable luggage tag to $39.99 for a woven 12″ x 14″ shopping bag. Several gifts are specially for kids like pencil cases and backpacks. There’s even jewelry made out of magazine pages rolled into beads. Have fun shopping for your Doy Bag gift.
New Series of Handbooks for Travelers
Second, I was reading Mara Gorman’s every-so-well-written family travel post which I get in my e-mail box, and learned that she has just launched a book called The Family Traveler’s Handbook. That is pretty exciting for anyone who every contemplated traveling with their family, because Mara writes a lively and practical and entertaining blog, Mother of All Travels, so I know that this handbook is going to be just what traveling mothers (and fathers) need.
But not only should I have talked about Mara’s new Family Travelers Handbook, I should have told you about the whole family of Traveler’s Handbooks, published by Janice Waugh. It isn’t often that we see an individual start a publishing company that does so much in so short a time. These professionally published books are available in print or in e-versions from the Traveler’s Handbook site or from Amazon. Whether you’re wanting some tips on cruising, adventure travel, traveling solo, volunteer traveling, and a half dozen more topics…these books are for you (or someone on your gift list.)
Each year, comfortably before Black Friday, A Traveler’s Library offers suggestions for the Ten Perfect Gifts for Travelers Who Read. You can see prior suggestions here. Now here’s what we’ve spotted this year, for everyone on your list, gifts in many price ranges. We’ve provided links to Amazon on several gifts. When you shop through our links (or use the Amazon search box) whatever you purchase earns us a few pennies. It costs you no more, so thanks for showing your support. Shop Amazon – Countdown to Black Friday Deals Week
Prop Up a Reader
There are some webstores that reader can just get lost in. Levenger, purveyor of a multitude of temptations for readers, is definitely one of those sites. I had a hard time deciding which of their amazing products to recommend.
But what won me over to the Thai-Pad was the fact that this gift is hand-made in Thailand and that Levenger donates to a fund for literacy in that country with every purchase. The Thai-Pad consists of rolls of beautiful material cleverly hinged together, so that you can make a stand for an electronic reader or a light-weight book.
If you want to know more about the source of your gift, here’s a Levenger blog that visits the women in Thailand who make the product.
Price: starting at $29.99 at the Levenger site. (Sale price for the teeny-tiny shown here). Other prices vary by size, do a search for Thai Pad at the site to see all sizes.
Feed the Curiosity of Traveling Readers
Of course the traveler who reads who is on your list would like a travel magazine like Travel & Leisure or National Geographic Traveler, but I’d like to suggest taking a broader view. For someone curious about the world, for someone who wants to be informed by intelligent reviewers about the best books–try The Atlantic, one of America’s oldest continuously published magazine. They have a great presence on line, too, but I like having the magazine around so I can dip into it when the spirit strikes. Subscription prices vary widely depending on promotions. Check it out at Amazon or The Atlantic site.
Camp and Dine with Your Dog
And now for people who readers who travel with pets –must be hard juggling the book and the leash and the map all at once–but back to business. Pamela Douglas Webster, who has been our Pet Travel expert this year at A Traveler’s Library , suggests a terrific idea. A kind of placemat for dogs!
It starts out as a Ruffwear Highlands Bed for camping and travel. A lightweight (14 oz) sleeping pad for camping dogs that rolls into a sack that comes with it. Taking that one step further, the Dog Jaunt blog suggests cutting it in half to fit under a table so you can use it when your dog accompanies you out to eat. (I think I might just fold it in half rather than cut it and sew it.) Read about her experience in Paris with the dog mat and restaurants that welcome dogs.
Just under $75. Cllick on the Photo to go to Amazon.
Organize Your First Aid Supplies
Sometimes things go wrong when you travel. Like stuffed up nose, itchy eyes, achy tooth. Wanting to keep forging ahead, the organized traveler always has some first aid supplies along. But when you get that pesky insect bite and need something to cool the itch, how quickly can you find what you need?
Jeanine Barone of J, The Travel Authority, to the rescue. She has invented Doc in a Bag. Besides being a writer, Jeanine is an artist and a creative thinker. So she came up with a set of extra heavy see-through bags, each labeled with a cartoon (like the one for eyes, nose and tooth), to let you know quickly which of your own favorite products you have packed inside. The kit includes money-saving coupons for many of J’s favorite products. Best of all, she includes with her first aid organizer laminated cards suggesting the most common things you need to carry on your travels.
Keep Kids Healthy While Flying
We’ve pretty much all figured out how germy airplanes are, and they’re probably getting worse with shorter time on the ground and therefore less time for cleaning. Here’s a great product for kids who fly–trayGUARDS+–antimicrobial sleeves that fit over the airplane tray table. You can let kids eat and play to their heart’s content, and not worry about wiping them down every few minutes. $10 for one and $20 for a pack of two at their website.
Keep Your Phone Dry
I’m not a big swimmer or scuba diver, but I’ve always envied those who are, and thought how cool it would be to have a waterproof camera. Now that most of our vacation pictures are taken on a phone, here’s a quick way to waterproof your phone that allows you to take pictures underwater or in wet conditions. (Not recommended for deep diving). This recommendation comes from the great bloggers at Beers and Beans, so I’ll let them tell you all about the Dandy Case, a waterproof case for your phone. $11.99 at Amazon (click on the photo to go there).
Take A Musical Tour Around the World
Kerry Dexter suggests this gift for music-love, reading travelers:The Mando Chronicles by Peter Ostroushko [Red House Records] Peter Ostroushko leads a journey by mandolin through Americana, folk, and jazz tunes, tunes from his Ukrainian heritage and other parts of the world including including Finland, Italy, and Ireland, and his favorite bits of classical music including works by Vivaldi and Bach. His original music is woven in along the way. No words to the music here — sometimes those who love to read need a break from words, I think –but in the booklet that comes along you may read thoughts on music from this musician who’s worked with Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra among others. Amazon price for album $21.84 or buy MP3 tracks at $.99 each. (Click on the album cover to buy)
Read in the Armchair or on the Airplane
Our newest contributor, Powell Berger says, “One of my favorite reads is the Best Women’s Travel Writing anthology every year, and this year’s is particularly terrific. The stories are terrific, and an anthology is the perfect airplane read since you can read a story or two then land.” Best travel writing certainly makes a Perfect gift for traveling readers, doesn’t it? Prices at Amazon: Paper back $14.70, Kindle $9.99. (Click on the book cover to go to Amazon)
Pop Kid’s Music in the Car CD Player
Kerry Dexter has a suggestion for music-loving kids, too: Happy You Made it by Matt Heaton [Eats Records]
If you have young children or people who love them on your gift list, Matt Heaton’s new album Happy You Made It is a fine choice. Last December you met Heaton though a seasonal album he made with his wife Shannon. This time out, he applies his musician’s skill, wry sense of humor, and experience as a father to a set of songs, some familiar and some original, all certain to get you — and the kids in your life — laughing, singing, thinking, and enjoying yourselves.
All of which could be a fine gateway or compliment to reading together.
Splurge on a Family Vacation
We’ve saved the best for last. So far, we’ve given you suggestions for perfect gifts for anyone in the family, particularly if they are travelers who read, and we’ve tried to mix up the values, so you could choose how much you wanted to spend. But maybe we haven’t shown you the very BEST of the Perfect Gifts for Travelers Who Read.
A Holiday Memories Ski Package from Resorts West and FAO Schwarz. What traveler would not want to sit in her family’s private chateau, curled up by the fireplace with a book as snow blankets the ski trails, and the kids open their gifts from FAO Schwarz that come along with the vacation package?
You will stay seven nights at a ski-inn home managed by Resorts West, Park City Utah. You don’t have to do any Christmas shopping or wrapping or decorating, because Resorts West and FAO Schwarz does it all for you. When you arrive the kids will rush into the holiday-bedecked home and see that Santa has already arrived– the gifts are arrayed around your tree– and when you are ready to leave, the concierge will pack up everything and ship it to your home.
$40,000 for the Most Perfect Gift of All for Travelers Who Read.
So tell us, please. We’re all dying to know. Which of these recommendations for the perfect gift seems to fit someone on YOUR Christmas list?