Madrid Quarantine

Once a week I shop. This is the only time I leave the building during the coronavirus quarantine in Madrid, practically the only time I leave my apartment. If I have to tote trash and recycling to the bins by the stairs I hold my breath until I’m back in the apartment with the door…

Italki Online Language Learning: a Review

italki is a global internet platform that links language learners with language instructors. A big, well-established platform: the about page claims five million students parsing verbs in one hundred thirty languages with ten thousand teachers.  Thirteen years old now, founded by two Shanghai entrepreneurs.  Betcha you’ve never heard of it. Spain’s coronavirus quarantine has made…

USA Expats: Vote Abroad in 2020

You can! You want to! You should! And I did. Like this: (♦) Go to fvap.gov and click the big red Request an Absentee Ballot button. Gotta do it fresh every year. Sorry. Not my fault. (♦) Clicking the big red button starts the Federal Post Card Application process, which will not include, require or produce…

A Week in Egypt

A Week in Egypt

‘But is it safe to travel Egypt alone?’ Conocidos usually asked this question before any cheery yak about pyramids and King Tut. To many, ‘Egypt’ today means Arab Spring, mass protests, soldiers, mayhem, a coup d’état. Kalashnikov-toting riot police might misunderstand an elderly tourist’s intentions with a selfie stick. Couldn’t an old codger like me…

A Few Days in Doha

A Few Days in Doha

Doha is the capital city of Qatar, a pint-sized, filthy rich monarchy that juts into the Persian Gulf from the eastern flank of Saudi Arabia. I’ll wager that most Americans have never heard of it, and that the few exceptions associate it instantáneamente with Qatar’s sponsorship of powerhouse international news broadcaster Al Jazeera. I suggest…

A Weekend in Galicia, Spain

A Weekend in Galicia, Spain

Galicia is a Hawaii-sized state autonomous community on Spain’s northwest corner. I asked Spaniards if I should visit. “¡Por supuesto!,” said they, while suggesting that Galicia would be: (♦) Beautiful! Woodsy green hamlets fronting windswept Atlantic coastlines. Like that. (♦) Rainy! Maybe not as wet as San Sebastian, but up there. (♦) Relatively isolated. Spain’s high-speed…

A Day in Riga

A Day in Riga

Riga is the capital city of Latvia, a small-by-American-standards country in northern Europe. Now you know. I boorishly posted A Day in Minsk without telling you what, where or when a “Minsk” is, likely spurred irritable searches in browser address bars. Sorry. As if you didn’t already have enough grief in life without my bungling!…

A Day in Minsk

A Day in Minsk

Attractive, clean, safe, livable. Minsk deserves those adjectives. I was surprised. My parents would have liked it. I hesitate to flatter it this way. “Inside Europe’s last dictatorship” cries the 2012 Guardian headline about Belarus. “Better to be a dictator than gay,” responded leader-for-the-past-quarter-century Alexander Lukashenko, when criticized for his rights record by an out-of-the-closet…