A Travellerspoint blog

The Big Apple

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NYC…miles travelled…2057

We spent two glorious days in NYC. I had never been and Mike had been some 10 years ago, and that was in the Bronx. NYC was so much different from what I had anticipated. First of all, I must admit that I did not realize that NYC was actually made up of little islands, several of them to be specific, which I saw upon approaching from the air. P1010643.jpg As we flew by and saw the giant skyline, I asked Mike, “Do you think we will see the Statue of Liberty?” He leaned over and after a moment says, “Yep, there it is.” At first I couldn’t find it, and then I did.
P1010639.jpgI must say that the Statue of Liberty looked much smaller than I thought…..I guess I expected the size of a sky scraper. P1010641.jpg It looks so huge on TV! The city itself I expected to be much more overwhelming, however, to my surprise it felt more like a neighborhood. My friend lives in Astoria, and we walked to several neighborhood restaurants and the fruit/vegetable stand. Yes, I was very happy to see vegetables after the dearth of the last several months. I am just happy I didn’t get scurvy. Central Park impressed me too because I imagined just a big wide open green space, but it is a park with trees and squirrels and peaceful trails and just beautiful. Mike and I walked through it from West to East so that he could take me to the Art Museum. We stopped for a cup of hot coffee which was delightful in the cool fall afternoon wandering the leafy paths of central park. I loved the old brownstones in the neighborhood surrounding Central Park. Mike promised we could live in one someday.
Being in NYC also gave us a lot of food for thought. It was a serious contrast coming from Central America. We began to notice things about being “home” that were really missed during our short three months bouncing around Latin America. I realized some nice things about “home” that were just not on the radar when I returned from Nicaragua after a much longer stay back in 2000. I guess it comes down to an appreciation of some of the little things about our culture. Simple things, like getting in a taxi without having to fight your way to an acceptable price because there is a meter in the car, like finding our friend’s apartment because there were numbers and street names visible that make up her address making it much easier to locate, like being able to go to a tourist area and not be bombarded by people bidding for your business….instead we went to a ticket counter and purchased a ticket for a fixed price, like knowing how much something costs because there is a price tag on it. Also, New York tap water was delicious and safe. Mike drank somewhere near two gallons over those three days. Yes, although I am the first person to enjoy a good challenge, Mike and I decided that we were exhausted from haggling and hyper vigilance that is unfortunately necessary to make your way unscathed around Latin America as a tourist. It was a huge stress reliever…….which allowed us to enjoy our short stay to the hilt! To add to all of this the New Yorkers that we met were all amazingly friendly and helpful. My aunt Lauren always said that New Yorkers weren’t nice, but I think she only said that to keep the secret to herself…New Yorkers were amazingly helpful and friendly.
We had the luxury of staying with our friend, Diane, from Phoenix days…..in Astoria (for those of you who know the Big Apple). You rock, Diane! We had a fantastic and economic Indian meal in her neighborhood. We went to Times Square and saw “Surrogates” a decently entertaining flick. We had cocktails in the revolving Marriot looking out over the city. We rode around in the subway. We visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Mike was particularly touched to see a father, who was obviously an immigrant taking his son to see the statue. The New York Policeman was helping him find his way. The boy was smiling and the father was very happy. The Statue did look more impressive close up, but I still was surprised that it wasn’t bigger. We very much enjoyed the history of Ellis Island. Mike’s family arrived before Ellis Island was commissioned through New Orleans, and Sara is not sure if she has family that arrived via New York, but we are from immigrant stock and the experience was moving. We also had a renewed perspective on immigration on arriving from South and Central America to add to our experience of working with family re-unification for three years at Catholic Charities. The hope and promise of the United States shone particularly bright to us and we were both a little emotional. Poor Diane had to absorb all of our homesickness and gratitude in a few short days, but I think she survived.
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On our last day, we packed our bags and left Diane’s apartment to meet up and enjoy one last lunch with Diane. Our final stop in New York was ground zero. It may not have been the best pre-vacation visit, but we both felt it was important for us to visit. We took the subway to Rector Street. We had a little difficulty find the spot at first. Finally, we found a small box with a man giving directions to the museum and the viewing platform in the American Express building on the second floor.
P1010655.jpgP1010654.jpgP1010650.jpgP1010660.jpgP1010657.jpg It still was not easy to find for two non-natives in the big city. The site itself is now cleaned up and humming with construction of the new towers. It is 100% cranes and concrete blocked off by huge concrete blocks and fencing. We visited the memorial museum next to the firehouse on Liberty Street. The museum was unpretentious but managed to share much of the emotional, personal, and national impact of those horrible and violent moments. It was tasteful and somber and again left us with much to ponder.
New York is now on our list of potential homes. I hear they are hiring social workers…
Finally, we took public transit to JFK airport and boarded British airways to head to London. The plane was beautiful. The drinks… plentiful, entertainment…excellent, and staff…amazing a perfect foreshadowing of our trip to London.

Posted by tourdeflor 16:05 Archived in USA Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

So many hours so many countries.

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Guatemala…miles travelled….333 but it feels a lot further...
But first, I forgot to insert these two pics from our Bluefields entry. One is of my current Goddaughter Shary mentioned in the previous blog and the second is of a student I have been visiting since I taught him in the second grade, Jordon. I did not want to leave our blogs of Central America without including their snapshots!
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Thank goodness, the bus was comfortable and the food was good and we made it safely to Guatemala. We traveled through politically volatile Honduras with four check point stops (with police checking our Id’s) but no worse for the wear.
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In El Salvador we had a 2 hour stopover in San Salvador. San Salvador looked like a nice city. Close to the bus stop our only dining options were sushi (which Sara can’t stomach), Wendy’s, and Pizza Hut. We chose Pizza Hut and much to our delight discovered it was the poshest Pizza Hut ever, including Pizza Hut Café with gourmet coffee. We enjoyed beautiful landscapes between sleeping spells. Guatemala City is quite a modern city, much more so than the one Mike remembers from 10 years ago. We made our way to our hotel……oh yeah, minus #2 of 3 valuable possessions (you remember the loss of our camera at the start of our trip in Peru?) …..well we have now followed it with another loss…my ipod. Take this note to self: on long bus/plane trips do not fall asleep with things you value on your lap…..you are liable to forget them when you wake up groggy from your slumber and are shuffled off the bus. By the time you realize you are missing it, someone else has picked it up! This is a lesson we hope to take now into the rest of our travels in hopes of keeping our laptop! We spent a good deal of time on the phone that first morning trying to see if the bus line could check to see if the i-pod was wedged between the seats somewhere. Alas, it was of no avail and sadly our i-pod with 80’s hits and personal favorites was lost. P1010633.jpgP1010632.jpg

The next day, we took the bus to Antigua to visit Sara’s friend Efrain that she knew from her time in Bluefields. Efrain was, then, involved in the church’s youth group and is now a religious brother of LaSalle. We had just enough time to meet his community and get a tour of the school they operate. Afterward, we drank coffee and caught up on the past several years. It was wonderful. The brothers then invited us to have dinner with them and we graciously accepted. We thanked them for their hospitality and Efrain enlisted some friends to give us a ride and he escorted us back to the capitol. So, we saw absolutely zero sights in Guatemala, however, it was well with the trip to see Efrain. He is in charge of campus ministry at his school for about 2,000 students. He regaled us with many stories regarding his creative exploits with his students.
The next morning we departed GC for NYC by way of Miami. We were actually close enough that we walked to the airport, and after paying a couple bucks each to leave a country we barely got to visit we were airborne once again. We are really sick of the restaurants in the terminal of Miami airport for American. We invariable skip Manchu Wok because we have been disappointed there too many times and head for the bar/grill near the end of the terminal. Our three hour layover passed soon enough and we were headed to fall in New York.

Posted by tourdeflor 09:08 Archived in Guatemala Tagged bus Comments (0)

Special Shout out to the Sisters Managua Second Visit

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Sara and I have to continue our entry concerning our second visit to Managua with a detailed description and thank you to the Sisters of the Mother of the Good Shepherd.
First, a video of Tatian on the slide at their school...

They are a part of the Franciscan family who lead lives of prayer and work primarily teaching in schools. Sister Maritza is a great friend of ours who we have visited now in three countries(Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Spain). She is also the one responsible for nursing Sara back to health when she got malaria as a volunteer in Nicaragua back in 1999.
The sisters graciously put us up for the first several days of our second Managua stint while we were waiting for Jeronima and Tatiana to arrive. They had a little apartment for visiting friends and families that they let us use.. They took great care of us even providing coffee in the morning, food when we were around, and Nestle Quick if I needed a pick-me-up. We were lucky to be able to join them on a few occasions for prayer as well as seeing the “Corn Festival” of the preschool kids. In the festival the parents sold food to raise money and they had a competition for Chief and Queen of corn. See the elaborate outfits below made solely out of CORN! The festival encourages the kids to know more about the facets of their cultural that revolve around corn. Corn drinks, corn recipes, and all types of sayings around corn.
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Sister took us to visit the live volcano at Masaya as well as her hometown, Buaco. The volcano was amazing; it had just rained so the steam was pouring out of the active volcano. P1010451.jpgP1010450.jpgP1010446.jpgP1010442.jpg P1010445.jpgP1010449.jpgBuaco was a beautiful small town set in the hills north of Managua. They are most famous for their dairy products and meat. Sister’s family gave us an amazing welcome and cooked us a delicious chicken lunch after mass. We met her sister, nieces, nephew, some cousins, and visited again with her mom.P1010481.jpgP1010475.jpgP1010473.jpgP1010470.jpg

We also were lucky to be with the sisters while one of them was professing her final vows. The community had a mass with a beautiful choir. They had a meal provided by families afterward as well as traditional dancing and singing as a part of the celebration. P1010629.jpgP1010628.jpgP1010627.jpgP1010625.jpg
Sara and I are planning to bring the newest Floreth, whenever she comes along, back to preschool for the Corn Festival. Sister told us we would be welcome to enroll!!

Thanks again to the Sister’s of the Mother of the Good Shepherd.

Posted by tourdeflor 05:44 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Back to Managua

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Back to Managua…..miles traveled……300.
During our time in Bluefields, we visited our Godchild, Jeronima, on several occasions. She had a baby, Tatiana, 2 ½ years ago. At the time, Jeronima was only 17 and Tati was born at 7 months via cesarean because her umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. As a result of premature birth, Tati was born at 1 ½ pounds and with heart and lung problems. Jeronima was told that her baby probably would not make it through the night. She did make it through the night and has been back and forth to the doctor her whole little life. The good news is that she is thriving and doing better than the doctors thought she would. She doesn’t say but a few words: mommy, daddy and pig. She doesn’t seem to respond to external stimuli as much as other kids her age, however, even in our month there we noticed improvement.
While in Bluefields we took advantage of going with Tati to a physical therapy appointment and her pediatrician appointment to get a better handle of how she is doing and what more can be done for her. In terms of physical therapy she is doing fantastic. Before she did not walk and when she did, only on her tip toes. Now she loves to walk and run and although still somewhat on her tip toes, she is learning to use her whole foot. Her mom bought her a great pair of squeaky shoes that make sound when her heels make contact with the ground, which is wonderful reinforcement for Tatiana.
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At the pediatrician visit, the doctor explained that little Tati really needs further examination that
Bluefields cannot provide due to lack of proper equipment. He told us that he wanted her to go to Managua to the Pipitos Institute in Managua, where they provide care for children with special needs at little or no cost to the family. The major cost would be transportation to and from the capitol city. We discussed the possibility and the decided to accompany Jeronima and Tati to Managua because we had to go there anyway en route to Guatemala. We knew if we took the time to do this, we would lose our time to explore El Salvador and Guatemala (we had already ditched the idea of going to Honduras at this time due to the political situation). Mike and I both were sure that it was more important to get Tatiana going on for further examinations. She would get eye, ears, and EEG tests. The doctor needs to know what part of Tati’s brain was most affected so they can figure out the best way to help her maximize her development during these critical years.
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While we were there the doctors discovered that her hearing was fine. They also ran the EEG, but the results wouldn’t be ready for a couple of weeks. The eye exam revealed that Tatiana was almost completely blind in one eye, but the other appeared to have developed normally. While in Managua, we introduced Jeronima and Tatiana to our friend, Sister Maritza. We also showed Jeronima some of the sights in Managua.
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We also took them to McDonalds (of all places) and to go on some store rides, which Tati loved.
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We even took Tatiana to the playground. She loved the swing, teeter totter, and most of all the slide. She cried when we had to leave the playground.

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On Sunday, we bought our tickets for the 17 hour bus ride to Guatemala City on the King Quality bus line. It would depart at 3:30am. Finally on that afternoon, we took Jeronima and Tatiana to the airport for their return flight home. We begged the airport personnel to let us go into the waiting room with them, but they wouldn’t bend the rules for us. With repeated hugs between all parties and Jeronima finally went through the security check point. She will have to return in a few weeks with her mother to complete the battery of exams and get the results from Tati’s EEG. From that point, hopefully she will have a treatment plan for Tati to work on in Bluefields with only occasional follow up in the capitol.
It was with heavy hearts that Sara and I walked slowly away from the airport. From the airport we went to convent to share in a sister's vow celebration. As we went back to our hotel we bedded down to try and get a little bit of rest before our bus trip that would cover four countries. Next Episode: Good times with the Sisters!

Posted by tourdeflor 17:45 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

Corn Island- Mission: Snorkel Spanish galleon wrecks in clea

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Corn Island Miles traveled 100.

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Sara had previously made on visit to Corn Island, but I had never been there. Wendy and Janitza also decided that they would make the trip with us. We were all very excited. The adventure began with the transportation. There was initially to be a ferry to Corn Island that must be caught from Bluff( on the coast) on Friday which would necessitate a Thursday boat trip to Bluff. Later we heard that the ferry might come to Bluefields on Friday. Finally, it turned out that the boat came to Bluefields on Friday, completely filled with cargo, left Friday without passengers, and was to return Sunday for passengers.

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Since our time was short and the boat still appeared unreliable we decided to take the radical step of flying there and back. The flight is only 18 minutes and would leave us with three days to enjoy Corn Island. On landing in Corn Island we took a taxi to our hotel to check in and began to explore. We went to the Fisherman’s Cave for breakfast. Outside the patio was the shore of Brig Bay. The view was beautiful and there were two small artificial pools that held a variety of colorful and enormous fish. Especially impressive was the giant, silver, six foot barracuda. We also found a shop that offered snorkel trips with a glass bottom boat for non-snorkelers to observe the coral as well. After breakfast, we hit the beach for the first time by our hotel. Neither Wendy or Janitza could swim, so we had mini-swimming lessons to try to see if they would be able/want to snorkel. After wearing ourselves out in the delightful water we rinsed off and went in search of pizza. Along the way we arranged for a 9:30 glass bottom excursion to two wrecks and the nearest reef.

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At the Nautilus restaurant we found pizza on offer as well as Carribean Curry excited our curiousity. The Hawaiian pizza that came had a crust tough as nails. It actually made our jaws tired chewing it. The Caribbean Curry on the other hand was excellent. We finished up our dining experience with a game of Clue on the veranda of the Nautilus. Mike made the final correct accusation (Mr. Green, Lead Pipe, in the kitchen) and won the game. Outside of our rooms we enjoyed a beautiful sea breeze before going to bed.

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The next day after breakfast we headed out to meet up with our guide. His name was Eduardo, and he helped get Janitza, Sara, and I equipped. We watched sea grass, and small bunches of coral through the bottom of the boat in the swirling blue water. Upon reaching the nearby reef, Eduardo led sara and I over the side. We were struck by the deep blue of the water and the huge mounds of coral jutting from the sea floor. Various schools of multi-colored fish darted around us. After a little urging, and watching through the glass of the boat, Janitza decided that she wanted to give snorkeling a try.

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We put on her fins and adjusted her mask and overboard she went. Eduardo and I held her hands as we guided her around the reef and above the wildly darting sea life. Wendy watched us from above and studied the coral from the safe- and semi dry perch on the boat. Some of the coral growths were the size of houses. We moved to a nearby area where there were two wrecks. One was a modern era wreck, and the other was a Spanish Galleon from the 15th century. The modern era boat showed its metal ribs with its 30 feet long anchor nearly reaching from the sea floor to the surface. Various sea plants nestled in and around all of this area for protection and gave shelter to a myriad of sea animals.

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The next day we took a speedboat ride over to Little Corn Island. On little Corn Island, there were no roads and no cars. Most of the island was covered with palm trees and jungle growth. Beautiful beaches ringed the island. We visited a few of the beaches and spent a little time looking for sea life near the shore with little success. Finally, it was time for us to catch the speedboat back for our last night at the Beach View Inn. Early the next morning we were at the airport to fly back to Bluefields. Janitza went home with pocketfuls of souvenirs from the beach for decorating!

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Posted by tourdeflor 09:24 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

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