Thursday, August 27, 2009

One word-AWESOME

You've all probably seen the Filipino prison inmates doing their Michael Jackson tributes. If not you should go to youtube. The post below is another example of their work. An awesome example because they are awesome.

This morning it was brought to my attention that they do a show every single month and the prison is actually in Cebu, where we'll be living!!! I pray we get a chance to attend the show!!!!

Hody was asking me at some point if they caned people there and was concerned about me getting arrested...for what I don't know...but it looks like a lot of fun so I'm not making any promises :)

Round 6!

Schedule is out and we're headed to Puerto Rico! We've both been a few times and love it so it will be a nice way to end our year.

It is also a really short, inexpensive flight from Atlanta and doesn't require a passport. Not to mention your last chance to visit us this year. What are you waiting on???


Whether you agreed with his politics or not Edward Kennedy served our nation for the vast majority of his life. It was a life inundated with personal tragedies, but he never stopped championing for the greater good. My heart fell yesterday as I walked into breakfast and saw the newspaper. He was the liberal lion of the Senate and I respected him immensely. It is a great loss for his family and also to our nation.

The New York Times has done a wonderful job of celebrating his life if you’d like to read some articles.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


This Saturday- La Casita

Drinks- 6ish
Dinner- 7:30-8ish
After Dinner- Mary's

We really hope you can make it, even if you can only drop in. So sorry for the lack of personal invitations. This trip is going to be such a whirlwind we thought the best way to see everyone was an open invite.

We've missed you all so much this year and are thrilled we were able to swing a trip home. We absolutely cannot wait to see as many of you as humanly possible THIS WEEKEND!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

two cents

first, let me say that i can't even pretend to know how to fix our corrupt and elitist healthcare system. all i know is that 47 million americans are on the brink of catastrophe every single day they are not covered by insurance and that is not okay. things have to change.

i'm not in america right now and although i do my best to keep up with all the hoopla that is surrounding this issue i can't begin to understand where all this "hitler" crap is coming from.

why is it that the vast majority of americans think that education should be government mandated and paid for by tax dollars but a public and accessible healthcare system somehow equals a dictatorship, socialism or for god's sake nazi germany????

where is this coming from? and can someone find barney frank's home address so i can send him some flowers?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Peru- Part 2

6:15 Sunday morning and our very sweet driver, Mr. Edwin, was patiently waiting for us all to make it upstairs. The two small flights of stairs in our hotel up to the lobby literally seemed like a mountain to me each time I took them. Even as you feel you’re adjusting to the altitude you do something stupid like take a flight of stairs at a normal pace and find yourself at the top clutching your chest and screaming “I’m coming Elizabeth! I’m coming!”.

You have two choices of trains to Machu Picchu. One is the backpacker train and the other first class train is called the “Vistadome”, which alludes to its skylights in the cars. If you know me, you know I can smell a dirty hippy from at least a mile away so when discussing I was all for the first class train. And yes, I am well aware that backpackers and hippies are not always one in the same but I didn’t want to take my chances.

It turns out that the first class train offers little more than a small table in-between the seats and one pitiful excuse for a snack for the 3 hour ride. Although it is very warm in the day, the nights and morning are extremely cold, like just above freezing, so you can imagine my dismay to find that there was no heat on the train. I’m not sure what is “first class” about that but if they thought the thin little blanket made up for it they were mistaken. Needless to say I was miserably cold in my capri pants so after our table was cleared I laid my head down and napped for the majority of the ride.

When I awoke I found we had left the valley farmlands and arrived in the jungle. It was a lovely ride and thankfully the sun had come up and was slightly warming the train car. The train arrives in Agua Caliente, a small town below Machu Picchu. From there you take a 25 minute bus ride up, up and up the mountain. The views were breathtaking and when we spotted Machu Picchu for the first time I have to say my heart skipped a beat.

Visiting Machu Picchu was one of the places we wanted to see most in the world. A lost Incan city found high in the jungle and shrouded in mystic. Who wouldn’t want to see that?

Our guide, Franklin, met us as we stepped off the bus and after shedding some layers and slathering on some sunscreen we made our way to the site. Okay, after everyone else slathered on sunscreen. I was so desperate for some color I decided to forego the protection. Stupid? Yes, and I paid a dear price. The sunburn and subsequent peeling is bad enough but I will be fighting this ridiculous bib tan line for months to come.

Believed to have been built during the height of the Incan Empire in the early 15th century there are a lot of theories about the uses of the site. It seems the prevailing is that it was an estate of the then ruling Inca king. The site was largely unknown until an American historian, Hiram Bingham, was brought there by some locals in 1911.

Machu Picchu is one of those places where you cannot begin to understand its grandeur until you are standing there in front of it. The beauty of the city itself is nothing in comparison to its location...

We spent two hours with our guide and had another hour or so to enjoy the views ourselves before heading back down to Agua Caliente.

I don’t think any of us were looking forward to another three hour train ride back to Cusco. Of course this was because we had no idea what was in store for us. About halfway through the trip Julie was napping and out of nowhere this loud flute music begins to play. I look over and we’re all thinking “what is this?” and two seconds later this guy comes running out…

He was running around dancing, doing this weird trilling sound and rubbing his stuffed llama on everyone’s face and neck. Um, yeah…we have no idea but, I think Julie’s face says it all…

After he was done an announcement came on telling us that we were going to have a fashion show. Um, yeah, still no idea. The music then changed to loud techno and low and behold our attendant had taken her hair down, put on some lipstick and was cat-walking down the aisle in a sweater. They even had our male attendant modeling some of the local wool creations. They were both pretty funny strutting their stuff for the people they had just served drinks. The guy was the best though, when Julie reached out to feel the material of his sweater he leaned in, gave a bicep flex and said in a low, sultry voice “baby alpaca”. This is the term for the wool from the very first shearing of the animal- very soft and very pricey. Anyway, everyone was clapping, whistling and yelling for them…it was so strange but it did make the time go by quickly and was good for many, many laughs.

We all got freshened up and went out to dinner together for our last night in Cusco. Even with 4 days it didn’t seem enough for the trip. Peru is one of those places where you can’t help but be completely captivated with the beauty of the people, the culture and the country itself. It's one of those places where you can’t stop yourself from saying “I could so live here”.

We’ll be enjoying our last weekend of the round in Buenos Aires. We need to get in all the leather, steak, dulce de leche, and tango we can handle because in 6 short days we’re hopping on the plane bound for home!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Peru- Part 1

We had a four day weekend in Peru. We did and saw so much I'm going to have to break the story into two parts…and I'm still struggling with this stupid cold so I'm lucky to have gotten this far.

Thursday night we flew into the capital city of Lima. We got there around midnight our time and after the last flights out to Cusco. So, we literally went to the hotel, had a quick pisco sour and all went straight to bed. We had an early morning flight out the next morning and had to get up at an ungodly hour. We arrived at the airport to find our flight had been cancelled but instead of putting us in a later flight they rushed us onto the earlier one. It was a mad-dash of a morning but we arrived in Cusco earlier than expected which was nice.

Cusco is located at 10,800ft above sea level and you feel the effects of the altitude almost immediately. As we walked up the ramp at the airport to baggage claim it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. My breath was so labored by the time we got to the top I thought I was going to hyperventilate. It was nuts.

Our hotel was located on one of the many small cobblestone streets in the San Blas neighborhood. It was quaint, charming and best of all served coca tea and coca leaves in the lobby. The coca is supposed to help with the altitude but after a couple of cups we were all still feeling pretty loopy from our lack of oxygen. After checking in we all headed out for lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Jesus, our tour guide, picked us up after 1pm for our tour of Cusco city. Our reason for coming to Peru was to see Machu Picchu and although we had planned a couple other tours I did not expect to be so impressed. Cusco was lovely. The people, the architecture, the surrounding scenery, the colors…it was all inviting, vibrant and drenched in history and culture.

Our tour began with the main cathedral located in the Plaza de Armas. It was almost as beautiful inside as out, although they allowed no photos of the interior. Boo.

We then went to another church. Like most colonial churches in Cusco it was built on top of Inca temples but, thanks to an earthquake the temples were discovered and restored. It was almost hard for me to ignore the beautiful Spanish colonial courtyard in favor of the Inca architecture. Although ingeniously built the cold lines didn’t do much for me aesthetically.

After this we went out to Sacsahuamen. They believe this site links up to a few other sites that have been discovered. The archeologists are still hard at work here and some of the levels were closed off but it felt great to be outside in the fresh air. No matter how little oxygen it actually provided.

We saved the last sight for the next day since we were so exhausted and still all feeling a little out of whack. After resting for a few minutes back at the hotel we went back to the same restaurant from the afternoon for an easy meal before heading back to call it an early night.

We were off by 9 the next morning for our tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. This valley runs from just outside Cusco to the last town before the Inca Trail that leads to Machu Picchu. It was a full day tour but we did so many different things we rarely spent any time in the van. At least it felt that way to us.

In a nutshell we…visited the highest point in Cusco where we saw three Inca fountains, stopped at a local craft market, visited a llama farm where we got to feed and pet the animals, went into a small town to shop, had a nice lunch outside at a local restaurant, visited another Inca site where we climbed 270 stairs to the top and felt the wind of 4 valleys meet, visited a chicharia and tried the local corn beer while dodging guinea pigs as they ran around the floor and finished the day with a stop in another town where we were taught how the locals clean, spin and dye wool...

We attempted to see some local dancing when we got back into Cusco but it was fairly cheesy so we snuck out during a break and all headed back to the Plaza del Armas for some dinner. We found a great restaurant with wonderful food and thanks to the altitude my two pisco sours had me feeling like I had four. It would have been a nice to explore the nightlife but, we had to get back after dinner because our driver was picking us up at 6:15am for our train to Machu Picchu.

…to be continued

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

change o' venue

we've decided to change the venue for saturday the 29th to la casita in east atlanta. we'll be there at 6pm for drinks, dinner around 7:30 or 8pm and probably cross the lot to mary's afterwards. we hope you can stop by for any or all.

we're really looking forward to seeing everybody!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Iguazu Falls

When Eleanor Roosevelt saw Iguazu Falls she apparently exclaimed “Oh, poor Niagara”. Poor Niagara is right and poor Victoria Falls and every other waterfall out there. Iguazu has 275 actual waterfalls and together they create a panoramic that can’t be beat.

The seven of us arrived on Friday evening to find the jungle much warmer than we had expected. Only an hour and a half flight from the winter weather of Buenos Aires, the heat and humidity here was undeniable.

Under recommendations from everyone who had been there before we stayed at the Sheraton which was located inside the park. We were lucky enough to get upgraded to the falls side of the hotel so we had a great view and could listen to the roar of the falls all night. Although the hotel wasn't that great itself, the location cannot be beat. You literally walk out the back door and you're on the trail to the falls.

We had a fun and leisurely dinner in town Friday evening and met up again at breakfast to plan our day. Well, actually the guy at the travel desk planned our day. We first went on a short drive through the jungle that led to the boat we were to take down the river. It was a speedboat that sat about 30 and a great way to see the falls up close and personal.

We went through some rapids but the most exciting part by far was when our driver literally drove us into the waterfalls, over and over again. The amount of water was insane. It was really awesome, even though we got completely drenched. After walking back the hotel, we put on some dry clothes and had a late lunch. Then we all took the park's small train out to The Devil’s Throat.

It was by far the most impressive and powerful of the waterfalls here and again, we got pretty wet…

Sunday brought rain but we were lucky enough to hit the upper decks before it started. They’ve done a great job with the park. There are catwalks everywhere you need to go or want to see but they are very unobtrusive and don’t take away from the beauty of the falls.

The upper decks afforded fantastic views and best of all you didn’t get wet. We would have liked to have gone back to the Devil’s Throat or down one of the jungle trails but by the time we had finished the upper area the rain had started so we headed back to pack and have some lunch before going to the airport.

We both tend to really enjoy our “nature” weekends the best and Iguazu was right on up there. It was a serene setting and we wished we would have had more time and better weather to appreciate all the beauty.

We are leaving on Thursday for Peru…seeing Machu Picchu was one of the number one things we wanted to do when Julie took this job so, as you can imagine we’re pretty excited!

dorkin' it up

when we came across this guy on our way to the falls on sunday i exclaimed (rather loudly) "oh my gosh, a leaf-cutter ant!!" and yes, maybe there was a squeal or two as i practically laid down on the sidewalk to get its photo.

i thought nothing odd about this until after i got up to find the Wife laughing. what? is it really that dorky to be excited about an ant? apparently so because she laughed at me for quite some time and is still giggling at the thought of it now and again.

whatevs, i watched a documentary on these ants at some point (probably when she was out of town on business) and they were really facinating. they cut pieces of leaves and then carry them back to feed the fungus they grow inside their nest. they seriously "farm" this fungus...they fertilize it and keep it pest free, just like a garden. agriculture on a tiny scale.

so, of course i was excited to see them in real life. who wouldn't be? okay, maybe i don't want that answer.

anyway i'm still glad we saw him and hey, i make no apologies, she knew what she was getting into when she married me!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


during a recent chat with mrs. kugan, i described buenos aires by saying "it is like new york and paris had a spanish baby". don't read too deeply into the analogy...maybe they should have adopted and raised the baby because how could they have had a spanish one? well, the Wife's parents both had dark hair so anything is possible i guess...or maybe they sent their baby to a south american boarding school...yeah, that makes more sense...point being - you get all the hustle bustle, diversity and intensity of nyc but at the same time you get beautiful architecture, history and charm like paris...just with tango and an insane love of football.

rho and i had a great time exploring the city. we did a tour which gave us a broad understanding of the neighborhoods and layouts and also went on our own to the mayo plaza and recoleta cemetery.

this past weekend jules and i stayed put and although we stayed in for a much needed "movie day" on saturday it was recoleta (the neighborhood itself, but mainly the cemetery) that i suggested she see on sunday.

this victorian cemetery is truly the most expensive and exclusive real estate in buenos aires. it is laid out like a small city with "street" after "street" of the most impressive mausoleums you can imagine. one after another after another…just when you think you’ve seen the biggest or most ornate you turn a corner and are facing three grander and more beautiful than the last.

yes, it can be a bit creepy hanging in a cemetery for hours but this one is by far worth it. not to mention you can't go to buenos aires and not see evita's final resting spot. no, really, you sign a contract upon entering the country...along with seeing tango, eating at least one steak per day and ingesting at least a pound of dulce de leche:)

the pics are a mixture of my time with rho and last sunday with the Wife.

special note to jnb- there are like no “people” shots so you may not want to waste your time- lo siento!

if i get captured you better pick a good one!

First let me say I was relieved to see that the two reporters were released from North Korea. CNN is truly one of the only constants in my life and I had followed the story from the beginning. Now that they are home safe and reunited with their loved ones I can finally say this…

Why did they use this photo of Euna Lee? She looks like a webcam porn star. She is a respected journalist, wife and mother. Who chose this???

I noticed in the New York Times this morning a much better photo was used. Maybe she finally got a say in the matter.

Anyway, I’ve been dying every single time they showed that photo but didn’t want to say anything because, well, what a thing to comment about when these poor girls were being held in North Korea for what could have been 12 years!

Whew, I feel so much better and, thank God, they now do too.