Week 143 December 24, 2016

Hello, we hope that you too had a great Christmas!
This post is a little late as this week Loren and I visited for four nights in the Province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. We stayed first at an AirBnB for two nights in La Plata. Our host had two adorable sibling kittens named Cobre, which means Copper, and Felicidad for Happiness, who were entertaining. Loren was able to practice speaking Spanish, however, in Argentina there is a dialect spoken that is different from what we learned in school. For example, “You” familiar, is said, Bos here, not Tu.
Two more nights were spent at an AirBnB with a family and their dog, Athena, in Lujan, said Loo-han. The father is quite an artist as a hobby. The elder son is talented in playing the guitar, while his girlfriend likes to sing. The younger son is playful and fun.
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We were all anticipating Navidad – Christmas, but, for us from the Northern Hemisphere, it felt unusual as it is summer and calor – hot, during the day in Buenos Aires. We had several laughs trying to translate certain ideas. We learned more of the dialect, for example, Sho, rather than Yo for I, and, Cashe, instead of Calle for street. As the mother spoke no English I was inspired to try a bit with my limited Spanish too. When Loren asked their word for Nun, they taught us it is Monka. When queried if the masculine would be Monko? The father quickly said, “No, no monkey!”
We were privileged to celebrate the older son’s 16th birthday, with this family hosting a traditional BBQ. At the start of the evening his parents, his aunt, uncle, Loren and I shared a traditional communal drink. It is called Mate, which Loren wondered if it was marijuana? No! It is a little like coffee or tea, served in one metallic cup with a special – usually silver, straw. This is one aspect of our travels that Loren and I most appreciate – to be able to spend time with the local people to learn more about their culture. And this family appreciates opening their home to travelers, for their sons to learn more about the larger world in their own home environment. 

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When the evening turned to well after midnight, Google Translate described what they were then saying as, “The night is in diapers.” We finally understood this to mean, “The night is young!” And, they meant it! The boy and his friends who had already arrived before we went to bed, went out to town to celebrate, at about 3am…
On our last day in Argentina, we went with the family to visit at the home of the aunt and uncle who we met the previous evening. They have two rescued owls which are among my favorite birds,
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and a rescued pigeon! We had a lovely visit with an additional friend there and the sons of the aunt and uncle. The older one’s girlfriend gifted us with a lovely Christmas ornament that she had made by hand.
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Then we bid a fond farewell to this lovely family after we returned to their home. 
Loren and I then had a nearly a two hour drive to the airport, for a 5 hour overnight flight.
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This was followed by a change of planes in Miami on our way to New York for Christmas afternoon and dinner with my brother and his family. My older niece’s beau was able to share this special time with us too. Santa brought my younger niece her first car, and she is beside herself with delight in it. We so enjoyed watching the movie, Elf together, which is competing with Polar Express for Loren’s and my second choice, after It’s a Wonderful Life of all time favorite holiday movies. After dinner we watched a recording of Loren’s favorite Golden State Warriors competing with the Cleveland Cavaliers in basketball, which had a disappointing outcome for us Californians. Despite that, it was another wonderful, memorable family gathering for us to cherish!
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Now Loren and I wish you a very Happy 2017!

Week 142 December 17, 2016

This posting is late, due to a lack of internet in Antarctica… In Ushuaia, Argentina at the start of this week we learned that there is less oxygen at the southern end of the world than we are used to, which causes drowsiness. I had thought my exhaustion was from limited sleep on the plane – surely that contributed as well. We took a day tour of Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego where we found tundra-like terrain for Upland Geese and Black Neck Swans to thrive. Sadly, we also saw damage done over time from the original 25 pairs of beavers who were imported with the intent for the pelting industry in 1946. However since the weather conditions here preclude viable enough coats and with the lack of predators, there are now over 100,000 beavers, and their dams prevent water from reaching the roots of indigenous trees… a problem still needing to be resolved.
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Late in the afternoon we boarded our ship, Ocean Diamond. With 179 passengers and 22 expedition staff, all served by 122 dedicated ship’s crew, dining, and housekeeping, we sailed away through Beagle Channel, having our safety preparedness drills while at sea.
Later, we were fortunate to have an easy time of two days and nights through Drake’s Passage, normally known for its rough waters. The doctor onboard was helpful in our decision to still take dramamine – see my new nickname for this medicine below, another factor in feeling tired. However, I will take tired over seasick any day, as the dining room was noticeably less full the second night at sea.
I was inspired to write this four verse Haiku:
Cruising to Antarctica
by Claire Adalyn Wright
Through the Drake, no way
could I take showers… as our
ship rocks, lifts and dips.
Drunken sailors walk
the halls, sans any liquor
passing through our lips.
Drowsamine pills cause
unavoidable dozing
during helpful talks,
Where expert staff teach
how to stay safe and have fun
in the Antarctics.
The expedition staff included a variety of people knowledgeable in, for example, geology, marine biology, ornithology, photography, and, who entertained us with lectures, activities and photos. Did you know that the continent of Antarctica doubles in size in winter? Not only is it known as the 7th continent, it is also called the White Continent, and, claimed to be the coldest, driest, highest, and windiest. Nearly summer right now, calving glaciers create floating masses of icebergs and ice floes. Here is my best of first photos of an albatross, and my first sighting of an iceberg bigger than a bus…
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We stopped in calmer seas among the South Shetland Islands. This is where we first disembarked on heavy-duty rafts called Zodiacs. If you look at Antarctica’s geography, there is a finger shaped peninsula aimed at Ushuaia toward which we then sailed. It contains the continuation of the Andes mountains of South America. Sailing around parts of the western side of this peninsula, the waters remained calmer. Sometimes the Zodiac drivers piloted us to an island shore or to the continent to hike, and sometimes they cruised us around the waters. Oftentimes we had both a hike and a cruise per day, and that was usually once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
In all we saw:
Cetacean, or Whale
Fin (just their blows)
Humpback (blows, dorsal fins, and tail flukes)
Minke (blows, dorsal fins, and, one who swam under our Zodiac!)
Pinnipedia, or Seal
Crabeating (misnamed as they eat krill!)
Southern Elephant
Antarctic Terns and their nests
Cormorant and their colonies
Kelp Gull (among many varieties)
Snowy Sheathbill
Southern Giant Petrels
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       including Penguin: Chinstrap and their colonies, and many Gentoo and their colonies
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*In the lecture, we heard how this particular Albatross for example has white on its head, that particular Albatross has gray on its head, this one has dots on its wings, that one has stripes on its wings – all very hard to identify from a distance!
As if that were not enough, other events that stand out include snowshoeing; finding new born penguin chicks keeping warm beneath a parent’s body; seeing iridescent rainbow clouds above dense bright white clouds below beautiful blue skies;
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the full moon following us; our ship plow through sea ice; remains of yesteryears – like skeleton boats of the whaling industry;
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and, the myriad forms of glacial ice.
These among other photos that I did not capture include a glacier calving down a partially exposed rocky mountainside as if sand in an hourglass; that Minke whale that swam about a meter – 3 feet, below our Zodiac; an evening BBQ on an outer deck where we bundled up underneath our handmade hats to compete in a contest.
An additional noteworthy experience is the night when sixty of us – plus four staff – camped on the snow. We spread out over a wide berth on Ronge Island to sleep amid the Antarctic sounds: like calving of ice and snow sounding like rifle fire, thunder, or a slushing noise; terns chirping in flight; noisy skua seeming to be jockeying for a partner to sleep beside; then, snow crystals bouncing on our outer layers of protective ground bedding, first gently, then heavily, as the hours of the all-night-light sky ticked by. While two centimeters – more than half an inch, of accumulating snow fell, the vistas morphed from distinctive mountains, glaciers, clouds and dark southern ocean, to simply blended grays and whites.
The overnight inspired my most recent Haiku:
Antarctic Outdoor Overnight
by Claire Adalyn Wright
Eternally light
during the night – barely I
slept, for sound and sight.
All along the past two and a half years of our journey, different people have asked if we would visit Antarctica. My answer was always no, little dreaming how much of interest this part of the world was to Loren, and that it would become part of our experience.
Since booking our voyage, some people have asked if we would take Bikram Yoga classes while there, or, wondered if we would spend each night on the ship. There are no settlements on Antarctica, just the very few research stations. Most of those are abandoned and yet to be cleared off per recent inter-country agreements. The one exception we came across was Port Lockroy, an historic British outpost that receives thousands of applications for the meager few staff positions briefly available each summer. Here we were able to mail a few postcards. So, no there are no opportunities to take yoga classes on the 7th continent, and, other than our one night of snow camping, we spent all of our nights onboard the Ocean Diamond.
Returning from the Southern Ocean to the rough to us swells of Drake’s Passage, our walk was step-step-shuffle-shuffle-shuffle. Our sleep was lulled by rocking – except for occasional big thumps, sudden drops, or unexpected rolls, as if airline turbulence. Once again we were fortunate in that most of the time the ship kept up a nice rhythmic pace through the Drake, alternatively feeling like a waterbed, cradle, hammock, or rocking horse, not unlike a breathing-in and breathing-out of the open ocean, reminding me how waves on a beach often feel like the heartbeat of the Earth. We made our return voyage with more informative lectures and fun gatherings, one of which was a photo contest where two of Loren’s photos and one of mine were given Honourable Mention. Loren’s are included his most recent “On the Road…Just Didn’t Know” Photos with Poetry e-blast.
We sailed on, first seeing Cape Horn which straddles the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. We had such an easy time through the Drake that we idled around Cape Horn for hours before sailing overnight through Beagle Channel to Ushuaia. I am so very appreciative for the opportunity to have traveled on this exceptional, otherworldly excursion. Now in the Buenos Aires area since late last evening, I am still feeling as if my body is being gently lulled and rocked as I stand, walk, or sit.
We wish you Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah!

Week 141 December 10, 2016

¡Felices Fiestas! Season’s Greetings!
We were still in Tampa, Florida at the start of this week, visiting with cousins. We were happy to see the finished draft of memoirs that cousin his daughter was capturing the last time we were here, about travels during his career at Exxon. It is going off to the printer soon, just in time for celebrating his 90th birthday this coming week. One day we helped him to the Emergency Room for some precautionary tests. We have since learned that he is doing fine! Overall, we enjoyed good conversation and nice meals together, sharing more about family history and traveling. I regret that I did not take a single photo during this time, though have precious memories regardless.
From Tampa we drove to nearby Punta Gorda, also on the Gulf coast, where we had a memorable visit with a dear high school friend of mine and her mother. We packed a lot of wonderful activity into this regrettably short visit, which included an excellent evening seeing youth in a Performing Arts Christmas Showcase, especially to see their friend participate.
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We all appreciated a lunch date with my Bikram Yoga Teacher Training friend and her partner from Freiburg, Germany, who also happened to be visiting Florida. We arranged for them to stop by at my friend’s home on their way from Miami to Sarasota. With our friends we also attended Sunday mass, and, toasted to another beautiful sunset on the beach, as we did when we were together here last time. Before leaving, we said sorrowful goodbyes to their beloved cat, Harpy.
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We then drove to see a cousin in Lauderdale Lakes on the Atlantic coast for another too short visit. At 94 years young, she seems not a day older than 70. Well, maybe 75… Loren had not seen this cousin since his bicycle ride from California to Massachusetts fotty, yep, that is not a typo, it is her strong Massachusetts’ accent – “party” sounds similarly unique – 40 years ago. We had a memorable time with her and some of her friends who we met at Bingo. She won 3 of the many games we played during that evening. Loren and I also won $5 in a raffle!
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One morning during our visit, Loren and I drove a little north to Palm Beach Gardens take a Bikram Yoga class from a littermate from my Bikram Yoga Teacher Training, and enjoyed a sweet lunch together afterwards at her home.
With our cousin we drove to Miami, where we had a brief though sweet visit with my Godmother. She actually turned 94 this week, but is weaker physically than she was when we saw her two years ago. She was unable to show us how she feeds the cats and ducks who frequent her back yard, as she did on our last visit. She has very good neighbors who ensure that her needs are met. We reminisced about all our travels and had a meaningful time together. Again, I regret having taken no photos, though I do have treasured memories of this visit too.
Then we went to visit our cousin’s daughter along with her husband. They raised their children just a few miles away from my Godmother’s home, but we had not known that before. She prepared a lovely dinner and we spent our last night in the United States, for now, together catching up on each others’ lives. Their daughter also takes Bikram Yoga classes at a studio that I had visited two years ago. Meeting their son has to wait for another time, as he was away working on a deep sea fishing excursion.
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We bade our farewells, returned the rental car, and flew from Miami to Buenos Aires overnight. Our flight from Miami was delayed an hour due to weather conditions, which caused us more than a little concern, because we already had a tight schedule to make our next flight from the regional airport…
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Fortunately, baggage retrieval, passport control, customs, car transportation, and traffic all went smoothly from the main city airport, allowing us to arrive with time to spare. We learned that this day was a national holiday, so normal commute traffic was absent. The tour officially begins a day before the cruise departs, so had we missed our flight we had leeway. The regional airport departure area was festively decorated for the holiday season, and our flight to Ushuaia, said Ush-why-ah, the southernmost city in the world, went well.
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It is quite mountainous terrain here at Tierra del Fuego.
Loren and I settled in for our overnight at the hotel, then hiked a couple of hours to a vantage point of Del Glaciar: Martial Glacier. The clouds formed and dissipated repeatedly giving us only glimpses of the grandeur. It seemed as if we had all the time in the world to return to our accommodation, as daylight lasted well past 10:30pm. 
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On our walk back we enjoyed seeing a rainbow over the port, with still wonderful views of the harbor during dinner. Tomorrow we will tour a National Park before boarding our ship to sail away to Antarctica…
PLEASE NOTE: for the rest of December, we may have limited internet access, so, please check back here again for when we can next post to this site.

REPOSTING in Progress: Weeks 2 to 109

This place holder is for the entries from our original blog to be added, eventually. Please check back – this re-creation is a labor of Love and will take a bit of  t-i-m-e- which, while still traveling, we do not always have a lot available to devote to this.