Sunday, October 20, 2013

Nomadic life: the kindness of friends, family

Pickup soccer below the 16th century city wall in Cartagena, Colombia, old port city on the northeast coast.
You can't do what Cindy and I have done for the past five years without the support of friends and family. They have encouraged us to live a life without a home by making their homes available to us.

We sold our house and everything in it in 2008 so that we would be free to go where my next consulting or teaching gig would take us. That meant most of three years in Guadalajara, Mexico, two years in Beijing and now betwixt and between Atlanta, Miami and Cleveland.

Cindy has been our guide for all this time. She has planned dozens of side trips for us, worked out itineraries, picked out places to visit and even assembled historical background for me to study. She has recorded it all in thousands of photographs.

Most recently I was in Medellin, Colombia, for a few days, giving a lecture and workshop at a journalism conference.

I might have missed out on a lot because Cindy wasn't along to provide advice. But as it turned out, Medellin is home to Mafe Correa, an exchange student who stayed with two of my sisters during her high school years in Lakewood, Ohio. Now she works at one of Colombia's biggest energy companies in Medellin.

She and her boyfriend, Juan Sebastian, took me out for dinner one night and gave me a tour of a kind of replica town (think Sturbridge Village or Colonial Williamsburg). They also took me to a wonderful restaurant that featured local specialties, Sancho Paisa. (Residents of Medellin call themselves "paisas".)

Juan Sebastian and Mafe by traditional Medellin house
One of the few other places I had time to visit was the Botero plaza in the center of Medellin, named for the Colombian artist, famous for his depiction of fat ladies. There you can see 23 of his giant bronze sculptures.

Zeus (the bull) abducts Europa, by Botero
People had warned me not to go to this part of town with anything valuable in my pockets like a cellphone, camera, wallet, passport, etc. Whatever you do, they said, don't take a smartphone or camera out of your pocket or someone will snatch it.

I was skeptical. How dangerous could it be? The plaza was crawling with police who were evidently on the watch for carteristas (pickpockets) and other malefactors.

I got out my iPhone and began snapping pictures, and no one bothered me. A pushy vendor insisted on putting one of his straw hats on me and then snapped my picture with my iPhone, but he did not end up with any of my money or my phone.

I saw three police officers frisking a young man who to them must have appeared suspicious: young, male, alone. What could he possibly be doing in this public plaza? Frisk him.

There were also lots of demonstrators who were protesting the seizure of land from people displaced by the armed conflicts.
Art students decorate an old bus imported from Japan, the kind of thing you stumble on in the hip Colonia Roma in Mexico City.

My specialty: entrepreneurial journalism

For the past five years or so, I have been interviewing and studying the founders of independent journalism websites to see how they are generating enough revenue to survive. Most of them don't, but some have figured out how to develop an audience, make money and produce high-quality journalism.

These entrepreneurs are going to define the future of journalism because they are gradually replacing the traditional print and broadcast media. So my interest is in seeing what works, who's successful. The field is called "entrepreneurial journalism". I have been blogging about these entrepreneurs and digital journalism generally for about five years, first in Spanish and for the last two years in English.

So people invite me to talk about it. In late August, I gave a lecture on the topic in Cartagena, Colombia, and two days later at another conference in Puebla, Mexico. I spent a day in nearby Mexico City, walking around to visit some of my favorite places.

The nomadic life is not possible without the support of friends and family.

Gary, daughter Kristen, Betsy Courant (Mason in waiting)

At the moment I am staying with Cindy's sister Betsy Courant and her husband, Gary, near Fort Lauderdale, Fla., while I work on a consulting project for American City Business Journals, where I worked before retiring in 2006. It's directly related to my recent experience. We're developing a digital newsletter for Hispanic businesspeople in Florida.

My sister Nancy Lukens and husband, Tom, with Mafe
This past spring and summer, my sister Nancy Lukens, and her husband, Tom, hosted Cindy and me at their home in Lakewood, Ohio, when I was between assignments. It was great being around family. Most of my eight siblings live nearby.

Cindy's Mom, Dottie Pomeroy Kuhn, left, and her sisters Sue Glander and Sally Pomeroy Trabulsi
When we have returned to Columbus, Ohio, where we lived for 18 years, Cindy and I have stayed with her aunt, Sue Glander, and our friends from the Clintonville Book Club, Jeff and Liz Cabot.

Liz and Jeff Cabot with Cindy, 2011
Now Cindy is staying with her Mom, Dorothy Kuhn, in Atlanta for several months while I work in Florida.

Did I mention that we made a visit to New Zealand in 2012? This nomadic life all got started in an intensive-Italian class at Ohio State University in 1987. The professor, a native of Rome, Daniela Cavallaro, somehow took us to a passable level of speaking and writing in just 10 weeks (three hours a day).

Dan, Stefano, Daniela, Marinella
One of the other students in the class, Dan Stollenwerk, was in seminary studying to be a Catholic priest. He left to study in Spain and she returned to Rome. But eventually Dan and Daniela found each other again and got married. They now live in Auckland, New Zealand, where Daniela teaches at the University of Auckland and Dan teaches at a boys' school.

Cindy and I in Auckland.

This picture with Cindy is one of my favorites, from our New Zealand trip. Friends and family were with us in spirit. They have been supporting us all the way.

What's next? Probably Mexico. Details soon.

No comments:

Post a Comment