Thursday, November 19, 2009

'Tis the Season

Okay, so it isn't quite the season yet but. I wanted to catch you before you started shopping the day after Thanksgiving.

As many of you know Julie and I hold the Genesis Shelter very near and dear to our hearts. We have been throwing our annual Charity Christmas Party for years to help us sponsor large families for the holidays.

Obviously, we can't have you over for cocktails and food this year but we'd still like to ask that you make a donation to the shelter. Every child deserves at least one special Christmas when Santa brings them just what they want. These kids face more challenges in their childhood than many of us will face in a lifetime.

So, let's help bring them a little Christmas joy.

How can you help???

Let me count the ways...

1. You can donate directly to the shelter via their website or donate items in person.

2.You can sponsor a family! This is a great thing for an office or group of friends to do for the holidays instead of Secret Santa or White Elephant parties. Do you really need another set of vanilla scented votives??

3. You can buy a calendar!

What calendar?? Why, the one we've created with photos from our travels this year to help raise money for the shelter of course!

100% of the profits will be donated directly to the Genesis Shelter. So skip the puppy and kitten calendars and BUY THIS CALENDAR!

What better gift to give than one that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside from knowing you helped make a difference for some families who really needed a helping hand?!? Not to mention everyone needs a calendar...everyone.

We also have a small calendar print and all proceeds from its sales will be donated directly to the Embera Puru Educational Fund. This fund was created by the Peace Corp volunteer who is currently living with the tribe we visited in Panama. Public schools only provide free education up to the 9th grade in Panama. After that families must pay for private schooling and this cost, although minimal to us, is usually out of the reach for these Embera families.

So, I suggest you buy a few of both and really make yourself feel good this holiday season!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

out of the mouth of babes

first, let me say that this kid is awesome. second, i adore this dad for supporting his son. refreshing thing from an arkansas family.

why is it that people think we get to vote on civil rights? was it a vote in alabama that ended segregation? no, it was the supreme court in brown v. the board of education.

if we had left segregation up to the general public to vote on in the 1960's i could name about 10 states that would still be regulating where people sat on a bus.

it saddens and angers me that something even a 10 year old can see is so difficult for so many of my countrymen to comprehend.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

old school weekend

“Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we're going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don't know, I don't know if we'll have enough time.”

Okay, so we didn’t actually go to the Home Depot or buy flooring but our Sunday really was reminiscent of our domesticated weekends back home.

We decided to skip Ponce proper on Sunday and headed back to San Juan after breakfast. We fought the masses at the Plaza Las Americas and did a little shopping and then went to the grocery. Exciting?!?

Maybe it doesn’t sound like it to you but when your Sundays are normally filled with going to an airport, getting on a plane, getting off a plane, getting a taxi back to your back to a hotel, checking into the hotel, waiting for your luggage to be brought up, unpacking everything, etc - it is kind of exciting. Okay, maybe not exciting but definitely enjoyable.

We spent the night with wine, pizza and repeats of Law and Order…and it was really great. We’re not ready to settle down quite yet but, it does feel nice to have a little down time and just relax.

Ponce can wait until the last weekend when we take a little road trip to see the Camuy Caves here on the island. At least then I'll have remembered the camera.

This weekend we’re hanging out in San Juan because we’ve got visitors arriving on Sunday afternoon! Looking forward to seeing familiar faces!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


a couple of videos from our time with the embera tribe...the first one is of the women dancing the crane dance and the second is of the tribe dancing and the one we were asked to join...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Want to have an experience of a lifetime, see one of the world’s engineering wonders in action, tour a lovely old city, eat delicious food and be surrounded by warm and generous people? Then head to Panama!

We had a truly amazing time there this past weekend. Our day spent in the jungle with a tribe of Embera Indians will go down as one of our favorite memories of the year. Our tour guide was an American woman who had been in Panama working on a movie. Her husband was one of the Embera Indians being used in the film and she quickly fell in love and became a full-fledged member of the tribe.

After an hour car ride outside of the city we got in a canoe for another hour long trip up river to the village. We were welcomed by the majority of thee tribe which totals just at 120 people. We spent the day learning about their culture, crafts, and even got a lesson on medicinal plants from one of the elders of the village. After a traditional lunch of fish and plantains we were treated to music and dancing by the women, men and children of the tribe.

Just as we thought they were finished we were rushed by the children and invited to join. It was definitely one of those moments when I couldn’t help but pause and say to myself “Wow, I’m in Panama dancing in the middle of the jungle with a tribe of Indians- LIFE IS AMAZING!!”

These people, especially the children, showed us just how little is needed to be truly happy. Being welcomed into their village and learning about their way of life was so humbling. I feel honored to have spent time with them and will treasure my memories forever…

The name "Embera" translates literally to "Good Man", I don't think they could have a more fitting name.

The actual canal was really fascinating as well. We were amazed at the cost of crossing the canal which at the lowest is tens of thousands of dollars while the large cruise and cargo ships pay between $100-400,000!!

They had made $4 million just the morning we were there and that afternoon would more than double that when the ships would be coming in from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It really is a marvel of engineering and I’m glad we got to see it in action before the new locks open in 2014. Then they can double their capacity and I’m guessing double their tolls. Looking for a moneymaking idea? Build a canal that connects the Atlantic and Pacific. Wow!

Our guide on Saturday was telling us how Panama is trying to lure seniors from North America to retire there with tax and medical incentives. My advice is to encourage your grandparents and parents to make the move- you’re going to love visiting them!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

round one...

i'm not even sure i should be posting this.

i'm afraid too many people will be wishing for something we're not wishing for and i don't want a bunch of wishes counteracting ours.

so, before you start the praying, hoping and wishing remember we're going to be home for five whole weeks before round one AND we didn't sign up for this adventure to spend it at a hotel in buckhead AND the less we get to see now will mean the longer we'll want to stay in the program AND if you love us you'll set us free or something like that.

possible locations for round 1 are...

usa-specifically atlanta, georgia

obviously we're hoping for china since we didn't get to go there this round. but, if we are headed home (or technically staying home) we'll be happy for all the extra time we get to spend with loved ones and for the opportunity to travel within the us.

i'm not sure when we'll get the actual schedule but, for now, let the battle of the wishes begin!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

oh happy day!

we were so sad to miss all the festivities back home this weekend but, we decided that the apartment debacle and the jet lag were too much to handle a trip to atlanta or anywhere else for that matter.

for anyone not on facebook or who didn't actually hear me crying all the way from san juan...the apartment debacle details are...

after 30 hours of travel we arrived at our "air conditioned" apartment at 11pm to find the only air conditioning was located in the bedrooms. this meant that 70% of the apartment was about 132 degrees with 150% humidity. we're not from the tropics and since i don't really love sweating every time i go to the bathroom this was NOT going to work. so, after raising holy heck and conjuring up all my best fake attorney skills, for oh, about 9 hours, i got us out of the lease and all of our money back minus what we owed for the time we were actually there.

as i've stated before, i really needed a break from the hotel life. just some normalcy to round out our year of anything but. of course once this hope was dashed and i had, yet again, unpacked all of our belongings at the hotel i was over it. who needs their own space? who wants to actually prepare their own food or watch tv or read a book outside of a bed?? 300 sqft is PLENTY of room for two people to co-exist peacefully!!

the Wife wasn't quite ready to give up so for kicks and giggles we decided to check with another property manager i had spoken to earlier about apartments. we had actually debated between one of hers and the one we leased. who said to trust your first instincts?

the apartment we had liked was no longer available but, she did have two to show us and we went to check them out friday night.

short story even shorter...we liked one of them very much, we went back on sunday to check out the neighborhood and after jumping through the hoops again with leases and management approvals...we're moving into our new apartment tomorrow morning!!

this apartment not only has air conditioning in every room (so 1st world!) but, it's also just nicer in general and best of all is a mere block from an awesome stretch of beach.

after a week at our hotel i can't tell you how lucky we feel. note to all: do not ever stay at the conrad hotel in san juan.

needless to say i'm thrilled at the prospect of being normal(ish) again and of course COOKING! i'm even excited about washing our clothes. fabric softener here we come!!

thanks to everyone who sent up prayers and positive thoughts our way. we're so looking forward to settling in and not packing again until it is time to head home!

post script:
on a related note since i haven't spent my year curled up with cookbooks and copies of southern living if you have any great summer recipes you discovered this year please send them my way! i know you're all in chili and pumpkin latte mode but it's in the mid 90's so, i'm looking for light and delicious dishes.

Monday, November 2, 2009


It seems I didn't forget to charge the battery for our seems it has officially died. Just 4 years old but, alas, that is ancient in the technology world. He had a good life and captured a lot of images. He'll be sadly missed.

In lieu of flowers please send new camera recommendations.