Wednesday, November 25, 2009

HOW QUICKLY WE FORGET

Running out the door to go pick my mother up at the airport, I grab a book and bottle of water - it could be a long wait. I find this incredibly great parking space and proceed to the ticket counter in order to get a gate pass; this is my mother's first time flying as a blind person and I feel it's best if I meet her at the gate. It's only been six months since I arrived to this airport from our world travels, but somehow, even in that short period of time, they've managed to rearrange everything. I find security and line up in my cue of five - where is everyone? Isn't this the busiest travel time of the year? Why did I leave myself so much time? As the TSA agent scrutinizes my I.D. and gate pass a light bulb goes off in my head, I've got a knife in my purse. I wasn't the one traveling, so why should I have remembered to take it out of my bag? I ask the agent if there is any place to leave it for an hour or so until I come back. His lengthy reply of "No" leaves me walking back to the car to drop it off. I'm not losing this knife after finally getting it back from Easter Island!

Back at security with that Deja Vu feeling. This time I make it all the way to the x-ray machines. "Excuse me ma'am, is this your bag?" (Why do they call you ma'am? It makes you feel so old.) What could they possibly be questioning in my little tote? It's only a book, newspaper and a bottle of water for my wait. "Ma'am, you can't take this bottle of water, do you want me to throw it out?" I notice he's not giving me a whole lot of other options so I say "Yes" since it's clearly the price I have to pay to get to the other side.

I finally make it to the gate with only twenty minutes to spare. With so little time, it turns out I could have left my purse, book and bottle of water in the car and saved a lot of hassle. My mother comes off the jetway beaming like a little kid; she is so excited to be here. I grab her wheel chair and begin to push, all the while wondering, how after 358 days of travel I could have been caught by security twice. My, how quickly we do forget.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

AGRA

I like thinking back to where I was a year ago. Not only is it an opportunity to relive a dream, it's an opportunity to think of someplace warm. I don't like the cold and having had a year of mild temperatures enables me to always think warm when reminiscing.

My thoughts often go to the obscure. Not the "big picture" of what we were doing or what we were seeing but some oddity that stands out in my mind. A year ago today we were standing in front of the Taj Mahal. You can read about that on Marty's blog from a year ago. I'm remembering Agra; home to the Taj.

We pulled into Agra on November 8th around 8:00 PM. It was dark, but not dark enough. Some places should never be seen in daylight, Agra is one of them. It was crowded, it was dirty, it was seedy, it was... We had heard it was rip-off city, we could see why. Then we arrived at our hotel. Thinking back, I'd say it was the worst of our accommodations. They handed us a pad lock key. You unlocked the pad lock and then, once in the room, you put the pad lock on the inside to lock others out, or to lock yourselves in. It was for just one night I told myself but I knew I wouldn't get much sleep with one eye open.

We wanted to be at the Taj by dawn the next day. This required us to leave all our belongs in the room until we returned to check out. I just knew that upon our return, anything of any value would be gone. The thought wasn't sitting well with me at all. Then I noticed the latch on the outside of the bathroom; ideas began to percolate. I retrieved a pad lock, purchased in Zanzibar, from the bottom of my bag. We placed all four of our suitcases and all four of our backpacks in the bathroom and then placed our pad lock on the outside of the bathroom door. Yes, you're picturing this right. We were locking all our belongings in the bathroom. Even if management had a key to the pad lock of our room, they still wouldn't be able to get into the bathroom. We left at 6:00 AM for the Taj Mahal feeling a little more at ease.

As we walked to the Taj Mahal none of us discussed the fact that we had just locked all our belongings in the bathroom; it seemed normal - we were in Agra.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

IT ONCE WAS LOST BUT NOW IT'S FOUND

Once our trip was over, I figured our blog was over too. Not that I really wanted it to end (the trip or the blog); it's just that in my mind, they went hand in hand. Sure, people will check in to see great safari pictures or to hear about our trials and tribulations on the road, but who is going to check the blog now that we are here back in the US living our normal everyday lives. I guess there are a few people out there who might be interested in hearing about our reentry into "real" life, but probably not many.

So, here it is, just about 3 months since our last blog post. I'm sure we've lost all of our readership at this point, but something just happened that compels me to write. Eventually someone out there in the universe will stumble upon this post but until then, I'll just savor this post for myself.

As a pre 9/11 traveler, I travelled for years with my Swiss army knife in my carry on backpack; I never went anywhere without it. It was used for everything and I couldn't imagine being on the road and not having it at my disposal. So in June, 2008, before leaving for our year around the world, I consciously took my Swiss army knife and placed it in my toiletry bag which travelled in my checked luggage. Each time I arrived to a new destination and unpacked, I took the knife out of my toiletry bag and placed it in the daypack that was used for our daily outings. So began the ritual...Packing for a flight, put the knife in my toiletry bag; settling into a new location, unpack the knife and put in in the daypack. It was a flawless practice for 9 months, 18 travel days and 32 locations.

Then, in March of 2009, at the tiny airport on Rapi Nui, I saw the bin of items confiscated by airport security: lighters, scissors, knives. Knives! Oh my God! I'd forgotten to take my knife out of my daypack and put it in my toiletry bag. With my luggage already checked, there weren't too many options left. It was either surrender my beloved knife to airport security and never see it again, or run after our guesthouse host, Sharon, who was still at the airport awaiting her most recent guests on the arriving flight. For me it was a no brainer. I gave my knife to Sharon asking her if she would mail the knife back to me in the US in 3 months time when I would be returning home. She said she would do her best and then I had to let go of the outcome.

Concerned that small packages have a way of disappearing and never arriving to their final destination, Sharon later told me, via email, that she would hold the knife until she herself would be traveling to the US in the summer. Once in the US, she would mail the knife to me. Sharon arrived to the US but I got no package, only an email saying that she had essentially done the same thing - left the knife in her carry on instead of packing it in her checked bags. She passed the knife onto her assistant who was still at the airport as a sense of deja vu permeated the air.

At this point I was sure that I would never see my Swiss army knife ever again. I was tempted to plan a rescue mission, going to Rapa Nui myself to get the knife, but no matter how much I loved my knife or how bad I wanted to visit Rapa Nui again, I couldn't rationalize the thousands of dollars it would cost for the mission to get a knife that would cost me only $25 to replace. Besides, my family loved Rapa Nui as well - I might have to take all of them with me!

Sharon emailed me and told me that she would be coming back to the US in the fall for the birth of her grandchild; she would mail the knife to me at that point. But by this time I had lost all hope. It's not that I lacked faith in Sharon, it's just that I had come to believe that my knife was destined to spend the rest of it's existence on Rapa Nui - not a bad fate if I must say so myself.

But by last week everything had changed. I received an email from someone named Corie which I was about to delete since I didn't know a Corie and certainly all emails from people we don't know contain virus' right? Then I noticed that after her name came the phrase: Thank You and Package Mailed and the mention of the name Sharon. I backed up my computer to protect all my data before opening the email (not really) and there it was - a reference to my knife. Sharon had given my knife to one of her guests, this woman Corie from New York City, to mail to me upon her arrival back to the US. And sure enough, several days later, the knife arrived at my door step.

The knife looks exactly the same as when I handed it off to Sharon at the Rapa Nui airport 7 months ago; but it's not the same. It's no longer just a Swiss army knife, but instead is an embodiment of worldwide humanity. Sharon was a wonderful host when we stayed at Te'Ora, her guesthouse on Rapa Nui; but her obligation ended there. She didn't have to take on the mission of returning my knife to me, but she did. And while it took several attempts to keep her promise, keep it she did. Thank you Sharon for being the wonderfully kind person you are. And Corie who never knew me and most likely never will, she took on that mission as well.

Pick up any newspaper and you will see all the evil that our lives are currently filled with. But I know, after having traveled the world for a year, that this world is filled with incredible kindness. I know this because we were the recipient of it many times over.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

IT'S A BOOK

The One World One Trip blog is now a book available at blurb.com. With full color photos, it's just about an exact replica of the blog which you have been following over the past year. Available in both soft and hard back, it looks great but it's not cheap. Since with photos the book turned out to be over 300 pages, it was costly to publish. I would like to tell you that all the profit goes to charity but I can't - there really isn't any profit to speak of.

One Mom, One Dad, T...
By By: lisa Shusterm...


Check it out!

Also, coming soon (or not so soon) to a publisher near you...

I am in the process of writing an indispensable guide to planning long term travel. This won't be a book to tell you where to go or what to see. This will be a book that tells you all the steps you need to take in order to make your long term travel a reality. It's the book that I wanted to read when we were planning our trip, but couldn't find. I'm hoping that this book will make it easier for other people to take their trip of a lifetime. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

THE LAST BLOG (OR NOT)

In January 2006, three and one half years ago, I said to Marty, "If we are ever going to take this trip, we had better start planning it." At that point I really wasn't convinced that this trip would ever occur but I was certain of one thing, if we didn't start planning it, then for sure it would never happen. Just thinking about it or even talking about it was not going to make it a reality.

As we started to make plans in earnest, book flights, arrange for accommodations, obtain VISAs...it became clear that this trip was really going to happen - sort of. I still found myself saying "We are PLANNING on taking a trip around the world." It was so difficult for me to say "We ARE taking a trip around the world." Even at this late date was I still scared that it wasn't going to happen? Or, was I scared that it really was going to happen?

Well, it did happen. Of course I don't need to tell you that, you watched it unfold right here on this blog. And the most amazing thing of the whole year was just that; that it did happen. We took a dream and made it into a reality. We didn't let the myriad of obstacles that could have gotten in our way, get in our way. We didn't let the abundance of emotional issues that surfaced stop us either.

Taking this trip was the biggest thing that I have ever done in my life. And at this stage of my life, it may be the biggest thing that I will ever do. The good, the bad and the ugly of it all doesn't really matter. Just having made the trip made it a huge success. It was empowering, it made me stronger and if I can do this, I can do anything - as long as I can hold onto this feeling.

Avocet and Siena are young; they have their whole lives ahead of them. They will probably do something that will surpass this experience. That's OK. This wasn't their gig, it was ours. For them, this was a gift. An opportunity to see a world greater than the microcosm in which they live. An opportunity to have a different perspective as they grow and mature. And an opportunity to have a lifetime of memories that they can share with us.

I will miss writing this blog. For over a year now, this has been an important part of my life. Whether you were a religious follower or one who just popped on for a peek now and then, I thank you. While we will always have this blog as a family memento, knowing you were out there reading and going with us on our journey, made it that much more enjoyable to write. It was a great ride and I'm glad you all came along.

lisa


For me too, this process feels like it started decades ago. At the beginning, the onset of the trip was a lifetime away. What I didn't think about was the end of the trip. You plan for the things that must be done, the itinerary, the visas, the accommodations, etc. Those are “easy” in the long haul to work on because there is an excitement, an anticipation...even though they felt “hard” at the time. Now, after 42,000+ miles, what is there to look forward to? We won't be doing this again, at least the way it was done the first time. Av and Si's next adventure will be one of their own, maybe backpacking in their early twenties. The old farts of the family, lisa and I, will do something travel related in the future but not soon. A year on the road takes it out of you. So what is the next frontier? Job? Career? New Hobby? Volunteering? Green business? Astronaut? Run for President (not)?

I have discovered that the past year has reminded me that life is an adventure. It is too precious to not consider it so. I know that on the cusp of fifty five years of age that I don't have even forty good healthy years left. Doing something just to make money or to please someone or to conform...forget it. This year was the adventure of a lifetime. But maybe just one of the adventures. There are many more to come. It was a GREAT, GREAT year.

Marty

Sunday, June 14, 2009

WELCOME HOME BRAIN

We've been home for going on two days now. I still haven't adjusted. No altitude or time zone issues...it's a brain issue. I'm running on slow speed. When we unpack I do it in slow motion. I have the motivation of a slug. I do want to get stuff done but my mind and spirit are saying pole, pole (go slow, go slow in Swahili). I feel like I'm a step out of “the” world but haven't yet stepped back into “my” world. I want to talk to people about the trip but also want to shy away from it because....I really don't know why. I'm whacked!!! What I want is a simple project that I can do by myself where I don't have to talk to anyone. One whose complexity only uses 10% of my brain and can be done with a cerveza in my hand.

Being a traveler is diametrically opposed to being an efficient, functioning person of society. On the road you enjoy, observe and ponder. Being back in America requires thinking, planning, scheduling and analyzing what goes on every day. It is the sad epitome of being “local”. I guess I don't want to give up being “global” yet.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

MEET THE JOHNSONS


Throughout the past year, we have written numerous blog posts on people that we have met as we circumnavigated the globe. Meeting these people was certainly the highlights of our trip. We loved the sights, sounds and foods of each country we visited, but it's the people we met and the relationships we had with them that hold a special place in our hearts.

The Johnsons are no exceptions. We didn't meet them at an internet cafe or the guest house in which we were staying. They weren't sitting at a table next to us in a cafe or standing in a long immigration line right behind us. They're here. In the USA. In Cincinnati. Right across the street from where we live.

Valerie and Craig are our friends and neighbors. Valerie and Rachel (their daughter and friend of Avocet and Siena) were the last people we saw before we left for our year long adventure – they took us to the airport in June 2008. Valerie and Rachel were the first people we saw after our year long adventure – they picked us up at the airport in June 2009. While we were gone, their son Sam took care of our lawn while Rachel tended to the flower beds. The Johnsons kept an eye on the house and kept us updated on the comings and goings of our neighborhood.

The Johnsons are representative of the many friends and family that we left in Cincinnati and are now returning to. Our friends helped us out in various ways while we were gone. They kept in touch with us through emails and Skype calls. They followed our trip via pictures and blogs, and they prayed for our safe return.

It will be nice to see our house, sleep in our own beds and be surrounded by our familiar belongings. But, just like the people that we met along the way, it is the people that we left behind that will be the highlight of our return. Throughout the year, it was our friends and family who held a special place in our hearts.

Monday, June 8, 2009

BACK IN THE USA

Well, here it is, the moment we've been waiting for: going home day. Our bags are packed and we're ready to go, we just need a ride to the airport. We call several airport shuttle services for a quote. $70.00 for a van to take all four of us to Tampa International. We explain that a van isn't really necessary – we've had all four of us and our luggage in cars ½ that size. Be he insists that only a van will do. We have refused to pay that much for taxis in other countries and opted for public transportation but that is not an option around here. In the end, a friend of Mom's takes us to the airport and we give her $45.00. Everyone is thrilled!

For the first time in a year we had the opportunity to print boarding passes, so we go directly to the USAir “Check In Kiosk” at the airport. Upon logging in and indicating that we will each check one bag, the computer promptly lets us know that we owe $60.00 for our checked luggage. This must be some kind of mistake! We leave that line and go to the line with the human behind the desk – certainly he can rectify this situation. WRONG! Same price in this line. Let me get this straight. The outrageously expensive one way tickets we have from Tampa to Cincinnati do not include our luggage? I wonder if I will have to pay extra to bring my purse on board; our computer, the girls' dolls? I don't get it. Our previous 30 flights always included our luggage, why is it that now we are back in the USA we have to rent space for our suitcases at the rate of $15.00 per bag?

For that matter, all our other flights always included food and beverages. Even our 20 minute flight from Zanzibar to Dar Es Saalem served us a snack – GRATIS! But not here in the USA. You want food, you better fork up some cash.

How is it that everywhere else in the world they can afford to transport your luggage and feed you for free, but not here in the wealthiest country on the globe??? I really would like an answer to this one.

We have had “sticker shock” every since we arrived back in the USA. Prices have definitely gone up since we left but the increase is magnified by having come from Ecuador where things were much cheaper. But we weren't prepared for the a la carte nature of the US economy. If I order coffee is the cream now extra? How about toast? Are the butter and jam now costing $.50? Is this the USA's answer to making prices look more reasonable? Just itemize everything?

I can tell now that this culture shock is going to be an ongoing thing for a while.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

PROBLEMS PUT INTO PERSPECTIVE

Over the past year of travel, we have had our share of trials and tribulations – problems if you may. An airport security issue in Delhi, India left us standing at our airport gate for a half hour while we watched everyone else board the plane that it looked like we were going to miss; multi pickpockets in Argentina which left Marty without a drivers license, credit cards, an ATM card and cash; wandering the streets of Dubrovnik, Croatia with our luggage, lost and no one able to direct us to our apartment; traffic in Delhi which almost caused us to miss the train that we had reserved months before and might have to wait days before we could rebook... At the time they all seemed like problems. But having spent the last 12 days in Florida with my Mother, it is now so easy to see that those were not problems, they were merely trivial inconveniences of life .

A problem is a 78 year old woman who at one moment is traveling though Europe on her own and the next moment is blind. A problem is a person who needs a lot of assistance but who is still quite vital so she doesn't really belong in a nursing home or even an assisted living facility. A problem is a loved one who wants to keep her independence which means living more than 1000 miles from any of her family members. These are REAL problems. For almost two weeks now I have been trying to rearrange my Mother's life to try to make it work for her. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done: emotionally, physically, mentally and even spiritually. It has left me feeling sad, angry, frustrated, trapped and hopeless. If I feel all these feelings, I can't imagine what my Mother feels – yet she keeps plugging along, trying endlessly to recapture some of her previous life.

All those day to day encounters we have that seem so troubling, aggravating and impossible, they are simple blips on the radar screen of life. They will pass, often without any significant consequence. Losing one's health, now that's a real problem.

Monday, June 1, 2009

MARTY'S TOP TEN SIGHTS OF THE WORLD

No one else wanted to list their favorites. Av and Si were asked repeatedly along the way "what was your favorite place"? Their answer was always "We like them all". They believe that an attempt to say what is best (and worst) would diminish the experience. I don't believe this will happen for me. I rate things. I log and score the books I read. I used to keep a daily log of how much I jogged. GEEK!!! So I have always scored and rated things. Here goes:

10) Score of 9.1 The beautiful city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. The views of the city from the fortified walls were incredible. So were the views of the Adriatic from the rocky escarpments near Dance Beach.

9) Score of 9.2 I didn't anticipate that the Leaning Tower of Pisa would be spectacular. It was. The views of the Pisa Cathedral and Baptistry from the top of the tower (leaning) at sunset were breathtaking.

8) Score of 9.2 I loved the street scenes of McLeodganj, in Northern India. The smells. The look of the older people. The beggars. The ever present burgundy robes of the Tibetan monks at ground level...and the foothills of the Himalayas up above.

7) Score of 9.2 The incredible symmetry and beauty of the Taj Mahal. Wonderfully landscaped gardens contrasted with the poverty of Agra. I expected it to be the #1 sight in the world before we left. Not quite, but it's a gorgeous world and the Taj adds to its beauty.

6) Score of 9.3 The incredible grandeur of the karst formations on our Li River outing near Yangshuo, China. They jut hundreds of feet up, solitary in their beauty. Much better than the calendars and posters in Chinese restaurants at home.

5) Score of 9.3 The beauty of hundreds of paper lanterns (kom loy) floating in the air during the festival of Loy Krathong in Thailand. The energy and gaiety of the festival added to the wonder.

4) Score of 9.3 The stunning views inside the volcanoes of Rapa Nui (Easter Island). The caldera rim was bleak with beautiful vegetation growing in the lake down below. I didn't expect the scenes here to have this much of an impact on me. They did.

3) Score of 9.3 When the lions walked directly beneath my window of our Safari Land Cruiser on game day in Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania. Incredibly gorgeous scenery and animals.

2) Score of 9.5 Gargantua del Diablo or Devil's Throat Falls inside Iguazu Falls National Park in Argentina. The extreme force of nature astounded me. Too loud to hear.

1) And the #1 sight for me with a score of 9.6 is Peron Dunes, outside the hamlet of St. Helens in Tasmania. It is an unlikely #1 since I had never heard about it before we left and even as we got to Tasmania after leaving Sydney. I walked out and saw the starkness, the mist, the deserted beach, and the dunes rising high into the sky. The outerwordliness of this place. I felt totally at peace.

IT'S A BEAUTIFUL WORLD!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

HOME SWEET ALMOST HOME

We arrived at Miami International Airport on Wednesday, May 20th. If you have to arrive in the US from South America, Miami is the place to go. The culture shock is minimized by the fact that everything is still in Spanish; we knew exactly where to enter (entrada), where to exit (salida) and where to go to the bathroom (banos). Very comforting!

I imagined the first picture in our return photo album to be the one from the airport that said Welcome To The United States of America. But there was no sign to take a picture of. I don't understand. We had one that said Bienvenidos Ecuador, Bienvenidos Uruguay... where was the one for the USA? Given the fact that we were arriving in Miami, I would have been happy with Bienvenidos Estados Unidos, but nothing. Are we really that unwelcoming?

We collected our luggage, proceeded through immigration and customs and headed over to Avis to get our rental car that would take us to Sun City Center (250 miles north west) where my Mother lives. I had reserved a full size car which would be the largest vehicle we've been in for a year, but we wanted to be comfortable for our 5 hour trip. When I checked in, Darleen, our faithful Avis representative wanted to know if we wanted to upgrade to an SUV. No, the full size is fine. Do we want a GPS system. No thanks, not necessary. How about a DVD player for the kids? An insurance package? A fuel package? I JUST WANT A CAR! TRANSPORTATION! SOMETHING A LITTLE LARGER THAN A TUK-TUK!

Needing to refuel the car (since I didn't get that fuel package), I pull up to the pump at the gas station. Do I want to pay cash or credit? I put my credit card into the pump. What is my zip code? Do I want a receipt? Do I want a car wash? I JUST WANT GAS!

The next day we take my Mom shopping for a table and chairs for her new home. We picked out a lovely set and when I go to pay the cashier wants to know if I am going to pay with cash or credit? Do I want to open a new credit account with Pier One and get a 10% discount? Do I want to be on their email list? I JUST WANT TO MAKE MY PURCHASE!

After having traveled the world for the past year I have come to see that America is the land of choices. But after having lived without all those choices for a year, I have come to realize that I really didn't miss having all those choices. In fact, life was a whole lot simpler when there was no choice. Didn't I feel deprived? No, not really. Has our quality of life really improved with all the choices that we have or has it just gotten more complicated? More time consuming? More confusing?

When I ask myself how has this trip changed me, I guess the first response will be "It has made me want to have a simpler life." But I'm back here in America so wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

ECUADOR'S TOP TEN (PLUS TWO)

We surveyed the four participants of the One World One Trip Team for the Top Ten (Plus Two) of Ecuador and the results are in:

12. Our Quito apartment
11. Basilica del Voto Nacional
10. Palacio del Gobierno
9. Our final trip lunch at Patio Andaluz
8. La Compania de Jesus (Church)
7. Volcan Pichincha & the TeleferiQo
6. Jacchigua - Ballet Folklorica Ecuador
5. City of Quito
4. La Mitad del Mundo
3. Parque Carolina & Ceviche Chocho
2. Pululahua Experience: Crater, Hostal & Horse Trek

AND THE NUMBER ONE FAVORITE OF ECUADOR IS:

1. The Otavalo Indigenous Market and Fish Lunch

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

HORSE TREKKING DAY TWO


The next day started off bueno. We had a good breakfast and said our goodbyes to Noah who we really enjoyed talking to from the night before. Renato got the horses ready remembering my issue with a ring on the saddle which rubbed against my knee and lisa's sore butt. Our saddles now came equipped with sheepskin pads. So New Zealand! Cazoomba, my horse, took off from where he left off the day before - doing his thing regardless of what I wanted to do.

Today we are headed up. Up the crater wall to the rim. A hill climb!! Trekking in the ANDES!!! Our plan is to traverse up in the morning, have lunch, then head down, walking our horses in the tough spots, in the afternoon. Sounds like a plan.

The riding was initially easy and our backs and legs were good. Soon the horses started to labor as we gained altitude. The trail was muddier than anticipated and sometimes the horses slid. As a result, the girls got a bit skiddish. So we dismounted and walked our horses awhile (up the mountain) till we got to more stable ground - which ended up being all the way to the TOP!...of the trail. In some ways I got "closer" to Cazoomba by walking him as his head would nudge me and I would turn around and pet him. Nice boy! Renato said we only had a short way to go (South American minutes: Five minutes promised equals thirty minutes in reality).



Finally, at the top (exhausted) we gladly remounted and proceeded along a dirt road to around 10,450 feet. We stopped when we found a nice lunch spot. We had Rento's ham and cheese sandwiches and watched the clouds go by below us. A magnificent setting. Best lunch seats in the house!


Afterwards we headed onto a trail, into the cloud forest. It was mystical, kinda like a "Lord of the Rings" filmset. But the mystical feeling was soon broken. All of a sudden Siena starts crying...She's been kicked by Tarzan, Avocet's horse. I jump off, go to her, take her boot off and examine her left leg. She is in a panic so I just hold her leg. She is letting me touch it so it's not broken. It must have been a glancing blow and she starts to settle down. Renato infers that Tarzan, might have kicked back because Zeus, Siena's horse, could have bitten him. Horses are unpredictable animals. Renato tells us now to keep our distances between horses (a bit late in telling us).


We soon get to a point where the trail gets tougher: narrower, steeper and very muddy. Since there hadn't been heavy rains for a week, Renato thought the trail was going to be dry - WRONG. This isn't a place for beginners! A joint decision is made to go ahead and dismount and walk until it gets better. Renato walks his horse and Tarzan while I walk the other three. lisa and the girls walk last.

Ready for more excitement???? Tarzan, a seasoned horse of at least sixteen years, slips on the narrow, muddy trail and his 800+ pounds tumbles down the hillside into a thicket of bamboo. I am the first to see him with his head bent between two bamboo stalks. My first thought, "What if Av had been on his back when this happened?" Renato calmly ties up his horse while I tie up the remaining three. He decends the hill, assesses the damage and finds Tarzan OK, with a slight cut on the left side of his head. Renato starts to cut the bamboo with his machete attempting to clear a less steep way out, while I amble down to hold Tarzan's reins. Tarzan is agitated and ready to get out of there. As Renato whacks away, Tarzan gets more excited. Is he going to stomp on me or what? Thankfully the cleared trail to the top is ready and Tarzan scampers up, like a cat, stretching his legs and finally leaping to the top. Cheers go up from all. Just another day at the office, right? Renato is having a bad day: never had a horse kick a kid, never had a horse fall off the trail, never had to have his riders walk the ENTIRE WAY DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. Let's get the hell out of this mystical forest!


The girls are unhappy. We are spending more time off the horses than on. Renato is stressed because this is the worst day he has ever had doing this. Let's just get back to level land and go home. After an hour of walking in boots that are designed to protect your legs and not to be hiking boots, our feet are getting sore. Great!

We arrive at the crater bottom and decide to take the longer but easier dirt road back. All remount except me. I try to get back up on Cazoomba but he will have none of it. Clearly he has liked my almost two hundred pound butt off his back. I try another time...up and over...and down I go on the other side. I'm OK, but Siena, after being kicked and watching Tarzan fall, starts to freak out. I quickly run over to her, raise my arms over my head and give her a big grin. Doesn't help.

Renato and I switch horses. Nice saddle. You get one of those when you are the boss. Cool. Nice horse Noel, much more sedate than the skiddish Cazoomba. But he won't budge on the downhill. lisa and I are what appears to be a quarter mile behind the girls and Renato. Finally he moves, but almost immediately gets spooked by an imaginary animal off to the left. Great, now this. He starts down the hill and I can tell he's not comfortable. He does this little nerveous thing with his feet and I decide I'm off of this dude. I walk another quarter mile until we get to Renato and the girls. I remounted and a half an hour later we reached the stable.

The horse trek in the Andes was supposed to be our coup de grace of Ecuador and the whole trip. It didn't quite turn out that way. Today was a tough day. It was supposed to be a blast. It wasn't. It was dangerous. The girls were scared a lot and lisa felt that bad decisions were made. What a way to end it. But it was a real adventure.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Horse Trekking Day One


In Uruguay, we wanted to go horse trekking for three hours or so. The only horse trekking company available did more farm activities than horse trekking which we were not excited about. When Mom said that there's horse trekking in Ecuador, we decided on a two day, with overnight, trek in the Andes Mountains.

Our horse trekking adventure began in the Pululahua Crater which is the largest and only inhabited crater in South America. It is also the only crater in the world that has farming and farm animals in it.

The day we arrived, we did four hours of trekking. Good practice for the next day! We started on open, but deserted roads, and then turned onto smaller trails. The trails featured beautiful scenery and landscapes. It was awesome! The Pululahua Crater was a very pretty place to go horseback riding. Most of the trails were thin and so wooded, that our legs kept running up against the "wall". We were ever so thankful for the lended rubber boots that provided us with "safe feet". Stopping at the two hour point for a snack did us good and Avocet and I practiced mounting our horses by ourselves! When we started heading back, the clouds started coming in, this is a cloud forest! After horse trekking, we retired to the Hostal, where we sat in the Jaccuzzi talking to Noah, someone we met along the trail. We had lots of fun the first day!

Pululahua Hostal has 5 dogs; Mystica, Ping Pong, Scotie, Rocky and Polilla. Mystica and Polilla are Mom and Dad, with the three boys. They are all quite naughty, and while we were riding, they bothered more than 1 or 2 donkeys, cows, chickens, pigs, and horses. Ping Pong and Rocky look alike with black and white hair, while Mystica is a pit bull/boxer with tiger stripes. Polilla (pronounced Po-leash- a) is a golden retriever and Scotie looks most like him, a yellow labrador. They followed us both days up and down the mountains, chasing animals and having a blast!

~Siena & Avocet



Zeus, Siena's horse


Tarzan, Avocet's horse


Lucero, Mama's horse


Kuzumba, Daddy's horse

Sunday, May 17, 2009

WHY WON'T MY VEGETABLES COOK?

Anyone who knows me knows that I cook quite a bit - sometimes simple and sometimes gourmet. This is true on the road as well but on the the road I cook only simple. So here I am making sauteed chicken with boiled carrots and rice for dinner perfectly timed for a 6:00 meal. The table is set, the wine is poured and I go to take out my rock hard carrots and my partially cooked rice; what is going on here? I blame the uncooked carrots on the fact that Marty has cut them way to thick and the rice problem is due to the fact that I can't get a flame low enough on this propane stove to properly cook rice.

Several days later I'm making steak with broccoli and potatoes. Same scenario only this time my broccoli is rock hard and the potatoes are a little on the raw side. I cut the broccoli so who do I blame this time? I cook the broccoli for additional 20 minutes and the potatoes for 15 minutes more and serve them with the cold steak. What is going on here?

Altitude! We all know that altitude makes breathing harder since the air density is lower (less oxygen in the air). But did you know that due to this lower density air, water boils at a lower temperature than it would at lower altitudes? If you thought that boiled water is boiled water, guess again. At home, boiled water is 212degrees, here in Quito, it is only 185 degrees. So even though you are cooking something in boiled water, it is not as hot, so it will have to cook for longer - maybe even twice as long!

This is not a big secret, it's just that the people in Colorado forgot to tell me to start dinner twice as early as I would if I were at home. Thank God I didn't try to bake!

Friday, May 15, 2009

ALTITUDE


As mentioned before, Quito stands at an elevation of 9,300 feet. This altitude has had an impact on all of us. When we arrived here we anticipated being out of breath. What we didn't expect was the same occurrence a week later. Every time we walk up the stairs to our 4th floor apartment, we are reminded we are not at sea level. lisa and I have also had dull headaches when we get up in the morning. Our sleep is also affected, not sleeping well at all. We are tired a lot. When I lie awake lying on my back it is hard to catch my breath. I can feel my diaphragm laboring. It's funny that rolling over on my side makes a big difference. Just sitting here writing it's hard to get a really deep breath. Not satisfying.

Changes in elevation in our travels here make a difference too. We dropped to around 8000 feet on our day trip to La Mitad del Mundo. Much, much better. At the other extreme, taking our one hour trek yesterday between 13,400 feet and a touch over 14,000 feet was exhausting. I was gasping for breath and taking short steps to proceed upward. Our twenty minutes of just hanging at one place felt really good. Surprisingly, it wasn't bitterly cold . lisa and I have frozen in the past when we were at elevations lower than this. Being on the equator allowed some hikers to the Pichincha Volcano peak at 15,800 feet to go up with just t-shirts. We shed our three to four layers of clothes when it got too hot.





Dumb me. Of all days to forget to put on sunscreen. We were exposed for only a couple of hours and I now have the worst sunburn since the head has been shaved. The sun is much more intense at the equator than at the 39 degree north latitude we have at home. And it's much more intense at 14,000 feet than near sea level.

Negatives, negatives, negatives. On the positive side it's beautiful here. I look out the window while washing dishes and see the mountains loom over the beautiful Basilica a couple of blocks away. While on the trail at altitude, I observed alpine grasses with red, purple or yellow flowers all the way to 15,000+ feet. Gorgeous. They even have dandelions up this high!



I like mountains. Always have. Our trip to the higher elevations here was a “high” I wanted the whole trip. And I finally got it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Otavalo, South America's Largest

About 2 hours drive from Quito is Otavalo, South America's largest... what? Guess what it is; we've been to ones in The Netherlands, Slovenia, Thailand, Laos, Australia, Chile, Argentina and now, here.

IT'S A MARKET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And from the title of my blog, you can probably tell that it's large. They sell all kinds of Andean and Ecuadorian crafts from dolls to blankets. The bus ride up was looooooooooooong and because they stopped at every clustering of people they saw, (possible money...) it made the ride "bumpy". We finally arrived at Otavalo town. If we thought people in Quito were wearing more traditional clothing, almost all the ladies in Otavalo were wearing Andean costume! We headed down 3 blocks, finally arriving at the market.

And they had tons of stuff! Alpaca blankets, alpaca sweaters, alpaca ponchos, llama stuffed animals, llama wall hangings, slippers, bags, hammocks, clothing, purses, dolls, and repeat it all again. We ended up buying, well, a lot. But you can bargain and the prices out there are cheaper than Quito to begin with, so a lot of stuff isn't as expensive as it sounds. And we are getting rid of some stuff in our suitcases here anyway...

We finally decided to head back home around 4:00, getting home at 6:00, another long bus ride. We thoroughly enjoyed Otavalo!!!

Comment:

The One World One Trip Team has voted Otavalo the best market in the world!!!! No, literally.




Tuesday, May 12, 2009

LIFE ON THE EQUATOR

Every place people live has a certain rhythm. Lots of factors can contribute to the rhythm of a location but typically the principle factor is established by the seasons. Here in Ecuador, there are no seasons as we know them. They will refer to summer or winter but basically it has to do with the amount of rainfall. Here on the Equator; January is pretty much the same as March which is pretty much the same as June which is pretty much the same as...

When I think of the Equator, I think of hot, very hot, sweltering hot. But here in Quito, at an altitude of over 9000 feet it is not hot. And again, because we are on the Equator, the weather is pretty consistent year round - about 68 degrees during the day and about 50 degrees during the night - 365 days per year! Because of the intensity of the sun, that 68 degrees feels warmer on a nice sunny day. Long pants, a short sleeve shirt and sandals work just great. In the evening, add some socks and a light jacket and you're in business. I could really get used to this. Houses don't have air conditioning, you don't need it, and houses don't have heat, you don't need that either. Imagine that utility bill at the end of each and every month!

Time is also different here. No daylight savings time - no spring forward or fall back. No long days in the summer and short days in the winter. Here at the "middle of the earth", each and every day is the same; 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. The sun rises at 6:00 AM and sets at 6:00 PM. Because of this, it seems that life begins earlier in the day and ends earlier in the day. We have been here a week now and we can't seem to sleep past 5:30 and trust me, it's not from lack of trying. Needless to say, by 9:30 PM we are ready for bed. When you walk out your door at 7:00 AM and the streets are bustling and the trollies are jam-packed, you see that everyone else is on the same schedule. It's a rhythm that after a while you stop fighting and just go with.

Monday, May 11, 2009

LA MITAD DEL MUNDO


We left our apartment in the Centro Historico of Quito and headed for La Mitad del Mundo – the Middle of the World. The equator is 22 km from the center of Quito. 22 km in a city this size equals 90 minutes travel time (on public transportation). At home this is the distance from our house to Tri-County mall (30 minutes tops, by car). And thanks to the makers of Dramamine = No bus sickness for our three ladies. Yay!!

We arrive at La Mitad del Mundo and first observed the famous monument that has the “line running through it”. We all had our requisite photos taken straddling the equator, one leg in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern. That's what you do here, take pics to prove you were here. It wasn't great fun, but you can't visit Quito and pass it up. How fun can a “line” be, anyway? We finished our photo shoot and headed into the monument/museum. This small, but nice “museo” gave descriptions of the various indigenous peoples of Ecuador. To add to our experience, we also viewed a room size scale model of Colonial Quito. The girls were bored with an exhibit of the history of the “Making of the Equator," but I really enjoyed it. It went from the need of the French king in the 1700's to settle a scientific dispute between the theories of Sir Isaac Newton and __________(can't remember name) regarding the shape of the Earth, to the eventual naming of the new nation Ecuador after this imaginary line running equidistant between the poles. Good exhibit for Marty = Geeky.



A side note. We met a nice family from New York. The father was Joe Berlinger, a documentary film maker. His most famous film was “Paradise Lost”, about a trial of three teenagers for murder, simply because of their dress style and music preferences. He and his family were in Quito because his current documentary “Crude” was the opening film at an International Film Festival being held here. It is an inside look at how Texaco polluted the Amazon and tried to get away with it. Watch it at your local theatre.

After a day of being equatorial, we headed back to Quito with the “equation” La Mitad del Mundo = Good Day

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Donde Es Sacagawea?


In the U.S., it's a rarity to find a Sacagawea dollar. When you find them, most people put it in their coin collection, rather than take the chance of using it and not getting another. We still mint the coins, so where is Sacagawea? Down here in Ecuador.

In 2001, Ecuador converted to the U.S. dollar, explaining the 1 to 1 exchange rate. For some reason, all the Sacagawea dollars got dumped down here. At the end of the day, you may end up with 5-10 of them. I got 2 from ONE purchase today!

Ecuador's money situation is strange (READ: absurd). They use American bills, dollar coins and cents such as dimes and nickels, but they also have Ecuadorian Centavos, worth the same as their American counterparts. Why are they worth nothing in the U.S.?

We've discussed the money situation down here so much that Dad finally got onto the computer today and googled the topic. Most people commented about the Sacagawea dollar down here but not up there. Several said that when they saw a Sacagawea dollar in the States, they thought that it was counterfeit! Goes to show you that people really don't see them up there, they are all in Ecuador.


Friday, May 8, 2009

Getting High in Quito, Ecuador!



Most of you probably know of Ecuador because the equator goes through it. What you probably don't know is that the Andes Mountain range starts here, it hosts the largest market in South America, and that the Amazon River goes through it. The only place we're staying in Ecuador, is Quito, the capital city.

What a travel day! To get to Quito, we had to take a plane from Montevideo, Uruguay to Lima, Peru, and then a plane to Ecuador. And we almost missed the plane to Quito too! I bet those people in the airport thought we were mad, running through the gates. At least we didn't miss the plane though!

We are staying in the old town of Quito, but the city stretches far beyond it! Quito is a huge city in a huge valley surrounded by the Andes. It's very pretty and the mountains make for good pictures, especially behind the Basilica.



The Basilica, also very big, just like everything else around here (except for the people!) is gorgeous except for those two clocks. They're hideous! The second day we were here, we climbed the two towers. Great views!



Quito will have been the highest city we've been on this trip altitude wise. It's about 9,895 feet up! We are still acclimitizing and it's still hard for us to breathe. I hope we get used to it soon!



Ecuador is very different from all the other parts of South America that we have visited (excluding Chillan), because it seems like South America. In Valpariaso, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo, it seemed so European. Here in Quito, it's anything but European except for some of the architecture. You'll even see ladies walking in the streets with Andean clothing on! I never saw that in Buenos Aires! It's good to have a change from what we've been visiting.

So far Quito has been very nice and I can't wait to do more stuff here!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

THE LAST STOP


I remember it like it was yesterday; well, maybe like it was six months ago. We arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos and it felt like a monumental event. Why? We finally hit the second column on the back of our trip shirt. As we traveled through Europe then into Africa, it seemed like we would never get to that second column and finally, we made it – coincidentally at around our six month point. Now, here we are, in Quito, Ecuador, the last city at the bottom of the second column.

Time is such a strange thing. On the one hand, a day or a week can pass so slowly but then you wonder what happened to the whole month – it just flew by. Our friends Sean and Dianna and their family spent a year living in Paris the year before we left and I remember asking them, “Did the year pass quickly or slowly?” "Both", they said. "Some months and seasons went quickly while others went more slowly". I too can say the same for our year abroad. Some locations flew by while others seemed to last forever.

Now that we are on the home stretch, time seems to have slowed down. I guess you could say that that is a good thing since it enables us to better enjoy the last days of our journey. But at this point, everyone is anxious to go home and sometimes a day feels like it is lasting forever. If Avocet and Siena had their way, Quito would be bypassed completely and we would be heading straight back to the US!

But TACA Airlines has only taken us as far as Quito and the flight to Miami doesn't leave for another 16 days. From Miami we will drive to Sun City Center where my Mother lives, and visit with her for two weeks. It was originally suppose to be only one week, but she has not been well for the last eight months so we arranged to cut Quito short by a week and spend extra time with Mom. It will be wonderful to be there with her for 14 days but also difficult. We will be so close to home yet so far away.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

URUGUAY'S TOP TEN (PLUS TWO)

We surveyed the four participants of the One World One Trip Team for their top ten (plus two) of Uruguay and the results are in:

12. The meat of Uruguay - Entrecote, Lomo, Hamburguesa and Chorizo
11. Reserving horse camp in Cincinnati
10. Talking about home
9. The Internet with our Claro modem stick
8. Leaving Uruguay
7. Walking on the Rambla in Montevideo
6. Museo Gaucho y la Moneda
5. Teatro Solis and the Brazilian Ballet
4. Plaza Independencia and the General Artigas Memorial
3. Paddleboating at Parque Rodo
2. Palacio Salvo and our apartment there

AND THE NUMBER ONE FAVORITE OF URUGUAY IS:

1. Our beach day at Piriapolis

Monday, May 4, 2009

WRONG ORDER OR WRONG TIMING?

Have you ever gone to a really nice restaurant, one that is touted by friends and critics alike, and just not enjoyed your meal? Is the restaurant really not that great or did you just order the wrong dish? That's how I feel about Montevideo, Uruguay. In fact, that's how I feel about South America in general so far. Since we left our friends in Chillan, Chile, I haven't been that thrilled with South America. Is it that South America is not my cup of tea? Or is it just that we ordered the wrong dish from the menu i.e. we didn't pick the right cities/countries to go to on this continent. Maybe Peru, Brazil or Boliva would have been more to my liking. Someplace where there is an indiginous population versus a population of European descendants.

Of course, there is another factor to take into consideration...timing. Here we are in the last month of our trip. We have been there and done that all across the globe. Would anyplace really be new and exciting at this point? Would Montevideo, Uruguay be one of the highlights of my year had it been one of our first stops vs. one of our last? I'm thinking not, but I can't say for sure.

I can still remember my mental state one year ago in May of 2008. I was physically still in Cincinnati, still in the US, but emotionally, I was already going around the world. There was still some planning left to do, still loose ends to tie up at home, but I didn't want to be making plans for the trip any longer, I just wanted to be ON IT!

Now, here it is, one year later. There are lots of mixed feelings about coming home but either way, we will be home in just over a month. Our daily "To Do" lists include not only things like buy more leche, see Presidential Home and buy tickets for the Brazilian Ballet. It includes things like, sign up the kids for summer camp, contact school regarding enrollment for next year and find out date our renters will be moving out. Aspects of home have fully infiltrated our lives here in South America and like it or not, had a impact on our emotional state.


So we pass our time here in Montevideo checking out the Carnaval Museum, looking at historical monuments, browsing the market and planning for our return home.




It will be interesting to see what Ecuador brings. I hope we can go out with a bang and not a bust.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

PIRIAPOLIS - A PLACE TO JUST "BE"


Piriapolis is a seaside resort ninety minutes, by bus, up the coast from Montevideo. Seaside resorts have seasons; we are here on the last day of April (equivalent weather wise to October 30th at home in the northern hemisphere) so we are definitely here in the off season. Why go here off season? Because it's on the trip shirt, of course!! When I planned Argentina and Uruguay about eighteen months ago, I knew this would be our last chance to be at the beach. And we like the beach.

We arrived and found the place deserted. As we walked along the sidewalks, few places were open. Restaurants were closed, souvie shops closed. They apparently didn't know we were coming!!! We visited the information office and found out about things to see and to do. Most were kinda boring, to be honest. So get on with it, Marty. Why blog about a boring place? Well...

Walking down the "Rambla" here we walked slowly and just talked. About home, about some of the people we have met, some of the places we have been, about anything. Deep down I feel we knew that we could just relax...we didn't have to "do" anything. We could just walk and "be". The air temp was cool, in the low sixties, but the sun intense, as it is in southern South America. We came upon a chairlift which took us up the hill to a shrine of San Antonio. People had thanked him with professionally made cards for the birth of a baby or a good event in their lives. When we came out you could see all of Piriapolis town, the pretty bay, ships in dry dock...all "resting". Little traffic. No noise...nice.






We ambled down to the two seaside "Pescaderias" recommended by the Information Office only to find them both closed. I would be closed, too. No one around! None of us got upset knowing that we would eventually find some place to eat. We happened upon a place that served us an okay meal (expensive at $50+ with only a rating of 78 out of 100 by lisa) but had good atmosphere. We have been together almost 24-7-365 and you would think we would having nothing else to talk about but we thoroughly enjoyed our ninety minute repast. Nice view of the sea and the waves on the beach. No pressure to leave. No place really to go. Just a pleasure to enjoy "good" (78 rating) food and good conversation.

After lunch we walked to the beach. We were the only ones on it for awhile. Took off our shoes and just relaxed. The girls and I walked down and found a dead dolphin on the beach. Poor fellow. Av and Si then went off exploring in the dunes. lisa found a warm spot out of the wind and "chilled out". I joined the girls and threw them around like I did in the past. Just a Daddy playing with his kids. Nice. We rejoined lisa to find her accompanied by a brown setter, laying down close to her. I went over and he immediately wanted to be petted. Eventually I laid down beside him and we just relaxed. Good dog, Fido. Av, Si, Fido and I went back up the beach. Fido tried to bury the dead dolphin by throwing sand over him. One of those things animals do, I guess. I was aware this would be my last view of the beach and water for awhile so I sat quietly by myself and just listened to the lapping of the waves. Earlier in my life I used to say when I was absorbed by the waves that I was "hearing" the face of God.




Temps got cooler so we decided to head back. After an hour or so walking (with Fido chasing every car) and just looking around we were back on the bus heading for Montevideo. Our day was not exciting, not really interesting, nor a lot of "fun". But, for me, it was a GOOD day. A REALLY GOOD DAY.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

RAMBLING ON THE RAMBLA


This is going to be a long blog. So go to the bathroom first or go to the frig and get a beer. Relax. It's going to take awhile to read this one. I titled it “Rambling on the Rambla” because I will give a detailed view of what we do in the first couple of days at a place. The “Rambla” is the wide promenade that is on the coastline here in Montevideo, Uruguay. People of all kinds just “rambla” along it. Here goes.

I'm journaling at the kitchen table of our apartment at the Palacio Salvo, a beautiful Belle Epoch designed building. The Palacio Salvo is the famous building you almost always see in postcards of Montevideo, or Uruguay for that matter. We are staying here simply because I love the architecture of this place. She is however like the aging starlet in “Sunset Boulevard”. She might still be the focal point of Montevideo, but she needs a good cleaning. The bottom parts of the building are darker than the top due to the fumes of the ever present diesel buses crisscrossing the center of the city. We are on the 4th floor and I'm staring across the street at a 1960's thirteen story tower which in someways looks abandoned. It has mismatched drapes, some broken glass and other reminders of a building “going down”. It's not that look everywhere here but Montevideo is a bit tattered. A blog I read on this city said it's a bit of Boston (historic) and Lisbon (seedy and decaying).


Our apartment here was a bit disappointing. I thought from Eduardo's e-mails that this place was huge. I was expecting huge. It's merely average in size. The kitchen is large which is unusual for us. Speaking of the kitchen. It has a newer stove which is hooked up to a liquid gas “can”. Not a tank like on our gas grills, but a flimsy steel tank. Never in Cincinnati. They would lock us up if we tried this. There is a small family room nook with a loveseat and chair, TV, DVD (can't get it to work so we use the laptop) and CD player. It is nice especially since I can read after lisa goes to bed in our bedroom without bothering her (see later why this didn't work out in this “rambla”). The biggest negative is the noise. 1926 building = 1926 windows (wood with single panes) which don't keep the sound out. We are on the edge of the building which is adjacent to Avenida 18 de Julio, the busiest street in Montevideo. On our first night I slept for maybe four hours and lisa didn't sleep at all. The second night we moved the mattress into the hallway and closed the doors surrounding it. Not exactly super quiet but with a sleeping pill we made it through without ear plugs.

Oh, and our internet (ALMOST ALWAYS A MAJOR ISSUE) was non-existent when we got here. Eduardo, who is taking care of it for the other Eduardo (the owner), said he would be here at eight o'clock in the morning to install it with his son. He was also to give us a phone to use. 8:00 – no Eduardo....10:00 – no Eduardo....1:00 – no Eduardo and son. As we have given up on him and are ready to leave, the doorbell rings. In walk Eduardo and his son Fernando. I immediately start humming “Fernando” by Abba. I can't get my keyboard to turn the b's around in Abba, sorry. Instead of a wireless modum hook up as we expected, we are handed a Claro Internet stick. We have never used one of these before. After setting it to Uruguay vs. Argentina, it worked fine. Fernando turns out is an accomplished non-classical (rock) violinist. He just finished a recording session at the Teatro Solis, MonteV's world famous opera house.

We also thought we had laundry facilities (washer at least). Nada. Some of our clothes were still wet from the boat ride and shower at Iguazu Falls. So, we tried to lay them out all over the apartment. They, within a day, started to smell of mildew and river water. No problem, just bring them to a laundry and they will wash them. Another nada. Not open for wash and dry on Saturday. So lisa and I “handwash” an entire load of clothes in an attempt to save them. Now I know what washing would be like in the 1890s. Enough of the clothes, let's go play.

We walked to the Mercado del Puerto, a tourist area near the port. Inside the mercado were meat restaurants and the smell was WOW! We just had lunch at the apartment so we passed on it. It was a tourist area so we need to look for Siena and Avocet's Uruguayan dolls. We hung around the area a bit and headed back as it was getting to be late in the afternoon. We were told on the way over by a stranger to not be in this area after dark. Oh poopies!!! As we walked back we ended up on streets where we were the only people around. A bit creepy. I'm sure this was caused by being ripped off in Buenos Aires. Others have said Montevideo is much safer than BA. We could look like marks.

This morning I got up and took a shower. Too hot at the beginning but cooling off quick. Not unlike a lot of places around the world. Our showers at home are not perfect but OK. While showering, lisa went to the bakery to get pastries. It is Sunday morning so she got special sweet pastries: medialunas, some with sugar on the outside, some with dulce de leche inside. Very nice. I am journaling right now with the windows open. It's 9:45 AM and the strong South American sun is shining in. I hear horns, truck brakes from the street five stories below. It doesn't seem polluted here, but it must be with the large number of diesel buses. Montevideo has about 1.3MM people but has never had a subway or light rail. As I look out I must watch out for the pigeon poop on the windowsill. The poop adds to the seediness of MonteV. It's nice being up high where I can watch people milling about carrying on their daily activities.

Yesterday we went to a huge Sunday market named "Feria de Tristan Naranje". Regular stuff like clothes, books (new and used...all in espanol), bolts, bike parts, plus souvenirs like mate cups, paintings, sculptures, etc. Nice market. We would have enjoyed it more had Siena and Avocet found their Uruguayan dolls. Blocks upon blocks of stalls and no tipical dolls de Uruguay! Go figure. On the way home, we stopped at Don Rocco, a traditional Uruguayan parillada (meat restaurant). Our definition in the States of a “meat market” is definitely different than here. We sat down and looked at the menu. In espanol, of course (and without subtitles). Our carne choices were asado, vacio, lomo and entrecote. None of this meant anything. I asked our waiter if we could see what was being grilled. lisa and I went over to the grill, at least ten feet wide with all different cuts of meat being prepared. Entrecote: the cook picked up a piece of lean steak about two inches thick and weighing almost a kilo. GREAT BY ME!!! lisa tended toward the rib type looking meat so she ordered the asado. I liked mine. lisa was so-so on both saying they had little flavor. It will be interesting to test the flavors of beef at home vs. South American beef. Argentinian beef was great (to me...not to lisa). Oh, the girls had pure de manzana and pure de papas (warm applesauce and mashed potatoes).


We headed home and walked the almost twenty short blocks back along Avenida 18 de Julio. Nice old buildings next to crummy looking 1970's monstrosities. The parks were filled to a point as were the sidewalk cafes. Nice walk back but we are all tired.

It's time to go to bed. lisa and I move the mattress back into the hall again. As the mattress slides down it just about breaks the table that is built into the wall. Seeing the table separate from the wall is like watching my $500 security deposit go down the toilet. So we end up rearranging our living room and sliding the mattress in there. Not as good a night's sleep as before in the hall, but okay. I lose my late night reading “nest” but anything's better than trying to sleep with ear plugs.

OK, it's over. Thank you for seeing our day to day life as we merge from one place to another. Hopefully it gave you a better understanding of some of the “stuff” we have enjoyed and also have to put up with. Our first two days in Montevideo. Not really exciting. Not terrifically cool but okay. Follow the blog to see how it progresses. Now you can go pee. And I hope your beer is still cool.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

ARGENTINA'S TOP TEN (PLUS TWO)

We surveyed the four participants of the One World One Trip Team for their Top Ten (Plus Two) of Argentina and the results are in:

12 Our Palermo Neighborhood in Buenos Aires
11. Tango Show
10. Walrus Bookshop (English Language Books)
9. San Martin Plaza and the International Buddy Bears
8. Hippodromo (Buenos Aires' Horse Track)
7. La Juvenil Pasta Shop
6. Recoleta Cementary
7. Artesanal Market
4. Spanish Classes with Paz
3. Our Palermo Apartment
2. Parque de la Costa and Tigre

AND THE NUMBER ONE FAVORITE OF ARGENTINA IS:

1.Cataratas del Iguazu and Parque Nacional Iguazu


A special mention goes to our visit with friends Charlotte & Erwan from Paris who it was great to see and spend time with. You made our stay in Buenos Aires that much more enjoyable.

Another special mention goes to Paz who went above and beyond the role of being our Spanish Teacher to that of being our friend. We greatly enjoyed our time with you and with Francisco. You added a lot to our Argentinean experience. A nosotros nos gusta Paz.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Gargantua Del Diablo Theatre

One World - One Trip Pictures Presents, a Marty Greenwell production: Gargantua Del Diablo - An Awesome Force!

Cataratas del Iguazu



In other countries, we have taken what we call “vacations” away from the place we were staying. They were not anything big, just overnights. Since we were in Argentina, we decided to take a “vacation” to Cataratas Del Iguazu, known to the rest of the world as Iguazu Falls. This was planned before we started the trip – it's on the trip shirt!!



We took a plane to Iguazu Falls. It wasn't a long flight, but since it was raining under us, it was very rocky and made us all sick (except for dad)! Please note the key word raining!! RAINING!!! On our trip to Iguazu Falls!! NO! We had images of ourselves being miserable on our tour of the falls the next day, but fortunately by then the weather cleared. On our first day we went to a lookout over the two rivers where you could see Brazil and Paraguay!!



I don't like tour groups. I don't like being in them, and I don't like being around them. That's why, I didn't like it when we had to take a tour to Iguazu. Thank God we didn't have to listen to lectures like some tour groups do!! It turned out to be surprisingly good! Our guides, Veronica and Vivi were also very nice.



The first place we went was the Gargantua Del Diablo (also known as The Devil's Throat). It was soooooooooooooooooooooooo cool!!!!!!!!!! There was so much water coming down and with lots of pressure! The Devil's Throat is almost five hundred feet wide and about over two hundred fifty feet deep. And this is at a time when they're having a drought! I was stupefied!



Around the falls, there are these little creatures called Coatis. They are so adorable!! They are relatives of the raccoon and look a lot like them.


There were also thousands of butterflies around the falls! They had gorgeous designs and colours, and most of them would land on us! Occasionally, we'd see a whole cloud of them, or a bunch perched on the ground.



At the end of our tour, before we went back to the bus, we could go on a boat ride and go under the falls! We signed up for it. It was so cool! We put all of our stuff in these plastic bags so it wouldn't get wet,and donned our life jackets. We got to go under the falls (three times!!!) on the Brazilian side, and the Argentinean side, even though it felt the same! We all got so soaked, and the pressure was so much! It was very fun!

Iguazu was very cool and I hope someday I will get to go to the other big falls of the world!