Wednesday, August 22, 2012

day one of 4th grade!

He reports that he had a GREAT day!

have I told you lately about our housekeeper, Ruth?

So I was a little down on Ruth for awhile before my vacation.

I know, I know.

I have somebody to clean my house who loves my child.  What is there to complain about?

I won't bore you with the details, but I got a bit mopey about her (read here, the stress from my job) so Jimmy decided to take action.  He asked her before our vacation if she could start cooking dinner two nights a week, thinking that would take some stress off of me after working all day.  He left her with two cookbooks in Spanish that I'd bought and told her to study up over the three weeks I was away.

Well, I don't know where Ruth the Cook was hiding for the last two years but she is showing her stuff this week and she hasn't even touched the cookbooks yet.  For last night's dinner, I asked if she'd cook lentils to go with some leftover barbecued chicken.  She cooked the best lentils I've ever eaten, which we ate over the rice she also cooked.  She also made a side dish of sweet plantains that Jimmy and I ate like it was candy.  My contribution to dinner:  heating the barbecued chicken.

Tonight's dinner was an Asian rice dish with broccoli, chicken, red peppers, bean sprouts, ginger, and who knows what else.  Y.U.M.  My contribution to dinner:  serving it from the pot.

Oh, and we have enough leftovers (after she took home food for her and her son) to eat for at least the next 4 days.

So Ruth is fully back in my good graces, not that she ever left them.  I have loved not having to cook and clean up the kitchen.  A girl could definitely get used to this.

(As an aside, while I was away on vacation, Ruth washed all the curtains and sheers, had the carpets cleaned, flipped all the mattresses, cleaned the house from top to very bottom, and even bought and potted new plants for the balcony.  I know, I know....  I'll quit my whining now.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Vacation, part 3

The last week of my vacation was spent at my most favorite place in the world:  Folly Beach.

It was a great week of family, friends, sun, Olympics-watching, amazing storms, more sun, swimming, crabbing, fishing, casual dinners followed by dominoes marathons... you get the picture.

I loved every second of it!

Jimmy and Mac went fishing at the pier.  They caught a horseshoe crab!

Jimmy and the boogie board

Mac on the crabbing expedition

Gigi and Mac with their crabbing accoutrements

The Folly River 

Gigi at the river

Hitching a ride back with a really nice Folly Public Safety Officer who took pity on us and our heavy load of crabs and accoutrements!

Jimmy and Mac catching a wave

Mac and his best buddy from our year in SC

building sandcastles and lots of memories

Sweet Cousin Eliza

A group shot of some of the cousins

We got to meet our sweet new nephew by friendship.  He is PRECIOUS !

Cousins sharing a moment

Hours and hours of digging in the sand!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vacation, part 2

The second week of my summer vacation took us to NC to spend some time with Jimmy's family.  We spent the first few days with Jimmy's mom, stepdad and our dearest friends from Brasilia, who were on home leave from their current post in India.   It was such a great few days with really special friends.

When they left, Jimmy's sister and her girls came in.  There were animal sightings (bears and elk and turkeys, oh my!) and picnics in the Cataloochee Valley, go-carts rides, family dinners and more tubing in Deep Creek!

Notice Monique and Jimmy's "model poses".
Jimmy jumping into a swimming hole at Skinny Dip Falls.  The Russian judges gave a  4.5. on execution.

Dipping in Skinny Dip Falls

It's soooo cold!

The Deer Tree

On the Nantahala River

No pain, no gain.  The thighs were burning about right here.

Mac exploring.

Love these people!

Cars loaded down for a tubing adventure.


Mac, the butterfly whisperer!

Bubby setting up the picnic.

Jimmy, the hunter-gatherer, went out and found us hot dogs for our impromptu picnic lunch at Deep Creek.

A boy and his tube.

Mac on Deep Creek.

Part Two of summer vacation involved conquering fears.  You may remember that last May (2011), we went river rafting in Colombia and I had what I classify as a near-death experience.  A photo captured by a friend showed this shortly after the near drowning:

I really never intended to go rafting ever again.  But I felt the need to get past this.  So we rafted the Nantahala River, which is a nice class 2 river with one class 3 rapid at the end.  

I felt compelled to buy the photo at the end of the trip.  How could I resist?  

I would like the record to reflect that in all the other pictures the outfitting company took, I was smiling and looking happy, but this was the only photo where you could see Mac so it's the one I bought.  Next time I go rafting, I'm going to paste a smile on my face the entire time!

To a great Part 2 of summer vacation and the opportunity to catch up with great friends and family, I am truly thankful!

Vacation, part 1

My summer vacation was broken up into 3 sections.  The first 6 days were spent in and around Moncks Corner.  This time covered everything from the mundane (doctors' appointments) to the much more enjoyable (like catching up with friends, shopping and seeing some sites in Charleston).

Not many photos to share from Part 1 because I knew that you already knew what the inside of a Target looked like.
Mac at the Madagascar exhibit at the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston
Mac exploring the super-cool ropes course-sort of new attraction at the Riverbanks Zoo in Columbia.
WAY COOL if you're in Columbia, SC!  Can you spot Mac?

Mac riding the lion at the Riverbanks Zoo
No pressure, but Mac's future spouse?  Daughter of my BFF from college days = I would love the in-laws.

Stay tuned for Part Two of the summer vacation!

Monday, August 13, 2012

vacation, in reverse

For my first vacation post (really second), I would like to get the bad stuff out of the way.  And if you know me fairly well (or if you've been reading the blog for awhile), you know that the "bad stuff" on a vacation can only mean one thing.


In good news, when I checked in yesterday for my return to Bogota (solo because the boys are in Washington, DC this week), my suitcase weighed in at 49 pounds (out of a possible 50).  Thank you very much.  The lady at the Delta counter (who is not that awful, old lady who worked there for a hundred years and whose sole purpose in life was to get my trip off to a very rotten start every single time I traveled out of Charleston but who thankfully has retired) was very pleasant.

I went through security and everybody was pleasant there.  Smiling and happy.

In the waiting area, I was surrounded by golf-y types leaving Charleston after watching the PGA Championship at Kiawah.  They were all happy and pleasant and wearing lots of Izod and sweater vests.

I got on the plane and the flight attendants were nice, even when all those people brought on all those ridiculous big rollaboards that are entirely too humongous to fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment and leave me any room to put my little backpack.  Why, people, do you do that?

But still everybody was pleasant and we were set for an on-time departure.  You could hear the door being shut and then all of a sudden, some lady from the back screamed "wait, wait!".  Turns out the lady who was cleaning the bathroom or stocking the peanuts (that we were never served) was still on the plane.  She obviously did not want to go to Atlanta with the rest of us.  So the flight attendants had to open the door back up.  So much for the head count that they supposedly did...

Other than not being offered a drink or a pack of 9 peanuts, the flight was fine and quick.  45 minutes, up and down.

In Atlanta, I had time to peruse the bookstore, eat some Qdoba and read a little.  It was just right.

When it was time to board, the Delta lady announced that they were going to be boarding by zones.  Now this is nothing unusual or uncommon.  Every airline does it and anybody who's flown on a plane lately knows this.  No offense intended to any of my dear Latin friends, but if I may stereotype (and please forgive me if you're offended), Latinos take this zone boarding really as just a suggestion.  The Delta lady can call First Class passengers and the line immediately forms and people try to get on.  It doesn't matter that they're seated in Cattle Class, back by the bathrooms in the rear of the aircraft.  They are going to get on the plane.

To the Delta lady's credit at Gate E3 yesterday, she was having none of that.  She said Zone 1 and if you dared show up with a Zone 2 boarding pass, well you could just wait.  Another plus for Delta.

By the time I got on the plane, there was still a line of people behind me getting on, but there was absolutely no overhead space left.  I wedged my backpack in on top of somebody's guitar case, but rather than the flight attendants communicating with each other to tell the people entering the plane just to gate-check their bags, people just kept rolling on those big suitcases.  Finally - and I am not kidding - this whole line of people that took up 2/3 of the airplane had to turn around and get off the plane so that the people down by the bathrooms at the rear of the aircraft could get their humongous rollaboards off the plane to gate-check them.  Brilliance.

Despite this little glitch, we didn't trap any cleaning staff and took off pretty much on time.  I ate the offered ham and cheese sandwich, potato chips and brownie, and watched The Hunger Games and Wanderlust.  Pretty banner flight to get two movies in!

Banner until we hit the turbulence.  The pilot had told us early on that we shouldn't have any turbulence until we got close to Bogota and boy was he right.  It was all smooth sailing and then we hit a pocket of air that's probably the worst pocket I've ever hit.  A male flight attendant was walking down the aisle and when we hit it, he dropped to the ground, in what appeared to be a marriage proposal pose.  Or maybe he was praying.   At this point, the head flight attendant lady got on the intercom and in a bit of a panicked voice said that everybody needed to be in their seats right then with their seatbelts fastened.  DUH.

After a few more bumps, we landed and pulled up at the gate.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Then the pilot came on and said that although he'd originally been told to park at Charlie 11, he was now being directed Bravo 4.  But the plane doesn't come with a reverse switch so we had to wait for the tow truck.  We finally got towed over to Bravo 4.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Then the pilot came on and said that although he'd been directed to Bravo 4, he was now being told he had to go to Echo something or other.  So we waited for the tow truck to come back and tow us over to Echo something or other (which I believe was just an unused parking lot).

Then the pilot came on and said that we had to wait for the buses to come and take us to the terminal.

So we waited.

And waited some more.

As I was exiting the plane, I heard someone ask the pilot if the turbulence was normal for landing in Bogota.  He said that you can always expect bumps when landing here (and you can), but this was the worst he'd ever been through coming into Bogota.

By the time we got on the bus, an hour had passed since we'd landed.

(I know this isn't really Delta's fault, but I needed someone to blame and they were the best thing going.)

The only thing that worked without a hitch was the Immigration agent.  Thankfully I got to use the diplomatic line and there was only me, myself and I in that line.  Thank you for small favors.

But the time I saved in that line was lost, seriously lost, completely lost, waiting for luggage.  My 49-pound bag was one of the last ones that came out and by the time I got my bag off the carousel, the line for Customs was like nothing I've ever seen in the Bogota airport.  I almost pretended like I was pregnant, just to get in the preferential treatment line.  As much weight as I gained on vacation, I probably could have passed for early stages.  And then I thought through what was in my suitcase to see if  there was anything I could "declare".  There was nobody in that line.  But I had nothing.  Literally nothing.

So I waited.

And waited some more.

I finally exited the airport two hours after I landed.

The Bogota airport is not monumental.  Sort of like a bus station on big steroids.  It should not be a 2-hour ordeal.

( I also realize after writing this that Delta came out of this smelling like a rose.  It's now the Bogota Airport that is on my travel hit list.)

I got into my taxi which was driven by a boy who missed his calling in a punk rock band, asked him to turn the music down and drive fast.  I hardly got my teeth brushed before collapsing into bed.

Now that I've got the bad part of the vacation out of the way, stay tuned.  The best is yet to come...