Broken Arm: Take 2

There is now another broken wrist in the family.

Today, almost three years after Mom broke her arm while hiking down from Refugio Piltriquitron in El Bolson, Argentina, we hiked up to Scout Lookout at Zion National Park in Utah. We arrived here yesterday after a long, icy drive through Oregon, Nevada, and Utah (fortunately, neither Dad nor I crashed the car, despite below-zero temperatures and 80 mph speed limits). This morning, after a high-calorie breakfast, I drove us into the park. 28 degrees Fahrenheit never seemed so warm.

We paid a visit to the visitors’ center-turned-shop before heading to the Court of Patriarchs. There, Ethan and I discovered the ease of letting ourselves slide down the icy hills while hanging onto the handrails. Mom did not enjoy this as much as we did.

We finalllllly found a parking spot at Zion Lodge. It was only a half-mile walk from the Grotto Trailhead, where we started hiking. Ethan had decided not to bring a backpack so I was stuck carrying his water bottle and his hat and gloves as he shed them.

Ethan and I were far ahead of the parents, but we stopped occasionally to let them catch up. The exposed switchbacks up the first mile or so were the hardest. After we entered a shady canyon, the going was easy until we reached eight switchbacks. At the top of those, we reached the infamous Walter’s Wiggles. Apparently these are really difficult, but they seemed very easy, not steep, and short. However, they were also very icy and snowy and we had to go slowly.

The infamous Walter's Wiggles. Now just imagine them snowy and icy

The infamous Walter’s Wiggles. Now just imagine them snowy and icy

Along the way, Ethan and I befriended siblings Ethan and Porsche. Ethan II advised Ethan I on ice hiking technique and the physics of friction. At the top of the Wiggles, we stopped at Scout Lookout while everyone else on the trail continued to Angel’s Landing. Because we didn’t have crampons or any other sort of shoe gear, we played it safe and did not go on.

Ethan and Eryn at Scout Lookout

Ethan and Eryn at Scout Lookout

Ethan and I started down the canyon ahead of Mom and Dad. To take on icy Walter’s Wiggles, we slid down on our feet with our hands behind us, in the form of a crab. This worked well, but Ethan abandoned this approach when some grown men were coming down behind us. In his pride, he continued on down a switchback and out of my sight. Then the two men behind me, who were going much faster than me, exclaimed, “Are you all right?? What happened?”

That was when I saw Ethan, who was grimacing and clutching his left wrist. After assuring him that nothing was broken based on his mobility, the men continued on. And so did we.

We carefully picked our way down to Zion Lodge. We peeked in there and then returned to our hotel, where Mom and Dad set about trying to find a clinic that worked with our insurance. Mom and Ethan finally left for a clinic 40 minutes away. There, they determined that his radius was in fact fractured all the way through, though they only had to put him in a brace because the bone is still aligned.

The worst part about all this is that Ethan will still be able to take notes in AP government as he is right-handed (though he won’t be able to play the piano, saxophone, or guitar).

Djellaba on Jerry

A djellaba is a Yoda-like robe worn by both men and women while outside in Morocco. Here in Fez, it is not uncommon to see a woman walking down the street in a fuzzy felt djellaba that is black with pink polka dots.

Dad and I went out shopping this morning while Mom and Ethan were at P.T. Dad has been mentioning getting a djellaba, and Mom is against the idea (“Where would you wear it? And when?”), so it seemed like the perfect time.

We walked down the street a ways, looking for a good-looking shop where we could seek shelter from the cold rain. While we were being given the typical spiel by the owner, Dad’s phone rang: Mom and Ethan were back, it was raining, and they didn’t have a key.

They called back a few minutes later: Ethan had a key in his pocket.

Meanwhile, Dad had been convinced to try on a thin cotton djellaba. This one was white, and Dad called it “too see-through.” The next two were thick and woolen and dark, and these were modeled with more enthusiasm.

1300405 23925 MA Fes, djellaba, Jerry

Jerry Models a Cotton Djellaba

We left without buying one, though, with Dad saying, “My wife doesn’t like this, but we’ll think about it.”

So…

 

 

Ciao!

Dulces and Death Marches

We ate a whole kilogram of ice cream today.

The flavors were orange-chocolate, blackberry, and bitter chocolate. Dad and Ethan are about to set in on another half-kilo with raspberry and chocolate with dulce de leche. This was after we got home from a hike up to the top of Cerro Amigos, looking down from several viewpoints, a walk along the Rio Azul, and a trek to and from Cascada Escondida.

Oops… I just had two spoons’ worth of the new ice cream that we got from Los Lupulos, the restaurant where we had pizza and a salad of lettuce, carrot, beets, palm heart, boiled egg, and tomato. My pizza was, of course, drowned in vinegar. Once we were done eating, Mom and Ethan went off to play foosball while Dad and I talked about gravity, photons, and the bending of the universe. Mom returned to the table after another boy came to play foosball.

We walked back to our Fiat and then drove to the Cabañas. Juan, Paz, and the rest have returned from the lake, and the pool is halfway filled.

Ciao!

In the Land of Lady Gaga

We’re now in the same country as Lady Gaga after five-and-a-half months of (totally distant, as opposed to just distant) separation.

We’re also in the same town as Andre Joubert and his wife, Rebecca. Mr. Joubert taught with stuffed animals (like snakes and road kill) at Helderberg College when Dad did, back in 1980. (See? My dad is still alive after Noah’s flood!) After chatting to Mrs. Joubert- the president’s secretary- we walked over to their house, where we found Mr. Joubert. We exchanged snake stories, including my dead puff adder from yesterday, and then he pulled out a large plastic container, undid the hole, and invited me over to see. “Cool,” I said. In the background, Mom said, “Was that a good cool or a bad cool?”

He showed them the item, too, and Mom just said “Oh.” She was probably relieved that the big fat puff adder wasn’t rearing up to bite us. Instead it just flicked its tongue and gave us the evil eye. After talking about puff adders some more, we left to our accommodations here in Somerset West. For supper, we ate at Spur, whose subtitle is “Steak Ranch.” We didn’t have steak, though. Ethan had a chicken burger with Appletizer, Dad had a Greek salad with a thick chocolate malt, Mom had a chicken wrap with a chocolate shake, and I had the same wrap with a mango shake. For starters, we had “Mexican nachos.” Dad said that Spur (which is Indian themed, each restaurant having a different name—we ate at Sunset Bay) is the South African version of what they think is an American restaurant, like Red Robin. They were pretty close, actually, right down to the Oreo shakes and falling-apart-too-easily wraps.

Dad let me have his “cherry on top” [of his malt], saying, “It’s an albino.” It was a marshmallow.

Ciao!

Darth Vader

Since we went to three waterfalls yesterday (Mac Mac, Lisbon, and Berlin), I will mention that we visited those and Bridal Veil Falls this morning before driving to Kruger National Park.

After going through Numbi Gate and Reception, we drove several kilometers to Pretoriouskop, seeing [my first] four waterbuck along the way, plus an impala and several Cape glossy starlings.

After getting another Kruger guide book (the GPS [whose current voice is the Australian Karen] pronounced it “KROO-jer.” It’s pronounced “KROO-ger”), we got back on the road, not knowing that, before arriving at the Berg-en-Dal camp, we would see seven rhinos, eight African elephants (including two little ones who were play-fighting), two honey badgers (which are usually nocturnal), a pride of ten lions made up of three lionesses and their seven cubs, six of which were jumping around (Mom, shockingly, called them “feisty”) playing with someone’s tennis shoe, a mother and her four spotted hyena cubs, and innumerable kudu and springbok.

We arrived at Berg-en-Dal seven minutes before the gate closed. We put our stuff in our chalet and then had supper at the restaurant. For dessert we had chocolate cupcakes after Dad opened his presents (a movie, a pair of rhino, elephant, and lion socks, a South Africa polo shirt, comics from home, and a Cadbury bar). So he is now 52 and a very ou vader. Not Darth Vader, mind you, but ou vader, which means ‘old father’ in Afrikaans.

Ciao!

Can You Say ‘Cow Poo?’

This morning on our way home from the park down the street, Dad commented on the lack of cow poop in the road.There is a lot on the road, including filling up potholes. “There is some,” he admitted. “But there are lots of cows.” These would be the holy cows, naturally, and a few minutes after he said this, I found two reasons why.

1: There was a wheelbarrow full of the stuff on the side of the road.

2: There were bricks of cow poop drying on the side of the road. Whether they’ll be used for bricks or fire fuel, I’ll never know.

Also on the topic: the walls in the restaurant here at Mandore Guest House are made of cow dung, which would explain why I said, on our first day, “It smells weird.” Ciao!

One Last Time

At a Swensen’s in Thailand… hopefully. We may actually get to go to India tomorrow! Swensen’s was pretty much all we did today except for swimming twice. The first time we were at Viva Gardens and Ethan and I swam by ourselves. Well, there were two little boys in the pool too, but they stayed in the shallow end. Ethan and I are such tall people that we could only be in the deep end (1.2 meters). Well, only in the deep end until we raced. We had one really long race at the end: three half-laps with different strokes (the crawl, backstroke, and breaststroke), touching each of the fountains on the spout, and all sorts of crazy things. Ethan eventually won and I was very disappointed.

At Swensen’s we all had chocolate ice cream (of course) and after that Mom and I looked at clothes in the Tesco Lotus (Swensen’s is in the building) while Dad and Ethan lurked. Once done there, we returnd to Viva Gardens one last time, picked up our luggage, and rode in a green taxi (green!) to BS Residence. After Ethan and I did our schoolwork for the day, we went swimming with Dad as Mom ordered supper from The Pizza Company. (Guess what we got?) It was a very successful day! Ciao!

A Vientiane Visit

 

Today we leave Vientiane, Laos, and fly to Bangkok for the third time. There were many things that stood out about Vientiane, but the main ones for me were traffic, money, and animals:

 

Traffic: Laos’s capital’s drivers seem to take life slowly. There seems to be no “fast lane” here. There are also plenty of one-way streets which can make life stressful as you try to find a way to go south on a street that allows only north-bound vehicles. These vehicles include jumbos, motorbikes, tour vans, and VW bugs. Jumbos are the Laotian version of tuk-tuks… kind of. They are, as their name suggests, bigger with the seats in a U-shape instead of two benches opposite each other. There are mini-jumbos, which are technically the same size as tuk-tuks but, because of the shape of the bench, can hold more people. They are also the loudest and ricketiest “vehicles.” They buzz and whine and putt-putt their way through the streets, and our mini-jumbo this morning stopped running more than once while we were stopped.

 

Full-sized jumbos are a whole different story. They have three seats in the front, too, with the one in the middle being the driver’s and the other two for passengers. The seats have all sorts of different patterns on them, and the outside can be all different colors. My favorite so far has been a purple jumbo with seats that are purple with a pink stripe down them. We didn’t get to ride in it, but maybe we will on the way to the airport. That would be awesome! We probably won’t, though, because the most common jumbo color is white with red, yellow, blue, and green accents.

 

There aren’t very many songtows, but the ones we’ve seen have been, for the most part, stuffed. Just today we saw two songtows go by Swensen’s that were full of novices in their bright orange robes (that’s why we noticed them). Vehicles the same size as or larger than a Ford Escape seem humongous unless they’re a cement truck. The motorbikes are still here and dominating. At every stop in traffic, these little beasts move up to the very front of the line of traffic. The bicyclers could do this, but it seems like the only people on bikes on busy streets are tourists, who, for the most part, aren’t brave enough to get up to the very front.

 

Money: The official exchange rate is ₭8,024 per US$1 as of July 24, 2012. It fluctuates a lot; on July 20 it was 7,100 kip per US dollar. This makes prices like 72,000 kip seem low: that’s only US$9. The coins were deemed so worthless that they no longer mean anything. The bills are in denominations of 500; 1,000; 2,000; 5,000; 10,000; 20,000; and 50,000, which is worth about US$6. There may be a 100,000 kip bill, but we haven’t seen one. Even then, though, it would only be US$12.5 (approx.).

 

The face on most of these notes is the face of President Kaysone Phomvihane, who was Lao PDR’s first leader.

 

Animals: The most common type of animal in Laos is probably humans, but dogs and ants are close seconds. Actually, ants most definitely outnumber people. The guide yesterday told Dad that a popular Laotian dish is fish and ants. The ants add acid, which is sour, and the people like that. Personally, I find that disgusting, but maybe I’d like it… if I felt like trying it. There are ants everywhere– on the sidewalk, in the fried rice yesterday, along the trail, inside Swensen’s, in my pants… (Yes, I did have ants in my pants.)

 

We are of the opinion that dogs in Laos (or, at least, Vientiane) are cuter than the dogs in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. There are four that live right around Vayakorn House: the short, furry one with floppy ears and a nasty bite, the tan short-haired dog of some kind, a black dog, and the cutest black and white dog with a heap of fur and a tail that looked like a fountain of black fur. The last one followed us home from Joma Café this morning because it smelled the chocolate chip cookies and banana cake Mom was carrying. It stopped at a sign post, we turned the corner, and I’m guessing it tried to decide what attitude the other three dogs would have towards it since it was an intruder. The little furry one looks like it belongs in Great Britain for some reason, but it can hold its own just as well as the tan and black dogs.

 

Pigs are here but we only saw a few yesterday in a truck heading towards Vientiane. There were four or five on the roof of the car and more below. They were all alive and smelly.

 

There are many cows here, too. Not in town so much (although we did see some along the Mekong on our first day) as the countryside. We saw dozens yesterday as we drove to and from the waterfall. Our songtow had a musical horn that was used to get the cows out of the way, although we usually just drove around them. Cows are very stupid, and we discovered just how stupid they are when we looked back and saw a calf running along the road with a van right behind it. It could have just turned to the right and been safe, but it chose to turn to the left just as another van was coming. It was hit.

 

It got up, though, and went back to running in its own little world.

 

I hope it lived.

 

Ciao!

 

We’re Now Officially Trekkers!

Meaning we went on one “trek.”

Vin, Lindsay, Kristen, and our guides were our companions today on our trek from Vientiane to the waterfall and back to Vientiane.

We started off at 8:13 instead of eight o’clock because we had issues with the laundry. In the songtow, we took some more turns on all the one-way streets ’til we finally got to the guesthouse at which Lindsay and Kristen, two Canadian friends, were staying. Some more turns found us picking up another lady: “This is Vin,” our guide said. “She is from Vietnam.” She opened her mouth and out came English words with an Australian accent. She later explained, “My parents [who are Vietnamese] moved back to Vietnam when I was young. I stayed with my grandparents in Australia.”

We picked up two guides in a village, and from there we walked down to a river. We got into two long boats and went upstream for about forty minutes. The scenery was not overly exciting, but it was interesting that Ethan had to keep dumping water out of the boat as we motored along. Once he let the can into the water, but the driver got it for Ethan. It was on a string, so it would’t have gone any where, but it was rather annoying when it was splashing us.

The hike lasted about two hours, although Ethan said, “That wasn’t a hike this morning. That was a walk.” To keep ourselves occupied, we sweated. We also crossed several streams and finally came to a stop at some large rocks in a creek. After resting for five minutes, we finished crossing the water and walked for another hour or so before arriving at the end of the road and the sign announcing the waterfall. After the appropriate amount of pictures was taken, we continued on with Ethan, Kristen, and I leading the way. We didn’t actually know where we were going, so we leaders had to wait at the fork for the guide to catch up and take us where we wanted to go.

The lunch was not very good. It was vegetables and pineapple on a skewer with barbecue sauce (which I am not very fond of), fried rice (the ants added flavor), and bread (smeared with barbecue sauce). The only thing I had nothing against was my banana. Even my water bottle deserted me, rolling down the rock and into the dark depths below.

Vin, Lindsay, Ethan, and Dad were the only ones courageous enough to swim. Vin actually did swim, but Lindsay didn’t really need that towel she brought. Ethan and Dad went underneath the waterfall and, I think, swam the longest. After they all dried off, we went back to the road. Ethan and I were in the process of getting in the songtow when we were told we were going to visit another waterfall, which was more impressive. The first waterfall was in the form of stairsteps. This one was just a drop. Lindsay and Kristen also discovered little pieces of flora that looked like hands. Dad was holding one, attached it to his nose, and pretended like he was being attacked by it. Okay, it doesn’t sound like it was funny, but Ethan, Mom, Lindsay, and I were dying. You had to be there.

On our way to supper tonight, I heard One Direction playing. I reacted (I’ll never tell how), and Dad asked if I was being directional. Ethan said, “No, she just heard One Direction.” Don’t worry; he eventually got it. Ciao!

Today Was a(n) [insert adjective] Day

You can comment on what sort of day you think it was after you read this. This is in chronological order according to the times on my stupid (you’ll see why) watch:

2:33: I wake up, look at my watch, think Thank goodness there’s still an hour, and go back to sleep.

3:25: Alarm doesn’t go off.

4:08: We wake up to Mom knocking on our door. I tell Ethan to get his butt in the shower, and I answer the door. We think she had been standing and knocking for quite a while.

4:10: Ethan finishes his shower- if you can call a nozzle sticking out of a wall and spraying the toilet a shower.

4:33: We’re all dressed, showered, packed, and out the door in the airport shuttle.

4:44: Our arrival at the airport is too early; we have to wait until five o’clock rolls around.

4:59: We’re checking in and the lady looks at our tickets from Bangkok to New Delhi.

5:00: She asks if we have our Indian visas.

5:01: We don’t.

5:06: She pulls up a list of countries whose citizens don’t need visas beforehand: Cambodia, Singapore, South Korea, Mexico, Vietnam… the US is not on there.

5:07: We head to the benches to regroup and an exclamation is heard: “I want to go home.”

5:38: A family sits down across from us, happily eating their Hilton breakfast and displaying their Swiss passports.

5:52: They finally leave.

6:37: We go to the United Airlines counter and reschedule our flight to India for Friday.

6:39: The benches are a wonderful find.

7:32: Our bags (except for Dad’s backpack) are left with the people at LEFT BAGGAGE.

7:33: We find another bench.

7:46: Ethan and I go up to the (frigid) observation deck. That airport has the AC on waay too high.

7:49: We head to the FamilyMart and look at all the sickly-sweet looking foods.

7:51: We return to our parents.

9:31: The female half of us changes the new flight to Saturday, July 28.

9:35: Mom goes looking for unguarded electrical outlets for her phone.

9:41: She returns with no luck.

9:47: We look for breakfast.

9:58: Chocolate waffles!!!

10:03: We buy our tickets for the airport train, which goes in to town.

10:07: Oreos are bought just to get some smaller bills/coins.

10:09: We begin to wait for the train.

10:23: It finally comes.

10:52: We quickly exit the station and walk to the tube.

11:09: We’re spit out of the train into the rain.

11:10: We start walking the wrong way.

11:22: We stop and ask where we are.

12:01: Finally! The stairs up to the GLAS HAUS loom in front of us.

12:07: We enter the Indian Visa Application Centre.

12:09: We’re back in the hallway to fill out the remaining three forms- Mom’s, Ethan’s, and mine- on the iPad.

13:12: We’re now officially in the Centre.

14:29: After being forced to pretend that my signature at age nine is still the same three years later, we leave with the promise to return with our passports next week.

14:57: The underground’s doors close too soon and I am left behind.

14:59: A Thai lady tells me that she’ll make sure I get to the right place (the next stop). That was nice, but I would have been perfectly fine on my own.

15:01: The next train comes.

15:03: I get off and Ethan tells me that Mom’s looking for me. Thankfully she didn’t go back (although we could’ve easily called her. We had four bars… underground!).

15:07: We’re back on our way to the airport.

16:32: Supper is served at Twin Time, a restaurant in the airport that serves tiny portions. My chicken satay and Thai iced tea were AMAZING.

17:49: Ethan invites me to come to the bookstore with him so he can show me the Justin Bieber book. Of course, he didn’t tell me this beforehand.

18:13: 31 Flavors! (Ethan counted- there were 30 flavors in 32 tubs. FYI, 31 Flavors is Baskin Robbins)

18:17: I try a spoonful of green tea ice cream. Be warned! (Unless you like greasy ice cream that tastes like moldy [and looks] like moldy vanilla.) Dad, Ethan, and I each get one scoop of Chocolate Mousse Royale and one scoop of World Class Chocolate. Mom had one scoop of the former and one scoop of mint chip.

18:31: Dad buys water at the 7-Eleven.

18:37: We retrieve our luggage.

19:29: We arrive at Mariya Boutique Residence, and I grab a banana.

20:46: Mom chokes on her malaria pill as I read her this post.

21:13: I bid you… Ciao!

Boredom Buster

I do not know anyone named Buster, but today was filled with boredom. After going to a wat early this morning, we went to breakfast at- yet again- Nature’s Way. I had a latte with chocolate syrup and a banana pancake smothered with chocolate syrup. After that very healthful breakfast, we returned to M.D. House and sat around for the next three hours doing nothing. Okay, we read. But that was it.

Ethan and I were going to go down to the computer room, but our parents had other plans: we needed to go to UPS to mail a package and to the market to buy fruit. On our way to UPS, we stopped at the Thai airlines building and Mom, Ethan, and I got to relax in the air-conditioned room while Dad took care of our flight from Chiang Mai to Bangkok.

Once on our way again, we took a left turn and walked down the outer edge of the square part of Chiang Mai to find UPS. Well, we took a wrong turn. We finally discovered this and had to walk back and beyond, going almost to the corner. After buying a box and paying for the shipping, we lost an extremely large amount of money for two reasons: one, we were shipping finished school books home and, two, I sent away my foreign currency that I don’t need on this trip such as colones, pesos, and pounds.

We went back out into the scorching sun and walked around the corner of the city and all the way to the market, where Mom bought mango and pineapple. Ethan and I both got shakes: he got a pineapple shake and I got a mango-banana shake. Never again. Ever!

Once we got home, we did our schoolwork and went on the computers in the computer room. After a short visit there, we retreated to our parents’ room and looked at places to stay in Greece. Don’t worry! I won’t be a spoiler and tell you where we’re going! My dad can do that for me on the itinerary page. Ethan and Mom also finished their game of War. She won.

Supper was, for the third time, at Aum. We have plenty of memories there: playing the guitar (and fighting over it), Dad eating the spoonful of what looked like avocado but was really wasabi [horseradish] that came with our avocado maki (sushi with vegetables instead of meat. Aum is a strictly vegetarian restaurant), playing with the Barbie and trying to make her hair look less greasy, trying to figure out what the yak-like animal under “N” on the alphabet-board was, and discussing what a hard time the people are having at work without Dad. Would you like me to explain the alphabet-board? Well, we dubbed it the Periodic Table of the Elephants. It shows the Thai alphabet and our alphabet, and for each letter is a picture. For example, under the letter B is a bird with a ball and a boyfriend bird. It is named for the elephant under “E” because Ethan asked if it was the Periodic Table of the Elements. I responded, “No. It’s the Periodic Table of the Elephants.” Some of the other ones were not so obvious, but we decided that, yes, it is a xow underneath “X” with 1.5 bottoms.

We got Magnums at the 7-Eleven after discovering that the lady who did our laundry couldn’t find one of my socks. We didn’t get Magnums because of that, mind you, but because we hadn’t had ice cream all day (!) and desperately needed to. I find it amusing how at home a pack of gum costs about $1 and here it costs about $33.33 cents. Ethan wanted to spend his pocket change on things beside just ice cream but we had a record of 1:40 to beat on our way back. Guess what? We didn’t. But we did finish the easiest e-crossword puzzle on the website that I found with 30%. We got all the words/letters right (it tells you), but I kept guessing on the letters which lost us the 70%. With my parents’ help, though, I finally finished it. I absolutely hate to say this, but… I could have never done it without you. Ciao!

Open Casket Burial at Sea

Yes, I know that we aren’t at sea, but there was a water burial today, and it was my hair……….So sad. Since Eryn and my mother were gone at a cooking class most of the day, my father took it into his hands to cut my hair. Since we didn’t have scissors and  I didn’t want a buzz cut, he used his hair trimmer to cut my hair, and he cut it very short. When he was done, there was so much hair that we couldn’t just wash it down the drain in the shower, we had to give it the finest burial that we could have in a bathroom. Not that many choices there, are there? Sadly, we didn’t have a goldfish to go with it. When I finally looked at myself in the mirror, I saw how short he had cut it and swore to myself that I would wear a hat for the next month.

As it turns out, I didn’t, we went to one of those ever present 7-11s and got me some hair gel. Then we got ice cream. It was very good and we relished every last bite of it.

For dinner we went to Boutique della Pasta and we had a Caprese, two Bruschettas, pine nut and raisin ravioli, ravioli with greens, and ravioli with ricotta with walnut. Last, (but definately not the least) we had a dessert of chocolate Panna Cotta. It was very good.