The Honeymoon Road Less Traveled

A nascent concept dawned upon me recently, as I perused the internet for honeymoon ideas. Why don’t I give back to the community, I mused, the humanist in me suddenly pouring forth. Instead of indulging for an additional two weeks, why don’t Sam and I make an actual contribution? And then came the epiphany: my husband and I would volunteer abroad for our honeymoon. The notion had seemingly evaded both my friends and family, most of whom had enjoyed traditional, decadent honeymoons in Europe, Tokyo, or Hawaii. Sam and I, however, rarely adhere to convention.

As honeymooners, we definitely took the road less traveled-a road we would come to venture indefinitely. What surprised us initially, however, was the abundance of these short-term “alternative honeymoons.” We had believed sustainable volunteer trips to be rare, and most likely expensive, since relief projects and conservation trips often rely on volunteers’ contributions. We had $4,000 dollars, two thousand of which we would apply towards airfare. As such, we had assumed our options limited.

Fortunately for us, web-sleuthing would reveal superfluous opportunity in the realm of volunteer trips-and affordable ones at that. A multitude of volunteer travel organizations surfaced, each of which offered courses, expeditions, and short-term volunteer trips under $3,000. Much to our delight, we discovered a plethora of community projects in Asia; conservation programs in Europe and Central America; and even language instruction opportunities throughout Africa and Asia. Each was short term and encouraged worldwide sustainability-our two basic provisions.

Selecting between varying conservation, development, and educational projects was in fact arduous, due to our suddenly ample budget. For two weeks we toiled over one incredible trip after another. Should we contribute to safari conservation or foster in Brazil? Should we provide aid to underdeveloped institutions in India or foster wildlife in the Mediterranean? My educational proclivities (Master’s degree in education) and Sam’s fascination with Southeast Asia (don’t ask) eventually drew us to Thailand, where we could spend three weeks instructing English amid Thailand’s beautiful, rural landscape.

And so, my husband and I embarked on our alternative honeymoon, a honeymoon that would lead to our immersion into the splendor of Thai culture. In fact, upon our trip’s completion, Sam and I continued our travels; for an addition four weeks, we ventured to Bangkok, Laos, Cambodia, and even Vietnam. Not to say we didn’t dip into our savings a bit; we most certainly did. Needless to say, those three weeks (or seven, rather) were among the most enlightening and gratifying in our lives thus far. We’re already planning our second alternative honeymoon-and this time, throughout Africa.

Cynthia’s Attic – Youth Books 1 & 2

The Missing Locket (book 1)

The Missing Locket reaches out to young readers and pulls them into a story overflowing with excitement, adventures and laugh out loud dialogue. Set in 1964, best friends, Cynthia and Augusta, are suffering from a bad case of summer-time boredom. Cynthia’s family lives in a mansion of a house, three floors filled with so many rooms just waiting to be explored. After overhearing her parents plans to clean out the attic, the twelve year old is determined to nose through those boxes before all the “good stuff” gets thrown out. Amid all the cobwebs, antiques and creepy-crawlies was an old, rusted trunk, which belonged to Cynthia’s grandmother, Clara. Once opened, the girls discovered a dingy, time worn ballet costume, which Cynthia immediately put on.

Instantly, she began to dance around the attic as if possessed by the spirit of a true ballerina! Shocked and a bit frightened, the two girls decide to leave the attic. But they are drawn back to the old trunk…suddenly, the hot, dusty attic turns cold and everything around them looks shiny and new. Unable to resist the temptation, the girls dig into the trunk again. Intrigued by her friend Cynthia’s dancing episode, apparently brought on by the costume she was wearing, Gus puts on a sailor outfit and much more than a salute takes place! She is transported, back in time, to the year 1914. Not long after she is joined by Cynthia and the two are swept into the adventure of a lifetime. Crossing the Atlantic on a steamship, making friends with a ghost and ultimately solving the mystery of Aunt Isabella’s missing locket.

An entertaining, fanciful adventure that will keep young readers turning pages until the very end. A fast paced, well written, time travel story that will be treasured by all.

The Magic Medallion (book 2)

Mary Cunningham’s second book in the Cynthia’s Attic series, reunites best friends, Cynthia and Gus for another trail-blazing adventure. The amateur sleuths have a nose for trouble, despite their previous experience or maybe because of it, they just can’t resit the urge to visit the mysterious old trunk in the attic. With non-stop action from cover to cover, there’s more than enough twists, turns and danger to keep readers up past well past bedtime.

Climbing the dusty stairs, the girls knew that although there were no ghosts, goblins or giant spiders in the attic, the real excitement was in great-grandmother’s old trunk. Expecting things to be just the way they had left them, the girls were shocked to find Cynthia’s great-grandfather’s circus train in-front of the trunk. Magically the girls are thrust back in time, to the year 1914, where they eventually find themselves forced to perform by a nasty hobo clown. Rescued from the sinister Blackie, by the beautiful, fortune teller, Gabriella, Cynthia and Gus have unwittingly become entangled in the theft of her family’s most cherished treasure. The adventure is wrought with danger as the girls must travel through time and locate the magic medallion. Should they refuse, they may never be able to return to their present-day lives.

In this installment the girls meet a host of new and interesting characters and explore a wide range of settings, brought to life with stunning detail. An irresistible adventure series that takes the reader on a non-stop thrilling ride through time, where the bonds of friendship and the importance of family are conveyed beautifully.

Happy Reading!

Moon Rocks Theft Is NASA Sleuth’s Obsession

Of the 842 pounds of moon rocks that the numerous Apollo missions brought home to Earth, all are kept in NASA vaults. All, that is, except a couple hundred “Goodwill Moon Rocks” each weighing about one and half grams, tiny pebbles that were mounted on elaborate plaques and stands and provided as gifts to foreign heads of states — and to only one American private citizen: Walter Cronkite, the TV journalist who did more than anyone to narrate America’s adventures in space in the 1960s.

In fact, one of the very few things that Americans are not allowed to own under any circumstances, is a moon rock collected by NASA missions. (Technically, as a matter of law, NASA just loaned the rock to Cronkite.) Yet con men routinely attempt to sell moon rocks to gullible buyers and many of the Goodwill rocks, freighted as they are with the U.S.-Russian space race adventure mystique, and sometimes carrying a price tag of up to $5 million each, have found their way out of the foreign presidential palaces where they were originally sent to more tawdry places.

Science writer Joe Kloc has chronicled this modern mystery in a new Kindle Single, in which he tracks the activities of NASA senior special agent Joseph Gutheinz, a man who has made it his life’s work to track down the missing moon rocks.

This short book is a story of space crime, where the bad guys are intent on picking NASA’s loosely guarded pockets by embezzling money budgeted for the Mir space station, by ghoulishly trafficking in artifacts scavenged from the 1986 Challenger disaster, and most of all by selling lunar rocks brought back to Earth by Apollo astronauts.

During 17 lunar missions between 1961 and 1972, the Apollo program landed six spacecraft on the moon. The twelve living Apollo astronauts are the only humans on our planet who have walked on a celestial body other than our own. They brought back nearly 900 pounds of lunar material and most of those rocks remain locked in NASA vaults. As a gesture of goodwill toward foreign leaders, and to promote world order and peace, President Nixon in 1973 had one particular moon rock, called Sample 70017. Cut into minute fragments and given on behalf of the American people to all fifty U.S. governors and 135 nations around the globe.

The “Goodwill Moon Rocks” each weigh in at an insignificant 1.5 grams (it would take nearly 230 of them to add up to just a single pound), but they’ve become a huge obsession of Joseph Gutheinz, who has become a modern-day Sherlock Holmes in his detective quest to recover those missing rocks, which over time have been lost, stolen, or simply “disappeared” in foreign coups and revolutions. When they do turn up again, it’s usually on the black market — and their tag is in the millions.

To help him in his odd quest, Gutheinz created a sting operation called “Operation Lunar Eclipse” to lure sellers out into the open. Posing as a wealthy collector, he was able to recover and return a missing rock to the Honduran government. A Florida fruit wholesaler had been offering to sell the rock for $5 million. In his Kindle Single, which contains material from the February 2012 issue of The Atavist, writer Joe Kloc follows Gutheinz in his bizarre mission while also heading out on his own on the trail of some of the other missing moon materials.

This story holds reader interest because it’s so weird and full of oddball characters, among them Jerry Whittredge, who when not claiming to be President William J. Clinton is busy telling his marks that he is an astronaut himself, richly embroidering stories of his personal space travels as he tries to sell fake autographs. If nothing else, this book will demonstrate to you once again that the world we live in is a very strange place indeed.

Author Joe Kloc is a former contributing editor at Seed magazine and researcher at Wired. His writing and illustrations have appeared in Mother Jones, Scientific American, and The Rumpus.