In 2010 my wife and I went to Macedonia for two weeks with Habitat For Humanity to help build an eight unit apartment unit. We had volunteered with Habitat in Albuquerque, and had spent two weeks in New Orleans helping to restore homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina, involving Habitat, but not through Habitat. This was our first Habitat trip out of the country, although we had lived in Eastern Europe as volunteers and had been to Macedonia before.
Roma family collection insulation wrappers and other non-needed materials to resell.
Photos of Habitat For Humanity, Macedonia.
We are retired and in 2010 were 68 and 70. Old age was not a problem, nor was our inability to speak Macedonian. It was not scary and we had no problems. Get travel insurance as Medicare does not work in Macedonia.
Habitat has a branch in Macedonia and has US volunteers who live there for six months and help to coordinate the short-term volunteers. I had a friend from Albuquerque who gave up his law practice in his fifty’s and went to Chile for six months to coordinate Habitat projects there.
None of the 18 or so people who were on our team had any construction experience; however, there was a Macedonian Contractor who worked with us along with a future resident of the apartments that we were constructing. This was a lot like Earthwatch, where you pay to volunteer, meet interesting people and see a new part of the world in a deductible way. We did five Earthwatch trips at a younger age, and that is also worth looking into. We have seen all the museums that we want to see for awhile, so volunteering is the way to go.
We worked from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. We stayed in a local hotel which also provided meals. We took a bus to the job site and ate lunch on the job. We wore old clothes, hard hats and gloves.
At this point in the construction, we were assigned to help with pouring cement which was mixed on site and moved in wheelbarrows. We also removed cement forms and pulled out the nails. The wood would be used on future Habitat sites. The construction is much simpler than in the US; it is mostly manual labor. There is not a lot of equipment. But, we did build homes.
The wrappers that the insulation came in along with the bent nails that we removed were recovered by a family of Roma (Gypsies) who came each day in a horse-drawn wagon and used a magnet to locate the nails in the ground. They would straighten and re-sell them. A Roma family was scheduled to move into one of the apartments when finished, but not the ones in the wagon pictured above.
We worked for two weeks, took trips around Macedonia on the week-ends, did not get sick or injured, had a great time and came home with different stories to tell.
The food was simple, local and good. The hotel was clean and the venue for a few weddings while we were there.
One night we had dinner at a winery and probably drank too much wine. Macedonia has a number of vineyards and wineries, so the trip was worth it just for that.
At the time of posting this blog, I could not find any Habitat opportunities in Macedonia, but there are some in Romania, as well as the rest of the world. There were two Habitat home building projects in Macedonia in 2017 and I expect more in 2018. Go to Habitat in Veles to see the costs, work, itinerary, etc. for 2017. This will give you an idea of what we did and paid.
We met interesting people from other parts of the US and from Macedonia.
And, we deducted the trip.
Just pick a part of the world that needs help and go for it.
Habitat For Humanity – Volunteer opportunities –
Macedonia – via Wikipedia
The Wheels Museum at the Rail Yards Market in Albuquerque is a must for railroad buffs and for anyone who wants to remember back to a simpler, younger age.
The volunteers who staff the museum are knowledgeable and helpful. They like what they are doing.
If you like model trains, there are several large layouts including one from the Clovis Model railroad club. There are a number of cars, trucks and various pieces of train equipment
I liked the horse drawn milk wagon as it reminded me of my childhood in Kansas where the milk was delivered to a box at your back door and the horse knew all the stops.
The museum is located in an old railroad storage building and is next to what used to be the only roundhouse between St. Louis and California and where they repaired engines. The old roundhouse is still in existence, empty, huge and now used for movie sets and for a weekly market. Rumor has it that it may be sold to CNM and used for film courses.
Next to the long abandoned train buildings are the tracks where there is a daily Amtrak train in each direction and numerous freight trains.
You can catch the RailRunner to Santa Fe or to Belen 7 days a week. It is free for seniors on Wednesday, but parking downtown is a pain. Better to park at the Montaño station and catch the train there.
If you like the Wheels Museum, you should also visit the 17 year restoration of Santa Fe Steam Locomotive # 2926 by the New Mexico Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society. You can visit on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1833 8th NW, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Or, check them out on-line at nmslrhs.org.
New Mexico is a fascinating place for train buffs, and if you are here during the State Fair, there is a great model train exhibit, put on by the Rio Grande Valley HO Model Railroad. In 2019, it is from September 5 – 15.
In 1971 a bunch of homeless people (hippies) took possession of an abandoned military base in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark and Freetown Christiania was born.
A few years ago I visited Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark. It has become one of the major tourist attractions in Copenhagen and home to about 600 people; and took me back to the 1960’s. Since 1971, Christiania has evolved and has become a co-op instead of a squatters’ habitat.
When I was there, there were signs warning about marijuana which was freely sold, although illegal; there were simple restaurants; there were all sorts of craft stands; and houses in various forms of construction. The organization was informal but in 2012 they voted on who could live there and had developed some form of ownership and property rights.
The hippies resisted all efforts by the government to remove them. They have entered into contracts for utilities and trash; and , have obtained not only the right to own the property, but have government loans to finance the property.
The set-up is largely like a co-op with the existing residents voting on new residents and making the rules, such as they are.
It is located a 30 minute ride or a 45 minute walk from the Central Train Station. You might still get illegal marijuana with little apparent risk from the authorities, but there may now be internal restrictions. Times are changing and hippies are growing older. Maybe they should look to medical marijuana?
It is worth a visit; especially if you grew up in the 60’s and it is going strong today. I don’t know how many of the original squatters are still there, but they would probably be in their 60’s.
It may even give you a few ideas as you grow older; and, feel the need of a delayed alternative lifestyle.
For more pictures and reasons to visit Christiania, see : Buzzfeed
Google: Christiania for up-to-date information and “alternative tours.”
I can’t help but update this blog to show you the New York Times review of the restaurant NOMA near Christiania.
A second update showing problems in Christiania is reported by The New York Times, even though it has become a major tourist attraction.
On Sundays from 9-3, May 4 – Nov. 2, you can visit the Rail Yards Market near downtown Albuquerque, NM. The site is next to the tracks and is in a huge old Santa Fe Railway repair shop. The market has over one hundred vendors and artists. It draws thousands of people. Outside there is plenty of free parking and a line of food trucks.
Inside, which is free, you find artists, bakeries, local produce, music and crowds. Turn down your hearing aid.
Rail buffs, and most other people, especially those of us who can remember riding the train to college, will be fascinated by the interior of the Santa Fe Railway Repair Shop, now abandoned, waiting a new life, and used as the setting for a number of movies.
To learn more about the rail yards visit the City of Albuquerque web page.
Maybe you are looking for a second career in your retirement. Central New Mexico Community College in conjunction with the Street Food Institute offers a course in “Street Food.” Maybe you should apply. Visit Craigs List to find food trucks for sale.
The bottom line is that for a few hours on Sunday morning, you can’t go wrong, and you will see a part of American History. Drive through the surrounding streets and see “new town,” which came into being with the arrival of the rail road over a hundred years ago. Then compare it to “Old Town.”
People my age received their driver’s license 65 years ago; which was the last time they reviewed the laws and driver “best practices.” For the last 65 years, we have just coasted – have not taken a driver’s license exam and have not reviewed the laws. Our biggest worry is the eye exam.
The AARP offers a Smart Driver course; either on-line or at a 4 hour class.
We recently took the course in a four hour class at the local senior center. While we expected to be bored, it was informative and at least made us think. It costs $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members.
The best ideas we could relate to.
- Having a blind side mirror.
- Only making right turns if possible, which delivery services such as Federal Express practice; not because their drivers are old, but because of the savings in time and gas costs.
- Learning about roundabouts.
- The safety devices on new cars, including back-up cameras, blind side beeps, and several more. Beware, that these can also be confusing and distracting if you are old. They take getting used to.
- Timing lights at intersections.
- Stopping distances and following distances.
- Fog lines.
- Left and right mirror settings.
- Not pulling into the intersection while making a left turn.
- Seat adjustment for airbag protection.
- Steering wheel hand position adjustment; not 10 and 2, but 9 and 3. This protects your hands from the airbag in case of a crash.
- Anti-lock brake system.
- Lane markings.
- Space cushion around your car.
Then of course, if you take the course, your insurance company will give you a break; anywhere from 7.5% to 15%; which more than pays for the course. I think it also useful for you to have a record that you took the course. You never know when that may come in handy.
REMEMBER, you are OLD, and you will be described as “elderly” or worse in any police report or newspaper article.
THINK OLD! DRIVE OLD!
Last week I read The Longevity Economy, by Joseph F. Couglin, who is the founder and director of MIT’s AgeLab even though he is only 56. His basic thesis is that businesses do not really understand old people and what they want or need. I was intrigued enough, at 78, to 1) sign up as an AgeLab volunteer and 2) over the last week, while on a trip to Tucson, come up with personal examples of how businesses do not understand old people.
Here are just a few of my thoughts:
1. Side mirrors on cars do not let you see a car next to you on either side and it is hard to turn your head. I bought a blind spot mirror from Amazon and stuck it on my mirrors before I left.
2. The bath tub in our first hotel was too high, with a step and inadequate grab bars.
3. The bed is high. I couldn’t sit on the edge and put my shoes on. I was unstable getting out of it in the middle of the night; and, I get up often – another problem of aging
4. The TV clicker is difficult to use, though this one was simpler than most.
5. The restaurant is great. It is quiet and you can share a plate, unlike a lot of restaurants.
6. In case we don’t want to drive the distance, we have options. We can fly, we can use Uber/Lyft and rent a car. A little more costly than the drive and stop but not much, and not the stress. We miss the non-stop SW flights from ABQ to TuS.
7. When we leave, ABQ, we notify our neighbors, set up on/off lights and hide the computer. When you think about it, we really don’t have much that the average thief would want.
8. The car is a Prius and after 6 years and 75,000 miles, we still average 55 miles to the gallon,which appeals to our geriatric cheapness. And it is easy to drive and park, although I would like a back up camera that is standard on new cars.
9. Freeways are ok outside of cities as we stick to the right lane. And use speed control.
10. We also plug the I-phone into the cigarette lighter so it is always charged. And of course, google maps gives us directions as to where we need to go.
11. We don’t drive at night on the freeway
12. Food and other items packed in plastic that old fingers can’t open. Knives are hard to use on plastic packages with arthritic fingers. Scissors are also difficult, but who travels with them.
13. The paper TV channel guide has letters too small to read. The TV clicker was confusing, no grab bars in the bath tub, , bath tub too high, so without a grab bar, difficult to step into. – For the blog I have enhanced the TV channel guide.
14. On the way back, we stayed at a famous old hotel, but again no grab-bars on the high tub and the bottles of shampoo and conditioner were over a foot tall and heavy.
15. Lights in hotel rooms are not designed for old people; nor is the placement and switches on lamps.
This is just a sample.
More to come.
The 36th annual Gathering of Nations.
This event, bringing together thousands of Indians from 750 American and Canadian tribes was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 25, 26 and 27, 2019.
The annual event was held in Tingley Colosseum on the NM State Fair Grounds. All 11,571 seats were filled on the day I went. It included the Miss. Indian America Contest as well as several days of competitive dancing.
The costumes, made by the 3000 singers and dancers, are the highlight of the event. Dancing is a traditional part of the Indian Culture and not to be missed.
The Albuquerque Journal in its “Coming Together” story describes the event in detail with pictures.
The cost in 2019 was $19 per person and $10 to park. At noon, when the dancing starts, there are long lines and they only accept cash. You are better off getting you tickets on-line. Just go to gatheringof nations.com.
REMEMBER, if you are old, take care as there are dirt paths, and once inside Tingley Colesseum, huge crowds, subdued lighting and the possibility of a fall is always present.
It is worth it just to see the costumes and the Indian Families. The 2020 dates are April 23, 24 & 25.
You can buy Indian jewelry and crafts from hundreds of native craftsmen and women.
You can also buy food, some traditional, and some from the usual assortment of State Fair type vendors.
If you do eat, try the fry bread and the Indian Tacos.
While the fry bread was good, it doesn’t compare to the fry bread that you buy on the side of the road in NorthWestern New Mexico.
I still drive and around the city it is not too bad. I use a a few tricks, such as turning right as much as possible, but when I get on freeways, which is about the only way to get from city to city any more, I am faced with drivers coming up on my left and getting in my blind spot.
For $10, I fixed that thanks to a few rental cars and
Amazon.com. You affix a blind spot mirror to the driver and passenger side mirrors and you can see the cars right next to you.
It is hard to turn an old neck to look without the mirror and it is also a distraction.
Let’s face it. Anytime you take a trip, your schedule changes; and, old people love schedules.
With family, you need something everyone can concentrate on and do together; without controversy.
Thus, I suggest a puzzle. In addition to the puzzle, you need a grandchild who will be an expert at identifying pieces and patterns.
The practicalities. Get your puzzle at a thrift store. It is better to pay a dollar, than $30. Check the bookcase. People frequently leave puzzles.
You need a place to put the puzzle together. Most vacation rentals don’t have puzzle space; and, if you use the dining table you run into meal problems – which will stress some out.
The solution is simple. Go to Home Depot or Lowes and look for a sheet of plywood or styrofoam a bit larger than the puzzle. Look on the cover of the puzzle box for final dimensions.
Then you can put the puzzle together on the sheet on a coffee table, dining table, or two chairs, etc. You can move it for meals or other events.
Remember to tell your grandchild that he/she can not stay up all night working on the puzzle.
Leave the puzzle and the board for the next renter.
On a Rick Steves’ tour to Ireland a few years ago, we visited a working sheep ranch and watched the dogs herd flocks of sheep following whistled commands from the sheep herder.
The Kissane Sheep Farm is located in Moll’s Gap, Kenmare, County Ireland, Ireland. It is 7 Euros for an adult to watch the dogs and the shearers in action. You can also adopt a sheep, but if you want to take it home, you have to buy it and put up with an enormous amount of red tape. Better to adopt one in the name of a grandchild.
In addition we were able to watch expert shearers shear one of the sheep:
I like Rick Steves’ tours because they always include something new; something beyond museums and restaurants; and, something that I know nothing about. I wanted to replicate the experience when I returned to New Mexico.
Searching in my own backyard, I discovered the New Mexico Herding Dog Association and on Saturday, May 13, 2017 we went to one of its events on the New Mexico State Fair Grounds.
This was the herding instinct test in which herding dogs, as classified by the American Kennel Club, and which have no experience with sheep, are tested to see if they like sheep, with three sheep. Mixed results. A fascinating new sub-culture to me, and one close to home.
A variety of breeds tried to maneuver three sheep while their owners urged them on. At first the dogs didn’t do much, but after watching the owners race about herding the sheep, the dogs got the idea, and tried it themselves.
About 40 sheep were kept in pens and were maneuvered about by a trained sheep dog which efficiently moved them from pen to pen and then into the arena where the test took place. The trained dog then sat quietly and watched from an adjoining arena.
The next step is to visit the FTB Ranch in Mountainair, NM and watch more events.
If interested you can search for events in your state on Google.
Search terms: State+herding dogs
ie Utah+herding dogs