2013 Grateful 50

IMG_1521 (615x800)Driving around the biggest of the six Hawaiian islands is like reading a book of fascinating and at times, amusing, roadsigns. You’d think they’d be the same all over the world – just in a different language, but the signs on the island of Hawaii give pause for thought. In Alaska, I’ve seen signs to be aware that you might run into a moose; in Ireland, we get the occasional deer or cattle sign, but this humpback whale collision was a first for meIMG_1750 (800x582).

We’ve all seen the signs about  road debris, gravel, and possible falling rocks. But flying rocks? And a sign warning of flying rocks with an actual rock tied to it, in case there are a few disbelievers on the road? How’s that for innovation and creativity and a reason to put up your window.

IMG_1751 (600x800)I’ve seen reserved parking signs but never before come across one quite as specific as this one. When I asked whether it was meant as a joke, no one laughed. Apparently this particular part of the island – Waipi’o valley – is home to the some of the oldest families in Hawaii, many of whom are leaders and elders. Tourists, with their self-appointed righteousnesses have been known to walk straight through a Hawaiian ceremony in search of the waterfall. In showing such little regard for the how the locals live, it’s no wonder that signs such as these are dotted along the roadside. The ‘no spraying’ plea is a request to the state not to spray insecticide.

IMG_1749 (600x800)I’ve heard of rules of engagement, but rules of enjoyment? And what exactly is ‘inappropriate behavior’? Given my own prudish nature, I might be a little less tolerant than most but still, I’m curious. Surely if we have rules for enjoyment, there should also be demarcations for propriety.

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And this stop sign made me laugh out loud. It’s just outside the Parker Ranch over near Waimea. Church signs have long been a source of amusement for many across the States, and I know I’ve used some as examples of unintentional messages that appear by virtue of the absence of puncuation. But this one rings true.

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Down on Punalu’u beach, I spotted this one, written just for me. For the ten or so years I spent in the USA, I could never get the hang of my compass points. Go south on Sepulveda? Go east on 11th?  Give me right or left, straight on or back IMG_1903 (800x600)any day. On that same beach, I had to wonder at the intelligence of people using the facilities. I mean would you? Would you use shampoo so close to the ocean and the turtles? The mind boggles. Mind you, signposts that said to stay 15 feet from the turtles, writing in both English and Japanese, were also ignored. But then, not everyone has a zoom lens.

These signs though are all pretty concrete. Easy to see. Easy to read. Easy to understand. The signs that direct us through life are a little more ephemeral. A little less obvious. And all too often, they are not as easy to understand. We rely heavily on intuition  – what Einstein describes as the only real valuable thing. Ingrid Bergman suggests we  train our intution –  trust the small voice inside you which tells you exactly what to say, what to decide. Easier said than done, though. Alan Alda (remember him? Hawkeye from M*A*S*H?) has it sorted. He reckons that You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.

Not yet fully recovered from jet lag, I’m back in Budapest. The beach has been replaced by snow. The sun has lost its heat. And I’m as tired as I have been in a long, long time. But it’s a good tiredness, a productive tiredness. My (de)fences are low, my brain is less focused on shoulds and shouldn’ts, and my intuition is taking over. This week, I’m grateful to see signs that are pointing towards some fundamental change in how I live my life. I can see them but I’ve no clue what they’re telling me. Let the year unfold and let the path reveal itself. In the meantime, I  need to unpack, do laundry, and get ready for my next venture into the wilderness.

Note: For a reminder of what the Grateful series is about, check out Grateful 52

Stealing sins in the Czech Republic

IMG_4104Oh Lord, give me such signs in every foreign country I visit and I will be happier (if that’s possible), and more relaxed, and less intimidated. I came across this sign in a  church in the Czech Republic a couple of weeks ago . Oddly enough, it was posted on the confessional box. You’re on camera! Steal and the police will come and take you away… but steal what? My sins?

I was in Kralupy, on the Vitava River for the 2009 European Scout Academy. About 130 of us descended on the town of 18,000 for five days – Tuesday to Sunday. Some came and went over the course of the event, others were there for the duration. Hard work this scouting (I kid you not).  We had full days of workshops and meetings (both formal and informal). It’s reallly something to see people from so many different backgrounds and cultures being brought together by a shared interest. And their ability to flit from one language to the other is mindboggling. The highlight for me was the International night when each country represented has its own table of food and drink and flags and books and whatnots. Everyone (but me, as I don’t have one…I’m a civilian volunteer, of sorts) was in uniform and only too keen to tell you something about where they’d come from. (As an aside: Israel is in the European Scout Region…so it’s not just me who has difficulty with ye olde geography?!) And again, Slovenia (see an earlier post) was the winner for me, although it wasn’t a competition. Those lads are really proud of where they’re from.

Anyway, despite that fact that a rather charming young fellah from Denmark suggested I might be a little too old to go on the planned pub crawl on the night off (can you imagine?), it was a lovely few days. I pointed out that a 60-strong crawl would be more like a hop… and a little hop at that. And sure enough, they managed two stops. Am I glad I stayed home? You bet.

Although only 15 miles North of Prague, I simply arrived and departed from there. I never quite got around to visiting the city again. I’ve IMG_4145been before and having recently discovered that the world’s travellers either prefer Budapest or Prague, my preference is pretty obvious. I did come across this other sign on a post office on my journey between train stations (Prague has six, and I tried three before I found my train to BP!) Comforting to know you have to leave your gun outside! And also this very evocative statue that would, in fairness, rival many of my favourites in Budapest.


I delayed a little too long looking at this one and very nearly didn’t make my train. But it is something. To think that such heated emotion can be captured in such a cold material… maybe in my next life, I’ll give it a go.