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Travel Souvenirs Bring Back Memories...

Copenhagen, Denmark...

When I was in my Fifties I joined a 'homestay' program called, Experiment in International Living. I was placed with a welcoming rural family that had a brood of eight grown children (the youngest was seventeen). For two weeks I was treated like a member of the clan, helping with the chores, eating at their kitchen table and joining all their excursions. The best part of this placement was that over those 14 days each child (some already married) planned a day out with me. I did everything from attending a rock concert in the park to a culture-filled day at the museum. On one of those days I came across a secondhand shop and bought my main memento of the trip -- a silver spoon that is the nicest I've ever seen. P.S. All those Danish kids are married now, they all have kids of their own and from time to time I receive a family photo that lets me see how their clan has grown. How's that for two fabulous souvenirs?

 

CapeTown, South Africa...

I don't usually buy souvenirs made especially for tourists but I saw a handicraft display of African women created by African women that I just couldn't resist. These pieces of pottery were cheeky, playful, colorful, happy pieces of art and I picked a grouping of three. My favorite -- the one pictured here has a pregnant tummy that she is showing off proudly. I reserved a full shelf in my office for this trio of funky ladies who remind me of the strong women I met during my brief stay in their city.

 

Beijing, China...

Here comes the kitsch again but anybody who's gone through a market in China will empathize with me. There are 100's of booths all selling 'things, things,things.' The Chinese are wonderful salespeople and if you're not careful you'll come home with something you absolutely don't need. Yet you'll probably never forget the fun you had bargaining for it. This porcelain container featuring Chairman Mao holds seven pairs of jade chopsticks. That's something that every household needs, right? Still, they are mine and I laugh every time I tell folks why I have them.

 

London, England...

In 1983 I was browsing in a bookshop in London when I noticed a crowd forming around a very elegant looking woman. Taking a second look I realized it was Gloria Steinem, one of the major icons of American feminism. I learned that this particular bookshop was one of many she was making appearances at to promote her latest book, Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. Since I knew that the man in Steinem's life was from Toronto I asked about him when I introduced myself to her. What followed was a brief but warm conversation about my city, her new book and the man she loved. Then Ms. Steinem autographed my copy and the moment was over. I've kept that book for over 25 years. With the travel memory it holds, it will never be relegated to my yearly yard sale.

 

Chennai, India...

I used our HERmail.net service when I went to India and asked my mentor for some Chennai shopping advice. Instead of email advice two women of a certain age insisted on picking me up at my ship with their car and driver and personally taking me shopping. Can you imagine the fun I had? One of my goals was to buy a hand-embroidered shawl for myself. We went into a shop, I found one I like and asked for the vendor's best price. He gave me (as he described it) his best, BEST price. I guess my two new friends didn't agree with him and took over the bargaining. Poor man, by the end of their verbal assault the shawl was $20 less. That merchant had definitely met his match in my two pals. As you can see in the photo my shawl is lovely but the memory that accompanies it is even better. P.S. I took my two HERmail mentors out for lunch that day and by the end of the meal we all felt we had known each other for a very long time.


Editor's Note: Please tell us about your favorite souvenirs. Do you have a favorite object with a travel story attached? C'mon, share it with us (200 words max) and we'll publish the best right here. Address your emails to: editor@journeywoman.com and put the words 'travel souvenir' in the subject line. Thanks, everybody!

 


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