Mountlake Terrace Library Blog

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

What I Learned on my Summer Vacation

Well, since I just came back, I guess it’s not exactly a summer vacation, but since it’s the only vacation I will be taking for a while, its close enough.

Taking a vacation is important so you can relax and regroup and come back to your work refreshed. Adding travel to the equation takes you away from your routine and outside of your comfort zone, so you can gain some needed perspective on life. I won’t bore you with my personal epiphanies, but I will share some insights that might help you enjoy your own trip and avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered.

First, having just returned from two weeks in Europe (Sweden, Estonia, Finland and Iceland), traveling on our own via trains, planes, boats and buses, one thing I learned is that four countries and seven cities in two weeks is not recommended. By the time you pack up, wait for train, boat, plane or bus, take the trip, get off train, boat, plane or bus, get to destination, unpack, eat, change money, use the WC, eat - and repeat - you don’t have any time left for touring let alone relaxing.

Here are some other things I learned that I will call:

“Rosy’s Tips for a Great Trip (and what to avoid) and how the Library can help.”

When someone tells you the city center is an easy 20 minute walk (with your bags) from the ferry, double that. Better yet, take a cab.

Avoid schlepping.
Definition of schlepping: following your husband whose nose is in a map while you are carrying and pulling your bags as he takes you all over creation and eventually gets you lost. A fight usually ensues.

If you want to shop, don’t travel with your husband.

No matter how charming your hotel room, if there is a disco across the street that doesn’t even open until 11pm, you will not get any sleep. Do not tell yourself this won’t be a problem. Ask for a different room immediately.

When the train conductor tells you the train has gone, even when the train is right in front of you, wagging your tickets at him and frantically saying, “But we have tickets” will not get you on the train. “The train has gone.”
(Long story).

If you go through airport security in Finland, do not think that the little plastic wine bottle opener you have carried through security in your purse through more airports than you can count will make it through. It won’t. They do not mess around in Finland. And to avoid acute embarrassment, make sure you don’t have any metal at all in your carry-on (such as a belt), or you run the risk of a young Finnish security guy thinking you have something scary in your bag. Well you do, but it’s not what he thinks. It’s seven days’ worth of dirty laundry – and, oh, yes, a belt.

Travel with someone who shares the same habits as you.
For example, if you like to sleep in a bit (hey, it’s a vacation, isn’t it?) , and your companion likes to hop out of bed as soon as the sun peeks through the curtain, and sunrise is 3:30am in this part of the world, you have a problem.

When placing a wish on Yoko Ono's Wish Tree, perhaps you should wish for world peace instead of winning the lottery.

When your husband sings Bryan Ferry’s “Love is the Drug” during karaoke on the overnight boat from Stockholm to Tallinn, and he is such a hit that the MC asks him to end the night, which he does with all of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” be sure to have the video camera handy.
Moments like that can’t be repeated.
(What we couldn’t figure out was why every time someone sang an Estonian folk song, the picture on the monitor was a mushroom).

(On the ferry.)

You are supposed to feel humble when people from other countries can speak perfect English, and you can barely say hello and goodbye in their language – and you are in their country!
Sitting in a restaurant in the Sodermalm district of Stockholm (you Girl With the Dragon Tattoo fans will know this well), I got chills listening to a Swedish bartender and a French customer talk to each other in English. It was cool, but humbling at the same time.

I also learned that Iceland is cold.

But what I learned most was that no matter where you travel, whether you speak the language or not, there is kindness everywhere. People went out of their way to help us without being asked.

As a traveler, I am thankful.

I thank the young Swedish girl on the train who wanted me to be sure to know that Malmo Central was three stops from Copenhagen Airport (it was two the last time I was there) and what to do if my tickets wouldn’t work (part of the long story); I thank the bartender at the Aquavit Restaurant in Stockholm who offered to go find the maĆ®tre d' for us so we would be sure to get a table that evening (I think it was my complimenting him on his ability to pour a glass of wine and a beer at the same time); I thank the young chef in Uppsala who helped us translate the Swedish menu;I thank all of my Swedish cousins who I hadn't known before, who came together to welcome us, feed us and teach us how to play Kubb.

(Taking a walk with the Swedish relatives after lunch)

And it was heartening to hear so many of the people we encountered talk positively about the United States.

So if you are getting ready to plan your summer vacation, I hope these tips help, and as promised, here is how the library can help.

The library provides language instruction on our website via Mango, Learn a Language and LiveMocha. Mango uses real-life situations and actual conversations to teach 23 different languages.

Travel Guides are available covering a vast number of countries - Rick Steves, Frommer's, Fodor's, Lonely Planet and more.

And remember now that we have our new computer system, Polaris, you can freeze your holds while you are on vacation and you won't lose your place in the queue. If you don't know how to do this, we would be happy to show you.

How to pack for airport security might help you avoid embarrassment.

If you think you might find yourself in a karaoke situation, try this

If your partner is an early riser and you’re not, your husband won't let you shop and other compatibility issues, this might help: Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage.

Speaking of laughing, for a successful vacation, be sure to pack your sense of humor -- and remember, you can find your library anywhere in the world on the Internet

Happy traveling!

(The house in Sweden where my grandmother was born)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer Reading is Here for Everyone

I remember when I was a little kid I would get so excited about summer reading. My library was of the sort where for every single book you read you could put up a little construction paper shape on the wall. It gave me such a thrill to pick out my name and book from all the others, and to gradually see the library walls covered by the love of readers.

Here at Sno-Isle Libraries, we want to not just keep kids reading over the summer (it is proven to help them retain more of what they learned during the school year), but to celebrate EVERYONE's love of books.

For kids the theme this year is One World, Many Stories. We encourage young readers to pick up a passport at any Sno-Isle library to earn a free book and the chance to have the bookmobile come to their own door. Then, they can travel the globe with our summer lineup of fun, fabulous and free activities.
At Mountlake Terrace be sure to check out "The Fisherman and His Wife" Puppet Show, Open Up & Say Ha! With Kids Comedian Rick Huddle, and Are You Smarter Than a Villain? to start out the summer.

As always, we are also offering an exciting option for teens, too. Their theme is the slightly more zen, You Are Here, and teens can enter our Book Review Contest from any computer for a chance to win an iPad, an iPod, Sno-Isle Teens earbuds and pouch, or here at Mountlake Terrace a $100 gift card for Amazon! Simply by writing book reviews. Free teen events include a Bollywood dance class, Tick Tock Beat the Clock mini-challenges, a super fun Improv Games for Teens workshop, and the Ultimate Teen Challenge where they must photograph each other all over Mountlake Terrace in a scavenger hunt, plus build and play a mini-golf course!

And don't worry...we haven't forgotten about adults. Your reading will take you to Novel Destinations this summer, where you can just kick back and relax and read. For each book you finish, write a review for a chance to win your own Nook, or a chance to be our Reader of the Week!

Want to share the reading experience? Mountlake Terrace has not one, but two bookgroups. Our Foodie Book Group meets the 2nd Monday of each month, and if you don't like cooking...try our Second Tuesday Book Group.

How do we do it all? With a lot of help from our friends! If you get a chance, please tell The Friends of the Mountlake Terrace Library and the Sno-Isle Libraries Foundation how much we appreciate their support. It wouldn't be Summer Reading without them!