29 July 2010

Another Last Family Vacation

Our first "last big family vacation" was in 2002, if I remember right. We all went to Alaska for a week of salmon fishing, hiking, petting sled dogs and petting glaciers. Since then we've had one other notable LBFV, to Maui in 2005. There was also 2006, which was the year that we could have had another  LBFV, but chose to split up, guys to Alaska with Uncle Kevin, girls to the Caribbean.

I know we do this because the kids are grown and going separate ways and we all feel a need to get in one last big fling together. Although there have been the alternating annual treks to South Carolina and Arkansas for Christmas, we don't usually consider those as vacations, though I suppose we could.
This one, to Barcelona, was really something. A place we probably woudn't have selected had it not been for the fact that I was there on business. Caroline is almost 18 so I suppose this was the first one with all adults, sort of, if you include me. Although I was working I got to spend a fair amount of time with the family. Mainly it was nice just to see everyone together and the interactions that are uniquely ours.  

....the punches in the arm, the nicknames that go back to some event known only to us, the words and phrases that are just ours, a sister laying comfortably next to her brother. Occasional talk about weddnig plans, career plans, college plans, but mainly a few days of no plans. Just time together. Time for shared bathrooms that bring back memories of a full house in St. Louis. Time for shared food across a crowded table. Time to remember vacations past with toddlers in tow. Time for strolls in ancient churches on ancient streets. A moment or to for thoughts of Spain and old lessons from grade school about the long past glory of this country. One more time to just be together and be thankful that we have each other. Was this really the final LBFV? Perhaps, but not the last time together.

14 July 2010

Macho Machu Pichu

Did it. Along with a friend climbed to the top of Waynapichu, the big monster that towers over Machu Pichu, shown below. At the time of the taking of the picture there were about 60 people there and I was clearly the oldest. Don't know whether that's cool or a sign of my stupidity.

Peru is an amazing place. Full of people so warm and friendly. A Peruvian colleague told me it was due mainly to the magnetic force of the earth being so strong there. He said it softens the personality or some other such new age rant. I tried not to laugh since he clearly believed what he was saying.

The country is full of hard working poor. Not lazy poor, but back bent, gnarly handed, grey haired men and women who physically toil more in a week than I do in a year. You can't hang around these folk for long without feel ashamed for every having said " I had a hard day". We must open our doors to people like these.

Food, wow. Ate my first guinea pig, which inspired me to tell of the day I murdered Buster, a hamster. Murder is perhaps too strong, accidental homicide perhaps. Also a little Alpaca, a unique meat with a texture like poultry and a taste like beef.
I have to go back to this place and spend much more time buying alpaca sweaters, sampling amazing desserts, stare once more at the Southern Cross, climb more steep trails to majestic views, wonder at the altar of more churches, adjust my lungs to the higher air, and return with a few more phrases of Spanish.

09 July 2010

Flying across Peru

One of the things I've learned in my travels is that the concept of a "remote village" is fading. I can pick up enough of a weak cell signal to know that in all the little enclaves of humans below there is access to the same flow of info I have back home.

Just a few years ago the ancient dirt roads that crisscross the valleys and mountainsides were the only way of gathering news from the outside world. And just a few generations before the same was true for mountain people everywhere. No more.

Bye Santiago

I could live here, if I never had to go through customs

Probably the most beautiful big city that I had never given much thought to.

07 July 2010

Leaving Brasil

As big and explosive as I'd heard. Wonderful people. So much potential in the markets. Rio yesterday, Sao Paulo today.

06 July 2010

A place I never expected to be

Inside the Peruvian Consulate to Brazil in Rio. Waiting for a friend to sort out a visa problem. Staring at the walls. When an official comes in the room to make an announcement I shrug, nod, and roll my eyes along with the others as though I understand what is being said. The silent universal language of citizens waiting in government offices.

04 July 2010

Independence day

Let freedom ring. Watching Britney's top ten hits on mtv in a hotel in Buenos Aires. (Hit me baby was #1)

02 July 2010

In Search of Higher Education

Just returned from a week retracing the hallowed steps of Lee, Jackson, Stuart and others in search of a college for our youngest daughter in the heart of our native Dixie. Clemson, Furman, Davidson, Elon, Washington and Lee, James Madison. Each with its strengths and weaknesses, each in need of more students like my daughter. Some appropriately focused on helping her find a career, others more interested in helping her find herself (assistance she does not need). A great week that also included church with Grandmother, and assorted get togethers with her Uncles Kevin and Rodney, Aunts Diane and Mildred, cousins Katie and Becky. Also two great hikes in the Shenandoah Valley.

Still a long road ahead and a lot of decisions to be made over the next year. I'm sure she could have found better company than me, but for a mom and dad there is no better way to spend a week than close to a child helping shape a big decision. When you first hold your child there are things that flash through your mind. Riding a bike for the first time, learning to read, walking.... Somewhere in those little thoughts is the college search.