January has sort of a bad reputation and to some extent it's deserved. My family generally has a tradition of having a good time with each other (Priya's is the same and we've been combining them over the past few years). January presents us with the post-holiday blues combined with tough weather (here it's the dead of summer and in the US it's the dead of winter). And it's generally a long stretch before the next vacation.
There are a couple of things that have made the transition a bit easier this year. One is that upon returning to Dar we've been presented with strangely rainy and (relatively) cool weather. There are rumors that this is El Nino induced but whatever the reason, it's more pleasant for us.
Another thing that has eased the transition to some degree was that I opted to stay on top of my work a bit more than in previous years. It put an occasional damper on the holidays sometimes but the normally overwhelming barrage of emails and work, though daunting, is not as bad as it could have been.
Finally, I have to say, I do enjoy what I do for a living. Not everyone can say that. It's by far the most difficult job I've ever had and it deals me more massive blows on a daily basis than you could imagine. Even so, it's a fascinating world that I live in. I have an excellent team of staff to help fend off these blows and, I also have to say, we do a good job.
So now we're in the office for about a week before heading out to the field for an extended period. This is a new year in a new camp with some new staff and it's important to make sure that we get things started off right. I won't be back in Dar until the second week of February, Priya a week later.
City Hall, Salem, IN
Christmas Eve we went to Priya's parent's Presbyterian Church in a town nearby. It was very similar in many ways to services that I attended when I was a kid with a Christmas message, carols, dimming of lights and lighting of candles. Eight-year-old Matthew, not unlike the way I was at his age, was successful in torching the front of his hair with his candle. The service, combined with the musty smell of an old church building, made it a wonderful reminiscence of the old days
Christmas Day the children tore into their gifts, albeit a bit less savagely than I did as a kid, and then we again ate like kings.
Basking in the glow of the laptop
Fantastic Dinner at Steve and Cathy's
The day after Christmas we headed to another "I" state. To the confusion of most geography-challenged Americans, Idaho is not in the Midwest and it does require at least a couple of hours in a jet to get there from Louisville.
The amazing Shoshone Falls, Priya and Curtis on the right
Curtis overlooking the canyon and Pillar Falls
Lava Hot Springs in the cold and snow
Then it was off to Sun Valley and our two nights at the famous Sun Valley Lodge.
The gang in front of the lodge
The culinary tour of the "I" states continued that evening with more steaks, good wine and lots of fun conversation at one of our favorite restaurants, our beloved Pioneer in Ketchum. That evening we brought in the New Year in our room at the Lodge. The next day, New Year's, most of us skied again. Unfortunately our legs were not in good ski shape and after a few hours we were all happy to cut it early and head to the Nordic ski lodge for a drink, snacks and football. That night we some nice Italian food at Ciro's in Ketchum. Director Rob Weiner was dining there as well which is a bit funny since the last time we saw him in Ketchum was in an Italian restaurant. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he's a big fan of Italian food.
Back to Boise
The final day before boarding the plane was spent shopping and preparing for our return to Tanzania. Brett took us to a sports bar that had over fifty television screens. I have to say it was a bit overwhelming to have so options for my attention – in addition to people sitting around you. That's always the big shocker when going to the US. Options. Whether it's TV channels, food or laundry soap, America loves to have so many choices for things it can make your head explode.
Priya and my sisters
Lisa took us to the airport the next morning. In addition to the sadness of the holidays coming to an end, my Boise State Bronco football team was to play the biggest game in their history and I was going to miss it sitting in an airplane flying from Seattle to Amsterdam. Ugh. The exact same thing happened in 2006 when BSU beat Oklahoma in what has been called the best college football game in the last decade. I remember booking my flight several months ago thinking that our return was later than normal (we usually travel on the 1st or 2nd). I thought that if BSU makes it to a big bowl game, I least I won't miss it this time. Due to the exceptionally late scheduling of the Fiesta Bowl this year, alas, I still missed it. As I logged on to the internet in Schipol Airport I was very happy to see that they were able to win without me.