Monday, August 31, 2015

Travel Fun…..

 

Our travel was fairly long and convoluted but everything worked well and we arrived in Bangalore with no problems.

We had a slow start to the trip as our flight out of Atlanta was delayed by about two hours but since we had a 6 hour layover in Amsterdam, we were not too worried by it.

We made friends with the flight attendants and were treated wonderfully during the flight.

In Amsterdam, we found a place to have breakfast and feasted on ham and cheese omelets, bread and hash browns. 

Since I am always in “noticing” mode, I had to laugh when we passed a smoking booth that was a glass box about 6 feet square that had FOURTEEN people in it, including one man smoking a cigar.   I certainly hope that the ventilation was good in there!!!

The airport had several bench areas that were designed so that you could lay down while you waited…..IMG_1994

We boarded our flight for Delhi at 1: 00pm and managed to sleep for several hours during the 8 hour journey, arriving in Delhi at 1:00am.  We cleared customs and then started looking for the domestic transfer area so that we could give them back our bags and get our boarding passes.

People kept telling us to go to the right but we couldn’t ever see exactly where we were supposed to go.  One man  told us to take the elevator to the 2nd floor and we finally realized that the LONG line we were seeing were people waiting to get onto the elevator.  We joined the queue to get our documents checked and then another line to actually get onto the elevator.

When we arrived on the 2nd floor, we walked into a large room that was crowded with people waiting to check in for their flights.  There were people everywhere….sitting on the floor, lying on luggage and basically filling every possible area.

We picked our way thru the room and asked the guard what we were supposed to do.  He looked at our tickets and said that since we didn’t have our  boarding passes that we should go out of the room and into the airport lobby.  We were SO glad to be able to bypass the crowded room!!!

We realized that we were going to have to go thru security again and that we had our full water bottles with us so we discretely poured the contents into a potted palm tree!! 

Going thru security was an interesting experience.  Women have a separate line from the men because they are only serviced by women TSA agents.  AND, they have a curtained booth that is used to “wand” everyone who goes thru.

Also, I caused all sorts of problems because I hadn’t pulled all of my computer cords out of my bag!!  

Finally, each of our carry-on bags had to have a tag on it and the tag was stamped as it went thru the security process.   Before we could board the plane, we had to show them our stamped tags.

I said earlier that I was impressed with the “sleeping” seats in Amsterdam, but Delhi has them beaten!!  At every gate, there were 8 or 10 lounge chairs and many were inhabited by snoring passengers…..

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There were several that were open, but we were afraid that if we laid down and got comfortable that we would sleep thru our flight departure!!!

I have to be honest here and say that we had hit a wall emotionally.  I told Michael that I think the allure of travel had worn off completely!!!!  But once we had found some coffee, tea and pastry, we felt a lot better.

One other interesting thing is that the airport is considered to be a “quiet airport” meaning that there are virtually no boarding announcements.  Most information is relayed via large screens in the lounge area.

The funniest thing that happened was that we were sitting by a young man who was a Sikh, complete with turban and beard.  He looked very austere and serious, however when we started heading down the gang plank he was right in front of us.   The walkway wasn’t well marked and we weren’t sure exactly where to go so we were just following him.   Finally, he turned around, laughed and said “Dont be mad at me if I am taking us to the wrong plane”!

As we were boarding the flight, we were treated to a beautiful Indian sunrise….DSC05318 The flight to Bangalore was only 3 hours and I think that Michael and I both slept for most of it.  I kept snapping my head back as I was sleeping and had the thought that I was giving myself whiplash!!!

We quickly found our bags and walked out to be met by a driver from NCBS (National Center for Biological Sciences).  He helped us get everything to his car and then he drove us to our apartment….well almost.   It ended up that we had been moved to a different complex so we piled back into the car and drove to the appropriate one.

The apartment is wonderful with two bedrooms and bathrooms and a comfortable sitting area.  There is satellite TV and, most importantly, excellent WIFI.  We had several bottles of water, two packages of cookies and a plate of fruit waiting for us when we arrived!!!

We unpacked all of our cases and were picked up by Krushnamegh at about 1:00.  He showed us around our complex and helped us to find the Dining Hall where we enjoyed a simple meal of rice and curry sauces….

DSC05320He asked, somewhat worriedly, if it was too spicy and was visibly relieved when we said that we loved spicy food!!!

Next, we drove to the NCBS campus and explored the area where Michael will be headquartered for the next 3 weeks, ending the time sitting out in a beautiful covered courtyard…..

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We talked until Michael and I couldn’t hold our eyes open anymore…..DSC05323

….. and then were given a car service to return us to our apartment.

Once there it was shower, snack and BED!!!!!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Ready to hit the road….so to speak

Well, here we sit in the Atlanta airport, ready to board our flight to Amsterdam in a few hours. 

Michael and I were talking about the fact that this trip has been a long time coming and that there were so many times that we didn’t think that it was going to happen at all.

But then last night I had the sudden revelation that we are spending 5 weeks in India and two weeks in Nepal….WOW!!!!  I feel like I have lived with my head down getting ready to travel and hadn’t stopped to think about the trip itself!!  We are so excited about spending a longer time in Bangalore and then are cautiously excited about the Trek in October. 

Getting ready for the trip has been an exercise (and sometimes frustration)  in planning as we have had to pack for two completely different types of trips.

The Trek has required a lot of extra gear, including sleeping bags, snow gear, trekking poles and a myriad of other interesting items.  We have also had to take into account the fact that our flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara (where we start the trek) only allows 35 pounds of luggage each so bags have had to be carefully planned.  We finally solved part of this problem by organizing for most of our bags to be stored in Bangalore while we are in Nepal and then picking them up again after the Trek is over.

There have been a few funny moments, like me standing in the aisle holding two different paperback books and deciding which to buy based on how heavy they were……

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Or looking at our stack of stuff to get into the suitcases and wondering exactly how it is all going to fit…..

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In the end, we have four checked bags….two normal suitcases and two duffel bags…..

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In addition we are each carrying a backpack and Michael is also carrying a computer satchel.  AND, we have another duffel bag packed away to help us get to the Trek and then get home with whatever we buy, and we KNOW that we will be buying stuff!!!!

Once our flight leaves Atlanta, we fly to Amsterdam, then to Delhi and then Bangalore, with a total travel time (door to door) of about 40 hours!!  We arrive in  Bangalore at 9:00am on Sunday morning and the biggest hurdle will be staying awake on Sunday until a respectable hour.  We are hoping to stay upright until at least 6:00pm!!!

Hold on to your hat……

 

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Adios Colombia!!

 

On Saturday morning, we were picked up by Victor and Katherine and taken to the airport to make our flight back to Bogota.  

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We left with heavy hearts, but with remembrances of so many good friends.  AND, we now have invitations to come back to almost EVERY city in Colombia!!!!  So many people told us “ Mi casa is su casa” (my house is your house).

We checked into our Bogota hotel and went out in search of a few more souvenirs to bring home.   I had found a store called Artesanias de Colombia which carried authentic artwork from all over the country.   We were astounded with the selection of goods that they carried.  After about an hour in the store, we left with two BIG bags of stuff to use to decorate our home.

We walked around in the neighborhood and were impressed with the quality of stores in the area.  We picked out a restaurant and each ordered a roasted chicken dinner (1/2 size).  Little did we know that the 1/2 referred to half of a CHICKEN and not just a smaller serving size!!!  

It was served with a crisp salad with oil and vinegar dressing and well cooked miniature potatoes.

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For dessert, I had a Chocolate Ice Cream bar which was rich and heavenly…..

 

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We caught a taxi back to the hotel (can you say “Bat out of hell”) and spent the rest of the day crashed in our room.

As we were checking out of our hotel on Sunday morning, I looked at our stash of suitcases and carry-on bags and realized that we had turned into one of THOSE people…..

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….you know, the ones who carry large BAGS of stuff onto the plane!!!

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As I write this, we are about 3 hours out of Atlanta and are looking forward to getting home and resuming normal life for a few weeks before we head to India!!!

Michael and I have talked a lot about our thoughts on Colombia.  Before leaving the U.S., we were asked repeatedly why we wanted to go to Colombia….wasn’t it dangerous!!!

Instead of danger, we found gracious people who loved their country very much and were extremely happy to show it off.

As Michael wrote in a Facebook post….. “What we most want to say is that Colombia and its people have provided us with some of the sweetest experiences of our lives. It has been safe, comfortable and a magnificent adventure. If you don't come for a visit, you are missing a really wonderful people and place. Oh, and the food is to die for!”

 

Thanks for traveling with us!!!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Oops…we did it again!!!

On Friday we had planned to visit a local Coffee plantation, but when it came down to it, we were simply too pooped to go!! 

So instead we started our packing and it was a good thing we did because once again we had bought too much stuff…….

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….and had to go buy a new suitcase…..

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Part of the problem was a largish wooden “Praying Mantis” that we had purchased and it needed special packing!!!   I had measured it earlier in the week and had bought a plastic box that it would fit in, but then I had to pad it out with lots of dirty clothes….

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After we finally got everything packed, we headed for a light lunch at our favorite restaurant (Versus).  The waiter knows us well and immediately brings us two Club Colombia beers!!!

As we were walking back to the hotel, we passed two police officers on the corner across from our hotel.  They appeared to be stopping traffic from traveling on one side of the road in front of the hotel. 

As we looked around, we realized that people were gathering along the street and being good “Sticky Beaks” (Australian for nosy), we sat down on a step and decided to watch and see what was happening.IMG_1813

Michael finally asked one of the security guards who was standing outside and he told us that it was a Bicycle race coming thru.   We checked it out after the fact and found out that it was a race that went thru all of the Departments (States) of Colombia.

As the time grew closer, cars stopped in the middle of the street and cabbies parked their cabs and stepped out to watch as well….IMG_1814

And here they come…..

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It was fun to be part of the festivities and we cheered with the rest of them when the riders came thru……

Colombia Bike Race thru Armenia Video

After that excitement, we spent some time sitting on the roof of the hotel and enjoying the sunshine, except for this rain shower that flew thru…..

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In the evening we met up with Victor and Katherine for dinner at La Fogata (reportedly the best restaurant in Armenia).  I ordered the appetizers and selected sautéed mushrooms and Chunchullo with Guacamole.  Chunchullo is fried pig intestine….I know it sounds gross, but  it  was fried crisply, salted and was wonderful!!!

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I forgot to take photos of our main courses and  desserts, but suffice it to say that the food was delightful and the company was entertaining!!!

 

And in a final note, Nicky Jam and his entourage were staying in our hotel before and after their concert on Thursday.  Although they looked rough, they all seemed to be quite nice……photo 1

Monday, August 10, 2015

Many goodbyes…..

 

As Michael headed out for his last day of working in Colombia, I had one thing in mind……to find out how to make our Cellphones usable in foreign countries.  We had been told that they were “unlocked” so that we could use a different countries SIM card, but they hadn’t worked when we first arrived.  SO, I spent about 2 hours following posts on the internet and finally discovered how to make mine work!!!!

I picked up Michael’s phone at his lunch break and we were both fully connected by 2:00pm!!!   Hallelujah!!!

Over the last two weeks, I had seen an older man standing outside of the University gates, doing a brisk trade selling lollipops, gum, cigarettes (one at a time) and renting cell phones.  I had smiled at him and then spoken to him over the last few days.  Today, he came up and gave me a  packet of Chiclets as a gift.   It was so sweet!!!   I had planned to take a selfie of him and myself when I returned that evening, but he was gone and I haven’t seen him since.  It is interactions like this that make my trips so very special and memorable!!

A group photo was taken after the last talk and I just happened to be in the audience so ended up right in the middle towards the front…..the only accountant at the ColEvol meetings!!!!

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To end off the Symposium there was a special presentation by a dance troupe from the area.   Our friend, Katherine was one of the dancers and I especially wanted to see her talents!!

We were not disappointed!!! 

This is beautiful Katherine….

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The first series of dances were telling the story of the coffee producing process, from preparing the ground, planting, picking and roasting. 

I was impressed that they did it all barefooted!!!IMG_1749

 

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Here is a video of the “Coffee” dance…..

Coffee Dance Video

They then did a series of performances that reflected traditional Colombian dances.  The costumes were gorgeous!!!

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This next dance featured the man who did a flamenco type of tap dance….IMG_1786

Here is a video showing his fancy footwork…..

More Colombian dance video

This woman’s costume was covered with three dimensional flowers….IMG_1789

And the finale was Katherine in a magnificent, colorful dress!!!!IMG_1791

Check here for the video of her dance…..

Katherine's Gorgeous Dance Video

 

And then it was time to say goodbye to all of our new Colombian friends…

…..Olga….

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…..Fabian….

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…..Henry

IMG_1801…. Camilo….IMG_1803

…..and many others.  Little did we know that we would be seeing most of them one more time as everyone was going to a local bar for a proper celebration!!

The night ended with many hugs and promises to come back to Colombia!!!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

School is out…..

When I meet Michael each day at the University, I normally have to wait for a few minutes and  have enjoyed watching the goings on around the campus.  There is a “crosswalk” just in front of the entrance and there are cars, motorcycles, scooters, taxis and bicycles going every which direction.  I put crosswalk in quotes because cars do not stop for you to cross.   You just find a gap and step into it!!

I have seen motorcycle restaurant deliveries from a pizza place, a fried chicken joint, a Chinese restaurant and a Japanese restaurant. 

The most amazing thing are the variety of people riding motorcycles or scooters.  There were Mom’s dropping off their daughters, boyfriends picking up their girlfriends and one vendor who was carrying mops, brooms and other cleaning supplies on his.

The first order of business for this morning was to say goodbye to Juliana.  She was having surgery to remove pins from her wrist on Wednesday morning so was having to leave the school early…..DSC05240

The special course at Universidad de Quindio was winding down today and they were busy getting ready for the Symposium that starts on Wednesday.  The course had about 50 students with  6 or 7 different teachers, each leading 3  sessions…..DSC08237

Michael said that the students were all bright and that it was a pleasure to get to know them and work with them.

He even met his “academic” granddaughter….. image1

….Tatianna did graduate studies with one of Michael’s former students.

To celebrate the end of the school, we were all taken to a local restaurant for a wonderful meal.   It started with a phenomenal soup, however we have no idea what type of soup it was….maybe potato, maybe bean…but definitely tasty!!!DSC05256

It was followed with a breaded fried pork, rice, home made potato chips and salad…..DSC05257

There was much discussion among these biologists as to what type of flower was used to garnish the plate!!!

It was a jovial group with many speeches thanking the organizers.

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We relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, but did venture to stick our hand out of the hotel window to take some photos of a magnificent sunset behind some huge Thunderclouds…..

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The lightning display as the night went on was electrifying!!!

Friday, August 7, 2015

TAXI!!!!

After our quiet Sunday, I was ready to do some sight seeing on Monday so as Michael headed to the University, I caught a taxi to the “downtown” area of Armenia.  I had wanted to do some shopping and the hotel had suggested that the taxi drop me at a “Pedestrian only” street where I could walk and shop.

When the taxi finally stopped, the driver motioned both directions to let me know that I could walk either way.

I started walking to my left, enjoying stopping in various shops along the way.  Eventually I came to Bolivar Plaza….I think that there is one of these in every city in Colombia!!

This square was almost empty except for the mandatory statue of Bolivar….DSC05211

….and a very cool statue on the other end…..DSC05212

There was an attractive, modern Church located on one side of the square…..DSC05213

….so I went in for a look……

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The stained glass was very effect in the interior and made for a pleasing, restful chapel…..DSC05217

Back out on the street, there was a small art exhibit, featuring several fiber art pieces.   They were all behind glass and hard to photograph (I got LOTS of photos of my reflection in the glass), but here is one of them……DSC05220

I was drawn to the designs on the sidewalks as they looked as if they were rippling along…..DSC05210

The effect was quite eerie as I walked along.

I loved this vendor as she drove her “Coffee Taxi”.  There were pump pots of coffee sticking out of all four windows…..

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I continued my stroll looking in various stores that I passed.  There were TONS of shoe stores, specialty clothing stores and one largish department store.  Even though it had a lot of different types of goods, it still seemed that it was fairly specialized.

Naturally I found the “Dollar” store (also known as the 1,000 peso store), and checked out several tourist type stores that mostly sold small kitschy items that had “Colombia” emblazoned across them.  I did come across one tourist store that had some nicer things and enjoyed shopping there.  The store clerk was young and went out of her way to help me.  She kept using her IPhone to translate information for me, including telling me that I could by THREE pairs of earrings for the price of two!!

When the Taxi had dropped me off, I had spied this church in the distance….

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and decided to make the 3 block trek to visit it.   Unfortunately it wasn’t open, but the outside architecture was enjoyable….DSC05229

It was right across the street from a huge park that was covered with lunchtime revelers….DSC05231

I had tried to be very careful to make sure that I knew where I was, but I didn’t walk back the EXACT way that I had come and was soon LOST!!

I walked thru several streets that seemed to be dedicated to one type of store, In the pet store street, I passed one particular shop that had a large cage of birds just inside the door, with a very grumpy looking cat tethered under them!!

I passed an area that catered to artist supplies and saw several craftsmen hard at work in the back of their stores. 

The next block contained home improvement stores with many specializing in just one type of product.   One store sold only crown molding and I admired the ceramic tiles shown in this store front….

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I even passed one woman who had a shirt EXACTLY like one of mine…..DSC05237

By this time I was well and truly lost!!!  I finally stopped and asked an old man and young man who were working in a restaurant and they pointed me in the basic direction.  I finally found my way back to the pedestrian-only street and immediately went in search of an ice cream cone to ease my mind!!

Considering how lost I had gotten just walking 3 blocks to a church, I decided not to chance a 2 mile walk back to the hotel so hailed a taxi instead….my first  solo ride in South America.   I showed the driver the name and address of the hotel and off we went.  Almost immediately we hit a traffic jam so he started making turn after turn and eventually I wasn’t exactly sure WHERE he was taking me!!   I was just about to tell him that I would go ahead and get out, with plans to catch another taxi, but he made one last turn and pulled into the parking lot for the hotel.   I shouldn’t have worried!!!

That evening, Michael and I planned to go to the Mexican Restaurant that we had enjoyed last week, but they were closed, so we went next door to the Sports Bar called “Versus” .   I decided to try something different from last time and ordered a “Tino” which was listed under “Perros”.  Now, perros means dogs in Spanish and we were hoping that these were hot dogs and not the four legged kind.  Never to fear, this delicious meal came out and I dug in…..DSC05295

I kept saying that I couldn’t believe how good the Wiener tasted but then discovered that there were two strips of fried bacon underneath it.  THAT may have attributed to the taste a bit!!!

It was served with a sweet mustard, much like the ones that we had enjoyed in Australia.  Likewise, the Ketchup was tangier than what we were used to but tasted great with the meal!!

Another great day in Armenia!!!

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