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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Bali trip – snorkeling off the east coast

Our second stop over the Christmas vacation was to a dive area on Bali’s east coast.

I’m sure you are saying to yourself, “But wait – what about the first stop?!!” Really, I know you are.

Don’t worry – we are putting these up all out of order. This is the second stop (Amed), next up will be the first stop (Sanur), and then we’ll go on with places three (Ubud) and four (Pemuteran). Trust me.

In any case, the Ahmed webpages for our Christmas trip are now online.They don’t hold any navigation to other parts of the Indonesia pages because, honestly, none exist right now. But scoot on over and enjoy the pictures and stories that are already posted – if you are enjoying a nice cold winter, the sun will help warm you up inside!

Happy New Year – we’re back!

View over the Balinese rice paddies to a volcano in the distanceInstead of the traditional “pine cones and holly berries” this holiday season, we enjoyed “palm trees and lots of snorkeling.” Our Christmas jaunt was to the island paradise of Bali, where we enjoyed 3 weeks of sun, water (both in the seas and from the skies), shopping, and a bit of culture all rolled up with a healthy dose of relaxation.

Part of that relaxation piece was a complete disregard for any sort of electronic access. Sorting through hundreds of emails this weekend has been a daunting task, but I think we’re just about caught up. Now all we have to worry about is school starting again!

In terms of stories and pictures and all, those are all coming up at some point – but not tonight! Here is a quick list of some highlights (and lowlights) of our time in Bali: snorkeling right from the shore, schools of gorgeous fish, colonies of radiant coral, sunburn, sunken warships, rice paddies, motor scooters, monkey attacks, wood carvings, dances and chanting, tropical skin disease, sea turtles, and of course – ice cold Bintang!

We’ll start getting things sort of organized for the webpage and all, but for now this is just a shout out that the Stutz family is back online. Whoo hoo!

Hiking in the Himalayas

Monks spinning prayer wheels in Mcleod GanjThe webpages from our Dharamsala trip are online and rarin’ to go. This last week has been really weak on the blog entry front, and I’m worried that trend might continue as we enter the holiday season of things.

We did have an exciting event this last weekend, as we went to downtown Mumbai for dinner with the parents of one of my students. The interesting thing about it is that the husband happens to be the 34th richest man in the world (this after having his net worth drop by $42 billon last year. Yes, you read that correctly. He’s only worth $10 billion now). When all is said and done, however, he and his wife were delightful hosts and we had a fabulous time.

But that doesn’t excuse me from neglecting my internet duties now, does it? Until I get back into the real swing of things, go take your mind off your other problems and check out all the fun we had a few weeks back!

Finished with the Thailand pages

Reclining Buddha in BangkokWhew! After a bit more than a month back in town, schlepping through 1700 pictures, and putting together 15 pages – the Thailand trip is finally online. We might be adding and/or revising some info there, but the latest saga in Stutz travel is now available for viewing.

We spent three weeks in-country, basing ourselves in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, and Krabi, so those will be the areas documented. It was a fabulous vacation, marred a bit by camera issues, but hopefully that will not detract from the final presentation.

And yes, we will get to the Alibag trip that stressed Susan out so much soon! But between now and then, zip on over and enjoy the sights of Thailand

Back from Thai-ing one on

the Stutz family in Chiang Mai, ThailandWe’ve returned to Mumbai after a super almost-three-weeks in Thailand. There were lots of ups – such as elephant rides, snorkeling, boat rides, shopping – as well as a few downs – broken camera, lost bag with ipod and other camera – during the time. But it was overall very relaxing, and we’ve come home tanned and rested and feeling like we had a vacation.

I know that there were reports of a deadly fire in Bangkok on New Year’s, but A) we were were in Chiang Mai, B) our days of hitting the clubs pretty much ended with parenthood, and so C) we were not involved in any way.

We are smack in the middle of a weekend unpacking from the trip, organizing gifts for others and goodies for ourselves, taking down Christmas, finalizing school grades, planning for next week, and saying ‘hey’ to all our friends and colleagues as they return from their trips. We will obviously make Thailand travel pages on our website at some point (and note that development here), but that is at some point in the future.

Until then, following in the footsteps of our last post – but with no singing – you can get a preview of some of the things we saw and did in a quick 17 days in Thailand collection Susan put together…

We are home, we are safe, we are refreshed, and we are back online!!

Another Goa-round

While not as extensively documented as our last visit to the beach state, our new Goa pages are now posted. In honor of the fact that today is an election day, we publish below a shocking photo of just the kind of crazy goings-on for which Goa is famous. As the lady on the right seems to be saying, “What in the world is happening here?!!”

No more horsing around

Aaahh. Back from a splendid week in Udaipur – a great city that seems to have missed out on a lot of ‘buzz’ at our school. We will certainly be talking about it with colleagues from now on, and a future trip could certainly be in the cards.

Despite the travel traumas inflicted by Indian Airlines (note to all – NEVER USE THEM!! We tried giving a second chance following the summer flight debacle, but two rescheduled flights later – rescheduled to different days, not just different times – our patience limit has been met), we had a very soul-rejuvenating and restful break. We spent a night in the city, two on a horse ranch, two at a country house, and one more in the city, and were just pleased as punch with the change in pace from Mumbai. It was quiet (aside from the Diwali fireworks) and low-key (aside from the Diwali lights) and uncrowded (aside from the Diwali tourists, many of whom were European): everything we wanted on a break.

The city itself is beautiful – set on a series of manmade lakes inside a ring of mountains. The locals have no problem reminding all who visit about how Udaipur is the setting for the James Bond movie Octopussy, and the fabulous palaces and royal residences make a great counter point to the pastel-colored houses. There is quite a bustling tourist trade here, but the shops and sellers were never overbearing; the atmosphere was exotic rather than annoying!

We will certainly add pictures and commentary to the webpage in the future (one of the missing pages mentioned in the previous post!), but for now this is just a notice that we are home safe and sound.

As for what we missed this past week – congratulations to the Phillies, Happy Halloween, and don’t forget to vote!!

Washington DC

Before all the bad knee stuff happened, we had a very pleasant start to the summer. We flew back from Mumbai directly to DC to visit Uncle Rob and Aunt Blanche and kids. We got to meet John, who picked us up from the airport with his hot yellow Mustang, and congratulated him and Yiayia on their marriage.

We stayed with them for almost a week, and they treated us like royalty. We went to a Nationals ball game, saw their newly purchased home, and even had a couple days for exploring the Mall.

It was the perfect introduction to summer for us, plus we got to visit some of the places that signify “America” and mean so much to our history.

After all the other hoopla of the summer, we never got around to posting some pictures from this trip. But now – that oversight is rectified. Enjoy our pictures from Washington this summer!

Walkin’ the Mall

Alea and Breck in front of the CapitolWell, we made it to DC, and are having a great visit with Uncle Rob, Aunt Blanche, Boyd, and Sam. They have been so gracious in letting us use their apartment, which is conveniently located right near a Metro stop, so we’ve been able to zip downtown on a couple of occasions to see a few of the sights. They are in the process of moving to the new-to-them house they just bought, so everything worked out perfectly.

Yesterday we spent the whole day with YiaYia at the Air and Space Museum (and the only one asking “Are we done yet?” was Susan!! We eventually let her go to the National Gallery of Art across the way to get her daily dose of culture!). This morning, we are heading to start at the Lincoln Memorial and walk the Mall to the Museum of Natural History.

Even though we are in the midst of a DC heatwave, we are feeling right at home. The jetlag has been negligible, and we are so excited to be getting our summer off to such a great start. More info as we travel around, but suffice to say at this point – we’re back in the USA, we’re healthy, and we’re happy!!

Pictures from Kerala

Kathakali dancer in Fort Kochi, KeralaFinally got the Kerala trip webpages all finished up and posted. The last big trip of the year always seems to get rushed in at the end of everything. With all the stuff going on lately – the end of school and getting ready for summer – they kept getting put off…

But now they’re on – just in time for Susan’s birthday (happy birthday, honey!!).

Honestly, with all the tragedy going on right now in this part of the world – from cyclones in Burma to earthquakes in China to bombs in India – it just feels good to be able to write about a pleasant vacation and include some happy pictures. So enjoy, and take a load off for a few minutes!

Carry on bags in India

Cabin baggage…must all have name tags on them. We’ve found this out as we’ve traveled around the country, and it is kind of a fun little routine for us. When you check in, you have to fill out a name tag and put it on your bag. Then when you go through security (which involves a metal detector and a pat-down search – all done in a separate line and behind a curtained divider for the women), the guard stamps your tag. When you leave the waiting room for the bus to take you to the airplane stairs (jetways are unknown here), another guard checks to make sure you have a stamp. If not, back to security for you!

We actually had a fuss made over us the other day when Breck’s legos went through the x-ray machine. The guards seemed pretty concerned about them and inspected the whole pack pretty carefully. Susan is convinced that they just wanted to stop and play with them! This may not be too far from the truth, as the legos are certainly an attention-getter wherever we go.

In any case, the Festival of Nations page is now updated

Back from Kerala, to a horn-free Mumbai (almost)

The family in KeralaWe have returned from the sunny south of India, after 10 days of backwater boat rides and the four s’s – sun, sand, salt, and seafood!!

Our trip was a great success; 3 nights in Fort Cochin, a ride through the famed backwaters and an overnight in Alleppey, 8 hours on a ferry down the inland coast to (our one ratty hotel in) Kollum, 2 nights in bamboo huts at Varkala beach, and the final 3 nights at a place with a pool(!) in Kovalam with a flight out of Thiruvananthapuram (luckily also known by its old name of just Trivandrum!). Whew!

Of course, these names mean nothing now, but we just wanted y’all to know that we are back safe and sound. We’ll obviously be posting stories and pictures on the webpage and linking there from here.

In other news of the world, today was ‘no horn day‘ here in Mumbai, and it seemed to have a mixed result. We took 2 separate rickshaws home from the airport (since we’d bought so much stuff!!), and when we got in the apartment, Susan commented that she and Alea thought the ride was much quieter than usual. Breck and I replied that we had counted all the honks on the way home, and had totaled up 98 – which is admittedly fewer than expected. So success or failure? Who knows.

I'm number 1!I do know one success, however, that is set in stone: regardless of who wins the NCAA tournament today, I have – for the first time ever in my life – won my basketball pool. By one point!

Aurangabad, Ellora, and Ajanta

ajanta4.jpg

The pictures and travelogue from our most recent weekend trip are now posted. Visit the city of Aurangabad, climb to the top of the Daulatabad Fort, marvel at the mini Taj Mahal at the Bibi ka Maqbara, hike the Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain caves at Ellora (and scramble around gigantic elephant statues at the Kailasa temple there), and circle through the painted Buddhist caves at Ajanta. Great stuff…

Some pictures today…

Breck talking with Minnesota’s First LadyFirst of all, here is Breck, asking a question of Minnesota’s First Lady. The governor made a trip to India a while back, and while he didn’t make it to our school, his wife did, and Breck got to ask her a question! According to our director, “he was very articulate.” Way to go, Breck!!

Now for some from our Christmas trip. These are the first pages, put together over the weekend. None of the page navigation is in, so you’ll have to keep coming “back” here to get to the next one, but at least it is a start. Enjoy!!

Happy New Year!

The Stutz family in front of the Taj Mahal!!We’re back from our “Golden Triangle” trip – safe and sound, battle scarred and road weary. Our trip was, in different turns (and often within minutes of each other) beautiful, dirty, frustrating, rewarding, restful, and stressful. We saw wonders of the world and soul wrenching poverty, experienced overwhelming environmental degradation back to back with fantastic wildlife conservation, and came away with a new appreciation for all that we have.

In fact, one of the most poignant moments was upon our return to Mumbai – as we were driving through the street, both Dave and Susan looked at each other and remarked at how clean and orderly Mumbai seemed!! After all our ‘comments’ about the quality of life here, seeing what things are like out in the sticks brought a new round of culture shock home to us.

In any case, we’re back and will begin putting together pictures and stories from the trip, but this will be a very time-intensive project (as you can imagine). Patience, and we’ll get these posted. In the meantime, Susan is taking off for a week in Jakarta, Indonesia to get some teacher training, so don’t expect to hear much from her!

Goa head

Sunset over Goa…and look at the Goa pages. They should now be pretty complete with our travelogue of the visit. After another silly week at school, those hours on the beach just keep looking better and better. Oh well, when the going gets tough, I just throw on one of the Goa shirts I bought and pretend I’m back there!

On a completely different note, I am sad to report that, since the previous post about spams on the blog was written, I have had to add 7 new drugs to the no-write list. The most recent was glucophage, which I know puts a big dent in peoples’ topics for conversation. (But Viagra is still OK to bring up, as Uncle Rob checked earlier)

Goa home

The Stutz Family in GoaAfter a full week of sun, sand, and sweet relaxation, we are back in Bombay. As mom unpacks to the snap-crackle-pop of post-Diwali firecrackers going off all around the apartment, the rest of us sigh in contentment.

There will certainly be more info posted on the goings on of this previous week, but I suppose a one-sentence synopsis is in order. To begin, however, a disclaimer – I have ever been a big fan of the sit-on-the-beach-and-do-nothing vacation.

Even with that caveat, I have no hesitation in stating for the record that this was probably the most smooth running, relaxing, fun, and mental-health-restoring holiday that we have ever taken.

The location was superb, the hotel was great (not ritzy, but exactly what we wanted), the pace relaxed, and the prices right. What a great time we had doing absolutely nothing (of course that’s not true, but unlike other trips to areas where there was a lot to see and do, this one was dedicated to the hedonistic pleasures of just relaxing, swimming, eating, drinking, and spending time as a family).

Susan wrote up a letter outlining our week; it is posted here at what will (eventually) become the webpage about the trip.

Goa way

We’re wrapping up the end of the week and looking forward to our Goa vacation. Everyone is very ready for a break: the kids are pooped after all the craziness around school, Susan is coming down with a nasty cold, and Dave is just plain ready to relax. One of the nice things about a holiday like this is that we are abandoning all electronic devices except the camera. No phones, no computer, no internet – just the beach and an old Portuguese fishing village. So don’t expect any updates for a week or so; and then we’ll have plenty to share after our return!

Week without Walls update

As promised earlier, and just in time for our weekend off, the WWW pages are now posted. Enjoy!

Back in Bombay

Dave at Week Without WallsReturned from the Week without Walls trip on Friday afternoon and got lots of hot and sweaty hugs from the kids (and mom too, although she wasn’t quite as hot and sweaty at that point). The whole week itself was far too full of stuff to detail here, but I’m sure the webpage will be up at some point (and I’ll put a link to it).

Link added Nov 2…

We went to the Jogeshwari bazaar area yesterday to look for a dining room table. The one supplied with the apartment is round, and we find ourselves tipping it over whenever someone leans against it, so we decided that we wanted to get a rectangular one. The aspect of life in India that we seem to find the most frustrating is the traffic. It took us 45 minutes each way to get out to that part of town (which really should be about 10-15 minutes with a normal road pattern). Once we got out there, we wandered around just a little, but then realized that – although it seems like a great place to have something custom made – we are not quite ready to dedicate the time required to have that done (at least not with the kids along). So we packed back up and went back into the traffic again. When we got back home, the kids played with their friends all afternoon, mom and dad ran some errands for the upcoming Halloween week, and there was peace all around.

Week’s end

Breck's Crazy Hair!!Whew. This week went out like a lion. It has been crazy, crazy, crazy around school as everyone in the middle and high school prepares for the “Week Without Walls” that kicks off next Monday. I’ll be traveling with the 6th graders to Matheran for 5 days of team- and class-building activities. They are super excited about going, and I’m getting more so by the day.

Unfortunately on the home front, Alea has had to stay home the past 2 days with the same yucky cough thing that Breck had last week. She’s really bummed, because today was Crazy Hair day at the Elementary School and she was part of the group that organized and designed the day. Luckily, Breck was there to pick up the Stutz family participatory slack!

But at least we all have Oktoberfest to look forward to. My list of things to do after school is pretty super long…

One of my colleagues told a little story about an occurrence in class, and it seems like a great way to end the week. Because kids read this, we’ll replace bad language with little stars!!

It is quite an experience to be teaching with a bunch of kids for whom the English language, in all its beauty and nuance, is not their mother tongue. (Keep in mind this event happened in a class full of innocent elementary school kids – not the high schoolers!) Apparently the teacher made a mistake and said, “Shoot!” in class. One little girl gasped and said, “That’s a bad word!” To which another boy replied, “No, Shoot is ok to say, but S**T is a bad word.” Some other kid perked up and goes, “My dad says that G**D****T is much worse than that.” And the sweet little angel across the room pipes up, “But my brother said that F**K was the worst word of all.” Poor teacher had to wait a few moments, hand over giggling mouth, before retaking control of the situation.

Just a little flavor of the week, from all of us to all of you.

The saga begins…

So Uncle Rob wrote me a nasty email the other day saying “You ought to list everything that you show on the front of the webpage. What’s wrong bonehead, haven’t you ever heard of a blog?” Or words to that effect. So we’ll give it a try. No guarantees on how often it’ll be updated, but at least I’ll try to get links in to our most recent stuff and all.

I don’t understand it, though. I thought the cool thing about the web was that you could see things – you know, pictures, videos – cool stuff. Who wants to sit around and read a bunch of text? Well, apparently Uncle Rob does.

So what is the story so far? Our family, after living for four years in Belgrade, Serbia (actually, Dave lived there 4 years, while Susan and the kids went back to the states after 3, but that is a long enough story to preclude it’s being retold or explained here), moved to Bombay (Mumbai) India in the fall of 2007. The parents are both teachers – Susan is doing 1st grade this year, and Dave has middle school math and technology – who are riding the international circuit – and their two kids are in 3rd (Breck) and 5th (Alea) grade.

We’ve had a family webpage for 10 years (8 at the present domain name), with one of the more voluminous areas being the travel pictures we post. When we came to India, we started right up showing people what our life was like.

We’ve spent the first two months settling in, and I guess that is what got Dave’s brother Rob all bent out of shape. We’d posted a number of pages with the things that we’d seen, but apparently not well enough organized to keep him happy. Here then, in the order that we did them, are the pages that already appear on the India webpage. Sorry for the late start, but I’ll try to keep things more to your liking from now on. Satisfied now?

Our first pages were built on letters that we wrote to family and friends about out first impressions. Interestingly enough, we called them “First view of life in India” and “Second view of life in India.” I forgot to warn you about the strong literary streak running through my blood, didn’t I? Then the kids and I discovered a gecko on the roof, so we shared info about “Our first pet.” Guess I’ll have to put something up now about our second pet, seeings how we’ve got one now. But you’ll have to wait…

After we got settled in a bit we made a trip downtown shopping at Chor Bazaar (the reason I’m not writing too much about these is that I’m playing catch-up ball, and the info is already located on the pages themselves. We then took a weekend trip to Lonavala, which was where all this fussin hoopla started, because it was there that we visited the Karla caves – named after my sister (and after Susan’s too, but hers is with a C not a K).

We were here in time to see the Ganesh immersion festival, attend an arts and crafts fair, and hike around Matheran. There is a lot more scheduled to happen, including a trip to Goa at the beginning of November, so hopefully this will keep Uncle Rob satisfied.