Category Archives: Destinations

Navigating the Gypsy Family Travel blog

Friends and readers,

Thanks for reading my blog! In case you want to know what’s on it other than just what I share on humpday Wednesdays, here’s a little tour:

Be a subscriber! It’s free. When you scroll down, you’ll see  a place where you can enter your email address. You’ll receive updated blogposts that don’t always get posted to Facebook.

The menu tab at the top shows different subjects: Destinations, Cuisine, Hiking Trips, vintage fashion, etc. Some blogs are interviews of others’ trips and some are my own. Looking for a certain kind of trip? Girls trip? Wine tour? Dove hunting in Argentina? Look thru the tabs and you’ll find a variety.

Many of you have asked about my travel book, A Magic Carpet RideI haven’t promoted it much but realized I need to at least share where the book is available for those who are interested. It’s available at :

  • Amazon
  • Tulsa Artery (downtown)
  • Dwelling Spaces (in Tulsa’s downtown Boxyard)
  • Ribbons (in Tulsa)
  • Yoga Quest (in Tulsa)
  • from me, personally

The book is $10 everywhere and $12 on Amazon. Proceeds go to charity.

from Amazon link

I will be posting several upcoming blogs about an amazing trip I took to Cuba. I will make my own Cuba tab on the menu where you can find these. That will be a couple of months from now.


If you have a trip experience you want to share or a passion, great cause,  or hobby that you think would be a good interview, contact me!

Gina Kingsley

The Hip Cooper Young District of Memphis

Memphis is known for its iconic Beale Street, Graceland and Peabody Hotel ducks but did you know it has other eclectic and charming districts that tourists should definitely check out? One of those districts is the hip Cooper Young area.  Our Air BnB was located within the Cooper Young area and we were able to stroll through our quaint neighborhood onto the intersection of shops and cafes.

One particular restaurant and bar was called The Beauty Shop which used to be just that!- a beauty shop that was actually the first co-ed beauty shop and barber shop all in one. Now transformed into a restaurant with the hairdryers still in place, we got to sit in the booth where Priscilla Presley used to get her beehive coiffed.

The menu was impressive and the ambience was purely retro. Totally fun! After a glass of rose wine and a healthy salad and yummy sides, we took a short stroll through the area and back to our Air BnB. Victorian houses, craftsmen bungalows and other charming houses filled the neighborhoods.

A short ten minute or so uber drive to Beale Street made this a nice area for lodging. Overton Square is another revitalized area to check out. For my second trip to Memphis, these “finds” were nice to add to the famous Beale Street. Check them out!


My friends’ favorite wines

What are the favorite wines out there? I went to the source… girlfriends! When you know your friends’ palettes, you’ll be well stocked for the next time  you go to their house or they come to your house! I like to update this list, periodically. Here’s the results:

  • St. Supery Meritage
  • Stags Leap
  • Calistoga
  • Mazzei Philip Cabernet
  • Big Red Monster
  • Jordan Russian River Valley
  • Kono Sauvignon Blanc
  • Faust Wines
  • Joel Gott Cabernet
  • Faust Wines
  • Lesse Fitch Cabernet
  • Rombauer
  • Kendall Jackson Chardonnay
  • Silver Oak
  • Sterling
  • Apothic
  • Honig
  • Sean Minor
  • Earthquake Red Zinfandel
  • Saldo Red Zinfandel
  • Far Niente

Typically, I don’t believe in wine pairings with food. I mix whites and reds with different meats sometimes. However, I always like white wine with sushi. I always like red wine with…..I always like red wine! With everything!  Here’s some good info about wine pairings, though.

Gina’s easy bruschetta  to serve with wine:

make your own crostinis or buy them. If you make them, slice a baguette or buy crostinis and brush butter, olive oil, garlic and chives or your favorite herb and sea salt. Bake until golden.

mix Harissa Salsa from Trader Joe’s with Bruschetta toppings like Red Pepper Salsa, Artichoke and Olive Tapenade salsas.



Lost Canyon Trail at Top of the Rock

Top of the Rock, next to Big Cedar Lodge, has marvelous attractions. This clifftop Eden of an Ozark resort is every bit the valley of excitement. One of the attractions up at Top of the Rock is the Lost Canyon Trail which is a tour of a four story cascading waterfall. Driving your own golf cart through the trail lasts about 45 minutes long as you stop at waterfalls, drive through a big cave (with a beverage bar inside) and cross over a Amish covered wooden bridge.

our sons ahead of us
our sons ahead of us
our kids golf cart
our kids golf cart


k5khgr3rwucveqz3nxka_thumb_1515fThe paved road is easy to maneuver through as you enjoy limestone, glorious foliage and breathtaking vistas.unadjustednonraw_thumb_15171It’s so relaxing to let your mind and vision wander, taking in the  natural beauty and not having to process anything other than what legacy natural history leaves us….like the erosion of rivers, hot springs, rain, wind  and streams over time as they carved and formed the existing rock formations. It’s a bonus for me to have a husband who majored in GeoPhysics and a son majoring in Geology along for the ride to impart their geological knowledge to the rest of us!


Inside the cave, we saw stalactites and more waterfalls.




sinkhole that is leading to possible connectedness to the Lost Canyon cave system
sinkhole at Top of the Rock that is leading to possible connectedness to the Lost Canyon cave system

When we finished the Lost Canyon Trail golf cart ride, we departed to a fabulous lunch at Arnie’s Barn. The view of the Top of the Rock site from Arnie’s barn rooftop balcony is thrilling. You will definitely want to make a day out of visiting there. The sinkhole update below on video and on the website link is fascinating and possibly connected to the Lost Canyon cave.

photos by GIna Kingsley


Big Cedar Lodge

Cedars, pine trees, streams, waterfalls, moss, nature and luxury; adventure and relaxation…..all of these can be found at Big Cedar Lodge in the Ozarks! Just saying those three words invites a sigh of wonder and appreciation from anyone who has had the pleasure of staying at BCL! The best memories are made at this resort–ranging from rustic relaxation to luxury dining, golfing and holiday fun.aqdhsy7esoobmlcpcbu1uw_thumb_14f59We discovered Big Cedar Lodge fifteen years ago when our trip to San Diego and Los Angeles had to be canceled because of the events of 9-11 and airports closing down. What was supposed to be a week of Disneyland, Lego Land, Sea World and other California attractions ended up becoming a quick detour to Branson instead. I had heard about Big Cedar Lodge from friends or colleagues and this was a good opportunity to check it out. As we drove down into the resort area, we were astonished at the beauty of this hidden valley overlooking Table Rock Lake.pvm5faqgqegvmhqqghmfuq_thumb_14f4cWhat especially surprised us were all the amenities and activities included there. Our six year old caught his first fish at the marina– a blue gill! We were able to do paddle boats, canoes and fishing for water activities and hiking, exercise room, horseback riding and putt putt golf along with sports and playgrounds. We ended up returning annually for the next 15 years and staying in every lodging the resort offers. jypa92uxryko8icbmiwkgg_thumb_14f45So many additions were created over the years; chapels, skating rink, the development at Top of the Rock and more….Currently, they are building an activities center which is going to include laser tag, bowling, go carts, etc.

the chapel
the chapel

unadjustednonraw_thumb_155c9We didn’t just want to enjoy it alone so we went back with other relatives over the years. From small groups to large family trips, the best memories have been made there. One tradition that has developed is the Thanksgiving buffet at Top of the Rock.juvbdaiqlaslduny1zcw_thumb_15189

oro6ynsoebexedrfm69a_thumb_150fdWhile we’ve been there during every season, I have to say that Fall is my favorite time to go. I like to get my fill of Fall and closure on the outdoorsy time before having to “hibernate” during the winter months. Fall is a perfect time for us to go and do as many outdoor activities as possible. We start the mornings with a walk through the grounds, enjoying all the holiday decor.unadjustednonraw_thumb_14f3b



pahiwj2t8gdkk1pzaep1w_thumb_14f46We walk across the bridge at Devil’s Pool and take photos….and enjoy the waterfalls.unadjustednonraw_thumb_14f66


lrh5vbq9q0idefcso6utcq_thumb_1507aWhen we crave water time, we either enjoy the hot tubs or heated pools which is nice to do at any time of day but especially relaxing after an excursion.unadjustednonraw_thumb_14f41

etzxeqriqiqh07x0wuxpfw_thumb_14f4dAdmiring the landscape but also the interior and exterior design of this gorgeous resort never gets old. The photos are endless as I never get enough of the beauty.unadjustednonraw_thumb_15072


8rfpjmkq8ulhoegxjkaoa_thumb_14f5aAnother reason I love going there in the Fall is because there is a combination of Thanksgiving and Christmas decor which is double the fun. Gingerbread houses and Christmas trees everywhere adorn the resort as well as pumpkins and gourds. This gingerbread house is a replica of the resort.9eamn7rcu6qjfkwmrclw_thumb_151a1


vuqohyvtcqna5cn4qd12q_thumb_14f01Thanksgiving Buffet reservations at the Osage Restaurant at Top of the Rock has been perfect for our group which is made up of two families of five. unadjustednonraw_thumb_1565aWe have dined at Buffalo Bar (the lower level of the Osage restaurant) and the upper level. The same buffet is offered at Arnie’s Barn which we also visit for a meal sometime during our stay. The vistas make you want to linger all day….so we do!unadjustednonraw_thumb_150df





sinkhole leading to a possible connection to another cavern system nearby

A walk through the cave-like cellar of Top of the Rock leads you to wine cellars and a whiskey tasting room.

the cave-like cellar
the cave-like cellar


whiskey room
whiskey room

Outside, there are numerous patios, fire pits, fireplaces and the imposing chapel–all overlooking Table Rock Lake. Mornings at Big Cedar are eerie and beautiful with an immense fog over the lake and dew all over your balcony patio table. The quiet and hidden valley is “just what the doctor ordered” and one of the reasons why we are always longing to return.

morning mist, fog and dew
morning mist, fog and dew

all photos by Gina Kingsley

Farmers Market Mornings

Nothing says SPRING like the opening of the Farmers Market.  April through October, you can shop the market and make it a weekly ritual…and you should! It helps make up for the winter months. My favorite one to go to is the Cherry Street Farmers Market in my own neighborhood. Reportedly, it’s the biggest farmers market in the area. (I think even the state, but I haven’t confirmed that, yet). Walking to the market puts me even more into the natural mood of the event. Although driving would be convenient if I needed to load many bags into my car to transport home, I purposely walk so that I become a part of my neighborhood experience. I enjoy the porches, gardens and different architectural styles of the houses. The simple pleasure of sidewalks is what many of us Tulsans rank high on our list of what makes neighborhoods great.

Carrying a few bags each Saturday also reminds me of the way they do grocery shopping in many European countries. You get the essentials; what you’ll cook that weekend. I dislike bulk shopping, anyway. It seems you throw away items or forget that you bought them and then you have to store them deep into pantries and fridges. There’s nothing like fresh vegetables and breads! Fresh honey from the local beekeepers is better for you, anyway, because of the local bacteria which is supposed to help you with allergies.  I like supporting the local vendors and also popping into the local boutiques along Cherry Street. There are so many chain stores, anyway….even on unique plazas in various cities. So this way, I support local stores and coffeehouses. One home decor store I went into was serving white wine sangria to all the window shoppers and customers. I had coffee in one hand and sangria in the other! So much excitement at 9:00 a.m. in T-town! Another week it was red wine sangria.

The live music is a bonus at the Farmers Market. Anyone who’s had a child with a rock band in their garage or bedroom knows how important it is to support musicians. It starts your weekend off right listening to the soulful beats of live music (before you read your newspaper – ugh.) I also thoroughly enjoy conversing with the gardeners who give sage advice about their herbs. (did you catch that? ha ha). It feels very communal to listen to novices consulting the experts about the best times to plant vegetables, why cilantro doesn’t grow long, how you eat the sugar snap pea straight off the vine, etc.

Highlights of the Cherry Street Farmers Market:

  1. breakfast tacos
  2. pastries
  3. live music
  4. herbs and veggies
  5. florals
  6. honey
  7. art and pottery
  8. wine
  9. cultural diversity- the Asian and Amish farmers produce stands are some of my favorite
  10. cheese and dairy
  11. eggs
  12. seasonal products; corn, pumpkins and gourds in the fall; seasonal fruits in the spring/summer
  13. ending up at Coffee House on Cherry Street for pastries, coffee, music and their charming patio.

Walking back home and quickly putting everything away in my fridge is so much nicer than unpacking bulk items!  Exercise, live music, a free community event, a little culture and fresh, natural produce is a perfect way to start the weekend!

cinnamon rolls from the Farmers Market

The area farmers markets;  dates vary. Google it for location and dates/times.

  • Cherry Street
  • Brookside
  • Guthrie Green
  • Rose District
  • Jenks Main Street
  • Jenks
  • Claremore
  • Downtown Tulsa

Where else can you see a chicken that has been trained to “play dead” by rural children? Strolling up and down the farmers market, seeing fresh eggs, local honey and fresh fruits and vegetables reminded me of the treats I enjoyed in my own childhood backyard. Years ago,  I mused to my husband, “I want our sons to grow up like I did—with chickens, beehives, veggie gardens, grapevines….” His answer was perfect, “Then, do it.” So I did! 5 chickens and a huge grapevine later, we are enjoying the inspiration from the neighborhood farmers market and the community of agricultural artisans who enrich our beloved Cherry Street!

photos by Gina

West Bottoms in Kansas City

It keeps happening. Every time I visit KC, I fall more in love and discover more unique areas to explore. I have heard about the West Bottoms but put it on the back burner because there are always so many other KC rituals that I like to fit in on my visits there. A colleague of mine knew how much I like antique stores and vintage shops so he directed me to the West Bottoms.

As soon as we crossed the bridge to enter the area, I was gasping at the old architecture. We found a place to park and started strolling not just store to store to admire the antiques  but also to study the structure of the buildings. Beauty and decay colliding into one… Artistic details on the facades and yet, birds flying in and out of holes in the rafters of some back alleys.We talked to merchants and soon found out that West Bottoms has its own first Friday crawl event. It is also known for having the scariest haunted houses in the U.S., according to one saleslady. (those start in September)Coffeehouses and decor shops were the majority of the businesses there. We found the old stockyards and bars nearby. A fashion shoot was going on under the gorgeous old bridge. 

Naturally, we became curious about the history of West Bottoms. It was originally called the French Bottoms due to its history of being a trading site between French trappers and Kansas Indians. Its location near the Missouri River made it a port for receiving goods from steamships when western immigration and Santa Fe trails trade took off. It had a definite feel of the industrial era.

The birth of the railroad brought about even more significance to this area and by 1871, the city grew around the introduction of the stockyards. The original Union Depot was built here which ushered in restaurants, hotels and bars. 

A majority of KC’s value was found in the West Bottoms (according to some info)..until 1905, when a catastrophic flood occurred. The stockyards seemed to flourish until the 1940’s  when WWII ended. The hardships of the economy caused a huge loss of jobs when military construction stopped. A few years later, a flood in 1951 caused more damage. Reportedly, in a few short years, the combination of the latter two events caused 50,000 lost jobs (approximately). In 1974, the building of the Kemper Arena hoped to revive the area. The 1976 Republican National Convention was held in the Kemper Arena. Now, the area flourishes with home decor boutiques, coffee houses, etc. Event venues were alive on a late Saturday afternoon and we even saw a bride in a warehouse window getting ready for her wedding photos.When you are in downtown KC, cross over the bridge into this time capsule of history. Take your camera.Next time we go, we are checking out the Stockyard brewery. Bottoms up!

Photos by Gina

(click on Get Started and then the West Bottoms graphic for a listing of events and stores)

Runway Tulsa & Oklahoma Fashion Initiative

Initiative is defined as inventiveness, imagination, ingenuity, creativity, enterprise, drive, dynamism, imagination, motivation, spirit, energy and VISION.

I attended a press conference for Runway Tulsa which released their 2017 event dates and explained its role with the Oklahoma Fashion Initiative.  My friend, Wade Bray; the creative director of Runway Tulsa, invited me to the event. I was instantly welcomed by so many bright staff members of this think tank. Tina Terry, program director spoke to me about the OFI- Oklahoma Fashion Initiative and last year’s OKC Fashion Week. This year, being the second year of OKC Fashion Week, spurred Runway Tulsa to turn it “into their own” with their own yearly events. Tina’s experience in event planning with SRO Productions and her  background in arts management seems to give her the confidence conveyed in directing this vision. 

Fair Fellow Coffee was the perfect space and backdrop for this event with its high contrast of black and white motif. As soon as I walked in, the sign Fashion and Coffee set the tone for two of my favorite things! I set up my “perch” for recording and blogging for this event and got my most important tool to start off with—cappucino, of course. After running into a college friend and asking Wade a few questions, I observed the energy of the environment. The verve of the guests and the space was not my typical Sunday afternoon. Something was a-buzz. (Maybe it was being so close to the Beehive Lounge, next door.)  The smell of coffee beans mixed in with chicly-clad guests and their creative spirit in the contrast of Fair Fellow Coffee ushered in the climate of this press conference. First, I asked Wade to tell me about the Oklahoma Fashion Initiative. He summarized that this is the first public intro into OFI’s larger goal. Jon Terry, producer, introduced Chera Kimiko, who emceed the event and named the sponsors. The proceeds go to benefit Martha’s Foundation which helps pregnant teens.The 2017 important dates to note for Runway Tulsa are:

Saturday, June 3, 2017 (10 a.m-1 p.m.) Runway Tulsa Model Call at Fly Loft- 117 N. Boston Ave.

Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 Kick Off Event and Emerging Talent Runway Show– Lexus of Tulsa Showroom- 4210 S. Memorial Drive (invitation only VIP event)

Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 Fashion in the Square– Utica Square-1709 Utica Square (free event open to the public)

Friday, Sept. 29, 2017 Runway Show Benefitting Martha’s Foundation– Cox Business Center Assembly Hall-100 Civic Center (ticketed runway show)

Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 Runway Finale– Cox Business Center Assembly Hall-100 Civic Center

The finale will feature several designers, some of which are Nigerian-born, Canadian transplant Ese’ Azenabor, Tulsa’s Nikki Warren and current New York Fashion Institute of Technology student, Raul Flores. You may know Nikki Warren through her Mocha Butterly store and line.

The website includes good background info on the goals and mission of Runway Tulsa. “….Our long-term goals include building new industry in Tulsa, expanding the artistic scope of our city, supporting and increasing the fashion retail sector and mentoring and aiding our young talent in the fashion realm.”- Jon Terry, producer (from Runway Tulsa website).

(from Runway Tulsa website:) MISSION STATEMENT: “Promote and sustain Tulsa’s Fashion Industry by producing signature events that showcase local talent and collaborate with community partners to identify resources and opportunities that enable participants to shape their passions into a professional career.”

Along with learning all the paradigm and dates, I took in the ambience of the crowd. Look at this 3 year old boy with a cardigan and ripped jeans. He was the barista’s son, of course, and very fashion-forward.

Regarding the paradigm, I learned that Runway Tulsa is the face of the OFI which is a larger, ambitious program that they’re working on. It basically covers 3 areas:

  • Runway Tulsa events
  • Education Programs
  • Economic Development

Wade succinctly covered the three areas without over saturating us with jargon and info. I am most excited about the education programs and something he specifically said. “Part of the mission is to make fashion more accessible; less intimidating.” He went on to explain that fashion doesn’t have to be super high-end/coutre. There will be a monthly showcase they do in different locations including filmmakers, fashion designers, spoken word poets, etc…

The education program was initially for college level and high school students but they eventually want it to funnel down to elementary kids so they can foster that interest in fashion to a younger age through mentorships, etc. (That peaked my curiosity as an educator/psychometrist). I think it’s bold and smart to tap into that age group.  I also learned that the education programs will include design, merchandising, graphic design, photography, marketing, event planning ….(all of that falls into this realm.)

They’ve formed a partnership with OSU in this education area as well as Central High School’s fashion program, Clary Sage, UCO, OU and McClain High School.  Also, out of state schools like Baylor, George Washington in St. Louis and Syracuse have expressed interest , etc. (There’s a tiered scholarship program, too.) The goal is to take them from teen level to push them through all the way to designer.

He explained the economic logistics and stumbling blocks for the young designers starting out. It was definitely enlightening. 

When he and I chatted about this future fashion district idea, I mused to him about what undeveloped pocket of downtown might be a good area for this. I compared it to the districts of other big cities and why they work there. It was fun to just imagine where this could develop.

So…now that the informative details and logistics have been explained, I’ll tell you my other observations. In this climate of a mutual admiration society of creative collaborators and lovers of fashion, the following comments could be heard: “I’ve been looking for that perfect shade of purple lipstick. Where did you get it?”, “Is that coat vintage?” (ok, that was me who asked those questions) but also heard among guests was, “Hi, what’s your name?” (thrusting out their hands for a handshake). (That one was refreshing, I have to admit. It’s not commonly heard, anymore, in all circles. ) I observed a pea coat hanging perfectly from the frame of man, a boho hat and chic scarf casually decorating one of the guests, and the gravity-defying heels, white jeans with a sharp black duster on my platinum blonde friend .

The turquoise bolo on another guest drew me over to her and I discovered she has a jewelry store downtown.  These visual observations intrigued me and were certainly unique compared to the standard “uniform” of many but it was the talent and creativity in the air that was the real centerpiece of the event. I feel this vision is on the cusp of something empowering for Tulsa. We’re at a time now that our city has the landscape for this fashion district.

We have the dining, art galleries, music venues, bars, food trucks, beer fests, etc….but we don’t really have a fashion district. We pop into stores randomly situated around downtown or nearby areas but, personally, I’d love to see a blend of modern and vintage stores along a more pedestrian format. (not scattered but cohesive; where you can park and stroll.)

As I was taking it all in, hearing about sponsorships, meeting people in this creative community, etc., I was grateful for a break from a typical Sunday afternoon. Then, my phone flashed a text from my son checking to see about his ride home from track practice, and I was snapped back to reality. But then I thought—we can have both. We can have a more eclectic, bohemian environment in Tulsa mixed in with our traditional Tulsa lives and lifestyles. There are events where you don leather pants and have cocktails and there are other times you go to coffee houses for Spoken Word and Open Mic Nites and don vintage clothing items. It will be happening more and more in T-town, I think. The renaissance of downtown, in my opinion, is begging for this–the one pocket left we haven’t explored (at large). We have craft beer fests, murals, street entertainers and even a Boxyard with shipping containers turned into stores in a tiny strip mall of sorts. 

Tulsa may not have been ready for this a few years ago. There’s a statistic that there’s a certain fickle nature about new venues after about three weeks, (or so, approximately) I’ve heard. I see that changing, lately. Establishments are sticking around longer. Now, I feel our cityscape could  support a more fashion forward style. 

That’s a wrap on Fashion and Coffee. What could be a better combo on a weekend early evening?

photos by Gina is a travel/adventure blog which features destinations, interviews, cuisine, activists, enthusiasts, artists, vintage fashion and much more to showcase journeys; both geographical and personal.


Murals of Downtown Tulsa

Every time I go to downtown Tulsa, I see something new. It’s very exciting for a native Tulsan, like me, to see the growth and progression…..or “Renaissance “and “revival”  would be better terms for it, actually. I grew up hearing about how fabulous downtown Tulsa was in the days of swagger ( like the first half century of the 1900’s.) My mom was a teen in the 1950’s and told us tales of how people dressed up in formal attire to go downtown. Hats, gloves and lipstick were almost a necessity for going downtown. The streets were heavily populated and there was a hustle-bustle of activity.

(Most Tulsans know the following info but for those non-Tulsans, here’s some insight…) Eventually, the shopping activity transferred to Utica Square (when it was built in 1950’s and re-purchased in 1960’s, shopping malls of Southland, Southroads and in 1976, Woodland Hills Mall (Oklahoma’s largest shopping mall). Southland became Promenade Mall in the 80’s and very few stores were left downtown. I remember going to see movies in the late 70’s downtown and popping into a few department stores.  The Williams Center Forum was a groundbreaking center for us. It seemed to have everything- an ice skating rink, a movie theater and several levels of shopping and dining. Ice skating on the weekends to a deejay was a form of entertainment for several of us. Bridesmaids and graduation luncheons were held at The Magic Pan creperie. You could even get your camera film developed at a film developer store in the “Forum”, as we called it. After a decade, approximately, the Forum lost its popularity. People went further south for activity, it seemed. We still occasionally went downtown for concerts or special events in small taverns.

After several years…..slowly, downtown Tulsa saw a turnaround with the addition of a new Cox Convention Center, BOK center, Driller’s Stadium, Guthrie Green, revitalized warehouses and districts, bars, taverns, art galleries, etc. Festivals, Tulsa Tough, Hop Jam, parades, etc. are regular weekend attractions for people to go along with the traditional Mayfest, St. Patrick’s Day block parties, art crawls, food trucks, beer fests, pedicabs, coffeehouses, open mics, spoken word nites, etc.

What excites me even more than the establishments are the delightful new murals that are painted on so many buildings downtown! This feels like a big city to me. It reminds me of what I love about other cities and metropolises and now we have them right here in Tulsa! I think it’s just the punch of color we need amidst all our beautiful, stately architecture. The “street vibe’ of the murals gives downtown Tulsa a youthful and casual feel to balance out all that Art Deco glam.(A headless cowboy and horse was painted on this mural. Kind of thought-provoking!)

What a great combo: historic architecture and casual, whimsical murals….chic, yet, street. There’s no place like home.

photos by Gina

Romania….an Orphanage Mission Trip

A bright, effervescent and beautiful young lady at our church recently went on her second mission trip. I’m so impressed with her because of her commitment to our faith, the role model she is for our youth and her dynamic personality. As if I wasn’t already impressed with her volunteerism of being a Sunday School teacher, youth group chaperone, dance instructor assistant and Greek dance troupe member—(all in a new city and parish to her) she also raised funds to go on her 2nd mission trip for OCF! (Orthodox Christian Fellowship). I’m always inspired when young adults stay involved in our church but in her case….she LEADS the way! Here is her fascinating story about her mission trip in Romania.

What inspired you to go on this mission trip?

One of my Orthodox friends went to Honduras for a mission trip our junior year. After that, I got interested. Senior year I went on a Real Break trip to Alaska and thought, “I want to go on another one!”  I looked at different trips offered and which ones my friends were going on so I was able to go on another trip with the same people. Going to an orphanage stood out to me. One of my classes in college was on the Psychology of Trauma and we watched a documentary on Romanian orphanages, so that sparked my interest.

I knew Romania is heavily Orthodox but…I didn’t know Honduras had an Orthodox population! 

Yes, they have Orthodox orphanages set up by priests.

What was the process for raising the money to go?

I gave a speech at my hometown church about the trip and we passed  around collection trays. I told the priest that I would give a presentation afterward explaining what the trip was for and how it impacted me. I also sent letters to family members. The OCF website has a donation link. The trip and airfare from D.C. to Romania was included so I only needed to cover my flight from here to D.C. I paid the deposit and the rest was raised by donations.

What was the hardest thing about being there?

The hardest things…two things: Many of the kids were malnourished. Every meal was soup and bread for five days…but to realize that that is what the kids eat every day…they are not getting the nutrients they need to grow. They looked a lot younger than they really are which caught us off guard. We’d ask them how old they were and when they told us, we thought they were joking. Saying goodbye was one of the hardest things. The kids became very attached to us. They’d put their arms around us during the services.

Can they come up with an inexpensive protein to include in the orphans’ meals?

We were there during Lent so, possibly when it’s not Lent, there might be meat in their meals.

How long can they live in the orphanage?

They have kids that stay their even past age eighteen. (They help them find jobs, etc.)The orphanage started after the communist regime because people couldn’t afford their children. Some of the orphans have siblings and family members who they stay in communication with.

Who funds this orphanage?

The people in the village area, Orthodox churches and the funds we raised support the orphanages.

So we should continue to support OCF so that the funds will reach these programs.

Yes. I want to do so much to help. There are schools they can go to, also. The kids were so sweet and it was so hard to say good-bye. The kids kept asking us when we’ll be back, why do we have to leave, etc… I had to explain to them that we have to get back to work. The hard part is how do you explain to the kids, “I have to go back to my family; when they might not  have a family.”

And they’ve already been abandoned…

That’s why they attach to us so much because they don’t have a primary caregiver or parents to be there.

The documentary I saw in the 80’s showed their deformities and deficiencies and how they’d rock themselves in their cribs.

That was in the documentary we watched in my class, as well. They didn’t get enough attention and they’d stay in their cribs way longer than they should’ve. Since noone was rocking them, they’d rock themselves and they couldn’t walk until they were older.

Tell us about Romania. Did you meet the Bishop of Kluge?

We stayed at a hotel where he stays at–it wasn’t specifically his apartment. We were in Bucharest for two days and we met up with the OCF equivalent. We visited churches and talked about what it’s like to be an Orthodox Christian. The churches were absolutely beautiful. They were on every corner! I followed our leader around the city. Bucharest reminded me a lot of Athens.

What was your favorite thing about Romania?

I think going to all of the beautiful churches and that the people there are very nice.

What’s the food like?

When we ate the hotel food in Bucharest, we had stuffed peppers, rice dishes, etc. At the orphanage, we had soup and bread but when we were in Bucharest we had appetizers, main course, and dessert.

What work do you do at the orphanage? What do you do?

Hanging  out with the kids, showing them love, playing frisbee….and also we took down an entire fence and organized their library. All of their books are donated so we organized them, set aside inappropriate books, sorted, etc. We don’t know Romanian so it was hard to decipher that. Priests helped us with that.

If you could influence anyone who is reading this article to go on a mission trip, what would you tell them?

I was impacted by my Alaska trip but this mission trip impacted me even more because the kids were so inspiring. They showed us so much love and it really put things in perspective. I look at the things I go through each day and it’s nothing compared to what they go through, yet, they’re so positive about everything. 

Photos provided by Kerri.

Kerri’s blog about her trip:

Romania-Where You Find Your Family

Orthodox Christian Fellowship website. Please consider donating. Donation tab in menu.

Kerri made this video of her experience: