Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reclaiming the Beach

As the warm summer weather rolls in town many people are looking for a spot to cool off on Ontario beach. With so many waterfront properties on the beach, are they claiming more than they should? A quick look up on parcel data shows many residences are claiming the beach as private property when they do not actually own the land.

This Sunday morning we spent some time on the beach by Irondequoit Bay just off of Lake Road. I made a point to check the parcel lines before we went to make sure we will not be trespassing on anyone's property.

As we approached the beach on the Irondequoit side we noticed many signs that says "Private Property, Do NOT trespass". These signs are maybe 10-15 feet from the water, no where near most residents' property line. We walked around along the water away from the signs and no one came to bother us. Later in the morning, we got to the Webster side of the beach where there are no signs or fences between the houses and the water. We decided to put down a beach towel five feet from the water and enjoy the sun. Minutes later, a very angry woman from 40 Lake Road came and told us we were on private property and we must leave or she will inform the police. Knowing that we were not actually on her property, we stayed. Other than sitting on the beach, we made no noise or commotion. I simply couldn't understand why she insisted that we must leave. It didn't take long for the police to arrive, he instructed us to leave but didn't define where the property line was when I asked him. The police officer was very short with us and had no patience for any discussion. Disappointed and a bit disturbed, we packed up and left the beach.

After coming home, I once again check the parcel lines for the beach front properties on Lake Ave. With the exception of two properties on the Irondequoit side, all other property lines do not extend to the edge of the water. This information is consistent with the City of Rochester GIS website. The parcel line for the house owned by Michael D'Amico at 40 Lake Road Webster, NY. 14580 is 200 feet away from the water. If these people do not own the beach, why should they have the right to tell the beach goers to pack up and leave? As far as I know, this is land owned by New York State and as a state resident we should be able to access public land. I am truly outraged by all this!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

After Hour

A certain local organization runs a social networking event once a month for the international business community. Despite receiving an invitation or two in the past, I've never showed much interest. Couple months ago, the after hour event took place at one of my favorite places in Rochester, the Artisan Works. Being narcissistic as I am, I decided to take the opportunity to check on the pictures of myself at the gallery. The number of my photographs have twinkled down over the years to just the one hanging over the entrance to the Marilyn Monroe Room. Sometimes I wonder if the other photographs have been purchased and how stranger it would be knowing that a complete strange could be storing a print of mine in a dusty attic somewhere.

The event, although small, often brings in people from a variety of companies and organizations around town. Some of them speak of business, others about golf, ski or family vacations. Being one of the younger ones in the bunch, I have no input for the mentioned topics (although I'm not sure if they are really age dependent). Unexpectedly, I was able to connect with a couple with a contagious passion for "travel, build relationships with people of other cultures, and make a difference in people's lives." Most of the time it is inspiring just to meet one person of such commitment but to find a couple who share the same values and beliefs is like hitting the jackpot. I have become wary of naming names on my blog after the incident that happened at work almost a year ago. Still, it would be unfair for me to try to describe their work without sharing their site: KVI, where you will find "products with purpose from around the world" each with a personal and inspiring story.

The conversation between me and owner of KVI began as causal exchange of pleasantry. However, my eyes lit up as soon as the words travel and culture are mentioned. This is the third time we have ran into each other at these social events. By now, I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I've officially hijacked the conversation as an outlet to share my travel experiences. Part of the post travel depression is not that one is no longer on the road but the fact that everything you've just experienced suddenly becomes irrelevant in your home environment. People are going on with their day to day lives. They ask how your trip was and expects an one word answer. Rebbecca is very well spoken and thoughtful. She listens very intently and fastidiously gathers her words before she speaks. With in minutes of sitting down next to each other we were in another world of crazy Argentine taxi drivers and Brazilian samba festival. We talked about the amazing experience of getting to know the local people and become part of their culture.

Businesses and vendors depend tourists to supplement their economy but they mean little to most of the locals who see them more as annoyances that drive up prices and traffic. Travelers on the other hand can bring a sense of pride to the locals as they step into a new culture with curiosity, admiration and appreciation. All the sudden they locals see a genuine desire to learn, share and communicate. They then become willing and even excited to share their own culture with you. They will take you to their favorite eatery, hidden treasures and even introduce you to their family. This is the side of travel not covered by most guidebooks. Rarely do they tell you the best guide is a local guide who is not in the professional business of tourist handling.

So first round goes the stories, then comes the thought provoking and even challenging questions. With all the wonderful things you've experienced on the road, have you experienced anything negative? Well, I have to say I've never gotten this question before! The only thing I could think of was loosing my ipod in Valencia, which was more of a mishap not exactly a negative experience. When traveling, I find it difficult to be bogged down by small misfortunes when there are a myriad of things waiting for me to explore! The guy in the documentation 180*South got it right: "When everything goes wrong that's when adventure starts". As I scrambles with my thoughts I saw it for the first time that the most amazing and memorable experiences are the ones that happened by pure chance. I can't take credit for making them happen as they were not planned or expected. The only thing I could do is to place myself there and be available to experience these things when they happen. None of that could happen if I never left my couch or the comfort of my own environment.

Question #2: What have you learned from all your travels? Wow, are you serious? One more questions like this I'll never finish this blog! What have I learned? How small the world. With modern technology, the whole world is accessible in a connection or two. But more than that, as you open yourself to experience other cultures you realize how close we are as human beings. People may have different belief systems or daily routines but at end of the day the things we care and fear most deeply are often universal. When I see nature disaster and suffering I see strength and resilience; I also see love, family and hope. All this and more connects us on the most basic level of being human. It is on this platform we can then expand and learn from one another. Sorry if I'm starting to sound like a hippie here but these are indeed true feelings. When you sincerely care to know they will share with you just as I have share with Rebbecca. As a parting gift, she said, it is great talking to you because you always make me see things differently. I replied, it is people like you that have encouraged and inspired me to travel.

A good leader has the ability to identify the strength in his people and activate them to do what they are good at. By allowing each individuals to succeed the group will succeed as well. It's the optimal utilization of resources. A good listener in a similar way can instinctively pick up someone's interest and passion. They act as catalysts to draw out the stories. By asking the right questions, they not only allow someone to share their thoughts and experiences but to dig deeper inside for ideas that have not yet matured and verbalized. To me there are many different levels of conversation. The most simple one is information sharing. A step further could be persuasion, conveying an idea, justify ones position or influence another person. A real satisfying conversation is not to win a debate, despite the fact I often find myself in those circumstances, but to connect, evolve in real time and witness the early formation of an idea or sentiment. Those kind of moments makes me feel a sense of progress. They fuel my thoughts and inspires creativity. Inevitably they make me write.