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Tessa’s take on India
Apr 15th, 2010 by Tessa

India.

Where do you start?

New Delhi

We started in the capital, New Delhi. A city of cows, honking cars and assorted laundry boiling under a haze of smog- a virtual assortment of chocolates from a brand that my mom doesn’t like.

“AND THIS IS THE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT!?!”- Kate Wells.

It is true that their largest, and in fact, capital’s airport seems to be in the middle of a mass of tented houses and slums (for lack of better words). The parking lot was, in fact, a dirt parking lot and we were all in a somewhat temperamental mood after having to haggle and yell at the taxi drivers.

Now, it is very well to keep in mind that I have a VERY strong dislike of Indian food. And when I say dislike I mean that I seriously dislike it. So we set off into the world of India with our 4 backpacks, some tea, and a large container of peanut butter.

We passed Indian food restaurant after restaurant, and eventually came to our “Pearl Plaza” hotel. We hiked up the first floor with our back packs -then the second, then the third, then the 4th until we arrived panting on the 5th floor, where we dropped our backpacks into the room with a sigh. No phone, no pool, no pets (and no internet) had me feeling like King of the Road.

Agra

~See car accident post.~

Jodhipur

We stood at the “from Delhi” carousal a couple days later in Jodhipur. I had gone in 9 months from looking at the sidewalk and thinking “that is Japanese ABC gum” to thinking about how we had ABC gum at home and how I missed the sidewalk in front of our house. It’s strange what you start to miss. I could also look at the bottom of my flip flops or keens and think about how the ABC gum there was like the ABC gum at home.

It didn’t help much that the thing I was looking at on the floor was probably not ABC gum, so I followed my parents out the door with my backpack over my shoulder.

One of about 20 old temple buildings in the garden - pretty cool!  There were a bunch of drunk guys there that kept trying to get us to have barbeque with them - it was just like Hance Park back in Phoenix!

One of about 20 old temple buildings in the garden - pretty cool! There were a bunch of drunk guys there that kept trying to get us to have barbeque with them - it was just like Hance Park back in Phoenix!

The garden was CRAWLING with monkeys.  It freaked Phoebe out a little after "the great monkey attack" in Kyoto, but they had little babies so Phoebe mellowed out.

The garden was CRAWLING with monkeys. It freaked Phoebe out a little after "the great monkey attack" in Kyoto, but they had little babies so Phoebe mellowed out.

Eager to get on with our tour of the city as soon as possible so that we could go visit my Aunt’s relatives in Idar, we jumped to-it and wedged in a trip to a garden on the first afternoon before going to our hotel.

Getting a tour guide is like picking a straw. You could end up with the short end of the deal or you could end up with the longest piece. I now understand why our family is not a tour group family. After just a day of going to three sites and being told everything three times, I was only a straw away from strangling the guide. I found that nodding enthusiastically and smiling usually got me points for good behavior though.

Me in front of the Jaswant Mausoleum.  I will refain from further comment.

Me in front of the Jaswant Mausoleum. I will refain from further comment.

And now I will address the "caste" system in India.  Cultural tradition or not - its is just plain STUPID.  These little boys should have been in school, but they aren't allowed to go to school because they were born into the "musician" cast.  Ah, whatever!

And now I will address the "caste" system in India. Cultural tradition or not - its is just plain STUPID. These little boys should have been in school, but they aren't allowed to go to school because they were born into the "musician" cast. Ah, whatever!

The Majahrah back in the 1930's made a "poverty prevention plan" by building the largest palace in the world.  Now a third is the current Majahraj's house, a third museum, and third 5-star hotel... hum...

The Majahrah back in the 1930's made a "poverty prevention plan" by building the largest palace in the world. Now a third is the current Majahraj's house, a third museum, and third 5-star hotel... hum...

This is a picture from on top of the fort (that is really high up on a mountain).  Johipur is also called the "Blue City" because of all the houses that are painted blue.  They say that the blue houses are for the Brahmin class, but our tour guide said that's a rumor.

This is a picture from on top of the fort (that is really high up on a mountain). Johipur is also called the "Blue City" because of all the houses that are painted blue. They say that the blue houses are for the Brahmin class, but our tour guide said that's a rumor.

Udipur

By this time, I liked India’s hidden (possibly buried under the rubble and trash) charm and mom was starting to get used to it. Our hotel was a small, surprisingly stylish building down a small alley. We loved the Kaeser Palace!!!!! It was owned by a man, his wife and his little brother named Lucky. Lucky was probably one of the first people who was eager to help us who we didn’t know of before the trip in India. He gave my mom the right amount to pay for camel shoes, helped us tremendously with our room arrangement, and directed us to the nearest internet café when the internet was down.

In that city we also met some children. Their father worked at the shop down the way and their house was a three room apartment(ish) down the alley closer to the lake. One of the girls was 9 and the other was 15. Bittu and I did henna, walked around town and folded origami.

Our friends in Udipur

Our friends in Udipur

Udupur is also famous for its palace on the lake that you can see from our hotel. Mom had big plans to go and eat lunch there like it advertised on their website. So we stalked off to where the tuk-tuk driver told us the ferry was. Chaos rolled out like a nice carpet onto the floor. Mom got in an argument with the guards who wouldn’t sell us tickets to the island, we stalked off to a tourist-information to figure out what was going on, and found that we couldn’t go to the island because it was hotel guests only. From there we stalked back to the guards to find that we could buy afternoon tea on the palace that went up to the water. We bought the tickets for high tea, went up to the palace and were told that high tea was full and that we should go to the pool to be served. We went to the pool to find that there was not high tea, or anything vaguely like high tea, going on. The waiter who spoke English pointed out to us that there was no high tea anywhere in the palace and that we had been over charged by 500 rupees (approximately 30 rupees to the dollar) for our admission fee. We called the manager; sat in an office for a half hour while we argued with the guards over the fact that we had been overcharged 500 and that there was no extra money in the cash box. Mom screamed (editorial comment from “mom”… I did not scream, I spoke to them firmly!)  at them for pocketing the money off of tourists and after sitting in the office for another hour and a half waiting for the top manager (and reading a very interesting article on Alice and Wonderland in the news paper) we decided just to leave. Mom had to go over and “yell” at the guards on our way out one more time about the principle of the thing before we left.

(caption by Kate)  We didn't really want to go their dumb ole island palace anyway, we found a perfectly lovely place to have dinner and watch the sun set that was WAY better than the palace.  AND they didn't try an rip us off for $60 bucks!  So there!  :-)

(caption by Kate) We didn't really want to go their dumb ole island palace anyway, we found a perfectly lovely place to have dinner and watch the sun set that was WAY better than the palace. AND they didn't try an rip us off for $60 bucks! So there! :-)

The road to Idar

So from Udupur, we sardine packed back into our car and set out for the Jain temple halfway in between.

It was better than the Taj Mahal and it deserves more recognition.

One hundred and forty four pillars of intricately and uniquely carved white marble laid out symmetrically house small statues of Jain gods and large 600 year old trees. An aura of peace falls over the place in the sunlight and the high priests come to give free tours and practice their English.

The Jain Temple.  It was AWESOME!  Every single inch of the entire place was intricately carved, and it was massive.  Our tour guide was the head priest and we learned so much about their religion, it was really interesting!

The Jain Temple. It was AWESOME! Every single inch of the entire place was intricately carved, and it was massive. Our tour guide was the head priest and we learned so much about their religion, it was really interesting!

Later on that day, our driver was so pleased that we had enjoyed the wonder of the Jain temple, that he brought us to another one, unaware that today was a holy day and that there was going to be a giant throng of people going to this green temple which was still in use. We were followed by a giant mass of people until gawking citizens cleared a way in our path for our giant parade. We had small boys following us with arrows*, a group of guys about 20 who were making kissy faces at my mom and I, a little group of beggars and a small group of giggling girls that wanted to pet our hair. We went in to the temple, and I tried my best to avoid the people blessing you with the wet yellow bindies (the smell makes me nauseous) as we were shoved and pushed through the crowd.

*WHAT WERE SMALL 8 YEAR OLDS DOING WITH ARROWS?

This is at the green marble temple.  She how my dad and Phoebe have yellow dots (blessings) on their foreheads?  One, the yellow stuff stinks (gag!) and, two, they ask you to tip them - what's up with that?  Eveyone wants a tip in India!

This is at the green marble temple. She how my dad and Phoebe have yellow dots (blessings) on their foreheads? One, the yellow stuff stinks (gag!) and, two, they ask you to tip them - what's up with that? Eveyone wants a tip in India!

Idar

So we arrived at Idar late in the afternoon. I didn’t feel good and was sick for the rest of our stay there. I had a fever and the sniffles. Where does all the snot come from? It’s a mystery to me. Poor Metoo, Jeshal, Raj, and Dolly had to deal with me being sick and not wanting to go to temples the whole time we were at their house. They dragged me around with them in the car and I had a strange craving for only fruit. So I ate watermelon for the week we stayed with them.

They drove us to Ahmadabad the day we were leaving so that we could go to UAE. In the time before our flight we went to the malls and tried to find a DDR machine without success.

We left India with a sigh the next day.

The Chiang Mai Experience
Mar 11th, 2010 by Jeff

Chiang Mai is a wonderful city in the north of Thailand. We flew up there from Bangkok while we waited for Kate’s new veneers to be made. We had plans for a number of great adventures while we were in this town, including Thai cooking classes, visiting some of the 475+ Wats (or temples) and to have an another elephant encounter.

The first day spent in Chang Mai we used as what I call a utility or down day. This is one of those less glamorous sides of our extended travels Kate blogged about earlier. A number of things typically get done one these days. Usually this is when Kate and I realize that we’ve been slipping in our parental duties and haven’t forced the kids to do any homework in a couple of days, and they need to do some math and writing (much to their chagrin). Also on this particular day I spent two hours going to the train station to book our train back to Bangkok only to learn all the trains were booked for the next week. After making this discovery, I ended up coming back to the hotel to book a plane back via the internet instead. I then made arrangements for a hotel once we arrived back in Bangkok. Finally, I dropped of the dirty laundry for cleaning at the local laundry. By this time it was 3:00. We did make it out after this to the Chiang Mai Museum of Arts and Culture to learn a little about the area and the northern Thai peoples. It was a pretty good museum that had quite a bit of information in English (so I could count that towards the kids schooling – parental duty done for the day!).

The next day we spent a gluttonous day at the Thai Farm Cooking School. They picked us up from our hotel and took us to the local market. At the market our instructor taught us about the various ingredients we would use in our cooking that day. We then made our way out to the school were we walked through their garden to learn a little more about the various herbs and plants we would be added to our Thai dishes. We then proceeded to start cooking.

Kate and Tessa Cooking Phad Thai

Kate and Tessa Cooking Phad Thai

Phoeve and Jeff Pounding on the Curry - Making for quite an appetite!

Phoebe and Jeff Pounding on the Curry - Making for quite an appetite!

We actually used mortar and pestle to pound the ingredients into the various curries we were making. The curry could not have gotten any fresher! Tessa opted for a yellow curry, Phoebe and Kate made green curry and I went for red. Needless to say we all loved our entrees! We then continued with cooking a five course meal. In addition to the curry we made soups, spring rolls, a noodle dish, and desserts (mango and sticky rice!!! Yum!). We all rolled away from the table after the first four coursed and brought the noodle dishes back to the hotel for them to heat up for us as dinner. We are all looking forward to cooking Thai food at home when we get back to our kitchen in the Phoenix!

The following day we decided to explore the Chiang Mai. This included visiting the local Wats. The highlight of the day for us all was Monk Chat at the MCU Buddhist University at Wat Chedi Laung. This is a great program that has been put together to give tourist and foreigners an opportunity to interact directly with monks on a one to one basis. It is an open forum where the monks and the tourist sit around tables and the monks answer questions from the tourist about their lives and living in Thailand as a monk. The discussion was very interesting. We learned many interesting things about monk’s lives. For example a monk in Thailand can choose at any time to leave the monkhood and return to normal Thai life. If he then chooses to return to the monkhood he can, even if he has been married – as long as his wife grants him permission to return. Also of the three monks we met, each had a different objectives or goals for their future.

Chatting with the Monks.

Chatting with the Monks.

One had started as a novice at the age of 12 and was now working his way through college. He was very frank about wanting to leave the monkhood as soon as he obtained his degree. The second monk of the group had begun his time as a monk at nineteen. He was also working his way through the English program at the university, but he planned on continuing as a monk and hopefully traveling to the U.S. It was also very interesting to find out their take on technology and how it impacts their lives. For example they can use computers in their studies, as long as they don’t use them for listening to music, playing computer games or anything involving entertainment. They also are allowed to use cell phones for communication with their families and other monks. Overall this was an extremely enlightening discussion and we all walked away understanding each others culture that much better.

I think everyone in the family agrees that the best part of our time in Chiang Mai was our visit to the Baan Chang Elephant Park for their Mahout for a Day program. In this day long program we were given the opportunity to work directly with the elephants and their trainers (mahouts), and had direct contact with the animals. The day started with another trip to the market to buy bananas and sugar cane. Each elephant eats about 250 kg of food a day. We then came into the camp, changed clothes and were given the opportunity to feed each of the nine adult elephants and the two babies (eleven months and 2 years old). According to the camp owner, this gave the elephants a chance to meet us and to understand that we nice and that we came with food rewards. It seemed that the elephants were just as curious about us as we were about them. They reached out with the trunks to take the bananas and sugar cane.

Kate & Phoebe w elephant

 The also searched the pockets of our mahout clothes for goodies and gave us sloppy elephant kisses with the trunks. During this whole introduction phase we could get right up next to the elephants, pat their heads, stuff bananas in their mouths and scratch them behind their ears. It was quite an amazing experience in and of itself. After this introductory session, we were given instruction on how to mount, ride, and control the elephants. This was a little intimidating for us all. Phoebe was especially brave, and with a little help, she mounted a large female that was probably fifty times her size (3000 lbs) and rode her around in a circle with the help of a mahout on the ground beside her.

Phoebe the Mahout

Phoebe the Mahout

After all this excitement it was time for a break and we had lunch. After lunch we all got to get on an elephant to take a trek into the jungle. Each elephant carried two people. The person in command of the elephant rode on the elephant’s neck right behind the ears and the passenger rode on the elephant’s back.

Phoebe and Jeff - into the Jungle

Phoebe and Jeff - into the Jungle

It was great fun and the elephants seemed didn’t seem the least bit phase by having an extra 200-300 lbs on their backs. (Part of the reason we chose this elephant park is because of there treatment of the animals. They only do one group a day with one trek per day, they do not use seats – which some feel are at least uncomfortable for the elephants and in the worst scenarios are painful for them, and this park is located on a large private preserve area so the elephants can roam when not working.)

Kate and Tessa on Elephant Trek

Kate and Tessa on Elephant Trek

After our trek, it was time to cool down and clean up. To do this we rode our elephants into a large 30×70x5 ft deep mud water pool. We then proceeded to scrub the elephants down, and get completely soaked in the process. It was great fun. Phoebe even got the opportunity to hop on the 2 year old elephant to sneak around and spray us with his trunk.

The Baby Attacks!

The Baby Attacks!

Scrubbing the ride!  It's wierd to sit on them while you was them.

Scrubbing the ride! It's wierd to sit on them while you wash them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This whole day was unforgettable and a wonderful experience that I know we will never forget. I highly recommend it to anyone making their way to Chiang Mai.

Up close

Everyone say "Cheese"

The Royal Palace of Thailand
Feb 18th, 2010 by Tessa
Skyline inside the Wat - the golden onion and it's friends

Skyline inside the Wat - the golden onion and it's friends

One would expect people to be flouncing around in fabulous, flowing silks and feathered hats with their dainty toes in fabric shoes as they gamble around the cobblestone entryway to the Grand Royal Palace of Thailand.  A white wall skirts the outside of the palace grounds.  Not even reaching 10 feet tall, I doubted that it would withstand an attack from even the olden times when the palace was in full swing.  If we hand not walked all this way to see this specific site, and if it had not been so vast an area (not to mention the fact that there was a golden- onion like thing in the middle of the grounds), I would probably have assumed it a simple Holiday Inn enclosed in white walls with a very well tended garden.

The giant, onion-like figure glowed like a light bulb to our left.  I only had enough time to glimpse intothe small shops lining the walkway on the way to the temple (golden onion?) before I fell down the stair in a mess of a skirt. Mom constantly adjusted her new polyester jacket (and by new I mean new to HER) as if it would somehow make it go away. I pulled up my skirt, not really caring if my ankles showing was disrespectful, and hopped down the stairs, mumbling about borrowing the “appropriate” (and very hot) clothes from the “room for people who had forgotten to wear clothes that covered their shoulders or passed their knees.”

Lonely Planet did me wrong!  I was not allowed to wear my stylin' capri pants into the Wat, and instead had to "borrow" this awesome skirt...

Lonely Planet did me wrong! I was not allowed to wear my stylin' capri pants into the Wat, and instead had to "borrow" this awesome skirt...

The throngs of people bustled about and we eventually found ourselves in a museum displaying amazing works of gold and silver, studded with diamonds and other rare gems. The carpet looked like it needed some major vacuuming and the wood was a scratched chocolaty brown. Our little troop of four was herded into a corridor, passed the room displaying the clothes that the Emerald Buddha wore at different times of the year, and were eventually deposited in front of what, from afar looked like the golden onion.

To my surprise, the giant structure wasn’t painted gold, but was covered by hundreds of thousands of little golden, reflective, glass tiles. And up close, it gave me the impression of a giant salt/pepper grinder instead of an onion. True, it had the bulbous shape of and onion at the base, but then its long neck shot up skywards to be topped by a little flourish. And behind it was another building, with patterns sewn onto it in the same sized, mirror like tiles. The building, sparkled, glimmered and rippled in the sun like the green tail-feather of a peacock. Purple and blue and yellow and green appeared to move and dart to and fro on the walls like tropical fish.

The hordes of people seemed to all converge on the building’s tall doorway and the basin of water and flowers in front of it.  With both hands, they would firmly hold the flower between their palms as if preying, would dunk the lotus head into the water, and quickly dab their head with the flower before the water ran off in small, cold trickles. The doors were white and painted elaborately with dragon and flower patterns, crossing and crawling and weaving their way up the door.

Bajillions of tiny gold tiles, yes bajillions!

Bajillions of tiny gold tiles, yes bajillions!

Teeny tiny tiles everywhere

Teeny tiny tiles everywhere

My bare feet pattered on the floor boards as I entered from the doorway that seemed most quiet. I knelt down, imitating the others all around me. In front of me was a large display of what looked like a mountain of stacked furniture (although, very symmetrical stacked furniture).   Every object that wasn’t a painting, the wall, or the floor was covered in golden paint.  The tables were covered in golden paint and sparkled as if they were really solid gold.  Giant six foot statues were painted gold down to their shiny bare toes.  The lampshade-like contraptions that “levitated” around all of the golden statue’s head were  gold and the wooden clouds were gold as well.  It didn’t take very long for my eyes to be drawn to the one non-golden object in the whole room (except for the donation box of course, which a monk rudely placed in front of me while I was looking at the statues).

The Emerald Buddha sat in the middle of the heap of golden furniture.  He himself wasn’t gold (he was obviously green) but the statue was cloaked in robe made of pure gold.

I suddenly felt very uneasy standing in the large, beautiful room with all the golden statues looking at the little crowd of people kneeling with their foreheads touching the wood, so I got up and quietly left the room to go find Phoebe, mom and dad.

Us with one of the Emerald Buddhas giant guards

Us with one of the Emerald Buddhas giant guards

Don't know what her job is, but we thought she was pretty

Don't know what her job is, but we thought she was pretty

Sitting buddha outside of the temple

Sitting buddha outside of the temple

Our last major stop in NZ…..Ross
Feb 11th, 2010 by Jeff

Our last stop in New Zealand was definitely one of the best! We spent three days and two nights with a lovely couchsurfing host family just outside of Ross on the southwest coast of the lower island. Annie, Ted, Katie (13) and Jessica (9) – how perfect is that for a matching up with the Wells crew- took us in and showed us a great time. Even thought this part of the coast gets 250 days of rain a year, we brought good weather with us and had three straight days of glorious sunshine.

View down the beach at Annie and Ted's - not too shabby!

View down the beach at Annie and Ted's - not too shabby!

To really appreciate how well we had it with Annie and family, you need to understand their setup. They have this gorgeous house on 200 acres of land right up on the beach, with a wetlands preserve to the south and a river to the north that empties into the ocean.  On the farm they have cattle, horses, sheep, a pig, four dogs, and six cats (I think – we didn’t see the cats much). Needless to say the girls, especially Phoebe, were in heaven. They also have all the fun toys and things that go along with the farm: trampoline, kayaks, canoes, gold panning equipment and river rafts.

Some of the animals

Some of the animals

When we arrived at the home in the afternoon, Ted and the girls just happened to drive in right behind us. They warmly welcomed us into their home, gave us cold drinks and let us get a little settled. Once Annie got in from her work (she is a nurse) we ventured to the beach with kayaks, boogie boards and kids in the back of the pickup and the dogs running eagerly along as we drove down the access road. We made our way to the water. The kids, Ted and I traversed a little stream (that gets dammed up between rain storms) on the kayaks and boogie boards while Kate and Annie walked around to get to the ocean. The kids spent the evening swimming in the creek, while the adults walked the beach and collected stuff (needless to say, Kate has sent another box of rocks home to AZ). We also made plans for the next day. We ended our first evening, with a delicious late night dinner of pasta Bolognese a la Annie, and wonderful conversations late into the night.

Tessa, Jessica (left) and Katie (right) in the back of the truck ready for the beach ride

Tessa, Jessica (left) and Katie (right) in the back of the truck ready for the beach ride

Everyone, but Ted – who had to work, slept in the next morning. After my girls helped Katie and Jess move the calves from one paddock to another, Annie, her girls, Phoebe, and I went off for a haircut, leaving Tessa and Kate to fight over the computer (a good internet connection in New Zealand will do that to you). When we got back it was time to head back to the beach. The second day was much like the first evening, but with a few extra adventures.

First of all, we decided we needed to try a New Zealand specialty – mussels fresh from the ocean and cooked on the beach! We planned another walk to coincide with low tide and then found a rock covered in mussels. We picked two large grocery bags full, and brought them back to our beach site where we started a small fire. The kids and I all experimented with the best way to get the mussels in to the fire and cooked, while adding the least amount of sand to our meal. At first we just set the shells in the fire, which worked but added quite a bit of sand to the meal. We then placed them on large rocks we had set in the fire, which worked a little better. Actually, this amounted to the dogs getting a meal of fresh mussels, as none of the people wanting the extra grit with their meal. Finally Ted and the girls decided to use the shovel from the truck as a pan they could hold while the mussels cooked. This worked quite well (they even put water in the shovel to aid the steaming process). Tessa happily devoured a number of the mussels – looking somewhat like a Neanderthal, crouched over, pulling them apart with her hands and munching away. “It’s kind of like seafood gum!” she happily exclaimed.

Dogs waiting for Tessa to discard mussel remains - they went hungry!

Dogs waiting for Tessa to discard mussel remains - they went hungry!

While the girls were using the shovel, I decided to be a survival purist and wanted to only use items found on the beach for my portion of the meal, using a forked stick from the beach I continued to cook my few pieces on the hot rocks and was able to get a few cooked and eaten (but to be honest I think Ted and girls food was cooked better and less sandy).

Getting back to our beach walk that evening, after pulling the mussels from the rocks, we continued on down the beach towards an area that often has seals basking in the sun. We were not disappointed, as the dogs flushed a large male out of the rocks and into the ocean. They never really got close to him, so none of the animals were ever in any peril. On the way back to our beach sight, with mussels in hand, we then spotted dolphins playing in the waves. This was my cue to get back and get in the kayak!

I ventured out in the kayak to try and catch a glimpse of the dolphins and try to ride a small wave or two. The dolphins shot past me once while I was out in the surf. However they did not stick around while I paddled in the water. I did catch a wave or two (after being dumped two or three times – in my defense the kayaks didn’t have a fin and weren’t really set up for catching waves).

Getting across the "dammed" creek

Getting across the "dammed" creek

After the beach we headed back to the house for a proper dinner. While the mussels were a good appetizer, we really saved the vast majority of the mussels for dinner later that evening. We steamed two large pots of them. I made a white wine and garlic sauce and a coconut curry sauce, which were both quite tasty if I do say so myself. Ted also cooked up some fine sausages and no one left the table with any room, as Annie had also made a cheesecake dessert.

The following morning we got our things packed for the next part of our travels before the girls went off with Kate to ride the horses on the beach. From what I hear, Tessa was taken on more of ride by the horse, then actually directing the horse on where to go! But I’ll let Tessa tell that tale. While the girls were riding, Ted and I went off to see if we could find some gold near the creek. I am happy to report that we were successful. The tiny flake I found would probably only buy me a stick of gum- if that, but I’m sure Pappy would have be proud of me anyway!

Phoebe and Jess taking a ride on Gypsie

Phoebe and Jess taking a ride on Gypsie

It was with much sadness that we left that afternoon, in order to get back to Christchurch to start our journey towards Thailand. Ted and Annie said if we stayed longer and the weather held out we could all go rafting. (Ted is a conservation officer and oversees the area he lives in. He knows all the good areas to trek through). Unfortunately we had already purchased our onward tickets, or it would not have been hard to convince us to stay awhile longer. We hope that one day we might get back to NZ to take them up on their offer, or maybe they will head our way and we can return the hospitality they showed us. We would love to share Arizona with them.

We ROCKED Fox!
Feb 9th, 2010 by Kate
Franz Joseph Glacier from afar
Franz Joseph Glacier from afar
Fox Glacier from afar - the part on the left is where we hiked, but you can see it actually "flows" down the mountain from another area before heading westward - massive!

Fox Glacier from the car park - the part on middle right is where we hiked, but you can see it actually "flows" down the mountain from another area before heading westward - massive!

The west coast of New Zealand is absolutely beautiful.  Rough, wild, and very wet.   The coast quickly gives way to mountains, and then really big mountains, in a relatively small amount of space.  It is a temperate rain forest – meaning it rains a TON.  I’m talking rain 290 days a year, with 3 meters (9 feet!) of rain on the coast, and up to 9 meters (27 feet!) of snow up on the highest peaks.  The storms brew over in Australia, and then gain liquid and speed as they head towards NZ.  The mountains are so tall they form a giant wall and the storms just let loose – creating the most bizarre mix of fern filled jungle and massive ice glaciers. 

The glacier field is enormous, and during the last ice age the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers actually jutted out past the coast up to 3 km into the sea!  The paths they cut down to the sea are now mostly beautiful canyons, but drive up just a few kilometers from the beach and you reach the “terminal face” of the massive, living, moving mountains of ice.  

We saw some totally amazing glaciers in the Canadian Rockies too – but only one was really accessible to us non-mountain climbers.  You had to pay a ton of money to take a very strange mega-bus onto the glacier and then get out and walk around with, oh, about 300 other tourists in a very small area.  Not really our cup of tea, plus it was out of our budget.

Now the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers were totally a different story.  Both of the glaciers were climbable with guides, and since we totally blew our budget in New Zealand anyway, we figured what the heck (and as Tessa added, with global warming and all – when might we get the chance again…?).  So we called up one of the local outfitters, hired ourselves an experienced guide, and headed up Fox glacier!

The hike towards the terminal face of the glacier wasn’t bad at all, a nice wide and flat hike.  BTW the terminal face is the part that you see from below the glacier – like the front of the train coming down the mountain.  The terminal face is one of the most dangerous parts of the glacier as it is crashing forward and being dragged under itself all the time.  It is also one of the most impressive parts of the glacier to see, as even from a safe distance you are looking up at a piece of ice that is as tall as a 50 story building – but its solid ice!

This is about 1/5th of the terminal face of Fox Glacier.  Look in the lower left side of the photo and you can see a bit of greenery and some dark spots - those are people that area standing about 300 feet back from the face.  The dark hole on the lower right is a cave with a river running out of it, you could drive 2-3 tractor trailer truck through that cave at the same time!

This is about 1/5th of the terminal face of Fox Glacier. Look in the lower left side of the photo and you can see a bit of greenery and some dark spots - those are people that are standing about 300 feet back from the face. The dark hole on the lower right is an ice cave with a river running out of it, you could drive 2-3 tractor trailer truck through that cave at the same time!

Oh but then we had to hike UP the mountain next to the glacier so we could get up along side of the glacier away from the terminal face – and that hike just about kicked our butts!  It was quite an advanced trail, there were ladders at some points because it was so steep – and our legs were like serious jelly by the time we got to the ice. 

We hiked up and over the mountain along side of the glacier ot get to a point where we could get on the ice.  We're about 400 feet above the 500 foot glacier at this point!

We hiked up and over the mountain along side of the glacier ot get to a point where we could get on the ice. We're about 400 feet above the 500 foot glacier at this point!

We put on our “cramp ons” and then followed our guide Melisa to the glacier’s edge.  To tell you the truth – the edge of the glacier where it grinds the begebbers out of the mountain rock didn’t really look much safer to me than the terminal face.  There was a “rock” the sized of the Children’s Museum building being dragged along the top and side of the glacier.  I am sorry, but a rock that big is not a rock – it is a mountain itself!  But truthfully, the glacier was so big that it looked like a rock – which is freaky.

This is where we climbed on to the glacier - can you see the tiny black dot in the middle - that is our glacier scout!

This is where we climbed on to the glacier - can you see the tiny black dot in the far upper left corner - that is our glacier scout!

 fox ktp

Earlier in the day, ahead of the guides, the outfitter sends up some glacier scouts to access the conditions on the ice and cut some paths in the ice for us to follow so we stay on the most “solid” ice.  I put that in quotations because not a whole lot of it seemed very solid.  And where it did feel solid, it was as often as not just a few feet away from a huge crevasse or a Moulin (a hole then funnel created by the melting ice). 

This is a "moulin".  We threw chunks of ice down it and never heard them hit the bottom... see Jeff's boot for scale - they can be as small as a tin can or large enough for a car to fall in...

This is a "moulin". We threw chunks of ice down it and never heard them hit the bottom... see Jeff's boot for scale - they can be as small as a tin can or large enough for a car to fall in...

The big pieces of ice behind Tessa were about 30 feet high and really looked like GIANT waves about to crash.  The dark areas in between the waves led to the abyss...

The big pieces of ice behind Tessa were about 30 feet high and really looked like GIANT waves about to crash. The dark areas in between the waves led to the abyss...

You could hear huge crashing sounds coming from deep below the ice, and our guide said that you can see the difference in the ice (and the cracks and moulins) on an hourly basis sometimes.  It was amazing and awesome and scary and totally cool all at the same time.  The terrain was SO foreign and massive – I really felt like I was on an alien planet.  The compacted ice creates formations in shades of white to turquoise blue, something I was surprised to see.  It was by far one of the most different things I have ever done, and like being in the ocean, it really humbles you to the power of Mother Nature.

Thank goodness Tess had on her trusty legwarmers - they were the perfect ice trekking accessory!

Thank goodness Tess had on her trusty legwarmers - they were the perfect ice trekking accessory!

 

fox fam on glac

fox family big glac

Critters down under, and even further down under
Jan 11th, 2010 by Phoebe

When we first came to Australia we stayed on a farm, and they had alpacas, cows, dogs, chickens (aka “Chucks”), dogs, cats and a lot of macadamia nut trees.

This is me and Ian feeding the bull!  Nice bull.

This is me and Ian feeding the bull! Nice bull.

This was their big French Bull.  There were 150 girl cows and only one bull.  I got to mix up his feed.  He was SO big that I was scared of him, but he was really nice and let me pet him when he was eating.

Aren't they SO cute!!!

Aren't they SO cute!!!

Next are the alpacas.  Alpacas are like small llamas but they don’t spit as much, they are very skittish, and their fur is really soft.  Alpacas like water, so when you spray them with the hose they are happy.

The rooster at the farm didn’t do his cockle-do’s early in the morning, he did them once everyone woke up so that was really nice.

One time in the morning Ian (the owner of the farm) moved the cows into the pasture behind the house.  The moowing was so loud that my mom woke up because she thought there was a cow on the back porch.

This is my favorite calf Lucky.

This is my favorite calf Lucky.

My favorite cow was a calf named Lucky.  Her mom died after she was born so we needed to hand feed her and she was very nice.  I helped mix up her milk, and after she was done eating if I would run along side her paddock she would chase me.  She also liked to lick me and her super long tongue was like sandpaper and she could wrap her whole tongue around my arm.  If my cousin Jack was an animal I think he would be a cow because he also has a super long tongue and can touch his tongue to his nose.

Me feeding Lucky.  I gave her a bucketful of milk twice a day.  She would stick her whole head in the bucket and get milk all the way up to her ears!  It was SO funny.  Sorry I didn't get a picture!

Me feeding Lucky. I gave her a bucketful of milk twice a day. She would stick her whole head in the bucket and get milk all the way up to her ears! It was SO funny. Sorry I didn't get a picture!

On the farm their were cuckobara birds who have a really loud evil sounding laugh.  Tessa sang the Cukubara  song that we learned back in Ms Pams class like a thousand times.  We also saw ibus, and they have really long beaks that they use to get grubs out of the ground.

Then we went to Brisbane and went to a koala reserve and I got to hold a koala.  Koalas are marsupials, which means they have a pouch.  They don’t get much energy from their food so they sleep a lot.  They eat only eucalyptus leaves (aka “Gum Tree leaves”), and they only eat the tips of the leaves.  There are 80 types, and they use their nose to decide which kinds to eat.  The males have white chests and have special oils that they leave on the trees to mark their territories.  Every koala looks different.  Some have dots on their backs, some of their noses look different, and their ears might have long fur or short fur.  When I held the koala, it felt very heavy for how small it was, and its fur felt very dense, thick and soft.

Me and the koala!

Me and the koala!

This is a kangaroo - see how its much bigger.  Tessa was hoping they'd be big enough to ride but their not.

This is a kangaroo - see how its much bigger. Tessa was hoping they'd be big enough to ride but their not.

Next we went in to a kangaroo enclosure and got to walk around and feed the kangaroos and wallabees.  We got to feed a baby kangaroo and pet it.  Baby kangaroos are called “joeys”.  One of the joeys was too big for its mom’s pouch but it still climbed in.  It went in head first and then turned itself around but it was so big its head, back legs and tail hung out.  It was totally folded in half and looked really funny.

See the joey folded in half in the pouch?  Its head has the ears pointing down, its legs are behind the head, and its tail is behind the foot.  Poor mama roo!

See the joey folded in half in the pouch? Its head has the ears pointing down, its legs are behind the head, and its tail is behind the foot. Poor mama roo!

Our friend Nick told us that the kangaroo is the national animal of Australia and that they are the only country that eat their national symbol.

At the sanctuary there were also a lot of wild turkeys walking around.  We also saw really big lizards and wambats.  Tessa thinks they are adorable.  I think they look like furry pigs with falt furry snouts, but I do have to admit that they are cute.

In Australia, they protect everything – koalas, turkeys, and even crows.  It seems that the only thing you are allowed to kill is the cane toad.  (Not that I was looking from something to kill)

Next we went to Noosa heads and there I saw a giant hunter spider.  If you spread out your fingers, it went from finger tip to finger tip but they are harmless.  I did learn though that 9 of the 10 most deadly animals in the world are from Australia, like the box jellyfish, the blue ringed octopus, and a bunch of their snakes.

We are now in New Zealand and it is the weirdest thing – they didn’t have any land mammals until the Maoris brought some over, and then the Europeans brought more.  So far I have been to a bunch of museums here in New Zealand so I have seen a LOT of stuffed animals.  The only real animals I have seen are cows and SHEEP!  There are sheep everywhere!

I will take some pictures of them and post them soon!  Bye!

Adventures
Jan 11th, 2010 by Tessa

Everyone enjoys stories, because when you share a story, it’s like giving someone a piece of your life or a piece of your memory. And, we all know that the best stories always are exciting- and the main characters are brave and valiant- and theirs always something BAD going on, or some PROBLEM that needs to be fixed. I didn’t realized how boring my everyday life was back at home until I went to Asia, and my parents actually let me do things without them. Things seem rather mellow in Australia and New Zealand, now that there are no crazy taxi drivers and running across the street isn’t life threatening (not to mention we speak their language). Don’t get me wrong- we’re having a wonderful time, just not the exciting things you’d write about. Our days are full of driving past fields of sheep and contemporary art museum. Sometimes there are other kids too! But I tell you, everything that IS fun is risky, and might involve being really embarrassed about it. So, in other words, we haven’t been kidnapped, left for the wolves, been almost hit by cars, or fallen into a boiling pit of mud (which didn’t happen to us in Asia either, I just wanted to add that). Some of the things we’ve done:

I have though, almost been chased by an ostrich (You could tell by the way it glared at me). We also got to go into the enclosure with the kangaroos to pet them and feed them. Kangaroos are amazingly graceful and bouncy at the same time. I have to admit though; I was envisioning them being big enough to ride on. I was very disappointed to find that they weren’t much taller then my stomach.

Of course, the thing that every 13 year old wants for her birthday is to be stuffed into a giant hamster ball so that they can roll down a hill. Investing in giant hamster wheels might just make you a billionaire.

You’ll also never know the charm of a pool of boiling mud until you’ve been to one yourself. I personally, don’t see the big deal about coloured pools of water, but mom thought they were pretty cool. The boiling pits of mud were cooler by far.

Aussier/Kiwi Lingo
Jan 11th, 2010 by Tessa

Hotty- Hot Water Bottles

Breaky- Breakfast

Macker’s- McDonald’s

Chrissy- Christmas

Boardy- Board shorts

Rashy- Rash Guards

Chips- French Fries

Cupa`- (a cup of something- used as a pronoun)
Tomato Sauce- Ketchup

Thongs- Flip Flops

Jandals- Flip flops (NZ)

Eskies- coolers

Aluminum (pronounced AL-oo-min-ee-um)- aluminum (uh-loom-in-um)

Gum- Eucalyptus

Chewy- Gum

Reckon- think (they use think too, but they say reckon more frequently)

Boot- Trunk of the Car

Tubbers- Bathing suits

Knickers- Undies

Servets- napkins

Lolli- candy (fruit flavored)

Jelly- jello

Jam- jelly/jellow

Australia – the land of nice people!
Jan 9th, 2010 by Kate
Even though we’re now in New Zealand and I have SO much to write about THIS amazing country – I must go back to Australia as my last email certainly did not do it justice.  Might I suggest going and making yourself “a cuppa” and settling down in front of your computer because I’ve been slacking on the blog writing and I’m about to make up for some lost time!

 I really can’t even begin to talk about Australia until I tell you about the people.  I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a whopping generalization – but I reckon Australians just might be the nicest people on earth.  They are friendly and helpful and outgoing and really just plain fun.  All of them.  Yep.   

 In the month that we were in Australia we camped for 6 days and the entire rest of the time we stayed with Australians that we met while traveling in countries other than Australia, or through couchsurfing.com.  And while we find the country of Australia beautiful and fascinating, in retrospect, it ends up that the people were the highlights of our entire month!

This is the view from our bedroom window on Ian & Leone's beautiful farm.  They have 4,500 macadamia nut trees, 150 head of cattle, and about 50 really cute alpaca! Plus a swimming pool and tennis court - my kind of farm!

This is the view from our bedroom window on Ian & Leone's beautiful farm. They have 4,500 macadamia nut trees, 150 head of cattle, and about 50 really cute alpaca! Plus a swimming pool and tennis court - my kind of farm!

 We met Ian and Leone (Ian is Phoebe’s new best friend – sorry girls back at school, she likes you too but you don’t have alpacas and let her work in your macadamia nut factory) in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam and stayed at their beautiful farm on the Gold Coast.  I think I already mentioned that I found this farm to be a little slice of paradise – and our time here was exactly what we needed after 4 months in Asia.  The air was clean, the scenery right out of one of my favorite magazines, and Ian is one of the most genuine people I have ever met.  Phoebe and Ian were inseperatable the entire time we where there (because she followed Ian around relentlessly) and I dare to say that both of them loved every minute of their time together.  Ian needs to be a grandpa (and soon!) – he will be one of the best ever if his time with Phoebe was any indication.  He was interesting, an incredibly hard worker, funny, kind, and amazingly patient.  I’m so sad that I didn’t get pictures of Phoebe and Ian working side by side in the “nut house” (the macadamia nut processing plant) or Phoebe working at Ian’s booth at the local farmer’s market.  Both are memories that I hold dear and that I know Phoebe will remember forever.

Our view from the porch...

Our view from the porch...

After Billinugel, we moved on to Brisbane.  We met our Greg the old fashion way, through the couchsurfing website, and he spoiled us rotten in Brisbane.  Greg drove all the way down to Coolegata to pick us up, and in addition to letting us stay at his great place, he lent us his car and GPS so we could terrorize the City!  What a great city and a great new friend!  Brisbane is definately a city that deserves some more exploring – we drove by tons of hip looking cafes and a ton of great looking clothing and shelter stores… maybe someday when the US dollar is stronger against the Australian dollar I’ll come back and and do some further retail exploration!

The most fun way to explore Brisbane (Brisy) is by boat - the river runs right through the middle of the City.  We took it to the Contemporary Art Museum - a super wonderful day in a great museum in a great city!

The most fun way to explore Brisbane (Brisy) is by boat - the river runs right through the middle of the City. We took it to the Contemporary Art Museum - a super wonderful day in a great museum in a great city!

And the Kanters in Noosa – we go WAY back with them… all the way back to our hostel in Osaka, Japan!  We had a total blast in Noosa – staying with them was like being at a top rate bed and breakfast, and their kids Nick and Annika were some of the coolest teenagers I’ve ever met.  Noosa reminded us of La Jolla in California (a lot of Australia has reminded us of CA, but with a LOT fewer people and lots more open space).  Pieter and Jane were SUCH amazing hosts – Jeff and I felt like we had known them for years and our friendship came very easy.  They are both teachers and have really great outlooks on life, and on raising kids.  It is so refreshing to come across people (halfway around the world too, imagine that!)  that share similar values about family and friends and the bigger world.  It was also great for the girls to be around teenagers who are fun, respectful, good students, and good people. 

The Wells and Kanters clans

The Wells and Kanters clans

 In Noosa we hiked, beached, kayaked, shopped, went to the movies (movies are OUTRAGOUSLY expensive down under – kids tickets were $16 and adults $22!) and (not so proudly) my kids introduced the Kanters kids to “The Office”.  An “Office” marathon was the highlight of the week for ALL the kids – I think when it was all said and done they managed to get through the first four sessions in their entirety!

 We can’t wait to see the Kanters again, and we hope they’ll put the US on their travel list soon (or at least send the kids out to us for the holidays!).

 After Noosa, we headed back to Brisbane for our flight down to Sydney.  We had a week to kill before Christmas, and didn’t have a plan (or a clue) about where we wanted to be.  Jeff really wanted to do some surfing, I wanted to lay around on the beach, hit a few farmer’s markets and explore the quaint beach towns, and the girls were looking for some kids to play with… so we decided to head to the beach south of Sydney.  We got into Sydney late at night, and couldn’t pick up our rental car until the next morning, so we spent the evening searching the internet for a cheap beach hotel.  And we had NO luck. 

 Australia is really expensive for us to travel in right now – their dollar is very strong against our dollar and they have had major inflation for about 8 years now so we really couldn’t find a single good deal that fit into our budget.  Have I mentioned ever that our budget is $150 a day for the four of us including travel, food and lodging?  We couldn’t find a single hotel even remotely close to any beach for less than $150 to start!

 We were just about to give up and book ourselves into this expensive, lame hotel when this bright green van drove by that said “JUICY” on it.  It was yet another “campervan” that we’d seen all over the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.  For those of you that don’t know this about Australia, they are obsessed with camping.  Many families have their own campervans, but for those that don’t, they have a zillion rental companies (“JUICY” being one of the biggest) that rent all kinds of variations on on the campervan. 

 Phoebe said it first.  “Let’s see how much one of those costs – we can drive it instead of our rental car, and we can live in it too”.  Tessa (having camped more with me that Phoebe has) just rolled her eyes and said “yeah right”.  Jeff said he’d check it out.  I said I’d be game as long as we could get a hotel if it was raining.  So off Jeff and Phoebe went to find us a campervan of our very own.

 But the campervans were totally expensive too.  Two-hundred and fifty dollars a day!  They had one other option – a “camperwagon” for only $70 a day – and it came with a tent, a stove, some chairs, and some other random camping gear.   SOLD!

Our 1995 Ford Falcon camperwagon stationwagon was a real looker.  It had a giant “RENT ME” sign in the back window, a badly dented front bumper, and it shimmied when you went over 80km (about 50mph).  Our tent smelled really bad of mildew, and they forgot our stove.  And it rained on the very first night but it was too late at that point to find a proper hotel.  None of us were happy.

Tessa & Phoebe's bed for 6 nights - in the back of the ole Ford Falcon!

Tessa & Phoebe's bed for 6 nights - in the back of the ole Ford Falcon!

Our little camp site...

Our little camp site...

 But the “holiday park” was really nice – and in a zillion dollar location.  A really nice family moved in across the drive from us and let us borrow a tarp and some poles and Jeff fashioned a nice little living room for us.  Phoebe and I dragged a picnic table over from a empty campsite a few “pads” up – and a bottle of Fabreeze cleaned up the tent smell quite nice.  The sun came out, we got some fresh bread and some amazing local cheese from the farmers market, and even managed to find some proper surf boards to rent.  We had planned on staying for 2 nights, and we ended staying for SIX nights!

This was actually the view from our campsite - our favorite surfing beach was down the cliff on the left side of the pic about 100 meters

This was actually the view from our campsite - our favorite surfing beach was down the cliff on the left side of the pic about 100 meters

  

Phoebe being Phoebe...

Phoebe being Phoebe...

 Tessa and Phoebe, always being the center of their social worlds set about amassing a gang of trailer park kids – they played, swam, surfed, made up dances, learned the ins and outs of rugby, and highly amused the kids and their parents alike with their “American accents”.  It was for sure the best camping location in the world, and much to my surprise, it was a blast and I was sad to leave!  But the vagabonds that we are – we packed up the old Falcon and moved on…

The Surf Beach Holiday Park Gang - Tessa, Phoebe, Jai, Anna, Monique, and Jellena

The Surf Beach Holiday Park Gang - Tessa, Phoebe, Jai, Anna, Monique, and Jellena

And our reason for coming to Australia in December – Bobby – our fabulous friend we met through couchsurfing when she “surfed our couch” back in Phoenix in November of 2008.  She casually mentioned to us that we should stop by Canberra for Xmas, we are SURE never imagining that we’d actually take her up on it!

Day-after Christmas brunch with Bobbi & Chappo- she is a crazy good cook and fattened us up!

Day-after Christmas brunch with Bobbi & Chappo- she is a crazy good cook and fattened us up!

We had a great time in Canberra – everyone told us that Canberra was boring, but we totally enjoyed the National Gallery and their great science center called Questacon.  We had a quiet Christmas morning (Santa even managed to find us and brought the girls olives and pickles – their favorite gifts!) and then had a total Christmas dinner feast with Bobby and her fiance Ben (Chappo).  As an added bonus, a family of real wild kangaroos hopped thorugh the backyard while we finished dessert – a perfect ending to our Australian Christmas!

Not your typical Xmas treat - but we've been without olives and pickles for months so Santa scored a big goal with these treats under our Xmas plant (see plant in background).

Not your typical Xmas treat - but we've been without olives and pickles for months so Santa scored a big goal with these treats under our Xmas plant (see plant in background).

HAPPY NEW YEAR & G’Day from Sydney, Australia!
Dec 31st, 2009 by Kate
New Year's fireworks on Sydney Harbour with the Harbour Bridge in background!
New Year’s fireworks on Sydney Harbour with the Harbour Bridge in background!

Tonight we celebrated New Years 2010 just as we had planned – overlooking Sydney Harbour with spectacular fireworks!  An amazing site, and one we have been looking forward to since we started planning our trip around the world over five years ago!!!

 Tomorrow is a big day for us too, we will be traveling to New Zealand, but January 1st also marks the completion of 6 months of our travels.  In some ways it seem like we have been gone forever, and sometimes we don’t know where the time went!  Many of you have been following us on our blog so you know about many of our crazy adventures – but for those of you that lost track of us long ago, so far we have been to the Bahamas, Canada, Japan, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Australia! 

 We are TOTALLY having the time of our lives – we have seen and done totally amazing things, met the most wonderful people, eaten food you can hardly imagine, slept in places that you don’t want to imagine – and have grown incredibly as individuals and as a family.  All and all, the amazingness (is that a word – if it isn’t it should be!) of our experiences FAR outweigh the challenges of travel.  The girls impress us every day with their curiosity, self-sufficiency, flexibility, humor, kindness (to each other even!), and map reading skills.  They have become very mentally strong, and VERY physically strong.  They can laugh, and make us laugh, even in the most challenging situations.  They find beauty in things that just 6 months ago they would have found shocking. 

 We have climbed great mountains and great walls, scuba dived on pristine reefs that give us hope that people can and do CHOOSE to take care of the environment rather than destroy it, and have celebrated festivals hand-in-hand with people who were once considered enemies.  We have been told more than once, by people from very different backgrounds, that Tessa & Phoebe are the best ambassadors the US could ever have – and we believe it.  It is impossible for us to thank in words all of the amazing people that have helped make our trip possible (and wonderful- you know who you are out there!), so we will thank them through our actions in passing their good will forward whenever and wherever we can.

 fireworksSo as we jet forward (literally) into 2010 – we want to wish the very best to all of our friends and family around the world in the new year – health, happiness, freedom, clean air, water and soil, enough food to eat, education, good friends, loving families, and good beer (one guess who said that!).  So, until we meet again…

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