China: Then and Now

china farm

Family farms where the Chinese people lived for generations were flooded when the Three Gorge Dam was built on the Yangtze River.

The China of yesterday is one of the oldest civilizations known to man. In this land once ruled by Emperors, architectural remains tell the story of how people lived and worked. Located on the eastern part of Asia, the land covers 3.7 million square miles and has over 1.3 million people or one-fifth of the world’s population. In the cities, family apartments and office buildings compete for land space and high-rise structures often reach 50 floors.

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Exploring Europe’s Danube River

danube-river-budapest

The Danube River flows through Budapest, one of Europe’s most interesting cities.

Running through or touching the borders of 10 European countries, the Danube River flows from the Black Forest in Germany and runs into the Black Sea. Covering a journey of 1,785 miles, the river is the second longest in Europe after the Volga River in Russia. Approximately 315,000 square miles make up the drainage area, and it continues to expand. Tributaries number about 300 of which 30 are navigable. The delta area is the second largest in the world and is still growing. At least 5,000 species of plants, birds and animals call the wetlands home. Fishing, once a primary industry has declined over the years. However, over 10 million people in Europe get their drinking water from the Danube.

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Uncle Rooster’s Café: Something to Crow About

Courtesy of Uncle Rooster's

Courtesy of Uncle Rooster’s

For the latest issue of Missouri Life, I took a look at Seymour, Missouri favorite Uncle Rooster’s Café:

After demolishing a storefront in 2004, Wayne and Bobbi Dunning took Wayne’s nickname, Rooster, and the vacant lot to open Uncle Rooster’s Café.

Serving up American delicacies, Uncle Rooster’s does more than just chicken, no matter what the name implies. The restaurant is known for its Chicago-style hot dogs and southwest Missouri-style Italian beef sandwiches.

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Aruba: Land of white sand beaches and emerald waters

Aruba Sunset (Susan Renee / Flickr)

Aruba Sunset (Susan Renee / Flickr)

Looking for tropical destination for you next vacation? Here’s my article on Aruba for the Chester County Independent:

Covering approximately 74-square-miles, Aruba is a contrast between the beautiful white sandy beaches, emerald waters – and scrubby undergrowth. Sand, that feels like fine granulated sugar meets the coast. Turquoise, blue-green water reaches as far as the eye can see. Footprints fade quickly as the wind swept terrain blows constantly. A generally flat, river-less land, this is part of the island group making up the southern part of the Caribbean.

In addition to the beauty of this Caribbean land, Aruba has a fascinating history. Alonso de Ojeda claimed the area for the Spanish Crown in 1499 and after the end of the 80-year war with Spain; the Dutch took possession of the island around 1634. Dutch is the primary language spoken, but Papiamento is a blend of several languages spoken on a few islands. Aruba has a population of around 100,000 inhabitants with no major cities. Oranjested, the capital has only about 30,000 residents.

Once known for its gold mining until the minerals played out in 1913, the country sought other resources. With only 15 to 20 inches of annual rainfall, aloe, cacti and the windswept divi-divi – the national tree – prosper in this hot, dry climate. Fortunately, the aloe plant that thrives in this climate has become the island’s primary agricultural crop making Aruba a leading producer of skin care products. Also, plantations provide local employment and supply cosmetics around the world. Farmers tend these plants like locals raise cotton, corn, and soybeans in our area.

On visiting an aloe factory, we were told the outer leaves of the aloe plant are the ones to remove. The plant puts up new shoots from the center and will continue to multiply. One of the best natural medicines for a burn, the leaves of the aloe are broken and the sticky residue provides healing qualities.

Huge boulders, the size of small houses, line the coast. Strong waves crash against the rocks. This makes docking a small boat in the area treacherous.

Like a child’s building blocks, visitors notice small rocks stacked one on top of the other. Years ago tourists started this custom which means, “I was not alone. The rocks were here too.” Viewing this practice, one is aware of the land’s handiwork as the surf and wind demonstrate the forces of nature.

Carolyn Tomlin is a Jackson, Tennessee-based author that has been writing and publishing since 1988. She has authored 19 books and more than 4,000 articles in magazines such as Entrepreneur, Kansas City Star, American Profile, Tennessee Home & Farm, Home Life, Mature Living, ParentLife and many others.  You can purchase her full-length works here.

Five places to visit when in Cuba

(Carolyn Tomlin)

This large cemetery is the resting place for many famous Cubans. (Carolyn Tomlin)

With U.S. relations with Cuba being renewed, I share my favorite spots I visited there during my travels for the Chester County Independent:

It is not your typical Caribbean vacation. Following along the coast, the land is devoid of skyscrapers and high-rise hotels. Traffic jams are non-existent. In fact, when traveling down the main west-to-east highway connecting the sparsely populated countryside, travelers see few automobiles.

However, occasional horses pulling carts with a single or double occupant are the norm. On Saturday, in the rural area, lines of freshly-washed clothes dry outside in this tropical climate. Horses serve as lawnmowers as they are tied to small sections of the road where they eat lush green grass.

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Casey Jones Village: Right on Track

Entrepeneur Magazine - Casey Jones

I wanted to post this piece from my personal archives on the Casey Jones Village in Jackson, Tennessee. It originally ran years ago in Entrepreneur Magazine‘s “Business Beat” column:

In 1965, Brooks Shaw of Jackson, Tennessee started collecting country folk antiques as a way to combat stress from the high pressure job as president of a canned meat company. Little did he know that along the way he would fall in love with the story of American railroad engineer and folk hero Casey Jones and start something that 26 years later would become a top notch business.   Continue reading

Cuba’s Orchid Garden

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Here’s my piece on the Orchid Gardens of Soroa in Cuba, as it appeared in the Chester County Independent :

On a summer afternoon with temperatures in the high 90s and extreme humidity our group of 13 educators climbed approximately 206 meters (1 meter equals 3.28 feet) to Cuba’s Orchid Park in Soroa. Orchids and other tropical plants thrive in this micro-climate that includes abundant rains and an average annual temperature of 74 degrees.

The Orchid Gardens of Soroa were developed due to a great sadness of the owner. In 1942 Tomás Felipe Camacho, a successful lawyer and native of the Canary Islands, purchased a tract of land in an area of Soroa. Filled with lush native vegetation, he wanted to share this beautiful site with others. At first, he thought of building a resort on the land, but a turn of events changed his plans. His beloved daughter died while giving birth. Shortly after, his grieving wife passed away. From that day forward, Don Tomás devoted himself totally to honoring his deceased loved ones. Thus, he developed a captivating interest in growing orchids.  Continue reading