Mari Partyka | Bookworm with a View

Dresses for Nepal

Hello friends,

One of my earliest memories (age 6-7) is attending anthropology classes with my mother.  This is where I became captivated with Jane Goodall, monkeys, and Africa. This interest continued into my college years where  I took so many African Literature, Anthropology and History classes that I earned a minor in African Studies. I am astounded by village life, the simplicity, tradition, and community.

As an adult, my attention expanded to South Asia. 

While raising a family, I quietly began researching how I might bridge my personal experiences and dreams with a desire to contribute.  I found myself drawn to novels and memoirs set in Nepal and India.  Drinking in the stories about daily life, traditions, etc...  offering my support to a few organizations along the way. 

Like many of us, I donate to a few organizations.  Have volunteered at local non-profit - while meaningful, the organization wasn't related to my personal interests.

In late 2015 I joined Mahila Partnership, a grassroots non-profit serving women and girls. Mahila Partnership provides local support to remote villages, mostly unreachable by larger nonprofit/post disaster organizations.

I never expected to find a opportunity to volunteer from home, with the flexibility that complements my daily schedule.  My efforts focus on business operations, and outreach. I'm thankful to Theresa,  a friend and fellow volunteer, for helping me find my way!

Nepal Village Life
Post the 2015 earthquakes, there is a fuel shortage in Nepal. Markets often lack food and cloth, and it’s very hard for people to get to the market to buy or sell.

Chamrangbesi, a village we support, is so remote that you need to walk four hours after reaching the end of the road.

Priorities for the villages we support are lead by Sabita, our local partner:
  • Women’s hygiene and education
    • Sabita and her students deliver health/hygiene education
    • Teaching the women how to sew and open a sewing cooperative.  They will learn how to make sanitary pads and dresses. 
  • Gardening: Continued greenhouse, and soil/crop education. Since 2011, the village varieties have increased from potato and maize to over eight vegetables. 
  • Open a health clinic
160 women need a new dress!
Yesterday I just about fell out of my chair after hearing that the women in Nepal villages are wearing threadbare dresses.  Losing everything in the April 2015 earthquakes, most women own only one or two dresses which they wear while tending to their families, community, and working in the garden.

Sabita, our local partner, sent the following message last week: ... Is this possible for giving a gift of Kurta Suruwal, A dress they wear everyday?

Opportunity awaits!  May I ask you for an $18 donation

Can you imagine telling Sabita that MANY people bought dresses for the women? My heart fills thinking about how many lives we are touching.

With gratitude and love,
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A winter holiday

Hello friends,

Snow, I found snow!  In December we traveled to Vevey, Switzerland for a three week work/holiday. I adore Vevey... the entire area actually.  Vevey sits on Lake Geneva and looks at France.  During the week I work from our hotel residence, leaving weekends to explore.  Our friends often tell us that we experience more than those living in Switzerland.

Blame wanderlust... below a story told in photos.  Sharing one of my favorite places with you.

This is the center of ole town. Behind me is a 100 year old merry-go-round, and farmer's market.  You will always find adults and children feeding the ducks, it's a gathering spot.

Vevey is quiet.  I often wonder if it's the mystical nature of the lake, surrounded by the Alps.

Chamonix, France
Time for a four day getaway. We borrowed a friends car and drove 90 minutes to Chamonix, rented a three room apartment, enjoyed food and live music at a local pubs. Saturday we skied Chamonix/Mont Blanc.

The lifts were only partially open, and the conditions were icy but this didn't stop us from enjoying a lovely day. We added skiing the Rhones Alps to our list of life experiences.

We will be back.  The locals say February is the best month to ski in Chamonix/Mont Blanc.  Did you know there's a 20K (13 mile) trail?  This has been added to our must do list.

The photo below is taken at the top of the lift, 3,300 meters.  This view always amazes me. 

Happy Tracks:
Now for the highlight of our trip!  Sunday morning we headed out on a 24 hour guided adventure - spending the night in a mountain refuge.

Rafael and Anja (at Happy Tracks) own a boutique hiking company and focus on making guests wishes come true. They are a millennial couple who left corporate living to live in the mountains.

We had the most amazing experience.

Hiking for about two hours to the mountain hut below, enjoying hot tea and lunch before strapping on snowshoes for an afternoon hike to Fiz Massif (2,965 meters).

Below is the mountain refuge in which we stayed.  You have to be a member a mountain hiking club to stay here, it's not open to the public.  Some refuges are, the huts are kept open for wayward hikers. Safety.

I'm still daydreaming about the place.   We snowshoed for a few hours and returned to glogg, fondue, dessert, games and stories.

Monday morning we snowshoed for a few hours before hiking down the mountain and driving back to Vevey.

Sion, Switzerland
The next weekend we jumped on the train, for a day trip to explore Sion.  We have passed this village several times on the train.  This is a hidden gem!  A village that looks like an abandoned town from the train station, but a 15 minute walk gifted us this view.

The town of Sion is dominated by the famous hills of Valeria and Tourbillon, dating back to 1000AD. We hiked up to Valère Castle (upper right), then to Tourbillon Castle (upper left).  In the lower set of photos you will see the World Traveler taking a photo of me while I'm taking a photo of him.

We loved this village so much that we are planning a weekend visit during the summer.   Settling in Friday night, exploring Saturday, dinner el fresco, and returning to Vevey Sunday afternoon.
99% of Swizerland is closed on Sunday, especially southern Switzerland.  This makes Sunday a good travel day.

Vevey's view of Lake Geneva
You can see why I love this place.  Living in the USA, it's hard to comprehend looking at a different country when I look out the window.  Switzerland is on the left side | France is on the right. 

A stunning sunrise!

Next time...
In addition to Sion, we will visit the Grotte at St Maurice, home to Fairies Fountain.  Legend says, he who plunges his left hand into the water will have his dreams come true thanks to the fairies' magic dust.

There's a world waiting to be explored - from high in the mountains, to campsites deep in the Grand Canyon, on the water, and beyond.

Live a life based on experience vs things, being instead of having.

I'm collecting memories, big and small. 
     Love, Mari
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Life and Books: Happy New Year!

Hello friends,

I hope 2016 has started well for everyone.

Warm weather has kept the snow away BUT it's great for running and the porch is still an option.  This is a lovely place that warms my heart, snuggling with a warm blanket to enjoy a hot tea... or my renewed fascination with Glogg. 

An old friend saw this photo posted to instagram last week and left this comment 'Some serious hygge on your porch.'  Hygge is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day things more meaningful, beautiful or special.    

I read 37 books in 2015.  I'm happy with this number, my reading habits have changed in recent years and I don't track personal enrichment reading on goodreads...  (eg: business empowerment, cookbooks).  Sadly, I didn't give any of books five stars, but did read 18 four stars.  

I'm off to a good start in 2016 - I have read two books in the first week of January.
4 stars: Missing Pieces (by Gudenkauf, Pub date: Feb 2)
3 stars: My Year of Living Biblically (book club selection)

There are several books I'm excited to read so here's hoping for a great year of reading.

Week three of training is done.  This weekend I decided to run my favorite trail, a five mile loop called the Yellow trail.  From the parking lot to the loop (x2), I ran 10.5 miles.  I love running this one, it has a 1.5 mile climb, followed by 8 minutes of winding descend that provides many opportunities to jump over natural obstacles. 

2016 will be an exciting year -  I have a list of a few goals/wishes to keep me on my toes.  More on all of this later!

Have a wonderful weekend, Mari

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Merry Everything, and Happy Always

Hello friends,

I hope your Christmas was lovely, filled with love, and laughter.   

With Andrew 14 hours ahead of us, we dressed up for our annual holiday morning photo and opened gifts together via video this year.  Our Christmas Eve, his Christmas morning.  

Bill was asked to play Santa for friends of ours, and I was asked to 'stop by and take a few photos'.  Watching Santa interact with these two boys filled my heart.

Below is a photo of the eldest son asking Santa if the Elf's travel with him.  Santa said "They don't travel with me, they are tired and tend to bite when they are crabby."  Precious!

We spent Christmas Eve cooking, the festivities above, and settling in for the evening with 'A Christmas Vacation'. 

Christmas day was oddly busy.  Putting the devices away for the day, walking the dogs, crafting a bit, running, and preparing dinner.  We also went for a long drive, and watched Die Hard.    

Reflecting on 2015: 
I have been gifted a wonderful life. It's full of passion, friendship, adventure, and love.  As we close our 2015, I find myself simply wondering where life is taking me.  This year I was gifted with strength and wisdom:

Strength/Independence: Family is part of my identity, and continues to challenge my personal growth/strength. While many of you experienced 'forced' independence in your twenties, I feel that I'm experiencing it a bit later in life.  Not in a bad way, just people growing, finding love, living their lives.

Wisdom/Love: I have come to understand the powerful 'need to protect' feeling my husband has for me.  I'm his everything.   

Looking ahead:
Are you a planner? I find I'm balanced when I have a plan.  I have been setting goals/writing lists my entire life.  A mix of musts, wants, and hope to someday items.  A list I never share - it's not meant for measurement of success, it's the opposite... focused on personal growth and wanderlust.

In closing, I hope you find time to step away from devices for a bit. This is my plan, but I  will post life moments on instagram this week... photography is a passion and I'm not ready to step away from something that provides joy/smiles. 

Have a wonderful New Years!
          ~ Much love, Mari
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A Swedish Holiday

Hello Friends,

My mother's family is from Sweden. My brother and I are half Swedish.  An important fact for this post, which is half story and half Swedish tradition/folklore.

Open my freezer and you are likely to find Vetebrod.  My family refers to it simply as 'bulla', a sweet bread. 

A story...
Last year I became friends with a gal who was born and raised in southern Sweden. In addition to being runners and career women, we are both Swedish.  We spend a lot of time together.  Predawn running, discussing daily life highs/lows, books, etc.

Over the last year, I have realized I wasn't raised with Swedish traditions, and often wonder HOW is this possible?! CAN it be possible? Our friendship has created curiosity, often leading to researching a story, folklore, or tradition. My childhood memories include Limpa, cheese, lingonberries, caviar, knackebrod, lutefisk, pletta, raggmunk, meatballs... plenty of Swedish food but sadly it did not include long-standing Swedish tradition.

This brings me to yesterday.   I joined my friend, and her children, to attend a Swedish Christmas Market and St Lucia celebration.  I was hoping to find Dala Horses and straw ornaments.  I didn't know what to expect but was surprised to see gnomes everywhere.

I was looking at a few adorable gnomes (like the ones below) when my friend asked if I was planning to buy them.  As soon as I said I wasn't, she jumped at the chance to buy them. I was left wondering what the gnomes signify; I don't remember seeing Swedish gnomes as a child.

Swedish Christmas History and Tradition
A pagen celebration of Jul in the Nordic countries is often described as "a midwinter celebration to eat and drink jul/yule". In medieval wooden calendars and pre-Christian picture stones, symbolized by a barrel of ale, or a drinking horn.

December 13 is an important day for the Swede's
1) St Lucia Day:  a modern festival of light combines elements of pagan and Christian tradition.

- The Norse celebrated the winter solstice with large bonfires to scare off evil spirits and to alter the course of the sun.
- St Lucy was killed by the Romans for her religious beliefs, in 304ce.

After converting to Christianity around 1000, the Norse incorporated the legend of St. Lucia into their celebration.

2) The tree is decorated!

December 24
Jultomte (a Christmas Gnome) travels with a Yule goat, delivering presents door to door.  It is customary to leave a behind a bowl of porridge with butter, in gratitude.

This is where I confess that I have never heard of Tomte {gasp}

Tomte folklore: In ancient times Tomte was believed to be the "soul" of the first farm dweller.  If treated well, the tomte protects the family and animals from evil and misfortune. Tomte is commonly seen with a pig, a popular symbol for fertility and their role as guardians of the farmstead.

In 1881, this traditional mythical character was turned into the white-bearded, red-capped friendly fellow.

January 5
The eve of Twelfth Night.  Boys dress up as the Wise Men and carry a lighted candle on a pole topped with a star, singing carols

January 13
St Knut's Day (twenty days after Christmas).  Pack away Christmas decorations, costumed children eat the last of the wrapped candies left on the tree, out goes the tree to the tune of the last song of Christmas.

** ~~~~~ ** ~~~~~ ** ~~~~~ ** ~~~~~ **

I'm left to wonder how immigrating from Vastervik to NYC changed my grandparents family traditions.  My Grandmother was a devout Lutheran and my Grandfather didn't believe in god.

If only I could have an adult conversation with my grandparents.  Get to know them, their traditions, why they came to America.  Hearing it firsthand would have been lovely.

For now I think I will embrace Jultomte and the Yule Goat.  I love pigs... buying a few at the market :)

Do you have any traditions that you look forward to, or avoid?

God Jul and Happy St Lucia! 
            Much love, Mari
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Running: London baby!

Hello friends,

I feel like the little boy who cried wolf as I write this post.  I have completed over a dozen marathons, more if you count the solo marathons (prepping for an ultra). I'm think I'm done marathoning...

NYC marathon (2014): When I signed up for NYC, I promised my husband it would be my last one. I thought to myself, what a great way to end the marathon distance.  The training season was uneventful (no injuries).  The weather on race day played a major factor: 15-25 MPH winds, with frequent gusts over 40MPH.  I will never forget being blown midstride several times, as I crossed the Verrazano bridge. 

About a week after the run, I told someone that if I had an opportunity to run the London Marathon  I would do it.  Mostly as a way to visit the city.  Would you believe me if I told you I have only spent 36 hours in London?

April 24, 2016: I will be in London! 

My 20 week training program kicks off this week.  My first long run will be one of my favorite runs, along Lake Geneva.  With the Noel festival underway.  I'm planning to end my 8 miler at the hot cocoa stand, and will take the bus back to Vevey.

Training Program: I'm planning to use the same plan I did for NYC, provided by AMR, along with a little help from a running coach.

Goal: Make it to the start line with strong legs (no injuries please).  I will train for a 4:10-15 marathon finish. 

Let me know if you have you picked a fitness challenges for 2016, I would love to cheer you on!

Eat well, rest up, and treat your body kindly.
Much love, Mari
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