The newly formed Southwest Chapter that includes Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas held meetings via Zoom in November and January, chaired by Coordinator Wanda Ross.
A dozen people attended the November meeting. Henrietta Hallaq (Tucson, AZ) was congratulated for reaching Gold Status with 217 countries and territories. The program focused on favorite destinations. Participants shared a treasured place where they have traveled and what made it special. Favorite destinations included Tahiti, the Kremlin, Maldives, Africa, China, Antarctica, Cambodia, the Silk Road, Tibet, Turkey, Kenya, Yemen, Hong Kong, Egypt, Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea. No two places are alike so it’s hard to choose. Most often, it’s the people that make a trip special.
John Christofordis (Tucson, AZ) told about memorable travels to Kashmir in the 1990s when it was under occupation, with curfews and limited electricity. Mark Aspelin (Sandia Peak, NM) told about working as a conservational biologist in Kenya, where he lived in a tent. People would line up to touch a white person! Michael Licamele (Scottsdale, AZ) traveled to Nepal when it was closed and there were no cars. He reminded us of the days when you could travel to Europe on $5 a day, then $10 a day.
Ten people attended the January meeting. Initially, we discussed the challenges and possibilities of travel during this time of COVID, including the high cost of COVID tests in many countries. We will be more relaxed about travel once we have COVID shots, but we each need two shots followed by a 60-day wait before we will have immunity.
The program focused on international festivals. Those that appealed included the Naadam Festival in Mongolia with bareback horseracing; religious festivals in Ladakh, India and in Thailand; a crane festival in Kenya; and the Golden Eagle Festival in western Mongolia with the star of the documentary The Eagle Huntress. Highlights of the Sing Sing Festival in Papua New Guinea and four festivals in Hunan, China, were the music, dancing and attire of the native peoples. Oktoberfest, National Day in Gibraltar, a pre-Ramadan sheep sale in Tangiers, a Notting Hill festival in London, and the final day of the Tour de France also were enjoyed.
During this time of COVID, we will continue to meet via Zoom on Sunday afternoons every other month. Our March meeting will focus on animals seen around the world. We invite other members or guests to join us.