Greece Top Five – Last But Not Least

Acropolis – Our mid-day visit to the Acropolis was warm and crowded, but definitely worth the time and effort. The Parthenon was impressive despite the scaffolding for renovations. We almost skipped the nearby Acropolis museum and I am glad we invested an hour or two touring the museum exhibits. The top floor of the museum is a to-scale layout of the Parthenon with the saved wall reliefs and architectural parts and pieces from the east and west pediments placed where they were found in the temple.

Warm sun, pool, and beaches – We called our visit to Greece a vacation from our year-long vacation. It was nice to slow down the travel pace and play in the sun and water. The house we rented on the island of Crete had a pool which was heated most days by the sun. We explored many beaches on the south side of the island and found two that we enjoyed and frequented. The waves were not too cold and the beaches consisted of coarse sand or small rocks. After two days of beach-going, we purchased several sun umbrellas, which made our trips to the coast much more pleasant.

Food – Where to begin . . . OK let’s start with desserts. We tried many types of pastries and baklava to make sure we could make an informed decision about which one is the best. 🙂 Our conclusion: dark chocolate-covered baklava “rolls” with slivered almonds sprinkled on top. In other categories, we thoroughly enjoyed Greek salad, tzatsiki, olives, stuffed grape leaves, zucchini balls/patties, grilled red peppers, and tomatoes stuffed with rice and cheese. Since the climate here is warm, we had many choices of delicious fresh fruit at the supermarkets, including cherries, apricots, nectarines, and watermelon.

Cruise – Our overnight ferry from Athens to Crete was much nicer than expected. The large boat was similar to a cruise ship – nice restaurants, activity areas, cabins, bellhops to assist with luggage, etc. This was probably the closest thing I will experience to a cruise, at least for the foreseeable future.

Acqua Plus Waterpark – Crete boasts about their water parks in tourist brochures and websites. We visited Acqua Plus because it had the largest variety of slides and runs. We had an enjoyable, filled with easy to medium-excitement rides for me and adrenalin-causing runs for the kids. And fortunately we visited the park before the official tourist season began in the second half of June. Almost no lines, no waiting!


Spring in Switzerland

These are a few of my favorite things . . . . . . . .

Steep, rocky mountains partially covered with snow

Green valleys in the high mountains dotted with traditional Swiss houses – If we lived in Switzerland our house would be of traditional style with red shutters and many window boxes.

Numerous waterfalls – Lauderbrunnen is nestled in a valley of 72 waterfalls.

Many spring flowers, especially pink tulips, red geraniums, and yellow buttercups.

Gondola and cog-wheel train rides – These were fun ways to see the landscape up close and from above, move from town to town, or just ride for entertainment. Unfortunately two of the most picturesque gondola rides were closed because we visited just before the summer tourist season begins at the end of May. We will just have to visit Switzerland again!



France Favorites

Eiffel Tower — This really is a huge, eye-catching structure. We visited it during the day and night, but only went up to the observations decks during a sunny hour where we viewed the city. The nighttime lighting is impressive, especially when the lights flash on and off once per hour.

Pedestrian malls – France is a great place to wonder around the cobblestone streets, look in store windows, eat ice cream at a sidewalk café, and appreciate the many colorful flower beds and pots.

Stained glass windows in cathedrals and churches – We visited many cathedrals and churches to see 13th to 19th century stained glass windows, with the most impressive ones at Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

Countryside – While staying in Semur en Auxious we drove and biked through the countryside. We saw many acres of green pastures and yellow mustard fields, white cows, ambling creeks and canals, houses with bright flower boxes in small villages, yellow and purple flowers cascading down rock walls, and fruit trees with white and pink blooms.

Pastries and bread – This country knows how to make delicious breads and pastries! We sampled many types because Ethan walked almost daily to a local boulangerie. One of my favorite treats was similar to a croissant with chocolate chips included throughout.

Morocco Memories

Colors of Fez — The city, especially the Medina area, is filled with colorful things to see (and buy!) Embroidery, woven fabrics of silk or wool, leather slippers and jackets, porcelain and pottery, spices, and tiles.

Landscape — Morocco is not just kilometers of red, sandy desert. We saw many acres of green pastures and pine or cedar forests with snow.

Cooking Class — Eryn and I took the all-day Moroccan cooking class at Café Clock, just a one minute walk from where we stayed for three weeks in the Medina. We had a wonderful time getting acquainted with our four classmates, all from the US. And the food we made was much more flavorful than what we had sampled at area restaurants. The lentil soup and date rolls were delicious! Souad, our entertaining and knowledgeable instructor, told many stories and shared interesting facts about food, shopping, and life in this country

Fruit — One of our guides told us that Moroccans name their seasons by which fruits are ripe. We visited during orange and strawberry season. Yum!! We often enjoyed fresh oranges or strawberries for breakfast and just-squeezed OJ with dinner.

Donuts — OK, donuts don’t seem very Moroccan, but two street vendors in the Medina made and sold these amazing treats which we greedily consumed on at least two occasions. We learned during our month in this country that the locals love their desserts! We tried many varieties of yummy, sugary creations. The only down side is that chocolate is not often an ingredient in their tasty snacks and after-meal treats.

Cast off — Finally, after 8 weeks my arm was free of a cast!! Recovery of strength, movement, and flexibility is a slow process, but fortunately I see improvement each day. I experienced three weeks of physical therapy at a large medical clinic and the therapist taught me stretches and exercises I can do for the rest of our trip. I am not doing pushups yet. Maybe that will happen in France.

Peru Favorites


Reaching the summit and then the base of Huayna Picchu at Machu Picchu — This was quite the hike! In the picture Huayna Picchu is the tall steep peek in the background. The trail includes over a thousand stone steps, steel cables in spots for assistance, and at the summit one wooden ladder to climb. And I did the whole thing, even with a cast on my arm. Doing the hike wasn’t necessarily fun, but finishing it was great.

Visiting my brother in Arequipa — Richard researches earthquakes in Peru and it was fun to learn more about his project. And he was very gracious to be our tour guide and translator while in this city.

Chocolate Cooking Class in Cusco — The kids and I took this class at the Chocolate Museum. It was fun to learn more about cacao, but even more fun to make chocolate candies with a wide selection of “mix-ins.” My favorite additions were chili powder, nuts, coconut, and coffee nibs.

Colorful clothing of women living in mountain villages — Each geographic area has a unique hat and often a specific wool jacket or sweater as well. Red was a common hat color.

Many, many flowers in plazas or gardens and along mountain roads — We were very fortunate to visit this country in spring when the flowers are more abundant.

Best of Our Time in Chile

Colors in Valparaiso — This town is saturated with color, which I love. We hiked colorful stairs up the hillside neighborhoods, admired vivid murals along walkways, and observed many blue/red/yellow/green/pink/purple houses from lookout points.

Eating Ice Cream in a Plaza – We especially enjoyed this pastime in Valparaiso and San Pedro de Atacama. The ice cream was usually yummy and watching the many locals and tourists was never dull. On the weekends the plaza we frequented most in Valparaiso had a fair atmosphere – street jugglers, face painting, roller bladers, trinkets for sale, popcorn, and cotton candy. And an abundance of dogs meandered by.

Street Life in Valdivia — Each day food, entertainment, craft, and tourist-service vendors line the river-front roadway towards the outdoor fish/produce/meat market. We tried the blue cotton candy and the traditional peach drink along the street and several times purchased yummy cherries and blueberries at the open-air market.

Quinoa – This is a staple food in Chile and we enjoyed it in salads, guacamole dip, and soups and as a side dish. It is a great source of protein and grown abundantly in the high plains. I was inspired to find online quinoa recipes to try when we get home. Ethan said he would love to have quinoa salad in his school lunch next year.

New Animal Sightings — We observed viscachas, vicunas and guanacos, which are three varieties of animals that we had not seen on this trip or prior adventures. Viscachas look a lot like rabbits and the other two mammals remind me of llamas.

Argentina Favorites

Buenos Aires – Central District — The main or government section of town is very interesting because of the fountains, ironwork on balconies of old and new buildings, political posters or signs, and many dog walkers since a major part of the population lives in apartment buildings. One dog walker we observed had 12 dogs on leashes.

San Telmo area of Buenos Aires — This is the area where we stayed and is the oldest neighborhood. I loved the cobblestone streets, outdoor restaurants, and smaller plazas.

Ice Cream — Argentinian ice cream is delicious and we made sure we had some of this calcium-rich food each day!! I think my broken arm was an indication that I need to eat more. 🙂 My favorite flavors included a variety of chocolates, blackberry with cream, and lemon mousse. Each town we visited had a variety of ice cream shops and most made their own flavor creations. We had a good time sampling flavors from the different vendors.

Chocolate — Bariloche is the chocolate town in Argentina. In just two blocks there were over 12 chocolate shops that catered to locals and tourists. One store even sold chocolate cell phones and cameras We sampled goodies from two shops and decided that this would be a great place to retire!

Fresh Orange Juice — A glass of fresh squeezed OJ is one of my favorite drinks. All restaurants we patronized offered this selection on their menus and we were even brave enough to purchase this fresh drink from a couple of street vendors after watching them squeeze the oranges. Muy delicioso!

Mountains, Lakes and Rivers — Even though I have vivid and painful memories of the Andes mountains in Argentina because of my broken arm, the area is very beautiful! My favorite river was Rio Azul, with very blue waters, as you might guess from the name.

New Wardrobe Accessory

Three days ago I added another accessory to my wardrobe for the next six weeks — a cast on my right arm from the palm of my hand to four inches above my elbow. Since I am typing with just my left hand, the summary below gives the highlights.

*Steep, enjoyable hike up part of a mountain in the Andes to a lookout and rest spot

*Impressed by many flowering lupines plus beautiful views of the town of El Bolson, Lago (lake) Puelo, and snow-capped mountain peaks across the valley

*On hike down I slipped on loose gravel and sand. Put my right hand behind me to lessen the impact of the fall, not a good idea!

*I heard and felt a large snap in my right wrist. Then LOTS of pain and funny looking wrist

*45 min hike down to the car and a 60 min drive to no-charge (we found out later) government hospital, most of which was on a bumpy, gravel road

*Two very painful tries by two different nurses to get me hooked up to an IV with some pain medication

*X-rays and diagnosis of a broken and out-of-alignment radius

*No bone doctor on duty that day at government hospital so I was transported via ambulance (with lights flashing) to not-free private clinic to see bone doctor there. (An ambulance was required because of my IV, which I did not want removed at the hospital and then re-inserted at the clinic. Two pokes was enough!!)

*Bone doctor takes 30 minutes to manipulate bone so joint is in alignment again and put on cast while I am under anesthesia

*Start to learn how to survive as a lefty and keep cast dry in upcoming rainy weather

*Make plans to get two more x-rays in two different towns – at one week and two weeks after break to make sure joint is healing properly

Dubai Favorites

Wild Wadi Waterpark—This park has many fun rides, even for a non-daredevil mom like me. A new experience was riding inner tubes on the water slides that propel you uphill between the downhill slides. You do not have to get out of the water and carry your tube up flights of stairs.

Tall buildings with very unique shapes and features–One high-rise apartment building looks like it has been twisted to give a spiral effect and the base of the building rotates once in 24 hours so each apartment has an ocean view for part of a day. Dubai has many “ests” including the tallest occupied building in the world.

Dubai Mall – Wow, what a mall this is! It includes an aquarium with a huge window of a fish tank in the mall, decadent cake and cupcake shops, the largest candy store in the world (about the size of a grocery store in the US,) a Versace Store just for children, and a four-story indoor fountain.

World’s largest dancing fountain—Each afternoon and evening the Dubai Mall presents a water fountain show with Arabic and pop music, colorful lights at the night show, and choreographed sprays of water on a 30-acre manmade lake just outside the mall buildings. We did not get to see the evening performance, but we enjoyed one of the afternoon shows.

What are the kids doing for school?

That’s the first or second question people ask us when they learn we are travelling throughout the world for 12 months. And some of you asked that question too before we left home. If you want to know more, here are the details:


I did not subscribe to or purchase a specific curriculum program for our 7th grader and our 8th grader. Rather I looked at the specific learning outcomes their teachers would cover if they were at their brick and mortar school. Then I found materials that covered the educational outcomes. For all subjects except math, they have the same curriculum, including assignments and tests, even though they are in different grades. As you can see from the lists below, the books come from a variety of sources and most of them, fortunately, are available on kindle or other e-readers.


Math Books for Eryn:

Algebra II Essentials for Dummies (kindle)

Algebra II Workbook for Dummies (workbook)


Math Books for Ethan:

Algebra I Workbook for Dummies (workbook)

Algebra Practice (workbook)

8th Grade Use It! Don’t Lose It! (workbook)


Science Books:

Spectrum Science Grade 7 (workbook)

Spectrum Science Grade 8 (workbook)

Elements and the Periodic Table (workbook)

Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin Walker and others

Phineas Gage: Gruesome But True Story About Brain Science by John Fleischman


Writing Book:

Fearless Writing Essay Guide (middle school level) by Danielle Denega


Reading and Religious Books:




Adventure, survival Lost   in the Barrens Farley Mowatt
Responsibility Red   Kayak Priscilla Cummings
Perseverance Eric   Liddell: Something Greater Than Gold Janet Benge
God’s Leading Finding   Waldo Ken Smith, David Smith
God’s love, survival Child   of the Crossfire Ruth Alycon Fleck
Faith, perseverance Zion   Champion for God Joy Matthews
Perseverance, survival Far   North Will Hobbs
Literature Holes Louis Sachar
Intelligence, Fortitude, Courage Adventurous   Women Eight True Stories Penny Colman


Books about Countries or Continents We Visited:




Australia (optional book) New   Great Australian Flying Doctor Stories Bill Marsh
Namibia Hyena   Nights & Kalahari Days Gus and Margie Miller
Botswana In   the Company of Cheerful Ladies Alexander McCall Smith
Botswana (optional book) 20 Chickens for a Saddle Robyn Scott
South Africa 50   Flippen Brilliant South Africans Alexander Parker
South Africa (optional book) Don’t   Look Behind You Peter Allison
South America The   Case of the Monkeys that Fell From the Trees Susan E. Quinlan
Greece Galen & the Gateway to Medicine Jeanne Bendick
Greece Archimedes & the Door of Science Jeanne Bendick


Social Studies Books:

Homework Helpers US History 1492-1865 by Ron Olson (kindle)

Homework Helpers US History 1865-present by Ron Olson (kindle)


Social Studies Books – Additional Reading:




USA Horrible   Histories – The USA Terry Dreary
Colonial Horrible   Histories – Cranky Colonials Elizabeth Levy
Elizabeth I Beware   Princess Elizabeth Carolyn Meyer
Mary Queen of Scots Mary   Bloody Mary Carolyn Meyer
Ben Franklin Ben   Franklin (10 Days) David Colbert
Revolutionary War Funny   But True History – Revolting Revolutionaries Elizabeth Levy
Revolutionary War American   Revolution Bruce Bliven
Revolutionary War Secret   of Sarah Revere Ann Rinaldi
Abigail Adams Abigail   Adams Girl of Colonial Days Jean Brown Wagoner
Late 1700’s – Yellow Fever Fever   1793 Laurie Anderson
Sacajawea Sacajawea Joseph Bruchac
War of 1812 Billy   Green Saves the Day Ben Guyatt
Industrial Revolution1780’s + The   Industrial Revolution: How Science & Technology Changed the World Carla Mooney
Texas Alamo Victor   Lopez at the Alamo James Rice
Davy Crockett Davy   Crockett: Young Rifleman Aileen Parks
Underground Railway The   Freedom Stairs Marilyn Weymouth Sequin
Civil War Shades   of Gray Tim O’Brien
Civil War Hear   the Wind Blow Mary Downing Hahn
Civil War Across   Five Aprils Irene Hunt
Civil War Elijah of Buxton Christopher Curtis
Reconstruction Era The   Coffin Quilt Ann Rinaldi
West Exploration Jason’s   Gold Will Hobbs
Early 1900’s – Ukraine Days   of Terror Barbara Smucker
1900s – Typhoid Deadly   Julie Chibbaro
Theodore Roosevelt Theodore   Roosevelt Up Close Michael L. Cooper
20th Century Horrible   Histories – 20th Century Terry Deary
Women’s Suffrage You   Want Women to Vote Lizzie Stanton? Jean Fritz
WW1 Horrible   Histories – Frightful First World War Terry Deary
WW1 Unraveling   Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Home Front During WWI Ann Bausum
Great Depression The   Mighty Miss Malone Christopher Paul Curtis
WW2 Horrible   Histories – Woeful Second World War Terry Deary
WW2 We   Were Heroes: Journal of Scott Pendleton Collins, a WWII Soldier Walter Dean Myers
WW2 Pearl Harbor Under   Red-Blood Sun Graham Salisbury
WW2 Rosie   the Riveter: Women Working on the Home Front Penny Colman
WW2 Navajo Code Talkers Nathan Aaseng
Holocaust I   Have Lived a Thousand Years Livia Bitton-Jackson
Holocaust Shadow   of His Hand (Daughters of Faith   series) Wendy Lawton
After WW2 The   Circuit Francisco Jimenez
Civil Rights Movement My   Louisiana Sky Kimberly Willis Holt
Civil Rights Movement The   Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 Christopher Curtis
Civil Rights Movement I   Am #4: Martin Luther King Jr. Grace Norwich
Vietnam War All   the Broken Pieces Ann Burg
Vietnam War The   Cracker: Best Dog in Vietnam Cynthia Kadohata
Cold War Smuggler’s   Treasure (The Wall book 3) Robert Elmer
Communist China Red   Scarf Girl Ji-Li Jiang
Communism The   Seventh Escape Jan Doward
Reagan Ronald   Reagan Up Close James B. Sutherland
9/11 Thunderdog Michael Hingson


Observations, Challenges, and Favorites in South Africa


Life after Apartheid – Some South Africans are still figuring out how to deal with prejudices and past injustices from Apartheid. We spoke with several white individuals in the central part of the country who told us about areas considered unsafe to visit because “there are so many black people living there.” And others told us about white people losing farms that had been in their families for many generations because the government wanted to give their land to black families to make up for racial inequalities in the past. Both of these perspectives were sad to hear.


Pannekoek – This Dutch pancake is very popular throughout South Africa. It is usually about 10 to 12 inches in diameter and much thinner than traditional pancakes in the US. They are often rolled with a sweet or savory filling. One favorite way for South Africans to enjoy their pannekoek is with sugar and cinnamon rolled inside and sometimes topped with a light sugar syrup. We enjoyed eating this traditional food at a Pannekoek Restaurant in Drakensberg. Yes, the majority of items on the menu were pannekoek meals. Jerry was the only one in our family who ordered a savory pannekoek—butternut-filled pancakes with a chili sauce. Yummy! The rest of us got our sugar fix with pannekoeks filled with and smothered with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, bananas, and/or fresh whipped cream.



Christmas away from home – We had to put most of our family Christmas traditions on hold for a year. But we were able to continue a couple of our holiday traditions, even though we were south of the equator and experiencing summer weather instead of playing in the snow. My sister graciously sent Eryn and Ethan red stockings that were very similar to the ones they have at home and Santa filled the stockings on Christmas Eve with candy, gifts, and goodies. As part of our Christmas dinner, we prepared two of my favorite traditional dishes: pumpkin pie and cranberry jello salad. The pie recipe I used was for fresh pumpkin, since you cannot buy canned pumpkin in Cape Town. So the spice, sugar, and milk ratio was a bit different than my preferred recipe. I used my mom’s cranberry salad recipe and found all the ingredients to make this yummy dish.


Car accident on our last day in South Africa – A traffic cop signaled us to enter a busy intersection that was not controlled by traffic signals, or robots as they are called in South Africa. Unfortunately a driver coming from the road to our left did not heed his yield sign. He entered the intersection right in front of us and we could not avoid hitting him. No one was hurt, no air bags deployed and the other driver was polite and reasonable, fortunately. But we still had a lot of paperwork to complete – police report, rental car company reports, credit card company reports, etc. Our rental car company did not seem to care which vehicle caused the accident. They only stressed the importance of filing a police report and completing their paperwork. If the other driver did not file a police report he is considered at fault and then his rental car company has to automatically pay for repairs of both vehicles, regardless of how the accident occurred.



Kruger National Park – We were able to spend a whole week at Kruger and stayed in five different rest camps, but we only travelled to a fraction of the 7,523 square miles of the park. We saw a wide variety of animals, including three uncommon sightings: wild dogs, two leopards and a cheetah with her five cubs. One unique aspect of our visit was the abundance of wild flowers and not-so-tall green grass. Neither I nor Jerry had visited Kruger before during the spring season.


Visit with Dennis and Maritjie – Jerry met Dennis during his student missionary year at Helderberg College in the 1980’s and has kept in touch with him over the years. Dennis, a pastor, and Maritjie, a nurse, live outside the small town of Koster, which was founded by Maritjie’s family several generations ago. We had a good time touring their family’s farm and the surrounding sights. It was good to visit places with people who were familiar with the area and could give us added perspective.


Drakensberg Mountains – This forested area reminded us of Oregon, including the cold air, rain and fog. But all the forests in South Africa are planted, rather than naturally occurring. So, the trees are in nice straight rows and all about the same height, which takes a bit away from the out-in-nature feel.


Table Mountain – This is truly one of the most beautiful places in the world. The view of the mountain from Cape Town with a bit of cloud (tablecloth) over the top never gets old. And when looking out over Cape Town, the ocean, and the surrounding area from the summit on a clear day, you can’t help but feel that it definitely deserves its new title: one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Challenges and Favorites in Namibia


Getting enough sleep while in Etosha National Park – The best times to view the animals are at sunrise, sunset, and late in the evening at the lighted waterholes in the rest camps.  So we got up very early and went to bed very late and tried to nap in the afternoon during the heat of the day.

Credit Card Fraud – We learned the hard way not to let our credit cards out of our sight when paying for goods and services. When we were in Swakopmund a store or restaurant employee apparently took a photo of our card before returning it to us and then “new” cards were made so that the offenders could make fraudulent purchases about two weeks after we left Namibia. In the course of one weekend they purchased about $7,000 of stuff at grocery stores, a phone/stereo/music store, and a few other stores. They were busy! By the end of the weekend we realized something strange was happening and called the credit card company to cancel the number, go over the list of fraudulent purchases,  and ask for new cards to be sent to us on another continent.  It was all quite a hassle and we now keep a close eye on our credit cards. If a waiter or waitress cannot bring a credit card machine to our table, Jerry carries the card to where it can be scanned.

Flat tire on bad roads – Many roads in Namibia are unpaved, but most are a smooth enough gravel surface that doesn’t cause tire problems. We did, however, experience a particularly rough road one very hot afternoon and ended up with flat tire. We drove with the spare tire to the next very small town, with consisted of a hotel, restaurant, bakery, small market, and tire store. The tire store employee said that he had been quite busy because of the poor road surface and we ended up buying a new tire because the flat one was not repairable. Fortunately the whole adventure only resulted in a 90 minute delay to our destination.



Visiting Etosha National Park – We saw many types of antelope, lions, rhinoceros, giraffes, warthogs, jackals, and zebras. The most rare sighting was a leopard just after it had killed a kudu in a small waterhole. We watched the leopard struggle for over an hour to drag its kill to a tree nearby. The next day the kill was in between the trunk branches of the tree and a hyena was munching on it.

Hiking up and running down the sand dunes in Sossusvlei

Celebrating Eryn’s Thirteenth Birthday in Swakopmund – This was our first real city in about three weeks and we were able to find birthday candles, cake, and ice cream for a proper birthday celebration

Touring the Krystal Gallerie in Swakopmund – The mining of platinum, diamonds, and other precious stones is an important part of economy of Namibia. This museum/store contains many beautiful gemstones, including the world’s largest quartz crystal cluster on display.

Botswana Observations

Eighty-five per cent of the country is the Kalahari Desert so the land and air is very dry for most of the year. That was a bit of shock for our skin, having just spent several weeks on the Australian coast. Botswana is the setting for the films The God’s Must Be Crazy I and II. If you have seen one or both of them you have an idea of the type of climate and terrain we experienced.

Many places of business, including shops and hotels, display a picture of the president, Ian Khama. I don’t ever recall seeing a picture of a current US president at any US businesses or offices.

The way to identify large, long trucks on roadways varies from country to country. At home we are used to seeing “long load” signs on such vehicles. In Australia “road train” signs are displayed on the back and in Botswana these vehicles carry a red and white sign that says “abnormal.”

One of the ways Botswanans show respect is how they hand an object to another person. I will explain how this would be done by a right-handed person. The giver holds the object in his or her right hand and places the left hand on the right forearm as the object is given to the recipient. We observed this when waiters or waitresses served us and other customers food in restaurants and when store clerks handed us and other customers receipts and change.

We have read the first four books in the Number One Ladies Detective Series by Alexander McCall Smith. Mma Ramatswe, the main character, frequently likes to have tea at the President’s Hotel in Gabarone, the capital of Botswana. So when we were there we went in search of the hotel, as well as streets and towns named in the books.  We found Zebra Street, which is close in name to Zebra Drive where Mma Ramatswe lives and saw many tiny white vans that are mentioned frequently by the author. We had tea and cake in the corner of the balcony of the President’s Hotel, which has been named in honor of Mma Ramatswe. (See the photo section of our website for a picture of this yummy experience.) We also recognized Botswanan words from the books (Mma, Rra, dumela) while talking with local individuals.

Stop signs do not seem to mean stop, but rather slow down and proceed at your own risk. Jerry frustrated several local drivers by actually stopping at a stop sign.

Top 5 Lists for Australia


Like the US, Australia is a large country. We had to prioritize what parts of the country to see and how to minimize travel time and costs between those locations. We hope to return to Australia some day to see and experience more.

Prices for everything are high compared to the US, and especially higher than India, where we had just been. I guess you could say we experienced sticker shock the first few days because of the huge difference between Indian prices and Australia prices after converting both to US dollars. So our challenge was to find fun but not-so-expensive activities. As you probably noticed from Eryn and Ethan’s daily posts, we visited many parks with playgrounds, national parks, and beaches, all of which had features that were unique to Australia.

Government regulations sometimes seemed to focus on the not-so-important. Patrons of bookstores are not allowed to sit on the floor, according to a rule by the Australian equivalent of OSHA. Train passengers may be fined for putting their feet on seat cushions.

The typical operating hours for shops and restaurants on Sundays caught us by surprise. Many shops close midafternoon and many restaurants are closed on that day.

Avoiding sunburn was a challenge. Australians enjoy many sunny days (yeah!) and the ozone layer in that part of the world is not as dense so sunscreen is extra important.



Ayers Rock at sunrise and sunset 

View of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge in Sydney Harbor from a ferry on a sunny day

Indian Ocean beaches in Darwin and the northwest coast, especially at sunset

Similarities to life in the US – After being in Asia for two months and knowing we would travel to Africa after Australia, we really appreciated being a place for a few weeks that seemed more like home.

Watching the humpback whales play in the water breech at Gnaraloo Station on the northwest coast

Eating in Australia

Foods new to us:

Anzac biscuits – This is crisp oatmeal and coconut cookie was sent by women to solders in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War I because the ingredients do not spoil quickly. And the general population quickly discovered this tasty treat.

Lamington – This is a favorite sweet of Australians and our family. It consists of sponge cake (regular or orange flavor) dipped in chocolate and then covered with flaked coconut. Eryn and I want to find a recipe for this when we get home so we can make some of this yummy food.

Vegemite – The dark colored spread for toast or bread is salty and flavorful, even if not to our liking.  All of us tried it and opted out of additional servings.

Crumpets – Even though we have all been to Great Britain, we had never tried this type of griddle cake. We discovered that they taste better if toasted slightly and then topped with jam.

Damper – This bread is like a large scone and cooked over coals from a campfire. Mel from Ambelindum Station cooked ours over campfire coals in a large cast iron pot. We smeared it with cream, butter, and/or jam which made it even more delicious!

Tasty cheese – Yes, this is really a type of cheese not just an adjective. It tastes similar to cheddar cheese.

Weet-bix  – This is a common, hearty breakfast cereal made by Santarium Company. I grew up eating Ruskets, a very similar cereal made in the US so this cereal brought back many memories. Eryn and Ethan tasted it, but decided to stick with another cereal with fruit and more flavor.

Top 5 Lists for India


Heat – We thought Thailand was hot but soon learned after arriving in India that parts of Asia can get even hotter. Temperatures of 100’ F or more were common and most buildings do not have air conditioning.

Difficulty crossing the street on foot – Being a pedestrian in India is scary. Refer to Jerry’s post about driving in India for more details.

Garbage and smell – Most of the cities we visited in India have not figured out a good way to deal with garbage and waste water. Garbage in the streets was a common site and cows (considered holy in India) freely roamed the streets and walkways. We learned to step carefully to avoid cow pies.

Constant pressure from street vendors, drivers, and children in the street to buy something – Most of the time just saying no or walking in a determined manner was fairly effective when we were not interested in their products or services. At the India Gate in New Delhi an older woman wanted to put decorative Henna dye on Eryn’s hand for a fee. Eryn said no but the woman rather forcefully grabbed Eryn’s hand and almost started to apply the dye. Fortunately the woman understood we were not interested when I rather loudly said NO and Eryn was able to pull her hand away. Hired drivers can often earn a bit of extra money if they “just stop by” a bazaar that sells souvenir-type items with their unsuspecting foreign passengers. They ask their passengers to “just have a look for a few minutes” before proceeding on to the originally planned destination.  We experienced this with two drivers during our stay in India. The first driver believed us when we said we were not interested in going into the bazaar. The second driver and some bazaar salesmen were more persistent, but finally got the message that we did not wish to shop there.  

Staring at white females – Many young men in India stared at Eryn and me, which was very uncomfortable. And because of Eryn’s age, they stared at her more often. In addition to staring, they would also take photos of us. They would pretend they were taking a picture of something else with their cell phone and then at the last second point the camera at one or several of us. Maybe famous actors and actresses are used to this, but it made me feel uneasy.



Overnight camel safari

Delicious food such as garlic naan, mango lassi, and aloo ghobi

Intricate marble and sandstone carvings such as the Taj Mahal

Visiting the Bishnoi villages where we saw two schools and inside a family’s home

Beautiful colors of women’s clothing, tapestries, and towns. Jaipur is called the pink city because many buildings are painted pink, a color that absorbs less heat from the sun. Jodhpur is the blue city. Many years ago the homes around the fort were grouped according to caste.  The Brahmin caste, which is the highest caste, painted their homes blue. Now anyone can paint their house blue and quite a few of the residents have done so. Jaisalmer is the golden city because the rock used to make the fort and surrounding homes is yellow.

Eating in India

Before our trip we had eaten and enjoyed quite a bit of Indian food, thanks to local restaurants and friends like the Bird, Colburn, Henriksen, and Sukrutham families. While in India we enjoyed many tasty paneers, curries, aloo ghobis, masalas, lassi drinks, and dals. The descriptions below are Indian foods new to us or variations of familiar favorites.

Garlic naan – This bread is extremely tasty when chunks of fresh garlic are added to the top of the dough, baked in a tandoori oven and then topped with butter. A few restaurants we tried did not have or use a tandoori oven so we discovered the hard way that using the correct type of oven is essential.

Chapatis – We had previously eaten chaptis made with wheat flour. And while in India we enjoyed wheat chaptis with potatoes and onions added for extra flavor. Also, the Bishnoi village woman we visited made chapaties from millet flour because they did not grow wheat.

Pakora – This appetizer dish consists of deep fried vegetables with crunchy coating. It tasted best when served with a green spicy sauce

Chai tea = This became one of our favorite breakfast beverages.

Snack foods – We tried many types of packaged snack foods made in India, such as crackers, chips and snack mix. The most widely available flavor was masala and spicy tomato was a close second.

Marriage in India

Arranged marriages are still the norm in India, although the process has changed a bit in at least some parts of India with advances in technology and western ideas of falling in love and selecting your own spouse. Many families place advertisements in newspapers to find a potential spouse for their son or daughter. The larger newspapers have a whole section dedicated to matrimonial ads in the Sunday edition. The ads, which are similar to the personal ads in US newspapers, include information about age, height, looks (fair, handsome, beautiful, slim,) religion, caste, intelligence, education of potential spouse or father seeking spouse for son/daughter, type of employment of potential spouse or father seeking spouse for potential son/daughter, and city or village. One ad seeking a wife desired a “homely or working class girl.”

Who has input or makes the decision in the selection of the husband or wife varies from family to family.  In Agra we stayed with a family that was searching for a wife for the oldest son, about 28 years old. The family put an ad in the local newspaper and in just one day after the ad was printed, the family received almost 30 phone and email responses. Quite a few of the responses were made directly by the potential bride, rather than her father or mother. After a few days the young man and his mother planned to narrow down the list and set up a time to visit with each potential bride still on the list. The son, who lives with his parents, has an MBA and runs his own export business, wants an attractive and intelligent wife. The mother feels that it is very important that she and the bride get along. Her mother-in-law has never liked her and that has caused friction in the family. She wants the situation to be better for her oldest son.

The youngest son has already fallen in love with a young lady he met in college and his parents like and approve of her. , As a result, no search or traditional marriage arrangement will be made for him. He would like to get married, but the oldest son needs to marry first. So the search is on for a wife for Shiron.

Top 5 (or so) Lists for Vientiane, Laos


Laundry – I attempted to go to one shop but not it did not open at the posted time and we had a ride to catch, so I had to do all the washing by hand in the hotel sink.

Visas – Lots of worries on this topic. Would we get a visa on arrival for Laos? We weren’t absolutely sure.  Would the India visas be ready when we returned to Thailand? Would Thailand let us back in after leaving so recently and the first visa expired the day after we left? Fortunately all worked out well.

Hiking on the slippery rocks and trail on the jungle




Swenson’s Ice Cream Parlor

Beautiful traditional skirts worn by women in offices, shops, and villages

Visit to Tad Xai Waterfall

Pastries and breads from bakeries and coffee shops/cafes

Bike ride along Mekong River

Eating in Vientiane, Laos

During our week in Laos we enjoyed many foods and noticed both a Thai and French influence in the cuisine.  Most of the fruits and vegetables are the same as in Thailand and because of the previous French occupation, the people of Laos enjoy French bakery items such as croissants, baguettes, and cakes.

Rice – The principal food in this country is steamed sticky rice, which is stickier and drier than in Thailand. One way to eat this rice is to take a small handful and dip it in a sauce.  We enjoyed sticky rice dipped in a thick, spicy tomato dip at one restaurant.

Yogurt – Just like in the US and many foreign countries, fruit and plain yogurt is available in Laos. Unintentionally I also tried a flavor of yogurt that included red kidney beans, nuts, corn, dried fruit, and fresh fruit.  It was interesting, but I wouldn’t say tasty.  Now I look at the pictures on the front of the package more carefully if the ingredients are not written in English.

Long Bean Salad – Long beans are a common vegetable in Laos. At one restaurant the bean salad was made with blanched and sliced long beans, peanuts, and a spicy, oily dressing. Very tasty!

Laab – It is a spicy, sour protein dish often made from meat or poultry.  It includes lime juice and fresh herbs. The name means good fortune in the Lao language and is considered the national dish.


Top 5 Lists for Thailand


No tap water for brushing teeth, drinking, ice, washing fruits and vegetable

Communicating with those who don’t speak English in rural parts of the country

High heat and humidity

Coping when Eryn got left behind at a subway station (doors to train closed before she got on.) Fortunately Eryn knew which stop we were going to use and just caught the next train. She was not stressed at all. I did not remain as calm.

Figuring out life on the road — living out of suitcase and backpack, how to get laundry done for four people, how to do both homeschooling and travel activities


Riding an elephant thorugh the rain forest

Looking at the very colorful orchid blooms at an orchid farm or in public buildings such as the Bangkok airport

Relaxing with a Thai foot massage

Attending the full-day cooking school

Seeing all of the beautiful details on many wats (temples)

Scooters in Thailand

Scooters seem to outnumber cars in parts of Thailand. They are a common form of self or family transport, as well as a hired vehicle or delivery service, such as pizza delivery. In Bangkok scooters are usually driven by men and not women, probably because of the busy roads. In Chiang Mai men and women, as wells as teenage boys and girls, drive scooters. We saw many, many scooters parked in front of high schools and universities.

It was not unusual to see two or three people on a scooter. Several times we saw four people on a scooter, but three of them were young children.  And we often observed small dogs riding in the front basket of a scooter.  One of the scariest sights was a side car attached to a scooter with one or more propane tanks going over a bumpy road.

Driving a scooter without wearing a helmet is a 200 bat fine (about $6 US.) Since there are so many scooters on the road and bunched up in front of cars while waiting at intersections, police officers don’t attempt to pull offenders over to write a ticket. The officers just merely walk around the scooter drivers stopped at a red light and take 2 photos for each driver not wearing a helmet – one photo of the driver and one photo of the scooter’s rear license plate. Using a cell phone while driving a car or scooter is also a 200 bat fine.

Going to School in Thailand

The Thailand constitution guarantees children a free basic education for twelve years. However, it is not clear that the schooling is really free. We talked with the father of a high school student (one of the drivers we used for out-of-the-area trips) and he told us that he has to pay each year for his daughter to attend a government school. In addition to government-provided schools, there are a large number of private schools that offer some or all of the instruction on English. Children are required to attend school through the ninth grade. 

School days are officially Monday through Friday, and we also saw quite a few students at middle and high schools on Saturdays. The school year begins in May and ends in March. Students have a break in September.

Preschool through university students wear uniforms.  The color and style of the clothing usually identifies which level of schooling the student is attending: pre-school, elementary, secondary, or university.  Preschool and kindergarten boys and girls wear red/pink shorts and shirt with an apron over the top. Starting with first grade, the standard girl’s uniform is a knee-length dark blue or black skirt and a white or light blue blouse.  Boys wear shorts or pants that are dark blue, black, or khaki and a white shirt.

In addition to the standard uniform, students in elementary through high school also have 2 or three other uniforms that they wear during each week. These other uniforms include

  • athletic (polo shirt and athletic/warm up pants) – worn on the gym/athletic day
  • boy/girl scout type uniform – worn on the day that students spend a couple of hours of the school day working on scout badges/honors
  • historic or cultural uniform – worn in some area. In northern Thailand the Friday uniform was in honor of the Lana kingdom.

University students have an accessory added to their uniform:  tie for the young men and gold or silver pins on their blouse collars for the young women.  One day on a bus I sat next to several female university students and noticed that some of them had one pin and some had two pins.  I asked them why they had different numbers of pins and they did not understand.  But they seemed to get a good chuckle out of my attempt to talk with them.

Even the teachers wear uniforms.  I noticed that at high schools the teachers were in military-style uniforms.  In elementary schools they all wore the same color shirt and pants or skirt with each day having a different combination of shirt and pants/shirt colors.


Eating in Thailand – Part 3

Foods new to us:

Rambutan – The skin looks like a red squishy ball with lots of green hair. It has kind of a grape texture on the inside and a very mild flavor. The edible portion is about the size of peewee chicken egg and includes a seed that looks like an almond.

Dragon Fruit – We ate two varieties: white and pink.  Most of the time this fruit was served in cut pieces, such as in a fruit salad or on top of a pancake.  It was tasty and looked appealing. We also tried a dragon fruit shake and concluded that this beverage taste like drinking cut grass.  We did not order it again.

Thai ice tea – This is a great drink on a hot afternoon or evening. We discovered that the secret is sweetened condensed milk.

Soy bean leaves – We had to do a bit of research to find out what we had eaten one evening at a vegetarian restaurant in Chaing Mai.  None of the restaurant employees knew the English word for the food so we went to the internet.  We discovered that we had consumed soy bean leaves fried in tempura batter, a very tasty food especially with a spicy sauce.

Eggplant – Thai egg plant looks nothing like US or Indian eggplant.  We ate two varieties: 1) size of large green peas and crunchy in curries and 2) soft golf-ball size and when cooked is very similar to summer squash.

Rice cracker with watermelon seeds — A sweet and spicy snack that has a texture similar to rice krispies bars

Seaweed chips – Lay’s Company makes a seaweed chip that is quite like a Pringles chip in flavor and texture. We tried this and decided once was enough.

Khao Soi – This is a very popular noodle dish in Northern Thailand and Thai folk told us that it even originated in Chiang Mai.  It is like a soup with egg noodles and served with many small bowls of additional ingredients for flavor varieties. Ingredients to add include red onions, pickles, boiled egg, soy sauce, and spicy sauce.

Eating in Thailand – Part 2

More familiar foods with a new twist:

Tumeric –I am used to seeing ground turmeric in a spice bottle, not fresh in the produce section of a grocery store.  It looks like orange gingerroot and I think it is peeled and grated or finely chopped before adding to foods.

Curries –We tried all types of curries and my favorite is still green curry. The vegetables added to the curries were a bit different, such as several types of eggplant.

Fresh and fried spring rolls – We love vegetable spring rolls so we ate this food many times during our stay in Thailand.  We made our own fresh spring rolls while at the elephant camp and the fresh basil added a great flavor.

Pickled garlic cloves – This was served as a condiment at a Thai meal we attended, just as dill or sweet pickles are sometimes served at a meal in the US. They were surprisingly mild in garlic flavor and the mixture of vinegar and garlic tastes was enjoyable.  Pickled garlic, finely sliced, is often sprinkled on the top noodles with a sweet sauce and is frequently added to scrambled eggs in Thailand.

Soda in plastic bag with a straw – Several times in Bangkok we saw individuals purchase soda from a street vendor or at a snack shop in a mall. Instead of filling a cup the vendor filled a pint or quart size plastic bag with soda and inserted a straw into the top.  The bag had handles so that it was easy to carry.

Heinz chili sauce – At first glance, this looks like a typical glass Heinz ketchup bottle that has orange ketchup instead of red.  The bottles we saw were printed mostly in Thai but the words “Heinz” and “chili sauce” were in English. It tastes like a milder version of Tabasco and has a similar color.

Waffles – At Doi Suthep (temple in the mountains in Chang Mai) we tried waffles from one of the local street vendors.  Eryn and Ethan had a chocolate waffle sandwich and I ate a banana on a stick surrounded by a waffle.  Both types were tasty.  Waffles seem to be a pretty popular snack since we saw quite a few waffle vendors in elevated train stations and on streets in Bangkok.

Magnum ice cream bars – Yes we’ve had ice cream bars before, but none quite this good!! This brand is super creamy and lots of great Belgian chocolate flavor. A wonderful treat on a hot afternoon in Thailand.

Eating in Thailand – Part 1

Familiar foods with a new twist:

Fresh fruit – Many tropical fruits that we enjoyed eating fresh: mango, papaya, pineapple, watermelon, banana, coconut, kiwi, and pomello. Most of bananas are small (about 3 or 4 inches long) and we saw several varieties in the store.

Fruit shakes – These consist of ice, fruit (pieces and/or juice,) and sometimes a bit of milk whizzed together. Flavors we’ve tried: coconut, mango, banana, orange, lemon, watermelon and pineapple. Plus combinations of these fruits –mixture of lemon and pineapple is especially good. We quickly learned that a fruit shake does not include ice cream, but it still very refreshing on a hot day.

Fried bananas – We tried two different versions of this.  The first was crisp-fried banana pieces on skewer with sweet syrup for dipping. And the other variation was banana slices dipped in batter and then deep fried with no sauce.

Coconut ice cream with fresh coconut curls served in a coconut – This tasted and looked great!

Fresh coconut as an ingredient in green curry soup – It took us a while to figure out what the crisp, white, crinkled French-fry was in our curry soup. Our “aha” moment happened in the produce section of a grocery store where we could buy a package of them.

Papaya salad – Typical ingredients included grated papaya with carrots, nuts, and spicy dressing.

Mango or banana pancakes with orange or chocolate syrup – This turned out to be one of our favorite breakfasts in Chiang Mai.  Nature’s Way Restaurant topped the pancakes with a variety of colorful fresh fruit pieces and even created face designs with fruit for Ethan and Ethan. We are definitely going to make these types of pancakes when we get home.

Dried pomello, pineapple, apricots, strawberries, jackfruit, and kiwi – Women from the hill tribes in northern Thailand sell all types of dried fruit  at tourist markets along the roadside.

Eggs – Most grocery stores and street markets sell brown eggs instead of white and the shells are not washed well. A couple of street markets even sold pink eggs, much to Eryn’s delight!

Mushrooms – The Thai people love mushrooms and we saw and ate so many new varieties.  One common type is large and frilly (looks like brown lettuce) and in Bangkok we often ate mushrooms with long skinny stems and very small caps.