Sunday, September 19, 2010

Trekking in India and Nepal

All ready to go!
Mother Theresa Home for the Dying in Calcutta

Hanging out in Darjeeling

First day of trekking

One of the little villages we stopped in for lunch

Watching our Tibetan bread being fried for breakfast

Many of our "home stays" for the night looked like Switzerland

As Ben would say: Just chillaxing after a long day of trekking

Just another lunch break

Mt. Kangchendjonga, 3rd highest peak in the world, through the clouds


Mt. Kangchendjonga in 5:30 am

Sometimes nothing seems to go right. Other times, everything seems to go right. This was one of those times. Ben and I spent ten days hiking in India and Nepal for his graduation present and the time couldn’t have gone much better.
The area we chose for our trekking was around Darjeeling, a small town perched on steep hillsides and surrounded by famous tea fields. It was a little bit Kenya (Tigoni tea fields) and a little bit La Paz (built into a nearly perpendicular hillside and surrounded by towering snow-covered mountains).
First, we needed a 24-hour layover in Calcutta and used the time to visit the Mother Theresa Home for the Dying. Obviously quite a contrast to the next several days where both spirits and thoughts soared.
The hiking was a great mixture of culture, exercise, discussion, history, and reveling in the beauty of the scenery. The culture part came from the places we where we stayed for the night. Part home-stay and part youth-hostel we had just enough privacy (our own room) along with plenty of time with the families over meals. Few spoke English so it was mostly smiling and motioning whether or not we wanted more food or tea.
The exercise included hikes of 12, 13, 20, and 12 kilometers, mostly straight up and straight down. I think we started our hike at around 6,000 ft in elevation and then went up to around 12,000 ft. at the highest point. Since we stayed in “homes” each night, we didn’t need to carry sleeping bags or tents or food or cooking gear. We traveled pretty light and at 51 years of age, I wasn’t complaining.
The discussion times were memorable. Obviously I don’t get uninterrupted time like this with Ben very often and it provided lots of opportunity to talk about all kinds of things. Mostly he spent the time trying to convince me that Frank Zappa is the best musician ever and that Southern California will be lucky to get him if he goes to college there. I spent my time trying to convince him that he should pick a certain college in Michigan and that the Bee Gees were the all-time greatest musicians. I won’t mind losing the music argument but I hope to prevail on the college one.
The history part was great for me. I remember as a kid spinning the metal globe I had and letting my figure lightly touch the surface as it spun. Wherever it stopped I would look at the place and wonder if I’ll ever visit there. Over and over I’d spin the globe, fascinated with the world and particularly so with the raised, mountainous area between India and China…the Himalayas. The first pair to ever climb Mt. Everest was Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay. I didn’t realize that Darjeeling was Norgay’s home…that he trekked and trekked the very same paths that Ben and I walked. He stayed in the same spots along the way. We visited the Himalaya Mountaineering Institute and saw all the original equipment used by Hillary and Norgay. Fascinating to see the maps and models of their ascent and learn more about what a feat that was.
The beauty of the area needs no explanation. While we didn’t see Everest (it’s actually 100 miles away and usually in the clouds at this time of year) we did see many, many other peaks including the third highest peak in the world and the one that shows up in several of the pictures I’ve posted. You will see from most of the hiking pictures that the area was very lush and again, very very steep. Lots of mist and rains at night kept things cool and green and refreshing to breath. Almost he only rain we had came when we were indoors for the night or driving to and from Darjeeling in the Land Rover.
Great time. Everything we expected and hoped for. Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Cycling in the rice fields
Wow! That white body sure stands out against the green rice

The Kecek Dancers...more impressive live than in photos

Dancing on the coals and fire

This is the kind of path / road we were on most of the time

5 happy campers and one scowling tough guy!

Kayla's been lovin' having her big sister around

Again, 5 happy campers and a tough teenager. You can't tell
it maybe from the pictures but he really did have a good time

I love the crashing surf in the background

Cartwheeling in Bali

At the end of a boogie-board run

Yes, I did actually learn to surf on a beginners board
but it still felt great!

Ben, working on the tan

Yes, that's her personality coming through

Comparing tans

Extreme Boogie Boardin'

My girls!

We are in the midst of vacation-cramming. That means after years and years of summer holidays beginning June 1 and lasting until early/mid August we now have a mid-June to mid-July holiday. Seems pretty short but how can I complain when many people don't get that much time and millions around the world wish they even had a job. And besides, the vacation-cramming has been fun.

Rebekah Joy arrived while we still had a week of school. That gave her some good time to get over the jet lag and get ready for our summer plans.

Last week the cramming started. We flew to Bali on Monday and spent 4 nights at the beach. Surfing, boogie boards, and just playing in the huge surf was great. The beach was massive. Sunsets were excellent. And, of course, the waves were unlike anything we have enjoyed before.

Then it was on to Ubud, another town in Bali. Another world, too. Ubud was my favorite. We did bicycling, white water rafting, took in cultural dances and music. The dress and food and scenery reminded us every minute that we were not in Kansas, nor even Jakarta. The only disappointment was that I didn't take the camera on the white water rafting. I thought there would be no opportunity to take pictures and only opportunity to damage the camera. So, the most spectacular scenery is missing.

Enjoy the photos. We are resting up at home now. That really means lots of small day trips. Like today. The girls and Rebecca all went in to Waterbom, a water amusement park. Tomorrow I think they go ice skating and movies. On Monday we're up to a mountain villa and safari park for a couple of days and then back home to get Rebekah Joy on her flight.

I guess I should say that while the girls are out ice skating and water sliding and other such things, I'm getting in 18 holes of golf every morning. And when I say morning, I mean I'm teeing off at 5:45 am. That way I can be done by mid-morning and have time to work a bit in my office to get ready for the new school year.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Break, Nice and Easy

Hannah being hugged by an elephant

Kayla looking a little "unsure" about being this close

Ben said, "I want one of these for a little brother!"

Now that's what I call GREEN

Great early-morning moments with Kayla

As mountain villas go...this one ain't bad

We had to bring our own game of Twister.
Can you believe it? A villa without it's own game of Twister?

Lots of small, easy stuff for us this year. We started off with a day trip to the beach (Anyer) along with 3 other school families. It's about a 2-hour drive to get there. A hotel with a pool is happy to rent a "day pass" for about 2 dollars a person which allows us to use the pool and enjoy the beach. Boogie boards rent for $1.50. It's really quite inexpensive so, of course, I'm all for that. We pack our lunches to be even cheaper. Anyway, that was how we started our break.

Next up was a trip to Jakarta's version of Disneyworld. Sorry I left the camera in the car. You'll just have to imagine the whirling teacups, Dumbo rides, 4-D movie/ride with the moving, lurching seats to go with the movie, etc. Kayla loved it. Ben and Hannah were convinced they wouldn't so we went without them. They were probably right that it was more of a little kids and old parents' park. And again, things are relatively cheap, so that makes me glad. A full-day pass is $13.00. Inside, meals are still in the 4-5 dollar range. If you were at a real Disneyworld you could hardly get a Coke for $4.00.

We also just finished another trip to Puncak, sort of a mountain escape. By mountain, I guess I mean 5,000 feet at the most. It does get cool at night which is something we never get in Jakarta. Attached pictures are from the home we stay at in Puncak as well as the Safari Park nearby. Brings back good memories of Kenya. Tomorrow it's ice skating. Today it's a movie. Oh, and a few rounds of (bad) golf in between times.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Weekend Action and Inaction

Not-quite the Winter Olympics
Nothing like an Indonesian Mall

Balcony of Mishap for Kitty #1

Hannah and two pets that are still alive this week

Kitty #1 and Kitty #2....they don't get names until we know they are going to survive

I'm going to try and do better at this blog stuff. One of my hangups is that I like to include pictures on the things I write about but then I forget to take the camera or I take it and the pictures turn out lousy or the battery or something... And then I don't feel like writing if I don't have good pictures. Who wants to read anything without pictures?

Speaking of reading. Kayla is the new reader in our family. (Wish I had taken some pictures this morning of Rebecca teaching her to read!) She's using the exact same "teaching" book that she used with Rebekah Joy, Ben, and Hannah. It's fun to watch and listen as Kayla sounds out very slowly the letters and makes them into words. The amazing part of it is remembering the other kids learning on and stumbling over the very same words. There's something wonderfully encompassing? full circle? magical? nostagic?...not sure what the right word is but it's easy to close my eyes and picture any of the other kids sitting there doing the same thing 10 or 15 years ago.

Usually we go to church on Sunday morning. I think I mentioned that we've started attending in Jakarta. I'll definitely (maybe) remember to take the camera to church next week. On the last Sunday of the month, though, they have several areas of Jakarta that are "car free" so driving to church is a nightmare. The good news is that we can go on Saturday night which we did last night. That leaves all day Sunday for different activities. This morning, that meant Kayla and Rebecca going ice skating. If the download button works right, photos should be attached.

They can skate for two hours and I think it is only about $4.00 each. I just walk around the mall while they skate. Hannah stayed home to take care of her new pets (again, if the download stuff is working you should see a couple of rabbits). Our pets more or less rotate in and out of our family. The list of casualties and burials so far this year include a couple of hamsters, a couple of guinie pigs, a bird, and a rabbit. Several fish, too, but do they really count as pets? The new family members (future cusualties) include two more rabbits, a couple of cats, turtle, and maybe a few others.

One of the cats almost took his own life a few weeks ago. A peaceful Sunday morning coffee in the downstairs sofa was rudely interrupted by a cat falling from the upstairs hallway (photos included, I hope). Contrary to folk lore, cats do not always land on their feet. This one smacked on his back and head and lay motionless for several minutes. While I looked for the shovel Rebecca said, "Hey, I think it might still be alive." I began picturing expensive vet bills and a paralyzed cat we'd need to take care for the next several years. I hoped she was wrong.

Wonder of wonders, though, the cat did begin moving. Then it began crawling and making an awful noise. My nightmare was unfolding. But miracle of miracles the thing recovered over the next several hours and within a couple days it was running around again...only to fall from the balcony once again. It needed less time to recover from its second fall and to my knowledge that's been it. Lesson learned.

And speaking of lessons learned...Ben has been hating the IB studying but he has been working harder than I have ever seen him work in my life. And it's finally paying off. He received a couple of perfect papers recently and is definitely getting the hang of this thing. Three tests last Friday went OK and I'm sure he'll do well on the two he has tomorrow. He is speaking three times more (by far!) Indonesian now then he did after two years of Spanish.

I speak less Indonesian now then when I came. Besided being able to say "good morning" when I came, I could also count to ten. I don't even remember what "one" is now...but I can still say good morning.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Loooooong Holidays Are Almost Over

Nativity set from Bethlehem
Reading to Kayla from a travel book really puts her to sleep

Didn't understand the words, the music was uncommon, and the sights a bit strange

Love the pointy hats!

I need a shave and I have bad breath...other than that I'm beautiful

Not quite the Mara but Tamin Safari is OK

What to do with three weeks of vacation time and not a lot of extra cash?

Golf (poorly).

Spend a day at the coast.

Take an 8-hour train to Yogyakarta. (More about Yogya, in a bit)

Take a 6-hour flight back to Jakarta. It's not that the trains are so fast or the jets are so slow. It's just that delayed flights and rain and who knows what else had us sitting and sitting and sitting at the airport.

Golf (really poorly).

Spend a day at Waterbom. Check earlier posts to see what this is all about. We must have liked it since we did it again. Also did some ice skating a day earlier.

Golf (really, really very poorly stinky bad).

Visit Puncak, including the almost-Masai Mara-like animal safari. (More on that in just a bit, too). Shop at the outlet stores.

Golf (best round ever...must have been the new Outlet clothes).

And there you have it. Christmas in Indonesia. I love warm, green Christmases.

Back to Yogya. Yes, it looks a little bit like I'm trying to write Yogi Bear. Pronounced Jogja. The train ride was great. Gave us a chance to see the countryside. We spent four days there visiting famous places like Borobudur. I won't bore you with the history but a quick Google search will satisfy any of you who are intrigued by the photos. On a scale of 1-10 of excellent places to see I'd say Borobudur rates about a 6. The Masai Mara is a 10. So is Petra in Jordan. The Pyramids are a 7. Give Jerusalem a 7, too. Most of Bolivia is an 8, some of it (like Cerro Rico and Lake Titicaca are a 9). The Frosty Boy in Spring Arbor is about a 4. Lime Lake, a 3 though it used to be a 5 back in the days...

Puncak is another story. Lots of it reminded us of the tea fields driving up to Tigoni. Some was like Jarabacoa in the Dominican Republic. Beautiful green hills and crisp cool air. About a half hour from Puncak is a safari place that really had some good animals and shows. Brought back good memories of the Mara which is, I think, my favorite place on earth. We stayed at a "mountain villa" owned by one of the families that helped begin our school here in Indonesia. Another family from school along with this teacher's mom and dad who were visiting stayed there with us. Great time relaxing, playing games in the evening. And then it happened. I wasn't expecting it. It took me completely by shock. I only went along to be sociable but there I was, in an outlet store. I began seeing several "must have" golf polo shirts. The kind with the Calvin Kline embroidered thingy. Polo. Calloway. All these good things that had these teeny weeny defects (reminded me of me!). So, I shopped until all the women and girls left me and went to other shops. And then, when they were all shopped out they came back and made me stop shopping. But I had my haul of 3 shorts, 3 polo shirts, and a nifty hat all for the grade total of $32.00.

And so today when we rushed back to Jakarta from Puncak (left at 5:15 am) I was excited to get back onto the golf course and try out my new clothes. They worked great. You know, when you look like a golfer you start thinking like a golfer. The next thing you know I finished with a 44 and a 47.

Other items in the news: Hannah is the new owner of 4 new pets and a set of braces. She got them on just before we left for Puncak. In a month the dentist will decide whether or not four teeth need to be pulled. Rebecca is the new owner of yards and yards of batik fabric and 3 little Bonsai-type trees we bought while in Puncak. Photos to come in the next few days. Ben spent most of Christmas break playing guitar and playing Playstation. He says now that his brain has completely vegged out, he'll be able to work hard in school. I'm off to Australia on Wednesday for a week for an IB workshop. I'll have some more updates then. Thanks for reading.