Athens, so many mixed feelings

I fully recognized that some of what I am about to write will seem extremely ungrateful, privileged, and may offend some. But the truth is we are extremely grateful to be able to travel and to be able to see different cultures and get a glimpse into their daily lives. Coming up to our departure date, I still had not done much research at all on Athens or Greece.  Besides the lovely pictures of Santorini and the Acropolis, I really knew nothing at all except gyros and “opah”! As we rode in the car from the airport to our airbnb,[…]

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Rancho Margot – an Eco Lodge

Rancho Margot is a beautiful property in the cloud forest near Arenal Volcano. What makes Rancho Margot special are it’s efforts to be environmentally conscious. It generates all of its own electrical power from hydroelectric generators. It has it’s own dairy and produces its own cheese. You can even try your hand at milking the cows if you like. It grows a lot of the food that is used by its kitchen to create the food that is eaten by its guest as well as the volunteers and interns. You can also help harvest daily. We help picked some greens[…]

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Panama City … A mixed bag and up and coming travel destination.

Panama City is an up coming area. We decided to stay in Casco Viejo which is the old quarter. The area is exactly our vibe except that it is under major revitalization. It recently became a UNESCO Heritage Site and all of the buildings are protected. The area several years ago was run down, dirty, overcrowded and basically neglected. The buildings, however, are amazing. The streets reminded us of Rome and just about every single one of them is under restoration right now. It’s great to see the area being turned around but it made for a very quiet stay.[…]

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Panama City Carnaval

So, Carnaval in Panama City was….less exciting than expected. We thought that it would be a good substitute for Rio but not a chance. There were 5 floats driving around in a loop about 3 blocks long. The crowd wasn’t excited and no one was dancing. The line to get in was absolutely crazy. It was probably 4 blocks long with pat down searches for everyone coming in. There was a line for men and women so whoever got through first would wait in the DMZ until the other person came through. It reminded me of images of refugees being[…]

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Chattanooga Family Trip

We piled everyone into the minivan and drove 2 hours to Chattanooga for a family getaway. The first thing we saw was Ruby Falls, a 145 foot high waterfall that is 1120 feet underground in a cavern. A very strange thing to see since we are use to seeing waterfalls in Hawaii under blue skies. To get there, we had to walk through a corridor through the mountain. Poor Nilesh had to hunch down the entire time. Unfortunately, someone decided the falls were not beautiful enough naturally and decided to light it up in a rainbow of changing colors synchronized[…]

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Tellus Museum was a blast. And yeah, the kids liked it, too.

It took us an hour to get there, and it’s in the middle of nowhere, but the Tellus Museum in Cartersville, GA was a lot of fun. The first thing you see is a mammoth dump truck in the parking lot. It’s so huge they had to get it there in three parts. Why do they change the name of animals that no longer exist? I grew up with Brontosaurus being the largest dinosaur, but now it’s Apatasaurus. Wait they’re the same thing! And then there’s the Honu the size of an Escalade. And don’t forget the armadillo the size[…]

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Stone Mountain Adventure

We climbed the largest granite formation in the world. It’s just outside of Atlanta, GA. Avinash charges the mountain. Slow and steady. Sometimes racing… Sometimes jumping… Rewarded by a picnic at the top. We met some really “cool” friends. Do you need a hand coming down? Posted from Stone Mountain, Georgia, United States.

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Disneyland Tokyo

Disneyland Tokyo is the third Disney park we’ve been to on this trip. Nothing can compare to the VVIP experience we had at Disneyland Paris, so that will always be the bar that all future experience will be judged. DL Tokyo is actually not owned by the Disney corporation. It is also larger than Disneyland in California or Disneyworld in Orlando. It is kind if fun to see everything localized to Japan but at the same time annoying that EVERYTHING was in Japanese and we couldn’t understand any of it. Avinash got to ride one of the big rides. The[…]

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Saved from the cold in Harbin

We are on the Chinese Siberian Russian border in Harbin for the annual Ice and Snow Festival. It is a subzero winter wonderland with ice sculptures greeting you as you exit the airport to ice slides outside the hotel. In our family there is nothing in our life experience or DNA to cope with this level of cold. We live in Hawaii- so there’s no real practice there. We have tried our best to buy every warm article of clothing and body warmer we can find. I counted 6 layers on my body yesterday. Lat night we visited Zhaolin Park[…]

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Bye bye comforts of a home base

Leaving Quy Nhon and Vietnam in a couple of days. These past few months have been about playing house, first in India and then Vietnam. About to resume the fun adventures. Heading to Beijing to stand on the Great Wall of China and then to the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival where we all plan to turn into Popsicles (-15) Posted from Quy Nhon, Binh Dinh province, Vietnam.

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Can Gio – Sac Mangrove Jungle

We booked an excursion to Can Gio which was advertised as a Mangrove Forest Reserve where you can interact with the monkeys and other animals. We thought it would a great day trip keeping in theme with our animal adventures. We drove for an hour and then took a ferry across the river to the island. Then we took a canoe ride through the mangrove jungle. What it turned out to be was a tour of the command post for the guerrilla Viet Cong during the war and a tour of the area. It included a video of the Sac[…]

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Scooters everywhere!

Your browser does not support the video tag We would not have thought of taking our son on a scooter in Sai Gon before this trip started. Today when we were asked about a scooter ride, we said “Fun!” Posted from Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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Cruisin in Sai Gon

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam yesterday. I love how we can hit the ground running almost anywhere we go now. Since we’ve been in Hong Kong for a couple of weeks already we’ve acclimated (easily)to Asian culture and food. Can’t wait to spend a month in Nam’s birth country.

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Vietnam

I ran across these men playing Chinese Chess.  It brought back memories of playing when I was young.  All the moves came back and strategies revealed themselves to me again.  I could have won this game in 7 moves, but it took the guy on the right 16 moves to get the job done.   Posted from Ho Chi Minh City, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

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Pushkar Festival- Mission Accomplished!

Pushkar Desert Festival- Mission Accomplished! We have made it to the Pushkar Festival! I feel like it is a milestone of sorts of our trip. We didn’t plan much before starting our 14 month journey, but Pushkar was one of the few things we spent time dreaming and fantasizing about. Pushkar is an amazing desert festival in the middle of rural and remote Rajastan. It’s main purpose is camel, horse and other livestock trading along with religious activities at the end of the festival. Thousands of people from all corners of Rajastan, most arriving on the backs of animals, come[…]

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Amazing Day

September 27, 2013 Amazing Day Last night Avinash cried himself to sleep for the first time. He cried because he did not want the day to end. It was also the first time ever that he expressed that feeling. What was probably an average, maybe even uneventful, day for those around us may be one of the most significant days for Avinash. We did not have a day filled with sightseeing, or playgrounds, or amusement parks. Just a day spent with family. Something we haven’t had on this trip and quite honestly have not had enough of since he has[…]

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Bye Madagascar

Bye Madagascar As we sit at the Antananarivo airport to catch our plane to Nairobi I am filled with mixed emotions as I reflect on our stay here. If I am perfectly honest with myself, I am ready…in fact relieved, to be leaving. I am also not sure that I ever want to come back. Madagascar is a place of amazing and breathtaking natural beauty, but it has one of the worst infrastructures to allow outsiders to enjoy it. I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into when we decided to come here. There are no short cuts[…]

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Madagascar

Madagascar It’s our 3rd day in Madagascar and we finally have seen Lemurs. A relief from what has been a rough start of our visit to this remote and wild area of the world. Before coming here we all had the romantic visions of stepping off the plane and having a lemur greet you by jumping on your shoulder and welcoming you to their island paradise. We probably have some cartoon movie to thank for that image. Landing in Antananarivo was the farthest thing from that idyllic welcome. Tana, as the locals refer to their capital city, is a gritty[…]

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Ants in our Pants

Ants in Our Pants It was our last night at Sala’s camp in Masai Mara. We just had the excitement of the elephant and hippo encounter the night before and we were slightly anxious about getting back to our tent. This time, the 3 of us left together with only 2 other guests. The warrior informed us that our elephant friend was close by and we had seen the hippo on our way into camp after our evening game drive so we know it was probably close too. We all walked single file and with purpose. Then suddenly the Masai[…]

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Cheetah Chase

Cheetah Chase On our second day at Sala’s camp we started bright and early with a 5:45am wakeup to start what ended up being an almost 8 hour game drive. Between the drive the day before and the successful evening drive we already felt contented in our sightings and felt anything more would only be bonus. Our spotter for our game drives was a Masai Elder named Mreku. He was born in a village not far from our camp and knew the area well. a kind of knowledge one would have if only they had spent every day of their[…]

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Africa: The Greatest Show on Earth

Africa: The Greatest Show on Earth As Avinash sat in the bush plane seat next to me puking into the sick bag I couldn’t help but wonder what we were getting ourselves into as we were flying into the Masai Mara. For the past few days we have enjoyed being spoiled at one of the most luxurious places we have ever stayed at, the Solio Lodge in the Lakipia area of Kenya. This lodge was ridiculous by any standards, let alone what I thought safari standards should be. As over the top as it was I can’t complain. I experienced[…]

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Africa

Africa In the past 5 days I have: Relieved an armpit itch of a Senegal bush baby monkey Had the two most memorable breakfasts of my life, one sharing our table with giraffes as they loomed overhead eating from our plates and the other sitting in camp chairs in the bush while looking out over the savannah watching rhinos graze and bring served freshly made omelets made in the back of a land rover. Watched my son ‘mark’ his out in the bush right next to a rhinos droppings Marked my own territory as zebras, water bucks and impalas watched[…]

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Customer Acquisition Specialist

We met a very interesting person tonight. We’ll just call him “Mike”. We couldn’t exactly come up with a good job description for Mike, so we made one up: Customer Acquisition Specialist. In my opinion, Mike’s talents are being wasted. Let me backtrack a little. So we are walking the streets of Istanbul and at every restaurant there is a person standing next to the menu board waiting to try to get you to eat at their restaurant. I generally have no problems with just walking by and ignoring someone if I don’t want to interact with them. Meeta on[…]

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Papa Pig vs. Mama Meeta

Today we took a small hike on a trail behind Spannochia. Meeta had encountered what she thought were wild boars on a previous walk so we were hoping to see some. Inside, I was a little nervous remember reading somewhere how quickly domestic pigs becomes wild and also remembering reading somewhere that wild boars are very unpredictable. So I pick up a stick that I found and hinted to Meeta subtly that I was a little concerned about the situation we might get ourselves into. Of course we don’t want to alarm Avinash or create a fear in him of[…]

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Saturnia

Leave it to us to find the path least traveled. Our most brilliant example ever of this was in Yosemite National Park. We had just arrived at the park with Erica and saw a beautiful waterfall. So we stopped the car and started walking towards the falls. It was mostly knee deep in snow but we were so excited that we forged onwards. At one point, Erica stepped into a hole and went all the way down to her hips. We pulled her out and saw that below there was a running river of water. We kept going, now with[…]

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Discovering the Food Chain

We are vegetarian for ethical reasons and are raising Avinash with the same values. We are mindful to teach him that we made a choice to eat this way and he understands why. Simply, because “animals are our friends.” We also teach him that we are not critical or judgmental about meat-eating. Nam and I use to eat meat.  It is simply a choice to or not to.   Today at the country house we were staying in Maremma, our favorite house cat decided to bring Avinash a present. This kitty befriended us within minutes of our arrival and kept[…]

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Rome, I am overwhelmed.

Rome, Rome, Rome. Rome is by far the most beautiful city I have ever been to.  Not that it is sparkling clean, or smells like roses everywhere.  It’s old, it’s weathered, it aged very well. It is so easy to become numb and overwhelmed by the beauty of this city.  If you were to take any of hundreds of buildings found in Rome and put it in any other city, it would become an architectural attraction in that city.  In Rome, it is just another beautiful building.  I started off by taking a lot of pictures, but that got old very quickly.  If[…]

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Ciao Bella Roma

I’ve got a pit in my stomach. We’ve decided to rent a car and road trip for a month. Part of me is sad to leave Rome, which I truly have fallen in love with. Part of me is nervous about not having the comforts of the long-stay apartments we’ve been calling home. It’s been great schlepping our way-too-many-bags into a place and exploding into it without a care of the usual logistics that come with travelling. The kind I know we will have while road tripping. The other side of me is excited to wander through the country-side and[…]

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Avinash the Dome Climber

Avinash for the most part has been fantastic about all of the walking we have been doing in Rome. I haven’t had this much exercise since we trained for the triathlon and marathon. While Avinash can be very unpredictable with when he wants or does not want to walk, when he does put his mind to it, he shows surprising stamina. For instance, in London, we found a race track and Avinash suddenly wanted to run around the track. Of course, I wasn’t going to hold him back, so we started to run. He would get tired, but then he[…]

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I’m a sucker for a good infomercial

We decided to go to the open air market at Campo di Fiore to stock up on some fruits and veggies. Sitting at one of the stalls was this guy who should have his own spot on QVC. He had these contraptions that turned potatoes into pigtail ringlets and zucchinis into flowering blossoms. I was sold. In fact, I was sold not only once but twice. I bought 2 sets – still not sure why. The challenge was on. Could we go home and recreate this vegetable art that this man promised these plastic contraptions could magically do? We then[…]

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Hide and Seek at the Pantheon

We’ve been in Rome enough days that we are kind of ‘settling’ in. Part of settling in is looking for a place to kick back when the day is over. I think that we’ve made the Pantheon that place. We are kind of treating it like our back yard. We had just eaten dinner and decided to spend some time playing with these light up flying spinners we bought from one of the peddlers on the street in the Piazza around the Pantheon. We then decided to play hide and seek around the columns of the Pantheon. We’ve kind of[…]

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Gladiators- The cold hard facts

Before coming to Rome I debated whether we should spend time going to the ancient ruins. Not that Nam and I are not interested, but I just did not know how to keep Avinash entertained while looking at deteriorating buildings in the sweltering sun. Today, we decided to visit the Colosseum and Roman Forum. Amazing part of not only Roman History but insight into what people and culture was like to be entertained by gladiator games of animal hunts, executions and battles to the death. I was excited as soon as we stepped into the arena, but I could see[…]

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Rome- Mi Amore, you are wooing me with your Cappucinos

I have a new cappuccino addiction. At the corner of the Pantheon is a coffee shop, with only stand up counter service, called Tazza d’Oro. The place is filled with locals and tourists trying to edge their way in for the tiniest sliver of space at the counter. The first time we walked in I was completely lost. People were seemingly just walking up to the counter and automatically getting served beautiful cappuccinos and decadent iced granitas. They barely exchanged words but the barista knew exactly what they wanted. I must have gawked for at least 5 minutes before I[…]

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London Musings

London Why I Love it Best public transportation system!  The tube is brilliant.  I have no idea how they figured out this network of tunnels and webs but it works.  I love that we just showed up, bought an Oyster Card,  hopped aboard and were off to see any nook and cranny we wanted to.  It’s a level of independence and stress free transportation that is a travelers dream Cultural Diversity-  London has got to be one of the most culturally diverse cities on the planet.  Maybe I think this because we got to spend so much time on the tube[…]

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Museums- Can we go again mom???

Avinash had never really been to a museum and I was curious to see how he would process them, especially at 3 years old.  When I was about 11, I remember going to the wonderful museums while visiting Chicago and spending days wandering and getting lost in them.  I figured visiting the museums would be more for us and it would be a good first exposure for Avinash. We decided to visit the Natural History museum first.  I never knew dinosaur bones could make Avinash hyperventilate with excitement for hours straight.  He loved it.  The next day Avinash and I visited the[…]

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Gola in Wembley- More Little India

How did all the Gujaratis take over this suburb of London??  I swear from the minute we walked off the train we were bombarded with smells and sights that made us think we were in India.  The only reason we knew we weren’t is because the roads were a little too clean (but only marginally).  There were street food stalls selling everything from dosas to pani puri to seasoned corn kernels.  But what made me stop and shriek with excitement was the gola stand. Now keep in mind that as much as we love Indian street food we CAN’T have[…]

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Little India in London

Little India in London Amazingly, Indians must be the largest non-Caucasian ethnic minority in London. SOUTH HALL We visited South Hall, which is predominately a Panjabi Sikh community.  We got off at the tube station and the signs were in English and Panjabi! There is a Gurdwara (Sikh Temple) just off the tube station and our friend told us that all are welcome.  It was our first time visiting a Gurdwara and I was dusty on my understanding of the Sikh religion.  The temple hall reflected an atmosphere of communal meditation with bhajans playing in the background.  There were no[…]

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