(I've changed the name from "Rants" given that I can't really rant about many things that frustrate me here, at least not without getting into some sort of trouble. As such, you'll have to wait for the book.)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Trip to US Part 3 - Idaho

"Too many parents make life hard for their children by trying, too zealously, to make it easy for them." -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (28 Aug 1749-1832)

this is what jet lag looks like

No matter how well you plan and no matter how efficiently you use your time, you can never accomplish everything you set out to do when you travel. It is an impossible task yet we continue to perpetuate this illusion every time we set out.
first night in Idaho - downtown Boise live music
When traveling to visit family in Idaho it’s even more accentuated. We have a bigger family and more moving parts. We do what we can and hope that at the end of it all we have done the main bits of what we had set out to do.
Aunt CJ teaching piano
 One key theme of the Idaho leg of the trip was real estate. All of my siblings (and one niece) have purchased homes within the past seven or eight months. My younger sister Lisa was in the process of moving back from Taiwan. My brother laid claim to property in Idaho (though still living in Oregon) for the first time. It’s a time of change as my siblings edge closer to retirement and the next generation begins to own their own homes. The family seems to be slowly moving into a new phase.
boating and hanging out by the lake
I’m a bit behind, as usual. The income of my children will be limited to tooth fairy revenue for a few years to come. Their first cars are likely to be electric and they will never know a world without social media. And they’re probably three decades away from buying their own homes.
mtn. biking Jug Mountain
So yes, Idaho. I don’t have the time or energy to go into detail about how we spent our time but I’ll highlight a few things. After a night in a hotel to get settled, go to storage to retrieve some things, we spent a night with my sister and boyfriend in their new townhouse on the Boise River. Very nice. Made me think that I should add townhouse as an option for when we return to the US (whenever that is). Very comfortable and the smell of the river area took me back to my time in college where I would cross it every day going back and forth to school.
paddle boarding-ish with Kiran
The next day we headed to the McCall area where we would came for the next four days. The campground is on a lake and my sister Cheryl’s family has a boat. The family spent quite a bit of time waterskiing, swimming, paddle boarding, etc. I tried my hand at surfing behind the boat. I’d never done it before and I’m not sure I’d even seen it. But it amounts to basically being pulled by the boat on a wide board. The idea is to surf the deep wake directly behind the prop and try to get to the sweet spot where you can self-propel on the wave. I got up rather easily, pulled myself up behind the boat as you’re supposed to and road the wave. However, though I was hitting that sweet spot, I was never able to nonchalantly toss the rope into the boat and self-propel. Maybe next time.
Uncle Curtis & Aunt Cheryl with Kinaya
Otherwise we ate a lot of good food, had Kiran practice riding her bike with no training wheels (on the second-hand bike we bought for $7.99), caught up with family, interestingly had lunch with Idaho friends that we met in Burundi and so forth.

the whole gang at the Ugly Duck
When we broke camp we headed to Boise briefly and then on to Kimberly to stay with my parents. I always enjoy hanging out there. The girls have plenty to do and it’s a good time to relax. We fit in our regular doctor visits and ran a lot of errands. It was also the lead up to my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary.
in the limo with the folks for their 60th
There were actually two events – both are places that my parents like to go to where the people have become like family to them. They must be since a lot of these people know as much about us and the family knows about each other.

small town America...
The first evening was at a place call Duck Ugly. It’s that modest, home-spun place that you see in American movies depicting rural life. It’s the kind of establishment that is, in a way, a reflection of where I’m from. It’s simple. Friendly. Unassuming. They welcomed this monstrous hoard from all over the place for the evening. We had a nice dinner. My mom played the piano for a while and then did a couple of songs with the local band. The owner got up and said a few kind words about my parents and that was about it. Very nice evening though.
Lisa and CJ
The next day was a bigger even involving a limo to a restaurant on the Snake River Canyon. Then we road back to the Snug in Eden – a place with the same home-spunness as the Duck. The idea was to pull out all the stops and give the folks a time to remember with lots of friends of the family (past and present) joining with their current friends. Wonderful buffet dinner. Cake and snacks. Very nice evening.
the obligatory doctor visits
Unfortunately we needed to get back to Boise the next morning. We had to begin our preparations for flying out the following morning. The preparation isn’t what it was when we were living in Bujumbura. In Nairobi we have more access to “stuff” so there was less pressure on us. In the end we did what we had time for, packed it all up, making sure we were within our weight limits, and the holidays were over. Or almost. We just had one more stop to make in the Netherlands.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Trip to US Part 2 - Indiana

"I am patient with stupidity but not with those who are proud of it."
-Edith Sitwell, poet (1887-1964)

One of the first things we noticed flying into Louisville (Kentucky) was that the weather was not as hot as it normally is in mid-July. We’ve spent numerous vacations in the region where time spent outside this time of year was uncomfortable and limited due to the heat. During the time we were there, I doubt we’ve ever spent more time out of doors. It was a nice change since so much of my job is spent indoors. Good to get out and get a bit dirty.
As usual, a key factor in determining how we spent our time was our need/desire to get the girls out of the house and doing something. We don’t mind them having a bit of screen time here and there, particularly if it’s educational, but we try to get them moving, running, jumping, playing as much as we can. It’s obviously good for them but it’s good for us. Wears them out. They sleep.
We were able to take advantage of a community aquatic center in Clarksville on a couple of occasions. There are few things the girls like to do more than swim and play in the water. They grew up that way. From the time they were born we had them in the Club du Lac pool in Bujumbura. It’s also important for us to have them comfortable in the water early. 

July is also the month of their birthdays. We were torn about how to celebrate. In Nairobi, and also in Bujumbura, kids’ birthdays are big events by both locals and foreigners. Obviously the richer people are the more they pull out all the stops. We have had a hard time keeping pace, or wanting to. One advantage of being in the US is that the massive birthday event is simply not going to happen. It doesn’t stop them from asking the occasional question as to why there are no bouncy castles or hired clowns but I can live with that.
We also had a family night out to watch a theater (Broadway musical) production, The Music Man. I’m embarrassed to say I’d never see it before though the music is generally very well known. The small theater was in fact a very nice place to watch a show and tickets included a buffet dinner. To be honest, I thought the quality of the production wouldn’t be that great given the smallish playhouse but I have to say, they were pretty damn good. I’d do that again.
view from a run through a state park
As for me, worked out a lot. Did some gardening – it’s sort of a thing when I go to the US these days. I enjoy it, largely because I don’t have to do it except for a couple of weeks per year. And it helps out both of our parents. I also played dad a lot. Worked probably more than I should have (though it did lessen the load when I returned). The one thing that I didn’t do enough of was read. I always say that I’m going to devote a chunk of time towards catching up on some reading and I don’t get it done. Maybe next time.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Trip to US Part 1 – St. Paul

"The most dangerous worldview is the worldview of those who have not viewed the world." 
- Alexander von Humboldt

Often when we go to the US we mix it up with visits to see friends in addition to our time with family. It makes our trip slightly more complicated but, particularly if we’re traveling through the city/country anyway, it’s nice to take advantage of it. It’s also a way to experience new places and see new things.
strange children in Amsterdam airport
As such, we made our regular trip to St. Paul, Minnesota, to see our friend Kathy. And use it as a stopover on the way to Louisville.
early morning view of the Mississippi while out for a jog
St. Paul is a city that has been growing on me. We’ve experienced it in the middle of winter and the middle of summer and I have to say, it has a lot going for it. I think I mentioned in the past that Minnesota in the winter would be much more fun if they had some serious mountains. As it is, it’s a lot of cold without the fun. But that’s just me.
Nonetheless, it’s a very livable city and, in looking at property values, I’m apparently not the only one that thinks this. It’s becoming more expensive as the city grows.
We arrived directly from Nairobi (via Amsterdam) with no stopover so, as usual, we had to shake off our jet lag. In the end it wasn’t too bad and we were able to jump into the local time zone pretty quickly.
Very good to spend time with Kathy as usual. We had options for some activities and we sort of played it by ear. Works for us.
We made a return trip to the Cafesjian Carousel. It’s a classic merry-go-round that was built in 1914 and has an interesting history. Worth a visit to anyone who visits St. Paul.
We also took a ride on a paddle boat (pedalo). That is something that I would not recommend to anyone who visits St. Paul. I’ve been on them numerous times, notably when I was living in Switzerland. These boats, or possibly this one in particular, was crap. I’m quite sure that I’m not so out of shape that I could barely peddle the thing. In any case, next time we’ll opt for the canoe.
St. Paul as seen from the Mississippi riverboat
We also took a riverboat cruise on the Mississippi River. This was new to me and I have to say I quite enjoyed it (Kinaya fell asleep instantly and missed the entire thing). It last about an hour and a half and there's a narrator that talks about the storied history of the River as it snakes its way through the St. Paul area. I saw a guy working on his laptop. Apparently they sell season passes and some locals do the trip numerous times. Pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
bald eagle, as seen from the riverboat
Alas, it was a pretty short visit and we were soon off to Louisville…