Friday, October 22, 2010

Two Planks

When I purchased our little b&b I inherited a lovely deck, 2 koi ponds and, for an urban setting, a rather large backyard. All of this has been a bit too much to maintain as I have had very young children during the 5 years I have lived here. The idea of a little one falling into a koi pond has kept me out of the backyard more than I would like to admit. Of course I would be watching them, but there are many responsibilities inside the inn and therefore only recently have I allowed the children, to play unsupervised in the backyard.

The koi ponds can use a good cleaning out as the leaves from the past 2 falls have gathered extensively in their midst. The dry summer has hurt both the roses and the grass of the backyard. For about a year I would look at two planks on the deck that needed replacing, the wood had rotten right through and it could pose a problem for guests and for the children.

I would consider, with my limited knowledge of woodworking, how to fix the deck. Of course I could hire someone, but I did not need an entire deck replaced, just two planks. I thought of the ways in which I would need to remove the old ones, how big the new ones needed to be, and though I try not to procrastinate, I honestly wasn't sure how to really get the job done. Help arrived.

February tends to be a slow month at the inn. In an attempt to attract the very budget minded traveler I published a highly discounted rate for a couple of weeks in February. After all the utility company does not care whether I charge $50 a night or $150 a night as long as they get paid. One Monday night I received a call from someone who had seen this great rate and wanted to make a reservation for 2 nights. Sure, I took his information, and the next evening Scott checked in. Then he went out for the evening. The next morning he arose late, had a cup of green tea while chatting with me and my friend, that had come by to visit. The following day was about the same. He was a really nice guy and I so enjoyed our conversation, he did not really do breakfast and was zero trouble as a guest, definetly one of those "friends" I spoke about in my first blog. He called me the 2nd afternoon and asked for an additional night. "Of course, no problem". When Scott came in that afternoon he brought the best gift- granted any gift from the heart, is THE best gift. As it turns out Scott use to have a deck building business. Scott came home with 2 planks of wood, tools borrowed from a friend and in an hour he replaced my two rotted planks with 2 beautiful, new pieces of wood. I could have repainted these planks by now, but when I look at them I remember Scott and his gift. I recall how I contemplated for many months on how to repair it, without actually doing it, I remember how he involved the children, they were not in his way, but enjoyed learning something I could not teach them. His investment in our lives was so much more than two planks. You may not know how your two planks and simple gift will impact another.

When such an angel comes into my life, and it happens frequently in this business, I try to remember this " Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some people have entertained angels" (Hebrews 13:2). May I encourage you- Entertain A Stranger Today, they may be just the angel you need.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why Zimbabwe

1999 provided many great travel memories. Visting Zimbabwe is definetly one of them.

My husband is the eldest of 6 boys. One of his brothers was planning to be married in his homeland of Zimbabwe. We traveled to Southern Africa in August for a 2 week stay. I could tell my husband would have been content to hang out with his friends and family for 2 weeks and though it was my first, and thus far only, trip to anywhere in Africa, I wanted to see more. He planned out our trip and life sprinkled in a little adventure along the way.

Upon arriving, my title, being the wife of the eldest son comes with a title in Shona culture, became my name. Back in the USA, my title has a very different meaning, so it use to make me giggle a little when telling someone what it is. I was known as 'my guru'. Other than my love of travel and hospitality I consider myself pretty simple and not terribly intellectual so to be referred to as anyone's guru shoulders much responsibility. In deed at the wedding, my "job" was defined by my title. I was advised to cut the cake. Doesn't sound so difficult, no problem. The cake, however, was one of those fruit cake type, not terribly moist with a great crispy icing and I was given a large, yet dull knife. I still recall the difficulty of slicing just a couple pieces. Through these trials we learn perseverence. All in all experiencing a Shona wedding was an amazing experience. I have always admired the jubilation Zimbabwean women have when expressing joy. They put their hand over their mouth and move it back and forth while making chanting sounds, somewhat like what are children might do when pretending to be Indians.

Following the wedding we headed out into the beauty of the country. We visited coffee fields and the tea leaf areas of Chipinge where the land is lush and beautifully green.

I shall never forget our drive to Victoria Falls. Several reasons come to mind. First, the trip there was considerably more difficult than it should have been. The Zimbabwean path to Victoria Falls was quite indirect from where we started. There was a short cut (ah beware of short cuts) via Zambia. No big deal, I mean crossing into Canada is not a big deal, so entering Zambia for an hour should not be so difficult. Oh how naive we are can be. The Zambean border patrol found something to search us for, 11 years later, I don't remember what. They stripped the entire car. What should have saved us a few hours of driving, cost us much grief and a few hours at the border crossing which meant getting back into Zimbabwe became a whole new stresser as the border patrol was getting ready to close. We made it just in time. Whew!

Secondly, upon arriving back in Zimbabwe it got dark, quickly and we continued driving. No Motel 6 or a comfy bed and breakfast to find rest along the way. The elephant crossing the dark road remains in my memory. Pitch Black! Driving at 60 MPH! Suddenly a 4,000 pound animal crosses the road! Amazing! So thankful we did not hit it, injure it- actually if we had, it would have been the end of us. Thank goodness for headlights. Elephants also created another reason I vividly remember Vic Falls. We stayed in a National Parks cabin the next night. When I went out the next morning a parks worker was out in the path with a large wheel barrel. An elephant had been near the previous night and he was cleaning up the animals waste, only time I have ever seen a partially digested tree. Victoria Falls itself is stunning. One of the most magnificent waterfalls in the world!
This is why Zimbabwe was selected as a destination at All Nations Bed & Breakfast.
Although we do not have a waterfall in your room, if you would like a little taste of Zimbabwe, reserve the Zimbabwe room for a night or a week.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Why New Zealand?

I am often asked by guests why I have selected the 4 countries I did when decorating All Nations Bed & Breakfast. I will address each room in a seperate post and begin with the country I visited at the mere age of 16.

Rotary International sponsors an exchange student program for which I had the privilege to partake. I am so thankful for the local Rotary Club of Lakewood, Colorado visiting our high school and advising the students of the opportunity. I applied and went through the rigorous interview process (may I add I am also thankful for the wonderful support of my parents). In my application I had to list my first 3 choices for placement. As a student of Spanish, at that point I was in my 4th year of study, Spain was my top choice, followed by Italy. New Zealand only made the list because I had recently watched an episode of "LIfestyles of the Rich and Famous" and they highlighted Fiji. New Zealand looked close to Fiji on the map.

23 years later I look back and realize that due to selections made on our behalf our lives are eternally altered.

I spent an unforgettable 11 months in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. The Rotary Program has 4 families host a student throughout the year. I think this is ideal. I had the opportunity to live with a wonderful Danish family, on a dairy farm, on a blueberry/persimmon farm and with a delighftul family in Whakatane.

At Edgecumbe College I learned to speak Kiwi, trust me it is not the same as American. I still blush when I think about a classmate asking me for a "rubber" (eraser) in the middle of class.

Sleeping in a Marae, enjoying a good Hangi which is great when accompanied by a good Haka are experiences that can only be had in God's Own Country. Yes, they are surrounded by sheep, yes I did survive a minor earthquake, yes I can still smell the paper mills of Kawerau and yes I crave a puffy pavlova with kiwi fruit at this very moment.

Often times when I am in the New Zealand room I take a moment to indulge in the decor. Allowing my toes to feel the soft sheepskin, admiring the pillows with Maori motif (the fabric sent from my host mum Margaret and sewn by my own mom Willetta) and as I look above the sofa at the New Zealand flag I day dream about what life may be like there in 2010.

If you are not able to make it all the way out to the South Pacific, but would like a little taste of the land way down under, reserve the New Zealand room, for a day or a week.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Staying with Friends

A couple arrived at my door last night. They were looking for a room close to the funeral home where the service would be held for the husbands mother. The funeral home is 1 block from our bed and breakfast. The couple wanted to look at the place first as they had never stayed at a bed and breakfast before and weren't sure about it. I explained that staying at a bed and breakfast is like staying with friends, except we just met.
I have recently heard the definition of A Calling as the intersection between a deep hunger in the world and our desire to serve or meet the need.
There is a deep hunger in the world that penetrates culture, economic status, geographical location or intellectual knowledge. It is the disconnect between people. As society has become more global the connection between people has lessened. This is evident as we attempt to be more professional, we are more occupied and take less time to actively engage with others. I have found my calling, inviting people from around the world to allow me to host them for a night or a month. We become a part of each others story, not simply an account number or room number.
One afternoon a few months ago my doorbell rang. An older man (I came to learn he was 83 years old) was on the other side of the door. He had walked from the Greyhound bus station, 2 1/2 miles away to my house. Mr. Andrews is from Scotland, he took the QE2 from London to New York and from there a bus to Indianapolis. He was in Indiana for the sole purpose of going to Goodland, Indiana. Mr. Andrews was on a geneological search. His fathers uncle lived in Goodland, Indiana in the 1880's. The more I listened to my new Scottish friend, the more I knew I wanted us to be a part of his story. Unfortunately transportation in Indiana is limited. Unless you have a car it is quite impossible to get from Indianapolis to Goodland. I made arrangements to take Mr. Andrews to Goodland the following Monday. The house his uncle lived in has been demolished. The farm land, the town, the little cafe where we had lunch, they will remain in all of our memories for years to come. Mr. Andrews is a friend I would not otherwise have, if not for providing accommodation to out of towners.
My greatest joy in operating a place of accommodation in my home is all the fascinating people I meet. These are not movie stars, rock singers, famous athletes or corporate CEO's. They are mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, they are writers and artists, they develop robots and work at universities. The people we have encountered are, however, FAMOUS. They are known by their gifts of love, courtesy, morning smiles and evening greetings. They will be a part of the fabric of our lives forever. My intent has always been to provide more than a comfortable bed and adequate breakfast at a more than reasonable price. I strive to connect with people, serve them as they go out and contribute in their communities, to listen as they explode with joy at the birth of a new grand child or give condolences as they grieve a loved one. Many times the new friends are not experiencing anything so dramatic while in town. Often they are simply attending a conference or sporting event, nonetheless conversation often circles to real life, family, love, marriage, divorce, the future and the past.
I have been blessed to have so many "friends" share my home.