Sunday, March 16, 2014

South American Adventure

by Kay Larson

Having lived and traveled internationally, I had been watching for an opportunity to explore a new area of the world when I read in the WMSC blog last fall about a group initiated within the Sunrise Senior College (Down East Maine) to tour Peru (including Macho Picchu) and Ecuador (including the Galapagos Islands) the last half of January. As I researched the details, I was attracted to the elements of learning and discovery (similar to those reported by Bonnie Marien in a recent blog about Cuba travel) by connecting with local people through guided school, home, and market visits. Unlike Bonnie, when I committed to the trip, I didn’t know any of the people I would be traveling with. No problem; with only 15 of us, we quickly became friends.

Several highlights for me are worth noting. I loved the physical and mental challenges of following the Inca Trail on a strenuous climb up to the Sun Gate at Machu Picchu, and I welcomed the flexibility that tour participants could choose alternative experiences when more appropriate to their interests and abilities. One of my favorite memories of the trip is interacting through music with the youth of a special needs school as they performed their songs and dances for and with us. In the Galapagos, our naturalist introduced us to a new world of trusting wildlife (they trusting us, and we trusting them), including taking us snorkeling with sharks (granted, not much more than a foot long).

Some tour participants have already signed up for another Overseas Adventure Travel's tour to Africa, spotlighting a safari in the Tanzanian Serengeti National Park next February. If you're interested and would like more information contact Sunrise Senior College member Etta Abrahams (

Whether through Overseas Adventure Travel, who offered my trip, Road Scholar, some other travel agency, or a self-created tour, I think it would be great to make group travel a part of WMSC’s future. Please talk with me or others on the program committee if you have a vision of a great adventure, whether nearby or to distant lands.

To read more about this South American adventure in the March issue of the Maine Senior College Network Newsletter click on Sunrise and Friends' Adventure.

Experiencing Peruvian culture

The market in Urubamba, Peru - just look at that nutritious color!

Can't get enough of the awesome Incan mortarless stonework

A real "high" light: A view of Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate

Galapagos sea lions mellowing out

Older residents of the Galapagos Islands

Floral explosion on Galapagos farm

photos by Kay Larson

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Monday, March 10, 2014

It's All About Color!

Cathi DiCocco with some of the colorful food we got to eat!
by Mary Haberman 

On Thursday, March 6th, Cathi DiCocco, professional chef (and Bethel treasure) showed some two dozen participants how to think about food choices, especially the nutritional values of colorful vegetables, whole grains, citrus and spices. As she talked, we watched and learned her methods of chopping, chipping, slicing, and stripping vegetables of every color that are part of her "Culinary Color Wheel."

"Pigments that give fruits and vegetables their bright color represent a variety of protective compounds for our better health," Cathi explained. For example, greens, such as spinach and kale, provide folate for healthy cells. The red of tomatoes are providing lycopene, and the yellows and oranges, vitamin C. Many of the vegetables, and some spices, are excellent antioxidants. Whole grains and beans provide essential fiber.

Cathi put together a delicious Mexican concoction (later sampled by the participants) that included everything she had talked about, plus spices for "zingers." A Waldorf salad, using roasted grapes (amazing), walnuts and local apples topped off her demonstration.

Throughout, she stressed the need to get close to what is natural - organic, unadulterated and local - when possible.

This presentation - her time, food and skills - all were Cathi's community service contribution, and we were, and are, most appreciative.

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Adventures in Cuba

by Bonnie Marien

When I announced to family and friends that I was planning a trip to Cuba, a frequent response was “Why Cuba?” Other reactions included “Can people travel to Cuba from the US?,” and “Will you bring me back some cigars?” The answer to the last two questions was easy - yes to travel under certain conditions and no to cigars. The question of why Cuba is a bit more complicated.

If you are a member of Senior College, you have lived with the US government embargo of Cuba for well over 50 years. The history of the embargo is long and tortured. Most of us are familiar with at least some aspects of it. I wanted the opportunity to meet ordinary Cuban people and have access to day-to-day life on the island to judge for myself if this policy still made sense after all this time. The State Department continues to list Cuba as a terrorist nation; yet we have diplomatic relations with Viet Nam, as well as many other such nations. I wondered what special danger Cuba posed to us.

There are a number of ways US citizens can travel to Cuba. The State Department authorizes and grants licenses for travel for educational, religious, cultural, “people to people” and family reunion purposes. Road Scholar (known in the past as Elderhostel) has a license to travel to Cuba under the “people to people” category. This February my daughter and I joined one of the Road Scholar groups for nine days. 

As my daughter said at the end of our trip, “I came with no expectations and have been delightfully surprised every step of the way.” We visited schools, artists, art and music after-school programs, museums, and farmers’ markets. We had a lovely time one day at a senior club learning Cuban folk dances. A particular highlight was a leisurely visit to the Hemingway Farm, where he and his third wife lived for 30 years. The home is in perfect condition with Hemingway’s personal belongings as he left them. There are mounted animal heads, hundreds, if not thousands, of books throughout the house and beautiful pieces of art-work. At each turn the Cuban people we interacted with were open and free in inviting us to ask any questions we wanted.

Some of my impressions are that most Cubans are well educated, but there are few jobs for them once they graduate from the universities. All education is free. There is tremendous emphasis on music and art from the earliest of ages. Music is everywhere. Each neighborhood has its own medical clinic with a doctor living in the building. Medical care is free. There is now a dual system of food distribution. There are government ration stores in every neighborhood, but also many farmers’ markets, which are free market based. There are tourists (many tourists) from Canada, Europe and South America - just not from the US. Much work is going on, with the help of Brazil, China and Canada, to build a deep water port, rehabilitate Old Havana and explore for oil off the coast of Cuba. There is so much more to add but this one last thought: yes those old American cars are as fabulous as reported, particularly the convertibles.

Farmers' Market

Children playing for us

Dancing at the Seniors Club

More dancing

Hemingway's typewriter
Hemingway's study

Che Memorial

One of many different types of transportation

Another popular mode of transport

Beautiful old Buick
Bonnie's favorite piece of art in one of the Old Havana squares
photos by Bonnie Marien

For more information about Western Mountains Senior College visit our website at

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Spotlight on TED Talks

by Nancy Davis

The recently-concluded "TED Talks" class had an especially engaged group of participants. Co-facilitated by Nancy Davis and Scott Hynek, the class was designed to encourage spirited discussion through the viewing of presentations from the TED Talks website.  TED Talks are described as brilliant, passionate, provocative, inspiring, original, fascinating, jaw-dropping, and paradigm-shifting.  You may watch these under-25-minute talks on your computer and may access them by presenter, topic, date, or even popularity:  The presentations used in this 4-session course are listed and linked below; click on the colored text and have a look!

The topic for week 1 was the aging process.  Presentations shared during class were:
Jeremy Rifkin: The empathic civilization
Laura Carstensen: Older people are happier 
Maysoon Zayid:I got 99 problems ... palsy is just one

Related talks:
Candy Chang: Before I die I want to... 

Judy MacDonald Johnston: Prepare for a good end of life
Daniel Goleman: Why aren't we more compassionate? 
Alanna Shaikh: How I'm preparing to get Alzheimer's
Phil Hansen: Embrace the shake
Sue Austin: Deep sea diving ... in a wheelchair

The topic for week 2 was how we came to be the way we are. In-class presentations were:

Week 3 dealt with various aspects of sustainability, and the presentations were:

Pam Warhurst: How we can eat our landscapes 

Week 4's topic was various shots at philosophy.  Talks from this week were:
Damon Horowitz: Philosophy in prison