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February 26, 2014

Kurt: Northeast Ecuador Amazon region

Hank, Nadine and I visited the Amazon region of NE Ecuador. To get there we flew from Quito to Coca, Ecuador; then we took a large canoe with motor east down the Rio Napo for 3 hours; then we hiked about a half mile through the forest to a smaller river; then we took a smaller canoe about 20 minutes to the Sani Lodge. This lodge is run by the Sani community that has lived along the river for many years.

We went on several hikes through the rain forest and saw lots of birds, monkeys, small mammals, bugs, centipedes, spiders, frogs and black cayman. Probably the best view was from the canopy tower, which is a large, metal tree house built about a hundred feet up in a giant ceba tree. We tried to catch piranhas but only got catfish. Next time we will have Nadine cut her toe a little bit and then swish it around in the water. Hank and Nadine practiced shooting a blowgun and were quite accurate; the big lime they shot at is dead.

The first couple nights we slept in a tent in the forest. There were surprisingly few mosquitoes and unsurprisingly many ants, bugs, spiders and frogs, some of which are nice and some of which can hurt you. Hank and two other guests got sick one night after dinner and Hank got severe stomach cramps and threw up all over our tent site about midnight. About that time was when I realized that if he was seriously sick we would have to hike about 30 minutes through the forest back to the lodge. It only takes 5-10 minutes to paddle the canoe from the lodge to the tent site, but the Sani folks paddle the canoe back to the lodge each night. Swimming is not advised given the caymans, electric eels and piranhas in the lake by the lodge. Anyway, he survived and went to sleep around 3 a.m. Hank said that barfing in the Amazon rain forest and at the Auschwitz concentration camp solidifies his position near the top of the “13-year old kids who have barfed in the most interesting places” list. The Sani folks planned to send in a shaman to clear the “dirty air” that made him sick.

Other than Hank getting sick, we had a great time in the forest and learned a lot.

February 17, 2014

Nicaragua pictures

Nicaragua: La Mariposa Spanish School

January 17, 2014

On the road again

Hank, Nadine and I left Austin on January 14, 2014. We plan to travel through June, with the exception of a stop in Austin in early March for Sarah’s Travis County Democratic primary election. Sarah will join us for part of the trip beginning in mid-March.

Hank, Nadine and I are at the Mariposa Spanish School in La Concepcion, Masaya, Nicaragua for around four weeks, . We are staying at the hotel at the school for the first two weeks and then will stay with a family nearby for the next two weeks. The hotel is on the outskirts of the forest with flowers, vines, and trees all over, dogs, chickens and two turkeys wandering around, birds flying, and a bunch of rescued white-faced capuchin monkeys in a big cage. The food is almost all vegetarian and tasty. There are two other families here with 9-year old girls and little brothers — one family from northern California and the other from the Isle of Man. Other travelers are from US, Germany, England, Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand, Holland and Belgium. There is a water shortage here. This school and hotel take many steps to conserve water, but I will save that topic for one of Hank’s papers in his home school Writing class.

The Spanish classes here are one-on-one given in various cabanas in the forest or on verandas around the school. This is a picture of Nadine’s lesson this morning.

Last night we went on a full moon hike through the forest and up the mountain overlooking Granada and Lake Managua behind it. Tomorrow we spend the day hiking at the Mambacho volcano and forest. We all like this place very much.


September 25, 2013

Change of plans

We completed our summer travel and returned to Austin on Labor Day weekend 2013. Hank, Nadine and I had planned to leave again in late September and travel in South and Central America until Christmas. Unfortunately, Sarah must stay and work in Austin during that time in her campaign for County Judge, After further thought Hank, Nadine and I have decided to skip the next four months of our trip and we will stay in Austin with Sarah and support her in her campaign for County Judge. Hank, Nadine and I will leave Austin in early 2014 and travel through June 2014. We hope to travel in Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Hawaii and Alaska during those six months. Hank and Nadine are now back in school at O’Henry Middle School and Mathews Elementary. If you are in Austin between September 2013 and mid-January 2014, stop by and visit.

August 18, 2013

Greece pictures

Greece: Athens

Greece: Agios Ioannis

Greece: Vourvourou

Greece: mountains near Katarraktis

Greece: Ammoudia and AntiPaxoi

Greece: Meteora, Delphi, Olympia

Greece: Naxos

July 29, 2013

Georgia pictures

Georgia: Batumi

July 27, 2013

Kurt: Velletri, Italy

Rome (July 18-21, 2013)

We stayed outside Rome in the town of Velletri, with Ashley Woodson’s brother, Brady, and his family. This visit was too short – arriving on a Thursday afternoon and leaving on Saturday afternoon to catch an early flight to Batumi Georgia the next morning. We had a great time with the Woodsons. Brady and his wife Luisa have three wonderful children, all of whom we had a chance to visit with. If Nadine ever has an Italian boyfriend, I hope that he will be one of the Woodson boys.

On Friday we took the train into Rome and toured the Coliseum and nearby areas. Two things struck me about the Coliseum: First, the fact that much of it is still standing 1,933 years after it was completed (will the UT football stadium be here 2000 years from now?), and second, the huge number of people killed at the Coliseum. According to our blowhard Roman guide, many animals and criminals and sometimes as many as 50 gladiators were killed there each day. The guide said that the Romans considered the captive gladiators to be barbarians. Some might think that the real barbarians were the people who packed the Coliseum every day to watch animals and people kill each other.

We spent much of Saturday with the Woodsons around Ariccia and Castel Gandolfo, the little village where past Popes have spent several months in the summer. This region is very beautiful, has two lakes and many ruins, and is known for its roasted pork. If you have a choice to spend a romantic vacation in Paris or in Castel Gandolfo, choose Castel Gandolfo.

July 27, 2013

Italy pictures

Italy: Florence

Italy: Rome

Italy: Velletri and nearby

July 19, 2013

Nadine: Paris

Paris was one of those places that you never forget, in Paris we did a lot of things and one of the coolest things was going to the Eiffel Tower, we did not get to go onto the Eiffel Tower, but we did get to stand under it. There were lots of other things like The Arch de Triumph, which was a giant arch that had a lot of great sculptures on it. Another cool thing in Paris was the art museum, The Louvre, this museum had many famous paintings and sculptures in it, and one of those paintings was the Mona Lisa, the Mona Lisa was a lot smaller than you would think. There are many things in Paris that every body knows about, but there are other cool things in Paris that lots of people do not know about, like all of the restaurants, the restaurants were not always the best, but they were never the worst, they had chocolate mousse and baguettes. That is not all, they would have whole streets that were covered in stores that had every thing that you could imagine, there was even a store that was three 7 story buildings that were filled to the brim with clothes, toys, and accessories. These were all of the coolest things in in Paris, the city of love, the capital of shopping, and last but not least the city of bread.

July 16, 2013

World Cup preliminary match

World Cup preliminary match outside Florence, Italy (July 14, 2013). Camelot United (Kurt and Nadine) vs. FC Mordor (Hank and Sarah).

The final score of this match is unimportant. Key moments of the match included a beautiful pass by Nadine in the first minute to nutmeg both Hank and Sarah with one pass. Hank’s soccer teammates will know that this meant 5 pushups by Hank + 5 pushups by Sarah. Perhaps the most beautiful goal was by Nadine – a left footed volley thru pine tree branches from 6 feet out. Nature also favored Cam United: the gravity on the hillside field pulled FCM’s shots and passes into the bushes and out of bounds much more frequently than it did those of Cam United. Clearly, Cam United prevailed in nearly every way. The lesson from this match: History is written by those who take the time to learn how to use the website.