Around the World by plane

Log Entry Location: East Timor

September, 2004

We had an amazing around the world vacation in September. Miraculously, we were able to visit some of the people that we love most in the world – all of our siblings, parents, nieces and nephews, Tina in Colorado, Ruth & Mark in DC, Mark, Deb and Noah in Takoma Park, and most of our friends and adopted family in East Timor. What a treat!

First stop – California. Home to Princess Daniela, her adorable brother Matteo, and Colleen’s new personal trainer – a psychotic (just kidding) professional soccer player disguised as a next-door neighbor. We had a GREAT visit and ate far too much Mexican food!

Next stop – Colorado. Dean had only a 5-hour layover but Patti stayed for 3 days to visit with her great friend, Kristina Howe. Kristina and Steve took her on a hike at altitude!

Third stop – Minnesota. The visit with the Menke clan was fantastic – and featured quality time with each part of the family. The week in the Twin Cities included roller coasters, paddle boating, croquet, picnics, bbqs, and a family photo! Whew!

Next up – Washington DC. After a little schedule re-shuffling due to the hurricane season in FL, we spent three full days in DC. We stayed with Ruth and Mark Walkup and felt lucky to catch up with them before they head off to Zimbabwe. We ate at our favorite restaurants, caught up with friends in DC and Takoma Park, and visited both our cat and our little house. It was nice to be back – but far too short.

Last stop in the US – Florida. We wound out the time in the US with several days visiting the Nourse/Eppley leg of Patti’s family. Mo and Lance were great hosts, as always, and we especially enjoyed the new wide screen tv! Margaret, Mo, and Patti had a little girl time at the Aveda Institute while Dean picked Lance’s brain about our next laptop purchase.

Next stop – Copenhagen. Alyne, Greg, Hamilton and Aidan took the train down to meet us in the Danish capital for a couple of days of fun and games! It was such a treat to spend time at the Copenhagen Zoo with the boys – we are amazed by how big they are both getting to be.

Tired yet?

Thailand

As one of the last legs of a 5-week journey around the world, we took a week-long vacation in Thailand. Patti’s sister, Alyne (who was 7 months pregnant, but on her way to Vietnam for work), joined us for the fun. Except for one last night in Bangkok, we spent all our time in Chiang Mai, a city in the central part of north Thailand - known for its amazing temples, bargain shopping, and natural areas.

The temples were amazing, from the ornate Wat Phra That Doi Suthep temple to the rustic Wat U Mong temple (in the forest), there were enough temples to fill weeks of travel if you were to visit them all. Like other countries in the region, these temples and their religious activities meld seamlessly into daily life. Monks hit the markets early, before they are open to the public, to ask for/receive their daily offerings of food from the vendors. The public transport system has special seating for the monks, and yet tourists are welcomed and encouraged to visit all the temples, ask questions of the monks, and enjoy the beauty of the compounds.

Despite all the beautiful temples, the highlight of the trip was definitely the elephants. In the forests around Chiang Mai, elephants were historically used as beasts of burden in the forestry industry. With few old-growth forests around anymore, most of these trained animals have been diverted to the tourist industry. Treks through the forests, baths in the river, soccer shows, and painting exhibitions attract bus-loads of people every day to these elephant camps. We fed these huge creatures raw sugar cane and bananas (peels and all) from our hands, and watched as each trainer walked their partner animal into the river for the daily bath. The elephants loved the scrubbing and attention. You would never know an elephant was getting a bath at times – they would totally submerge except for a periscope-like trunk sticking out of the water to breath. We didn’t ride them – something about a 7-month pregnant woman having her limits.

Bali

The next (quick) stop was Bali, the point of entry for our return to Timor Leste. We spent one night there in each direction – and Patti managed to get a Balinese massage each time. We also went for a long walk on Kuta beach at sunset, did some last minute trinket shopping for our friends in Timor, and did a short hike over a stream and to a local village near our resort. Dean still loves Bali and hopes to come back some day – Patti feels like she’s had enough!

East Timor

We spent five days and four nights back in Dili. It was a great chance to visit old friends and colleagues and to see how things have changed in the 8 months since we left. By strange coincidence, Dean’s two closest UNV friends were back in the country on new work contracts. We managed to have several nice meals together with Paulo (Brazilian) and Seppo (Finnish) and even got in a snorkel at ‘unexploded ordinance beach’ the day we departed!

Dean also touched base with the Timor Coffee Cooperative folks and followed up on the consulting assignment he did early in July. It looks likely that he’ll be going back again in March or April of 2005.

Patti visited Peace Corps and had lunch with her Timorese colleagues. It was nice to see everyone doing so well – and even to see some new Volunteers! She also had an interview with the Rector of the National University to discuss her Fulbright application for 2006.

The highlight of the visit was the time we spent with Lili, Ossorio, and their kids. Our godchild, Orio, continues to grow like a weed. He’s such a happy kid! We had an afternoon outing at the beach – and Dean did his best to serve as an in-water jungle gym for all 5 of the older kids. The youngest girl, Oja, was the clear winner in the sand castle competition.

It was nice to be back and it all felt very familiar. Our Tetun language skills came back quickly and that was fun! Some progress has been made – the Peacekeepers have mostly left and things are still calm; new hotels and restaurants have opened and more and more Timorese people themselves are using them (not just foreigners); and our friends report that it feels like things are moving forward.

On the other hand, it felt like 5 days was enough to remind us of why we decided to leave. It is still a stressful place to be – a low level of stress and uncertainty seems to be just below the surface.

We still are in love with the place and the people and we’re still committed to going back to make a bigger contribution…..it just may be a year or so before we feel ready again!

Singapore

After transiting through Bali again, we had a 5 hour layover in the city-state of Singapore. Since our bags were checked all the way through to Tonga, we were able to escape the airport on Singapore’s excellent mass transit system and head to East Coast Park – home of a great walking trail along the water and BOWLING! We bowled 2 quick games – our first in 2.5 years. What fun! And then we headed back to the airport for tasty Singapore noodles before boarding our 14-hour flight to Auckland.

Auckland

Apparently our Denmark-Thailand-Indonesia-Singapore in less than two weeks (and without luggage) trip set off some alarm bells in Auckland. We had a 10-hour layover and were planning to leave the airport with just our carry-on. The Kiwi Custom’s officials were not amused! After standing in line for about 45 minutes, we were finally interviewed about our itinerary. As soon as Patti explained that she worked for the US government (and showed our official passports), the New Zealand Customs Official immediately apologized and escorted us to the exit! He explained that they had a special operation going on – presumably about drug smuggling.

After that adventure, we headed to a day room for a nap and a shower. Then we hit our favorite (and only) Mexican restaurant in Auckland! We still can’t figure out why they have Brazilian caipirinhas on the menu – but Patti didn’t let that stop her from ordering several. Afterwards, we walked in the rain, watched some crazy bungy jumpers, and headed back to the airport for the final leg back to Tonga.

 

back to top
home | adventures | links | about | contact