Finding The Best Help With Back Taxes

ftbhwThere are a number of individuals who faced a lot of problems with their taxes. In order to settle these tax disputes as soon as possible, it is recommended to ask help with back taxes from a professional and expert public accountant or tax lawyer. These individuals can deal with the Internal Revenue Service to extend your tax payment deadline or lower it down so that you can pay it in full. The tax professional whom you seek help with back taxes will also give you several options to settle the tax debts. He will be responsible for keeping you away from lawsuits, frozen bank accounts and other legal actions that IRS does. You just have to select or hire the best tax professional who can work on your concerns without giving you another problem in the long run.

It may be a little challenging to choose the best tax professional but you can always do it once you research and compare their services. Take time to make an appointment with any of these tax professional and list down all the necessary actions that you will be doing. The help with back taxes that you get from them will definitely make a difference later on.

Best Strategy To Get Help With Back Taxes

If you are facing a tax dispute that cannot be handled by yourself, you have to make an effort of finding help with back taxes. There are several tax professionals available nowadays. These individuals can help you with your concern, especially in negotiating with the Internal Revenue Service. They will help with back taxes once you avail their services and they will also ensure that you will get out from such dispute against the government. The tax professionals will guide you step by step, especially if you have not been in this kind of problem ever since. They will not educate you but they will also provide help in lowering your tax debts with the IRS.

The best strategy in order to successfully hire the most reliable tax professional is to do a careful research. Try to ask recommendations from your friends or read several reviews online. Make sure that the law firm or accountant firm that you will be hiring is registered in the Better Business Bureau. Aside from that, they should have a good standing in the BBB so that you can guarantee that the best help with back taxes is availed and your money will not turn to waste.

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Doing Linux Disk Recovery Manually

linuxWhen your files are lost because of your damaged computer system, do not worry anymore because Linux disk recovery is possible. However, if you do not want to spend a big amount of money, you can always do the process manually. Even if you are not a computer savvy, there are still a lot of ways for Linux disk recovery. First, gather the necessary equipment needed for the disk recovery. This includes computer cable, hardware and many others. Second, search online for helpful tips on how to recover the lost files.

When you have searched a reliable source already, follow the instructions step by step. Make sure that you do not miss any instructions so that you will be able to successfully do the procedure. When you have successfully recovered the files, save it in another disk drive so that you will have a duplicate for it. If you are not successful with this process, call an expert to assist you. Ensure that you are calling an excellent computer technician who can manage to continue the Linux disk recovery. Through this way, you will not be worrying on how you can recover the lost files.

How To Repair RAID 5

When you need to do a repair RAID 5, do not get panicked right away. There a lot of things that you can do rather than dump the RAID and let the data go. First, make sure to shut off the server right away. RAID  repair is a long process so it is necessary to avoid disruption by turning off the computer. You may need other tools, of course. This may include a NAS or a spare PC, an alternative connection, UPS, software and many others.

Call a RAID recovery specialist for the repair. You will want to ensure that you know the brand of the server you’re working with (i.e. if you’re trying to fix a Dell PowerEdge array, you’ll want to look here first). Once the technician examines the computer, he will them disassemble the RAID in order to repair the damage it has encountered. Depending on the severity of the computer condition, the repair will take some time. That is why if you want to recover your files effectively, it is better to find a well known provider. This way, your money will not turn into waste and files will be retrieved.

Use RAID Tools Now Before It Is Too Late!

Is your RAID hard drive showing early signs of file corruption? Save it before it’s too late! There is no point of trying to back up your files now since if you try to duplicate your files, the ones to be duplicated are the corrupted ones or the ones that are infected with virus. Also, do not use repair and hard drive scanner tools that are not manufactured or created by your RAID manufacturer. If you are seeing early signs of hard drive corruption, immediately scan it for the needed fixes or if the bad sectors can still be retrieved or not. If the computer says they can’t be retrieved anymore, then worry not, you will find a solution.

However, if you want to really save your files, do not wait for tomorrow! Fix it before they become fully corrupted and infected! We all know how important a hard drive is. You purchased a hard drive because you don’t want to save it in your computer and slow the system down, and you want to keep the files where you can hide it and keep it to yourself.

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Your Travel Guide For 2014

JANUARY Winter is the perfect season for settling in on the island of St. Barts, lounging around the aptly named Villa at the Top (011-590-279038), a sumptuous spread that has 360-degree views and looks down on everything around it–literally. The five-bedroom villa comes with its own staff and offers optional catering services. Don’t forget to buy lots of Ligne St. Barth suntan products for days spent on such favorite beaches as Saline and Flamands, and make sure to bring something fun and flirty to wear to dinner at Maya’s or Eddy’s.

Try to get down to Auckland before the end of the month to catch the final yacht races of the Louis Vuitton Cup, the winner of which goes on to challenge New Zealand for the prestigious America’s Cup, also in Auckland, beginning February 19. The right thing to pack, or to pack in, for this trip would be something from the sporty new Louis Vuitton Cup 2000 collection.

FEBRUARY Consider celebrating Valentine’s Day in a romantic yet regal apartment in the Palazzo Arrivabene in Venice, which comes with a private garden, a frescoed ballroom and furnishings that have been in the same family for centuries. Or take an entire villa outside Padua; the palazzo, designed by Palladio, was built in 1588. Contessa Simonetta Brandolini d’Adda, co-owner of The Best in Italy, can arrange for the rental of either (with staffs), as well as chefs and musicians for ail unforgettable candlelit dinner, and art historians, drivers and guides for memorable day trips. (011-39-055) 223064; fax: 2298912; www.thebestinitaly.com.

MARCH You’ve been putting it off, but it really is time to see what’s up in Las Vegas. Stay in one of the villas (each with its own pool, Jacuzzi and butler) at the Bellagio (888-987-6667) and stroll through the hotel’s Villa Bellagio arcade, popping into Armani, Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Prada and Tiffany. Dine at Picasso, the hotel’s premier restaurant, under the direction of chef Julian Serrano (formerly of Masa’s in San Francisco). Or try the Vegas outposts of such top restaurants as Le Cirque, Circo, Aqua, Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Prime, Charlie Palmer’s Aureole and Chinois, and Wolfgang Puck’s Spago and Trattoria del Lupo.

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Then go from kitsch to connoisseurship, flying to Holland to shop for a Rubens or a rare Dutch landscape painting at the Maastricht European Fine Art Fair (March 18-26). Don’t miss Axel Vervoordt’s exhibition; this antiques dealer extraordinaire is a favorite of Ralph Lauren and other tastemakers. Since Maastricht is only about 110 miles from Amsterdam, pop up for a peek inside the Van Gogh Museum, which has a strikingly modern new wing of gray stone and titanium steel. You may be surprised by how chic Amsterdammers are looking these days.

APRIL Catch spring in all its glory at those wonderful inns up and down the coast of California–Auberge du Soleil, Stonepine and San Ysidro Ranch (800-735-2478 for all three Relais 8: Chateaux hotels) and Post Ranch Inn (800-527-2200). Be sure to have dinner at chef Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa (you’ll need to reserve a month or so in advance). End up in Los Angeles for the big Egyptian show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (March 19-June 4), with priceless objects borrowed from twenty-nine museums, including the Louvre and Berlin’s Agyptisches Museum. And don’t miss the new Getty Museum; Kay Evans at Decorative Arts Study Tours (415-447-7671) can arrange a private tour.

MAY If you haven’t seen the Guggenheim in Bilbao, only a fifty-minute flight from either Madrid or Barcelona, now’s a good time. Frank Gehry’s masterpiece museum–an ethereal vision in titanium and steel–is more like sculpture than architecture and has changed the face of this gritty postindustrial city.

Stop in Paris to savor springtime on the Seine. Stay in one of the two hotels that are the talk of tout Paris: the completely restored Hotel Meurice (book the brightened Dali Suite, right across from the Tuileries; 800-223-6800), and the Four Seasons George V (800-332-3442). Dine at Restaurant Alain Ducasse, where, this time of year, the celebrated chef should be doing something wonderful with white asparagus. Stop by the reopened Centre Georges Pompidou (you’ll have to come back in 2001 to see Monet’s Water Lilies at the Musee de l’Orangerie, which is closed until 2001). And don’t miss a performance by Jessye Norman (May 10, 12, 15 and 20) at the newly renovated–and spectacular–Theatre du Chatelet (011.33.1.40.28.28.40).

JUNE Arrive in London and check in to one of the top-floor suites at The Connaught (800-223-6800 or 011-44-171-499 7070). Have the concierge get you tickets for a performance at the brilliantly redone Royal Opera House at Covent Garden (the Kirov Ballet and Opera are on this month). And don’t forget Glyndebourne (May 20-August 27), where you’ll be able to catch Le nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan tutte, Peter Grimes and Jenufa. Tickets go first to members, and the waiting list is closed at the moment; call (011-44-1273) 813813 a week before each performance, but after April 24, for returns–one way to get a ticket. Or sponsor an opera for about $160,000, which entitles you to purchase tickets–a theater party your friends will never forget; call (011-44-1273) 812321. Eat at Gordon Ramsay (in the old La Tante Claire, now moved to the Berkeley Hotel) and marvel at the city’s incredible new attractions: the London Eye Ferris Wheel, across from Big Ben and certain to be the talk of the town (remember, Parisians hated the Eiffel Tower when it first went up); the new Tate Gallery (connected to St. Paul’s across the river by Sir Norman Foster’s Millennium Bridge) and–why not?–Richard Rogers’ Millennium Dome in Greenwich, now that the crowds are gone. Save time for Ascot (June 20-23) and the gala lawn parties that accompany it; buy a fabulous ostrich-feather hat from Philip Treacy and pick up a hamper at Fortnum’s. If you don’t already have your annual badges, join Atlanta’s Ken Ward Travel (800-843-9839) trip, which includes an afternoon in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot on opening day.

JULY Get in the spirit for a patriotic Fourth of July at the Tall Ships festival (June 29-July 2) in Newport. Rent Rosecliff, one of the grand mansions of the Gilded Age, and dress for the glittering dinner and bah at The Breakers on the 1 st (call the Preservation Society of Newport County, 401-847-1000, to arrange both).

Then head to Europe to visit those friends who’ve begged you to stay at their villa in Cap-Ferrat. Haunt the local markets, play tennis at the quaint Beaulieu tennis club, and enjoy eating outdoors in the evening. If you want to extend your European idyll, call API Travel Consultants (800-401-4274) and have their agents perform a miracle: book a villa at the last minute outside St.-Tropez (you’ve just been invited to English millionaire Tony Murray’s annual summer party); hire a yacht with a classical scholar on-board and visit Greek and Roman ruins; or pick up some last-minute tickets for August’s Salzburg music festival.

AUGUST Trade your cell phone for a fishing rod at The Point (800-735-2478), the former Rockefeller estate on Saranac Lake that re-creates the bygone luxury of the Great Camps in New York’s Adirondacks. Run off to Botswana (August 22-September 4) with the Wildlife Conservation Society (212-439-6507), staying in luxury tented camps and traveling with an expert from the Bronx Zoo. The safari visits the Okavango delta, Linyanti, and Victoria Falls in neighboring Zimbabwe (think about signing on for WCS’ Galapagos tour next July).

SEPTEMBER Head to Florence for a look at the restored Uffizi, which was crippled by a terrorist bomb in 1993. The upper-floor galleries have been expanded to three times their previous size. Stay at the sumptuous Villa San Michele (800-223-6800), a former monastery in Fiesole, which overlooks all of Florence. Ask the concierge to arrange a visit to the restored 15th-century garden of the Villa Medici, just down the road; the villa was the girlhood home of Iris Origo, the Anglo-American author, horticulture expert and wife of an Italian nobleman.

Devote part of the month to salmon fishing in Scotland, at Kinnaird (800-735-2478), the elegant country house on the River Tay in Perthshire. Save time for walking the grounds of the 9,000-acre estate and sitting before one of the many fireplaces, sipping a single malt before dinner.

OCTOBER Get a head start on your Christmas shopping in Marrakesh with a stay at the nearby Amanjena (011-212-4403-353 or amanjenares@cybernet.net. ma), the latest resort in the ne plus ultra Aman chain. You can scour the souks for such exotic presents as embroidered slippers, Berber jewelry and carpets.

Or, use the same excuse to travel to India, staying at the opulent Rajvilas Oberoi Hotel (800-223-6800) outside the walled city of Jaipur. Don’t miss a visit to the Gem Palace, where you can stock up on wonderful jewelry. And if you want to see more of India, charter the Oberoi private plane.

NOVEMBER Cool off in Bhutan, the last independent Buddhist kingdom of the Himalayas and a country that only recently got television (there are still no traffic lights). Arrange a private tour with Geographic Expeditions (800-777-8183), traveling with a Tibetan Buddhist expert and visiting remote temples that require special permission (you’ll stay in guesthouses built by the royal family).

Then spend a traditional American Thanksgiving, getting the family together at the Mayflower Inn in Washington, Connecticut (860-868-9466), or the Inn at Little Washington in Washington, Virginia (540-675-3800). Both have gourmet chefs, rooms with fireplaces, and beautiful American scenery right outside their front doors.

DECEMBER Attend the opening of La Scala in early December. Tickets are almost impossible to get, so sign up with the Teatro alla Scala Foundation USA (212-838-0168) for its annual pilgrimage to Milan: five nights at the Four Seasons; seats on opening night and the gala party after the performance; lunches and dinner at private palazzi; and behind-the-scenes tours of museums and fashion houses. The $10,000-per-person price includes a donation to La Scala.

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20 Trips You May Want To Take!

Don’t just go somewhere, do something. We’ve got the 21 best trips–short, long and in between–for travelers who don’t like to take their vacations lying down.

Travel, the way we see it, is about adventure, the kind you’re never going to find while sipping a daiquiri at an all-inclusive beach resort. These trips–from camping in a Colorado snow cave to scuba diving in Burma–will earn you bragging rights and possibly even a few bruises.

THE WILD SIDE

LONG WEEKEND Spying on elephant seals in California

More than 20,000 elephant seals, weighing as much as 7,000 pounds each, haul themselves onto San Miguel Island twice a year–to birth pups in winter, shed skins in summer. You can hop a boat bound for Cuyler Harbor and take a ranger-guided hike to Point Bennett (14 miles round-trip), where observation points get you within 20 to 30 yards of the playful mammals. Island camping is allowed by permit, but for ultimate comfort, sleep on a live-aboard dive boat. Who: Truth Aquatics, 805-9621127. When: Best viewing, April-August and December-February. How much: $75 roundtrip transport; $125 per night on board. Travel advisory: The 4-hour crossing can be cold, rough and windy come winter.

VACATION Photographing polar bears in Canada

apwpJust before the Hudson Bay freezes, polar bears lurk on the shores near Churchill, Manitoba, eager to hunt for seals. That’s when you have a chance to shoot (with a camera, of course) one of the world’s largest accessible concentrations of the white wooly bears. A professional wildlife photographer will be on hand to hone your camera skills and help you capture the moment. Who: Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris, 206-463-5383. When: October. How much: 9 days, with bunkhouse, $3,295. Travel advisory: Pack enough film, 5 to 20 rolls a day, and extra batteries (to replace frozen ones).

DROP OUT Tracking snow leopards in Ladahk, India

To study the population of endangered snow leopards, volunteers hike through the Himalayas at about 15,000 feet to find signs of the big cats (like claw prints and droppings), document the habits of their prey and interview villagers about their livestock practices and the impact of predators on their lives. This information is shared with the International Snow Leopard Trust to aid in implementing plans to save this creature. Who: Earthwatch, 800-776-0188. When: July-August. How much: 17 or 32 days, $2,495 or $4,990 (all expenses, including airfare, are tax-deductible). Travel advisory: For experienced backcountry campers willing to rough it for a cause.

PEAK EXPERIENCES

LONG WEEKEND Climbing in New Hampshire

It’s not called the Granite State for nothing. New Hampshire is home to classic rock cliffs, and at International Mountain Climbing School climbers of all levels can hone their skills. Beginners learn to belay, rappel and tie knots; intermediates work on anchor systems, route finding and multipitch ascents and descents; advanced climbers practice crack and corner climbing at the 5.7 to 5.11 level. Who: International Mountain Climbing School, 603-356-7064. When: Open year-round. How much: 2 days, from $220; 3 days, from $330. Travel advisory: Foliage season is popular, so book early if you want to go in the fall.

VACATION Hiking in Peru

Take measured, breathless steps along the Inca Trail to discover haunting ruins built by early Andean people. This ancient path, too narrow for mules, bisects grassy plateaus, misty jungles and rushing mountain rivers. After five days on the mountainous trail, at altitudes of more than 12,000 feet, a final climb ends at the Gate of the Sun. Here you look down on the mysterious Machu Picchu, which was forgotten for 400 years under a blanket of dense foliage. Who: International Expeditions, 800-6334734. When: Year-round. How much: 9 days, $2,398 (includes private guide, porters and all supplies). Travel advisory: You might want to avoid the trail at the end of June (the solstice celebration brings throngs of local hikers) and during the rainy season, December-March.

DROP OUT Trekking in Mongolia

It takes two flights and a one-clay Jeep drive to get to the Altai mountains. But the effort is richly rewarded with the ascent of a lifetime. From Malchin Peak, you can look out onto Mongolia, Russia and China. Trekkers then cross a glacier field near Mount Khuiten, Mongolia’s highest peak. You’ll also have the chance to dine with nomads, chat with camel traders, even hunt dinosaur fossils in the Gobi desert. Who: Alpine Ascents International, 206-378-1927. When: July. How much: 16-day climb and trek, $3,900; 4-day Gobi tour, $1,500. Travel advisory: Only climbers with glacier training head up Mount Khuiten; the rest of the group treks through the surrounding shepherd region, which requires no technical experience.

SNOW SPORTS

LONG WEEKEND Mushing huskies in Maine

Zip up your parka and explore the hemlock forests, frozen shorelines and glassy ice surfaces of the Rangeley Lake region from behind a team of frisky Yukon sled dogs. Between mushing lessons, you’ll do some vigorous cross-country skiing. Who: Appalachian Mountain Club, 603-466-2727. When: Just one weekend in winter; 2001 dates to be determined. How much: 2 days, $360 for members; $400 for nonmembers. Travel advisory: Don’t skimp on the polypropylene: You’ll need to change twice a day to stay dry and warm.

VACATION Extreme skiing in Chile

Ever dreamed of starring in a Warren Miller ski film? If you’re an advanced-intermediate or better skier, here’s your chance. After a week with the XTEAM in Valle Nevado, led by extreme skiers such as Dan and John Egan, Rob and Eric DesLauriers, and Dean Decas, you’ll carve expert turns and plow through powder like a pro. Taking advantage of the challenging South American terrain, you’ll also learn to ski steeps, couloirs and trees. Who: XTEAM Advance Ski Clinics, 800-XTEAM-70. When: August. How much: 7 days, $2,540. Travel advisory: Do not underestimate the searing equatorial sun. Pack some heavy-duty sunblock, a pair of UV-protective sunglasses and a baseball cap or visor.

DROP OUT Skill building in Colorado

Telemark ski through pristine aspen forests and then camp down for the night in a snow cave you built yourself during the Winter Multi-Skill Intensive, held in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. In addition to teaching snow sports–such as ice climbing, mountaineering and telemark skiing-this backcountry primer tutors you in winter survival smarts, including cold weather physiology, avalanche safety and snow-shelter construction. Who: Colorado Outward Bound School, 800-477-2627. When: December 29-January 20. How much: 23 days, $2,395. Travel advisory: Only hearty backcountry enthusiasts who are comfortable on telemark skis and are ready to handle nearly a month of nonstop outdoor activity need apply.

MOUNTAIN BIKING

LONG WEEKEND Chewing it up in Oregon

Coast through alpine meadows at Mount Hood Skibowl, which converts its ski runs and maintenance roads into a 52-mile, lift-assisted mountain-bike park during the summer months. Independent riders can trace marked trails, carve turns on summer snowfields and tear it up in weekend races. For novices, there are guided tours and plenty of group or private lessons. Who: Mount Hood Skibowl Resort, 503-272-3206, ext. 244. When: Memorial Day-October 1. How much: One-day lift pass, $15; one-hour private lesson, $35; group lesson, prices vary according to group size; 4-hour expert clinic, $115. Travel advisory: All lessons and tours require advanced reservations and credit card deposit.

VACATION Pedaling through the Cuban countryside

The International Bicycle Fund has teamed up with Cuban bike-club members to provide a ride that really immerses you in the local culture. You’ll bike 18 to 50 miles per day, pausing to visit schools, farms, museums and other sites. Avoiding the tourist “ghettos,” the group stays in private homes and small pensions. Who: International Bicycle Fund, 206-767-0848. When: November-March. How much: 13 days, $990 with round-trip airfare through Cancun ($200 is tax-deductible). Travel advisory: Bring your own mountain bike.

DROP OUT Biking from Lhasa to Kathmandu

Reach new spiritual heights by riding across the roof of the world on a two-lane, packed-dirt road. You start in Tibet’s holy city of Lhasa, travel over four major passes and stop at the monastery towns of Gyantse, Shigatse and Shegar. There is also a four-day off-road side trip to the Rongbuk base camp beneath Mount Everest’s North Face. Who: KE Adventure Travel, 800-497-9675. When: April and September. How much: 27 days, $3,945. Travel advisory: This is a trip worth training for–and you’ll need to: 30- to 60-mile days at up to 17,000 feet are hard work. Bring a mountain bike you’re comfortable riding on for long distances.

WATER SPORTS

LONG WEEKEND Shark diving in Walker’s Cay, Bahamas

Get up close and personal with the shark community at Green Marine Shark Education Programs. Clad with weights, tanks and a regulator (but no protective gear), you’ll roam the turquoise depths of the Caribbean with as many as 100 sharks (Caribbean reef, blacktip, bull, nurse and lemon) three times a day. Frolicking with fish and taking assorted fin-friendly workshops will keep you busy, but you’ll still have time to hit the beach and enjoy some spicy conch chowder. Who: Green Marine, 305-275-0030. When: Year-round. How much: 4 days, $716 (including airfare from Fort Lauderdale); plus an additional $225 if you want to get certified first. Travel advisory: Don’t wave your arms around too much in the water unless you want the sharks to mistake you for a squid.

VACATION Scuba diving in Thailand and Burma

Explore Asia’s mysteries above ground and underwater. You’ll live aboard a swank wooden vessel while sailing across the clear Andaman Sea. Explore subterranean coral gardens, swim alongside octopuses, huge lobsters, fluttering manta rays and a plethora of exotic fish. Nights are spent sipping cocktails at sunset while deckhands care for gear and attend to amenities. Who: Asia Transpacific Journeys, 800-642-2742. When: Year-round. How much: $3,995 for 12 days. Travel advisory: Not a trip for novice divers. Get your certification and plenty of experience before you go.

DROP OUT Kitesurfing in Maui, Hawaii

Picture gliding across a giant wave on a small surfboard, launching 20 feet in the air, flipping around, skillfully landing back in the water-and then doing it again. That’s kitesurfing, the latest craze to hit the Hawaiian pipeline. It’s a cross between wakeboarding and paragliding, and it’s ripping good fun. Top kitesurfers perform outrageous aerial ballet, but even novices will quickly learn to catch some air. To unleash your kitesurfing potential, spend a few weeks at the beach; you’ll get to perfect your tan along with your moves. Who: Action Sports Maul 808-871-5857. When: Year-round. How much: 5-day group course, $975; additional coaching, $100 an hour. Travel advisory: Bring along a copy of the Hawaiian Dictionary by Mary Kawena Pukui and Samuel H. Elbert to help you fraternize with the locals.

BOATING

LONG WEEKEND White-water kayaking in North Carolina

Learn strokes and how to scout and roll during a paddling-intensive long weekend. Novice through advanced kayakers can partake of these group outings offered by Nantahala Outdoor Center. Days are spent on the water, first on a lake to fine-tune (or learn) paddling strokes, boat balance and rolling skills. Then you head to the river’s Class I and II rapids to practice your skills, learn to peel-out, ferry and read the water. Back on land, evenings are devoted to watching and reviewing videos of your group paddling efforts. Who: Nantahala Outdoor Center, 888-662-1662, ext. 600. When: Year-round. How much: 4 days, $720. Travel advisory: Bring nose clips to keep you from inhaling too much river if you roll.

VACATION White-water rafting and trekking in Indonesia

You’ll journey through unblemished, nontouristy towns and stay with villagers in their homes. Then you hop on the raft and hit the rambunctious Class III and IV rapids on the Sa’dan River, splashing past daunting 4,500-foot mountains. When you’re not screaming through chutes or paddling like a madwoman, you’ll be dazzled by centuries-old hanging graves and terraced rice fields along the river’s edge. Rafts hold six people (plus a guide), so you can book with a group of pals who want to paddle together. who: Outer Edge Expeditions, 800-322-5235. When: May-August. How much: 13 days, from $1,930. Travel advisory: Don’t leave for home without picking up a pound or two of Sulawesi java–you may never step foot in Starbucks again.

DROP OUT Learning the ropes as a deckhand on a tall ship

If you’re dying to sail around the world but don’t know your fore from your aft, climb aboard the tall ship Rose. Working alongside sailors, you’ll hoist masts, coil ropes, tie neat knots and (wo)man the helm. By the end of the voyage, you’ll know how to read a map, use a compass and chart a simple course on the ocean. An onboard chef ensures that palate-pleasing meals are the reward for a hard day’s work. Who: Tall ship Rose, 203-335-1433. When: 8 months a year. How much: 7 days, $950. If you get hooked on the deckhand lifestyle, check out Capital Sailing’s Web site (www.cap sail.freeserve.co.uk/jobs.html) for jobs. Travel advisory: Pack Dramamine: Even experienced sailors can get seasick.

SURVIVAL

LONG WEEKEND Adventure racing camp in Colorado

Be an adventure racer, or just train like one. Over a three-day weekend, Colorado Adventure Training teaches you the basic skills necessary, including hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, navigation and rock climbing. World-class adventure racers teach you the ropes and share their nutrition and sleep-management secrets. A 24-hour mini-adventure race (teams are guided through the racecourse by an instructor) at the end of the course puts your physical and mental prowess to the test. Who: Colorado Adventure Training, 303-279-1429. When: Ongoing (July 7-9 is an all-women’s program). How much: 3 days, $550. Travel advisory: Prepare for the unexpected: Bring your own day pack, rain jacket and fleece jacket or vest.

VACATION Tracking animals and eating plants in southern California

Ever wonder what would happen if you were stranded in the wilderness alone without a cell phone or a takeout menu? Earth Skills has the answer. After spending a week with Earth Skills nature awareness school, you’ll be a whiz at tracking animals, at using plants for medicine and food, and you’ll be able to survive just about anywhere. The bonus: Back in civilization, you can wow dinner-party guests with wild edible-plant salad, baked yucca heart, clay-baked trout, elderberry blossom fritters and acorn bread. Who: Earth Skills, 661-245-0318. When: July, for a Summer Intensive Course. How much: 7 days, $435. Travel advisory: Sneak in some M&M’s for emergencies, and you’ll make some fast friends among your fellow campers.

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Artists Need Beauty To Create

Many artists plan a trip so that they can draw or paint a specific landscape. Once they become acquainted with the special visual values of a landscape, they may return there over and over again to refine their approach. A landscape may take on a special character for them, as though it were a well-known friend.

Eli Levin, considered one of the leading figures in the older generation of realist painters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, often travels to paint. For numerous years, Levin has painted the landscape of his own street: his house, his garden, his gate, the grocery store across the street, its parking lot. He never tires of this landscape but, in fact, continues to discover new visual elements. However, there are times when Levin needs the stimulation and excitement of a different scene. He plans his trips so that he can spend at least 10 or 11 days in a region. He begins painting right after breakfast and paints for most of the day.

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Levin prefers a landscape that includes houses and streets, with hills or mountains in the background. Several levels of depth add to the visual complexity of the picture, creating a cubist effect. He seeks out houses and streets that are old and weathered by time. Levin has made several trips to Jerusalem and, more recently, three trips to Guanajuato, a small city built in Mexico in the 17th century.

While Levin feels that the work he does on these trips may lack the depth of the work he does at home, he savors the sense of freshness and excitement that comes with painting in a new environment. Capturing the landscape gives him a sense of pride and accomplishment and makes him feel that he really has been away.

Levin’s more recent trips to Mexico have been with a small group of friends who are also painters. He points out that there are many virtues to traveling in a group. Artists can support one another and help to maintain the artistic focus of the trip. They can also lend each other art supplies when they find they have forgotten something. Subsequently, they may present their work in a group show, which has the advantage of showing the same landscape from different perspectives and in different styles. Such an exhibit affirms the artistic commitment of the travelers and brings with it a sense of fulfillment for all the participants.

TRIPS FOR VIEWING ART

Many artists wish to be inspired by great works of art, and there is no better way than to visit the originals. Artists have made pilgrimages throughout the world to view the paintings in prehistoric caves, great churches, monuments, and museums. Sometimes they go on a search for little-known paintings by a great artist, searching in small, hidden museums. These trips are usually best when planned carefully and in advance. Study can also enrich the possibilities of the trip, and knowing when and how works may be visited can spare any possible embarrassment or frustration.

An important part of the art-oriented trip can be the period of study, or “debriefing,” when the artist returns to his or her studio. Hilda O’Connell, a New York painter who is also a teacher of art history, takes photographs and also buys a large quantity of postcards and slides of the collections she visits. A great part of her pleasure consists of assorting and studying these reproductions upon her return. She finds that her own art is often transformed by a period of intense art-viewing.

Incidentally, O’Connell has been a leader of university extension courses in some of the great European centers of art. She recommends this as an inexpensive and highly challenging way of viewing art abroad.

TRIPS TO DISCOVER THE SELF

An artist’s attraction to a certain kind of landscape ultimately says more about the artist than it does about the view. Through the process of “unconscious scanning” an artist may come to understand his or her affinities and preferences. In this context, a trip can serve as a sort of psychological test, because, in a sense, one is what one responds to. The landscape becomes a mirror for one’s deeper self.

John J. Dormont, a nature photographer whose home is a farm in Maine, has traveled all over the world taking photographs of whales and other endangered species for environmental groups. While sailing in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, he became aware that what attracted him most was the movement of light on water. For him, water became a spiritual metaphor for creation and personal healing. His remarkable close-ups of color and light patterns on water were shown at a gallery in New York City and accompanied by poems and calligraphy, revealing the deep personal meaning of the theme.

Dormont’s work is very personal. He feels that he has been aided in the process of self-discovery by Jungian art therapy, which he has experienced in a small art-therapy center in the Black Forest of Germany, in the village of Todtmoos. Dormont has returned to this village many times to deepen his understanding of the self. He participates in various forms of expressive therapy, including drawing, working with clay, interpretive movement, dream interpretation, and so on. It is not surprising that his photographs of brooks and streams in the Black Forest were among the most lyrical in the show.

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23 Days On A Plane

DAY ONE, NEW YORK. As the cab pulls away from the curb for the airport, I am usually filled with the excitement of a journey beginning, but tonight I cry. I can’t leave, I think; then my “rational” side takes over. I must. It’s the trip of a lifetime. “Just think how great Fiona will think it is that her mom has been to all these places,” my husband Michael had said earlier. That helped, because I do love hearing about my grandparents’ trips and seeing the black-and-white photos of them dining in black tie on the QEII and sipping Pimm’s in safari jackets on the Serengeti. When I spoke to my grandmother, she said that she had left Dad, when he was a few months old, to fly around South America in Pan Am’s first flying boats. I’ve always loved that she–”a simple girl from Iowa,” she says–has seen so much of the world. Of all the places that she’s visited, Angkor is the one that amazed her most. Now, almost forty years after she saw it and three days before her 92nd birthday, I will be there. I only hope that knowing that I can share what I see with my daughter will help console me when I miss her terribly.

DAY TWO, LONDON. This crowd is not used to wearing nametags or being restricted to only two suitcases for three weeks, especially when the trip costs $30,000. We’re eighty-eight passengers and a handful of lecturers milling around the Four Seasons’ ballroom in our hiking boots. At cocktails many declare that they’ve never taken a group trip. We’re polite but leery of fast fraternity. Maura McEvoy, the photographer accompanying me, has a twenty-month-old daughter, Oona, at home, so we compare anguished departures. We both figured we’d be the only people under 40, but a trustee from the Museum of Natural History, who is traveling with her 21-year-old son, introduces herself over canapes. “He’s on extended spring break from Dartmouth,” she explains, beckoning him over, “because my husband couldn’t come.” We spot a few other young faces, but the majority are couples in their 50s and 60s.

T.C. Swartz, the founder of the expedition company TCS Expeditions, outlines the trip and practicalities at dinner. “This itinerary was planned for the destinations and the monuments, not for the hotels” he reminds us. “There is no Four Seasons in Lhasa, but you’ll never forget seeing the pilgrims worship at the Jokhang Temple. “We’ll stay in the best hotels available, but in Lhasa and Samarkand that will mean clean sheets and hot water. The hotels in Muscat, Angkor and Beijing are true five-stars. (For more on hotels and practical details, see box on page 136.) “This is a physically and intellectually demanding trip. But the sights are so spectacular that no one will be disappointed,” adds a lecturer. In addition to seeing monuments like Petra, the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat and the Great Wall, we’ll see such natural wonders as the Arabian desert, the rain forests of Southeast Asia and the steppes of Mongolia.

Dinner ends early, because the larger of our two suitcases (the other is a small wheelie) must be outside our rooms by 9:30. (Packing and unpacking will be a daily chore.) I have a drink with T.C.–who has been in the adventure-travel business for more than twenty-five years–and his wife, who aren’t joining the trip. “This all began with a postcard,” he explains. “Two years ago I listed exotic, remote places that many people want to visit but haven’t. Within weeks my first trip sold out.” So have the subsequent ones, because he offers comfort, individual attention and intellectual stimulation in wildernesses like Tibet and Mongolia. As I head up to bed, he says: “It’s better to travel 100 miles than to read 100 books–an old Middle Eastern proverb.”

DAY THREE, PETRA, JORDAN. The plane is a 757 outfitted with all first-class seats, and the staff is remarkably well organized; they whisk us through customs and deliver luggage to our rooms quickly. On each flight we have lectures on the art, history and religion of the next lost city. The first covered Petra and how it flourished under the Nabataeans as a caravansary on the silk, spice and incense routes from the 4th century B.C. until the Romans took it over in 106 A.D. After their civilization declined, Petra was known only to Bedouins. Their mistrust of foreigners and its remote desert location meant that the city was truly lost until a Swiss, in search of the fabled city and disguised as an Arab pilgrim, found it in 1812. Even today only part of the city, which covers forty-five square kilometers, has been excavated. Our hotel sits just outside the entrance to Petra. Maura and I are going to head out before the group so we can see it without crowds. I miss Fi terribly. Michael said on the phone tonight that he took her to the zoo to see the penguins–an image that makes her seem even further removed from me, here in the desert.

DAY FOUR, PETRA. The morning call to prayer reminds me that we’re in the Middle East. When the groggy guards open the gates at 6:45, Maura and I start into Petra. We walk through a gorge where red desert rocks 100 feet high were split open by an earthquake centuries ago. Around one turn, carved into a rock, stands a classical building with columns. As Maura shoots it, a man in a head scarf rides by on a horse, entering Petra the same way men did in B.C. years.

After a half-mile, the gorge grows so narrow that only a sliver of sky shows through a crack in the rocks above. Then before us: a classical grand facade complete with decorative columns, winged victories and ‘equestrian statues; suitable for the stateliest boulevard of the world’s capitals, the Treasury is carved into the side of a rose-colored rock. The beauty that man has made using the beauty made by nature magnifies the effect of each. Like so many before us, we stand in awe. Past this main entry to what was a bustling, naturally fortified city is a row of building facades eroded by wind and rain, the edges so worn they seem to blur in the heat like a mirage. Everywhere stray stairways, columns and doorways carved into the mountainsides suggest–even mourn–the lost metropolis. We meet a Bedouin in white robes smoking Marlboros while he waits for tourists to buy rides on his camel. He is one of the few people still living in the caves within Petra. Others, like the Bedouin women and children selling agate jewelry and “ancient” coins, have been moved to nearby settlements.

After a buffet lunch, we (along with forty of the most fit and/or determined members of the group) hike three miles up in the hills to the Monastery, which is as impressive as the Treasury. Gazing over the Great Rift Valley, we watch the sun start to set as it did so long ago on the civilization that once thrived here. In my backpack is a picture of Fi, and I hope I can share this view with her someday. On the long hike back, I fall into step with a 28-year-old consultant from Pittsburgh. His parents had received a flier about the trip from the Art Institute and he’d been intrigued. “I figured I’d do it now. Why wait until I retire to see the world? “Why indeed.

DAY FIVE, OMAN. This Arab Gulf country was virtually closed to foreigners until 1970, when the current Sultan Qaboos Bin Said overthrew his conservative father in a bloodless coup. (Radio, eyeglasses, books and education had been forbidden.) An enlightened Arab leader, Qaboos immediately started spending the country’s wealth from oil on improving his people’s quality of life and integrating modern progress with traditional ways. In addition to providing free education and improved healthcare, he championed modern Islamic architecture, of which the four-star Al Bustan Palace hotel where we’re staying is an example; it blends high-tech luxury with traditional Arabic decorative details.

The hotel holds an Omani dinner once a week and at other times for special groups like ours. As we enter a small mud-walled enclosure, women in embroidered robes wave burners before us, filling the night air with clouds of frankincense. Another woman drapes us with scarfs. Inside are a dozen tents laid with carpets and piled with cushions. In two tents, silver jewelry, scarfs, baskets and fabrics are for sale. Out in the open a woman crouches with a pan over a fire, making paper-thin bread. Nearby, one man bends over a carpet loom; another creates silver jewelry. We sit barefoot in circles under the tents, passing platters of chicken, lamb, rice and mezze. Around us Omanis sing and dance: in one line men dressed in white, in another women in a rainbow of colors, until at the end of the evening their singing grows fevered and their lines entwine. The magic of the night, like so many moments when I travel for work, is bittersweet because I can’t share it with Michael.

After dinner, Maura and I go to another tent where young women paint our hands with henna. We hope that the intricate floral stain will last until we reach home. Fiona loves to hold her hands up to mine. For a while now, I think she’s recognized their sameness, despite their size difference. To see mine look this different would probably amuse her.

DAY SIX, OMAN. The phone rings. It’s Michael. He puts Fi on. “I see you and I love you,” I coo across continents. “She’s smiling,” Michael says. “And now she’s playing with the radiator.” She can’t miss me too much if my voice is less interesting than the radiator.

Because Maura needs to shoot before the light gets too bright, we hire a car from the hotel to tour the city just after daybreak and get us back to meet the group by breakfast. Pilar, an aspiring photographer from Mexico who owns even more elaborate camera equipment than Maura, has asked to join us. We visit the sultan’s palace, a contemporary castle facing an ancient fortified port. At the fish market in the main port, Maura and Pilar trail men in embroidered caps and elegant lilac dishdashas (long tunics) hauling their catch from nets. As they slap dead-eyed fish on slabs to barter, I notice minarets and mountains behind them and think how far this feels from Petra, from New York, from anywhere I’ve known.

We eat lunch under a tent in the courtyard of a private museum displaying Omani crafts. “Study the objects here,” advises one of the lecturers, “so you know what to shop for at the souk.” After lunch, a representative from the U.S. embassy and the American ambassador’s wife speak, respectively, about U.S.-Omani relations and being a foreign service wife. “You live in interesting places but send your children to boarding school halfway around the world,” the ambassador’s wife says sadly. In the late afternoon, Maura and I scour the stalls of the souk, which is much smaller than those of Marrakesh and Istanbul. I buy embroidered cashmere shawls, a silver rattle and an amulet that protects children from evil spirits. It’s a piece of camel bone with a silver top so it can be worn as a pendant. Am I believer in Arabic spirits? Maybe not, but what won’t a mother try for her child?

Eating in the hotel’s Lebanese restaurant, with a belly dancer performing, Maura and I talk about how lucky we feel to be here on assignment. We miss our girls, but we wouldn’t want to wait to start a career or to follow an ambassador husband. “My husband would have thought I was crazy if I’d turned this job down,” says Maura. It never occurred to me that Michael wouldn’t want me to go. Not all husbands, we know, would be as supportive as ours. The belly dancer approaches the next table and invites a hefty man for a dance. His wife, cloaked in black robes and a head scarf, smiles as he prances on his tiptoes and raises his arms in the air.

tmDAY SEVEN, AGRA, INDIA. I’d been warned about the shocking poverty of India, but arriving in a private jet makes the contrast even more brutal. On the bus to the Taj Mahal, we pass hovel-lined streets. Enormous black cows lope along the road. Children and the maimed lie in the dust. Flies swarm over faces and food carts. Small hills of rubbish, plastic bottles and rotting vegetables edge the river. Men in loin-cloths, with matted white beards, and women in bright saris threaded with gold crowd the streets. I see babies on the hips of their mothers and of their toddler sisters–their feet bare, their faces buzzed by flies, the stench of open sewage filling their nostrils. How do these mothers cope? How can they hope to provide a good life, a healthy life, for their children in this chaos and filth? I worry about Fiona getting sick, and she’s never been in anything but clean clothes and soft blankets. These children have never been in the same. I rush her to the pediatrician when she gets a sniffle, but these children don’t even get vaccinations. Their faith–the Hindu belief that you are born to your caste and only in your next life can you hope for a better one–must help them to endure it.

The Taj Mahal, however, is as beautiful as it’s renowned to be. Built by the Mogul ruler Shah Jahan for his favorite wife, it is a symbol of love, but our guide says that it is also a testament to Shah Jahan’s grief; it’s said that he felt guilty that his beloved died giving birth to their fourteenth child. Indians revere the Taj as a religious monument and a symbol of national pride, so there are many more Indians in a rainbow of saris strolling the grounds than there are Western tourists. After an hour of wandering by ourselves, Maura and I meet up at the gate to reboard the bus. Her first words: “Did you see the children?”

DAY EIGHT, JODHPUR, INDIA. The shrill scream of peacocks startles me out of a dream about India, and I find myself in the dream that is India. The enormous iridescent birds patrol the lawns of the Umaid Bhawan Palace, home of the Maharajah of Jodhpur, where we are staying. It was built from 1928 to 1943 and at the time was the largest private residence in the world. A fanciful palace constructed of pink sandstone with elaborate turrets, colonnaded wings and grand halls with cupolas where swallows now nest, it is decorated with Art Deco furniture and stuffed tigers. (If I find Rudyard Kipling reincarnated at the bar tonight, I won’t be surprised.) When the maharajahs lost their government purses and the right to tax, many opened their palaces as hotels. During breakfast, the former Indian ambassador to Austria speaks about the politics of his country, “a modern mosaic.”

We climb into Jeeps to visit Bishnoi villages in the desert. Joining Maura and me are Anne and Martha, two widows in their 70s whose husbands went to Princeton together. Anne is petite but proved her endurance back in Petra by never resting on the trek to the Monastery. Martha, Maura and I have decided, has probably been the most popular girl in West Virginia since she turned 16. Tall, with a mane of gray hair, she manages to look glamorous at dinner every night, even though she’s adhered to the same strict luggage limit as the rest of us. With only three pairs of pants and a few shirts, most of us have given in to looking awful. But Martha turns heads wearing one of the three-dollar necklaces hawked by the kids at Petra.

When we arrive in the first village, however, even she looks bedraggled after bouncing through desert dust. The women–from girls of only seven or eight on–all wear fantastically bright saris and bracelets of gold, silver and bone stacked up their arms. The women striding with pots on their heads in the fields look more arresting than models in couture. “Can you imagine such style in the desert?” I say to Maura. “It’s like a tribe of Marthas.” She laughs and says, “I didn’t think we could look worse, but next to them we do.” Later, when shopping in Jodhpur, a few women try on saris, but the effect is not the same.

At sunset we arrive at the Mehrangarh Fort, where the maharajahs lived from 1459 to 1943. Built into the top of a 400-foot-high rocky cliff, it’s a fortress palace with stonework carved as fine as lace. From the fort’s ramparts we overlook all of Jodhpur. We sit on huge white cushions, drinking Indian beer and feasting on delicacies like sesame chicken and dal. Girls in elaborate costumes dance barefoot on the ramparts, the tinkling of their silver bracelets and anklets drowned out by the men’s drums. I’ve never felt such gentle evening air.

We eat with a mother and daughter from Chicago. The daughter is in her late thirties and says that she is thinking of having children. “Then you couldn’t do things like this,” says her mother. I feel that familiar creeping of doubt. She couldn’t do things like this because a good mother wouldn’t leave her child? Is that what she’s thinking? I suddenly feel a little chilly. “Mom,” the daughter says, unaware of my discomfort. “I know it’s a sacrifice.” It’s a strong word here, where the gates bear the hand prints of thirty-six ranee’s (queens) who threw themselves on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands. Now that’s a sacrifice. Children just require us to adapt. DAY N I N E, LAOS. This trip has already surpassed my expectations. I think extraordinary travel is something that becomes part of your history either because it is so memorable or because it changes you–or, best, does both. Like my grandmother’s South America journey or her first train ride to Chicago, it’s something that enters your history and retains its color and sensation against the years. I have so many stories for Fi and we’re not even halfway through.

Laos reminds me of a gentler, slower-paced Vietnam. Vientiane, where we’re staying, has broad boulevards like those of Hanoi, left over from French Colonial days. But unlike in Vietnam, where the Communists eradicated religion, in Laos you see many monks in saffron robes, their heads shaved. Here, we visit two “lost cities,” Vientiane and Luang Prabang, a forty-minute flight north. Both were important capitals at different times (from the 16th century on and from the 14th through the 16th centuries, respectively), and after many invasions, both were abandoned. Still, Luang Prabang has been called the most beautiful city in Southeast Asia.

In addition to touring the famous Buddhist temples, stupas (reliquaries) and the former royal palace, we take a boat up the Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves, shrines filled with thousands of Buddhas. Gliding up the river, we see water buffalo wallowing in the shallows, villagers washing clothes on the banks and fishermen in conical straw hats. A haze from forest burning shrouds the mountains like watercolors in a Chinese scroll. I am reminded of Marguerite Duras’ The Lover and her fateful crossings of the same river. Remembering how powerful and powerless she was as a young, beautiful Colonial woman in the 1930s, I’m grateful again to be living in a place and time when I can have a job and a husband I love–and one who loves me enough to give me the freedom to take opportunities like this.

DAY ELEVEN, ANGKOR, CAMBODIA. Maura and I wake up at 5:45 to visit Angkor. Angkor Wat is the biggest and most famous temple at Angkor, which has been called the Versailles of Southeast Asia. The complex of Angkor covers about 164 square miles. Vendors linger by the main entrance, but past the long causeway and inside the temple we’re alone, except for the birds flying through the stone galleries and the floating notes of a flute being played by a man propped at one of the entrances on the stumps of his former legs. A victim of the Khmer Rouge or of land mines or both, he plays for a courtyard of thousands of carved bas-relief warriors, kings, Buddhas and apsaras (dancing girls). For half an hour, I sit in the main sanctuary and try to imagine what this empire must have been at its height. Archaeologists estimate that in the 12th and 13th centuries, 750,000 people lived in Angkor. In the 12th century, when both Angkor Wat and Notre Dame were built, Angkor was larger than Paris. I also try to imagine what the first Westerner must have felt, arriving in the 19th century to find these temples buried in jungle vines. Both Maura and I feel a sadness in the air. Petra felt abandoned, but Angkor feels vanquished.

At 7:30 we head back to meet our group–for sightseeing we split into small groups. When we reach the causeway we see hundreds of people streaming toward us. The first wave of tourists? As they near, we see they’re Cambodians of all ages–old ladies with shaved heads and bare feet, young women carrying babies, men on crutches and monks in robes. They carry joss sticks or press their palms together as they rush toward the waiting Buddhas. It’s as though a switch has been hit, transforming a historic monument (or part of a lost city) into an active temple. We stand aside to let them pass, and it occurs to me that all but those under the age of 14 lived through the most brutal phase of the Khmer Rouge regime. Officials estimate that two to three million Cambodians, or as many as one in three people, were killed. No family escaped the horror. “They’ve driven all night from Kampuchea province to pray here,” explains our driver. “It’s a holy trip for them.”

With our group, we visit other temples: Preah Khan, where the British director of the World Monuments Fund gives us a tour; Ta Prohm, where enormous tree roots envelop the temples; and the Bayon, with its towers of faces and bas-reliefs of everyday life in the 12th century. The carvings of women picking lice out of each other’s hair and of men dressing for battle are so detailed that you can see the patterns in the fabric of their clothes. Someone spots the portrait of a female judge, and a federal judge from Texas poses for a picture beside it. Later in the van, we talk about how she had commuted by plane to law school when her daughter was young. “At some point, whether you work or not” she says, “your child will resent you. And you’ll feel awful because you’ll never be totally comfortable with whatever choice you make. There’s no resolution. You do your best and accept an imperfect situation.” I’m afraid she’s right. Back at the hotel, I send a Happy 92nd Birthday fax to my grandmother: “I’ve finally seen the Angkor you’ve raved about. It didn’t disappoint.”

DAY THIRTEEN, TIGER TOPS, NEPAL. A guide knocks on the door of my thatch-walled room at 5:30 for a sunrise elephant trek. A dozen or so of us are at a game lodge in Royal Chitwan National Park for one day before we go to the city of Katmandu for another. (Other options we could have selected before the trip began: two days in Katmandu or a day of trekking in the lower Himalayas.) Following the lead elephants through the morning mist, we spot monkeys and a sloth bear in the trees, a crocodile in the river, and a mother and baby rhino. Small birds sway on tall grass blades like erratic metronomes, and below us our elephant clears the way with great sweeps of her trunk. The only sounds are the rustling grass trudged beneath her and the birds’ calls. We’ve been traveling to lost cities, but here is a whole world of nature that is being lost. At a riverbank, the driver, who steers the elephant with kicks of his bare feet against the back of her ears, points to the ground. “Tiger,” he says. Paw prints in the sand lead to the river. We call to another elephant driver and then fan out to search for the elusive cat. We have no luck. Yet knowing that he has been here, where we are, this morning is enough–more than enough.

DAY FOURTEEN, KATMANDU, NEPAL. I wonder if I can make it another ten days. I keep staring at Fiona’s pictures, remembering how it feels to trace her tiny fingers, each a small miracle of her perfection. The hardest times are the waiting times. When we’re running from monument to lecture to meal, I am absorbed. So instead of joining the group tour of one or two of Katmandu’s sights, we hire a taxi on our own to visit all the main sights: Bodhnath, the stupa that is a center for Tibetan Buddhists; Pashupatinath, the country’s most important Hindu temple, where daily cremations are performed; and Swayambhunath, a Buddhist stupa also known as the monkey temple because of the monkeys that clamber over its dome. Then we race to Patan, once an independent kingdom in the valley, filled with fantastic brick temples from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Many of them have a lopsided feel, as if they might topple over if too many birds perch on their balconies. In a shop we find the same pashmina shawls that sell for $300 in New York for $60, and we stock up for presents. We hurry back to the hotel for a lecture on Tibetan Buddhism and art, but I’d like to return here. It’s an exotic, spiritual city, a place that draws Tibet’s monks and Hindu sadhus, men who have renounced all worldly goods to pursue enlightenment.

DAY FIFTEEN, LHASA, TIBET. Calling Tibet “the roof of the world” is fitting because the sky envelops everything except the desolate terrain on which you stand. The small city of Lhasa sits at 12,000 feet, and I am hit with altitude sickness–a severe headache, nausea and total lethargy–within an hour of landing. I lie in bed for ten hours and plan to take the next flight out to China, until Maura arrives with Gayle, who has heard that I am sick and insists on giving me a massage. “I’ve cared for lots of ill people,” she says in a tone that gives her away as a Nebraskan and a mother. “I can help you.” I feel too awful to protest, and even though I haven’t met Gayle before, in the last few days our group has morphed into something of a community. The hours of traipsing together in the heat and dust have worn away our layers of defense and privacy so even those of us who haven’t spoken aren’t strangers. And she takes over just as my mother would, ordering a bottle of oxygen, calling one of the internist passengers to ask if I should take altitude medicine (yes), and laying a cool washcloth on my forehead. When she leaves an hour later, I feel well enough to tell Maura not to book me on the morning flight.

DAY SIXTEEN, LHASA. I can move around but am afraid to push my strength, so I skip the morning visit to the Potala Palace, where the Dalai Lamas lived from 1649 until the Chinese invaded in 1959 and the current Dalai Lama and 100,000 Tibetans fled. (This month is the fortieth anniversary of the invasion.) I do manage to make the afternoon trip to the Drepung Monastery, a drab fortress that was once the world’s largest monastery (home to 10,000 monks); it’s nearly deserted. Five hundred monks are still permitted to study in each of the country’s two main monasteries, Drepung and Sera, but the Tibetan guides say that they are “on holiday.” Our TCS guides suspect they’ve been sent away so they can’t mark the anniversary of the invasion with protests. After the Chinese “liberated” Tibet, they cracked down on religious freedoms and destroyed many temples and monasteries. Westerners were not allowed to visit until the mid ’80s, and even now few tourists are granted visas. “You’re so lucky to be there,” Michael reminds me when I tell him how much I’ve been missing Fi. “Take advantage of every minute and don’t worry.” He says that Fiona looks for me when she comes into the bedroom in the morning but otherwise is just as happy as ever.

DAY SEVENTEEN, LHASA. The most holy site in all of Tibet is Lhasa’s Jokhang Temple. Pilgrims prostrate themselves before it. We walk the interior with people chanting, spinning prayer wheels and carrying yak-butter candies. Some wear Western clothes; others wear traditional Tibetan clothes. Many have cheeks red with burst blood vessels from the altitude. The crush of worshipers and the thick smell of yak butter bother some, but this place, in a country where such gentle, pious people have been oppressed, feels like a safe haven to me.

We drive to the Sera Monastery. Another fortresslike building on a hillside, it’s usually the site of afternoon debates among the monks, who quiz each other on Buddhist teachings. Today we’re told that they’ve gone to plant trees. In the colorfully decorated main assembly hall pilgrims make offerings. A few young monks sit outside. We nod hello, and they giggle and stare at Kirk, the Dartmouth senior. Finally, one of them comes over and touches his stubbly beard. (Tibetans don’t grow facial hair.) A few more come over to feel his five o’clock shadow, and Kirk flips on his video camera. He then plays the tape back for them. They’ve never seen themselves on film before and are mesmerized. I realize that theirs is the first Tibetan laughter I’ve heard, and I wonder what they must think of us–a group of Westerners arriving on buses, filing through their temples and vanishing. We give them our sympathy but can’t give them even a photo of their beloved Dalai Lama without endangering our local guides.

DAY EIGHTEEN, ULAN BATOR, MONGOLIA. We’re in Mongolia now, but we heard that dust storms trapped the other Lost Cities group, which is traveling to the same places in a slightly different order two days ahead of us; they had to skip Laos. When we discuss this at dinner two people say they liked Laos best so far because it felt so untouched by modern ways. Others loved India or Angkor. Even though we all visit the same sights, your experience depends on how you feel, what you know and what interests you. The religious and artistic monuments may have provided the genesis for this trip, yet what stands out is the people–the monks at Angkor, the pilgrims in Tibet and the Bedouins in Petra. The monuments are staggering to behold, but just as a house is brought to life by its inhabitants, it’s the local people who give them meaning.

Mongolian singers and dancers perform after dinner. The highlight: a contortionist who bends herself into impossible positions. Some of the music sounds like Chinese opera, and the dances look Russian–obviously the influence of two very powerful neighbors. Until 1989, Mongolia was still part of the former Soviet Union, but now the people are self-governing. At least 40 percent of the population are nomadic herdsmen. We will visit one of the gers, or yurts, where they live tomorrow.

DAY NINETEEN, ULAN BATOR. No evidence of the glory of Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan or the enormous empire they created remains in Ulan Bator. It’s a gray, grim city filled with Soviet bloc architecture and few trees. Snow begins to fall as we drive out of the city. Staring out the window, I see a Mongolian man in a sacklike coat tied with a broad sash, a fur hat and boots leading a string of ponies past three huge satellite dishes–a portrait of traditional customs persisting in an industrialized world.

Half an hour out of the city sits a small encampment, four tentlike gers and a lean-to sheltering horses, cows and goats. In the first ger, a round structure with many layers of felt wrapped around for warmth, we’re offered kumiss (warm, fermented mare’s milk) and mare’s cheese, what Mongols live on most of the year. Because a few of our group have been sick, I am now on my fifth day of a rice and beer diet. Unlike braver members of the group, I don’t try the kumiss. My diet is bland, but safe. Beds, a chest and chairs are positioned around the edges of the get, and a stove and supporting poles rise in the middle. I spot a little nose poking out from behind the railings of a chair and the daughter pulls out a baby goat. An older man lives alone in one of the other gets. He proudly displays his bridle, stirrups, saddle and large TV. In the last two gets, the women sell beautiful cloth vests. Of course, I buy one for Fi.

At a buffet lunch, the U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia speaks about what we’re doing to help the country in its “infant democracy.” After a tour of the National History and Natural History museums and a shopping excursion (a psychologist on the trip explains our constant shopping as a need to make a connection with these cultures that we visit too briefly), I head back to the hotel. In the lobby, I bump into Martha, who seems upset. When I ask her what’s wrong, she says, “Nothing.” Her eyes well up. “I’ve just had such an extraordinary day, and I was thinking about how grateful I am to my parents for raising me to be interested in traveling and to be curious about other people and places.”

DAY TWENTY-ONE, BEIJING, CHINA. Beijing is huge, sprawling with skyscrapers and freeways, and thick with exhaust. The Chinese only recently “liberalized” the economy, yet our hotel is filled with every luxury brand-name boutique–Cartier, Prada, Hermas, Escada. When I ask our guide how much the average salary is, he says that now that people are allowed “private business,” nobody discusses how much he makes. “In the city, couples have only one child,” he says, “and they treat him like a little emperor.” And what about the little empresses? I think of my friend who has adopted two baby girls from China. “In the rural countryside, if you have a girl child, you may try once more for a boy, but if the second child is a girl, too bad.” The government’s rationale–if such a term can be used–is that boys are needed to work farms in the country. “Couples in the city who have more than one child will be heavily fined and lose their jobs,” he says. “And are there as many girl children as boy children in the cities?” I ask, recalling his reference to the “little emperors.” “No,” he says. “There are more boys.” I doubt this is a biological fluke or that all of the girls born are as lucky as those adopted by my friend. In Tibet, what the Chinese have imposed on the people is recognized as tragic; here its seeming acceptance is terrifying.

DAY TWENTY-TWO, BEIJING. We take a cable car to the top of the Great Wall. Begun in about 200 B.C. and lengthened and fortified by various dynasties, it now stretches 1,500 miles and averages twenty-five feet in height. It’s wide enough to hold a dozen tourists across, but we see no one on its ramparts but the blue-jacketed members of our own group. (Maura needs to visit sights as early as possible because of the light, but I’ve learned that it’s also the emptiest time.) I didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by the Wall, but walking on it feels like being plugged into ancient history. Ineffective as a defense–because, as Genghis Khan, who successfully invaded China, said, “A wall is only as good as its sentries,” and there was always a sentry who could be bribed–it’s now China’s most valued tourist attraction. Another sign of how capitalism has taken root: a man has set up a table with a telephone, and for $10 you can call anyone in the world from atop the Great Wall.

In the afternoon, we explore the Forbidden City. Originally built between 1407 and 1420 by almost 200,000 laborers, it covers 250 acres and contains 8,886 rooms. I walk with our group through the center to the grand official halls and temples, then go off on my own to the quarters of the empresses and concubines. In a maze of courtyards are small palaces untouched since they were last inhabited in the 1920s. Embroidered silk bedspreads cover the beds, delicate porcelain sits on Ming tables and dust coats everything. As I leave to meet our bus, I notice a mother posing with her little emperor in front of an enormous bronze lion. Our guide told us that a pair of lions outside a building symbolizes the power of the world. The male lion rests a paw on a ball representing the globe and his rule over the “outer” world. The female lion has her paw on a lion cub, representing her dominion over the “inner” or domestic world. The mother and son stand correctly before the female lion, but I doubt if her and her husband’s rules or roles are so clearly defined.

DAY TWENTY-THREE, SAMARKAND, UZBEKISTAN. I don’t know anyone who has been to Samarkand. I hadn’t even heard of it before the trip, though Michael, who has read a lot about “the Great Game” played here by the British and Russians, thought it sounded like the most exciting stop of all. “Everything I have heard about the beauty of the city is true, except that it is much more beautiful,” wrote Alexander the Great, who made it his capital. What is most beautiful today are the exquisite blue-tiled mosques, mausoleums and square built by Tamerlane, who commanded a Central Asian empire from here in the 1300s. We visit one after another and they are as remarkable as any monuments I’ve seen. It’s a gorgeous spring day and the bright cerulean sky sets the perfect backdrop for the mosaics of indigo, azure, cobalt, navy and turquoise.

The streets are full of families. It’s a holiday, and most people have spent it feasting at home. Now, they are out walking. The women wear floral scarfs and bright silk pants. The men wear small, squarish hats similar to those we saw in Oman. At the food market, women squat next to open sacks of spices. I buy enormous disks of warm bread–four for a dollar–and we tear pieces off and pass them around our van. There’s a festive feeling in the air and despite how tired we all are from our nonstop travels, we’re instantly enamored of Samarkand. Tourists seem to be more of a novelty here than anywhere else we’ve visited. People wave as our bus passes. The children Maura photographs press slips of paper with their addresses into our hands.

DAY TWENTY-FOUR, SAMARKAND. We drive to Tamerlane’s tomb, Gur-I-Mir. It’s another complex of blue-tiled buildings with a dome at the center and a courtyard with minarets at each corner. Flocks of women in brightly colored scarfs scuttle around the courtyard and into the mausoleum. One of them stops near the step where I rest in the sun. It’s difficult to communicate, because she speaks no English, and I no Uzbek or Russian. “America,” I say. “Iran,” she says. She points to Gur-I-Mir and we ooh over it. She motions for me to come for tea, raising an invisible cup to her mouth. I thank her but indicate I must wait for my group. She smiles, says “Inshallah” and bows good-bye. As she shuffles away, I think about how central religion is to so many of the people that we’ve met. The lost cities were built around temples, and the role of religion remains central to the lives of the local people. Our modern world may have spun more comforts and more choices, but we’ve moved away from the core spiritualities that are still so clearly the foundation of these communities. It’s what unites them and what has sustained them in their hard times.

After another barely edible meal, I walk to the market and Registan Square, which Lord Curzon called “the noblest public square in the world.” It is certainly of noble beauty, though no longer of noble service; religious students have been replaced by aggressive carpet and souvenir sellers. The setting of the shops in the inner courtyards, all decorated with intricate blue tilework and arched doorways, may make the world’s most beautiful shopping arcade. It’s lovely to be out walking in the spring sun and to be on my own. Almost every moment that I’ve had by myself in the last few weeks has been spent sleeping. To wander alone in a city–even a small one–is incredibly liberating.

DAY TWENTY-FIVE, HOME. After the lecturers give recaps and a quiz on the plane, we all start exchanging addresses and saying our good-byes. Maura and I make plans to meet some of our favorite companions for lunch in New York in a month. As thrilled as we are to be returning home, it is sad that our jet community is disbanding; we’ll probably never again see many of the people with whom we’ve shared such an amazing experience. When we land in London, though, sentiment is banished by the need to rush for bags and connections.

As I approach the front door, I remember my pediatrician’s warning when I asked him about whether or not it would be harmful for Fiona for me to leave her for so long. “You’ll miss her more than she’ll miss you,” he said. “But she may punish you when you get home.” I open the door and see her. I put my luggage down. She looks up. She reaches out to me, and as I grab her, she giggles. She entwines her fingers in my hair. “She knows you,” says our nanny, Erma. She knows me.

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Take A Look At Boston!

Boston’s Marathon Bombing hasn’t slowed down the tourist trade. One of the nation’s most ambitious civil engineering projects ($12 billion, 10 years and counting) is well underway as the city attempts to repair the physical and sociological damage caused when an ill-planned elevated express way was imposed on the downtown area in 1959. Once the central artery is routed underground, Boston will be reunited. Until then, the city’s well worth a visit. Where better to get a crash course in American history? You’ll also find architectural gems, notable campuses, and carefully preserved neighborhoods, all within easy access of the scenic New England landscape. Although Boston’s rich legacy of landmarks, scattered into neighboring Cambridge, often overshadows contemporary projects, post-Dig developments may indeed spark a creative revolution. Until then, head indoors fora more intimate view of Bostonian life.

3 MUST-SEES

Boston Public Library

“Free to All” claims the keystone of the newly restored 1895 Boston Public Library, a seminal example of American Renaissance Revival design by Charles Follen McKim. This opulent populist palazzo in the heart of Back Bay complements a facing masterpiece on Copley Square, Henry Hobson Richardson’s Romanesque Trinity Church. The library’s bronze doors by Daniel Chester French set the stage for a truly grand staircase of custom-quaried yellow Sienna marble, guarded by Louis Saint-Gaudens’s two noble lions. Above, serene Puvis de Chavannes murals lead to Bates Hall reading room, where a soaring ceiling reflects the aspirations of its namesake, Joshua Bates, a prominent banker. Philip Johnson’s 1972 extension provides a calm modern counterpoint. Copley Square, Boston [617] 536-5400; open Mon.-Thurs.- 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun. 1-5 p.m.; architectural tours available.

Memorial Hall at Harvard University

huAcross the Charles river is Harvard University‘s jewel, Memorial Hall, designed by alumni Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt as a tribute to graduates who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Completed by 1878, it cost a staggering $370,000, about 12 percent of the school’s endowment. Today, bustling students relieve the solemnity of Memorial Transcept, lined with commemorative inscriptions and stained glass, as they gather to eat in Annenberg Hall, where hammerbeam trusses cap a huge 9,000- square-foot space, or soak up lectures in the acoustically superb Sanders theater, inspired by a Christopher Wren design at Oxford. Recent additions include the newly rebuilt clock tower, plus Venturi Scott Brown and Associates’ Loker Commons student center. 45 Quincy Street, Cam bridge [617] 496-4595; access is limited, call ahead for information.

United States Courthouse

With Boston waterfront property at a premium, it’s amazing that a handsome new development on a coveted site serves public rather than corporate interests. Open since 1998, the United States Courthouse, adjacent to picturesque Harborpark, consolidates 27 courtrooms, a library, and related offices into a single L-shaped building defined by a gigantic curved glass wall. The “conoid,” as architects Pei Cobb Freed & Partners refer to this surface, provides panoramic views of the harbor and skyline throughout the building, even in the cafeteria. Ellsworth Kelly panels grace a dramatic rotunda, and stenciled ornamentation cheers up the courtrooms. Inspirational inscriptions, supervised by master letter carver John Benson, add dignity and resonance. Courthouse Way on Fan Pier, South Boston [617] 261- 2440. Open to the public 0:00 a.m.-6.00 p.m.

ALSO WORTH A LOOK

Kresge Chapel

Eero Saarinen left his mark at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1955 with two sensuous, carefully sited designs. Kresge Chapel is an intimate brick cylinder surrounded by a small moat and lit almost entirely by skylight. Undulating water reflections and the shimmering fragments of Harry Bertoia’s suspended altar screen induce meditative calm. Saarinen paired this interdenominational sanctuary with Kresge Auditorium, a shallow domed structure sheltering his superb wood-paneled theater. Buildings W15 and W16, west off Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge; open during normal business hours.

Gibson House Museum

With only 2,000 visitors a year, the 1859 Gibson House is almost a secret. Three generations lived in this Edward Clark Cabot-designed town house, one of the oldest homes in Back Bay, until l957 without altering it. The interior is an unspoiled Victorian timewarp, with period curios and furniture upstairs and service quarters downstairs. Even the dust seems genuine. 137 Beacon Street, Boston [617] 267-6338; tours available Wed.-Sun. May 1-Oct. 31, Sat. and Sun. Nov. 1-Apr.30, closed on holidays.

The Paul Revere House

Admittedly a tourist trap, this iconic stop on the Freedom Trail in Boston’s North End offers a glimpse into urban colonial life. Built shortly after the devastating 1676 fire, it is the city’s oldest frame building and was the departure point for Revere’s famous midnight ride. Even with comfortable furnishings and what was an extra floor at the time, the quarters must have been tight for the engraver, who fathered 16 children there from 1770 until 1800. Next door sits Pierce/Hichborn House, a rare local example of 18thcentury Georgian brick architecture. 19 North Square, Boston [617] 523-2338; open daily 9:30 a.m.-5:15 p.m. from Apr. 15-Oct. 31, otherwise until 4:15 p.m. Closed Mon. Jan.-Mar. and on holidays.

WHERE TO STAY

Boston boasts the nation’s highest hotel occupancy rate, so rooms are expensive and booKed well in advance. Many modern establishments are bland and cater to the convention crowd, especially near the Prudential Center. But equally convenient venues with more personality abound, such as Copley Square’s grand dame of 1912, The Fairmont Copley Plaza (138 St. James Avenue, Boston). Designed by Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, it shares the sumptuous interior styling and double-P logo of his other creation, The Plaza in New York. The lobby alone is worth a visit.

Minutes away from Back Bay but a world apart is South End, another neighborhood of Victorian rowhouses built on landfill with a more checkered past. This funky area is coveted territory for new enterprises including Clarendon Square Inn (198 W. Brookline Street, Boston), an upscale B&B with spacious rooms, plus views of I.M. Pei’s Hancock Tower from a rooftop hot tub.

Fifteen Beacon (15 Beacon Street, Boston [617] 670-1500) opened in December, a stone’s throw from a landmark once nicknamed the Hub of the Universe: architect Charles Bulfinch’s Massachusetts State House (1797) on Beacon Hill. This high-tech boutique hotel features Celeste Cooper’s neo-Federalist design. Seriously indulgent rooms pamper the travel-weary, and a well-appointed restaurant, The Federalist, provides the perfect backdrop for power meals.

With its easy highway access, University Park Hotel at MIT (20 Sidney Street, Cambridge, [617] 577-0200) accommodates wired business guests but also offers a looser, more geek-friendly atmosphere in keeping with the academic milieu. Artful tributes to technology abound in a bright, modern setting–kooky kinetic sculptures, photos from the MIT archives, and circuit board decor.

WHERE TO EAT

Boston transcended beans ages ago. While the venerable Legal Sea Foods chain remains a favorite for regional fare, contemporary high-style restaurants with celebrity chefs also enjoy a huge following. Rated near the top is Radius (8 High Street, Boston [617] 426-1234), presenting Michael Schlow’s French/American cuisine and Paul Connors’s pastries in a former bank building. A communal table overlooking the curvaceous dining room accommodates single diners.

Adam Tihany fans flock to Biba, still a “scene” near the Common after ten years, or admire his more recent interior for Pignoli, only blocks away (79 Park Plaza, Boston) There, Lydia Shire’s team of chefs serves modern Italian cuisine in an intimate space enlivened by luminous podlike sculptures.

Famished after perusing galleries and smart boutiques on Newbury Street? Enjoy refreshingly light, affordable Vietnamese fare at Pho Pasteur (119 Newbury Street, Boston [617] 262-8200, with locations in Allston and Cambridge) including noodle soups, goi cuon spring rolls, and jasmine limeade.

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Tax Avoidance Vs. Tax Evasion

aateTaxes may be burden for some people, but they must be paid, one way or another. In case one cannot do regular payments, there are always IRS tax relief services that offer a quick solution to anyone. However, many try to go easier way and tax avoidance or evasion are the most usual results. It is important to understand what those terms mean, and how can they affect someone’s future.

The major difference is that avoidance is not illegal as the evasion is, but still can get one into trouble. Tax avoidance may be the part of anyone’s life, and sometimes a person even does not realize that. It is usually taking an advantage of tax breaks or different offers, which means the person it trying to lower taxes legally. Tax evasion is not very easy to notice, and in order to find them one must look through tax structures. This activity is usually connected to businesses, and no one will admit his involvement in such as activity. The truth is, taxes can be turned into one’s favor, but that will be discovered at some point, and penalties are countless. It is still better to cooperate with the IRS, explain the problem and try to find solution trough the IRS tax relief.

Knowing The Right Filing Status

Taxes are not just about giving the money and getting nothing in return; in most cases, some of that money can come back or the person can apply for the IRS tax relief, but for that, a person must prepare the documentations and know the filing status.

A person is considers single if he is unmarried, legally divorced, separated or widowed the last day of the tax year. Married filing jointly is a status where people are married, married but live apart, or the spouse died during the tax year. In this case, spouses usually include the joint return, and they have the same accounting period. Married filing separately is the case where spouses are married but still want to take care of taxes on their own, or one spouse does not agree to file jointly. Head of household is a situation where one spouse paid most of the costs required, or had a qualified person lived with him in the past tax year. Qualified widower with dependent is another status one can fulfill, but it depends on some conditions. Nonetheless, each of those categories may be complicated for some taxpayers, so in order to file for tax return or IRS tax relief, it is better to consult the professional.

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