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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

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

Getting there is half the, ahem, fun

Susan after traveling in IndiaWe are back from our long weekend trip to the beach – sunburned and wind swept. It was one of those breaks that ended up being just a bit more stressful than planned, and thus probably subtracted from our overall relaxation quotient rather than adding to it.

In a nutshell, what we had decided to try as a ‘short, easy to do on a weekend from Mumbai’ getaway dissolved into a trek that involved an hour taxi ride, an hour ferry ride, a 45 minute bus ride, and a 2 hour rickshaw ride – not counting connections – both coming and going. Coupled with a number of “Indian moments,” then, the overall report on the adventure was not overly positive (Breck called for a vote on the way back of who wanted to never go back to Alibag, and it was 3-0 with one abstention).

Ahh, tears and curses and scoffs and scowls: that’s what a family vacation is all about.

But on the other hand, we certainly feel blessed enough to be able to take these vacations with each other. Obviously people got a glimpse into the rougher side of Mumbai life in Slumdog Millionaire, but our community got another sudden jolt of reality that hit even closer to home.

One of our students died last week as a result of a tumor. The disease revealed itself just last year and worked its way quickly through the young man’s brain, so we are all sobered by the capriciousness of life. Our hearts go out to his family – his dad and I coached Breck’s soccer team this fall, the same team that his younger brother was on. We can complain about our personal circumstances – but in the end we must consider ourselves lucky that we keep experiencing them.

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!!

Udaipur and Hawaii

Two great tastes that taste great together, right?

Actually, they have nothing to do with each other, but both are bouncing around in my brain tonight.

Udaipur is bouncing around for a “good” reason, as I’ve finally finished our trip pages. We visited the city during our Diwali break at the end of October/beginning of November, and what with all sorts of craziness going on here I just have not been able to get the pages done. But – done they are – all eleven of them! I kind of skimped on cool shots from the last day, but Susan already thinks I have enough ‘pictures of India’ anyways, so I guess that’s no big deal.

Hawaii is bouncing around for a “silly” reason. All day long I have been unable to get the Christmas song Mele Kalikimaka out of my head. And all day long it has been echoing through my skull with the word “Hawaii” replaced by “Mumbai.” I finally asked one of the school drivers how to say “Merry Christmas” in Hindi (he didn’t know it in Marathi), and now, to exorcise this demon, I present the verse of the song (hum along in your best Bing Crosby voice):

Shuber Nadal is the thing to say,
On a bright Mumbaiian Christmas Day,
That’s the Hindi greeting that we send to you
From the land where rickshaws sway.
Here we know that Christmas will be hot and bright,
The sun to shine by day and all the fireworks at night,
Shuber Nadal is Mumbai’s way
To say “Merry Christmas to you.”

Please let the madness end!!

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?!!”

A four day weekend

Always a cause for celebration. We were so darn excited about the break – we packed ourselves off and headed to the beaches of Goa. It was a pretty funny sight at five o’clock in the morning in the airport: it seemed to us that 80% of the school’s population was doing the exact same thing as we were. Since local airlines, in their infinite wisdom, only schedule departures for Goa at 4 in the afternoon and 5 in the morning, we were all on the same flights together.

But Goa has quite a number of different areas and different beaches, and so we all split up and went our separate ways – with the Stutz family going back to Anjuna beach and the hotel we had so enjoyed before. We had told a couple who are new to Mumbai about the place we went last year, and they ended up staying there as well. Alea was a little worried about spending her vacation with her math teacher right next door, but we ended up having a lot of fun with them. We hung out with them for breakfasts, showed them around the beach a bit, ate dinner with them two nights, played in the water with the Mrs., and even had some laughs about the “Come look my shop” racket on the beach.

Alea actually had the roughest time out of all of us, though. In one morning, she forgot her glasses, bonked her chin and bit her tongue, got a fat lip from dad smacking her (accidentally!), and cut her foot open on some sharp rocks. She was a real trooper, however, and we all had some serious fun jumping into waves and body surfing. Breck had a super time petting all the cows and kittens he could find, and came up with some good beach-sitting humor (What kind of spice do the Eskimos like? Chilies!!).

We ran into some other teachers at a cafe Saturday afternoon, and they got a big kick out of all the bargaining I was doing for some shirts. In fact, I got an email from one of the guys this morning: There are 8 Goan woman standing outside waiting for you. They told security that they will sell you a shirt for 80 rs.” I told him that he can laugh all he wants, but now I have my “vacation shirts” for the next five years!!

We’ll certainly post up more pictures and descriptions when we get around to it. We have lots on the plate this week, as we get things ready for Oktoberfest this Saturday. We have one more normal week, then Alea and I take off for week without walls, and then we have another week off for Diwali break, during which we’ll head to Udaipur. Just to keep things all in perspective – that means the middle school has classes for exactly 9 days the entire month of October!

And yes, I know the Cubbies got swept. Just be quiet.

Back in Bombay

I realize that we’ve been here for a few days, and many family members have already received emails, but this is just the official blogosphere notice that we got in safe and sound. It was a bit of a strenuous trip – that big ole 747 was really a big old 747, and the kids had to make do with no in-flight entertainment (and the parents hadn’t packed any toys or goodies, since our original flight booking had been on Delta, which does have the screens). We made a stop in London as well, which no one had told us was happening until after take off from Chicago, so that was another unexpected twist.

But we got in on time, all our luggage showed up, the school driver was ready and waiting, and our apartment was all set up – so we were glad to be home. This week has been a combination of getting over jet lag, seeing old colleagues, meeting new coworkers, and getting ready for school. All very exciting!

But now it is time to watch the Olympic opening ceremony – whoo hoo!!

Leaving on a jet plane

Well, we are off after an interesting summer – and it looks like things are going to stay interesting! Our original flight was delayed out of Minneapolis, so all our plans got shifted. Instead of going through JFK, we now pass through Chicago. And instead of getting in at 10:30 pm, we are now scheduled to arrive at 2:30 am!

We obviously had to get in touch with the school to let them know about this change of plans, and had the rude awakening that we had to pay $6.95 just to get on the airport’s internet. I guess the universal WiFi in an airport only applies in Europe – here: you gotta pay, baby!!

But we also get to fly in a big ole Air India 747, which is parked outside as I type. So I figured that I could take a quick picture and post a quick entry, so here it is. Wish us luck as we head out into the evening…

Tubular!

The theme of the summer with all the in-laws and cousins has been fun in the sun; Alea and Breck have certainly done their part to keep up with all the activities.

Susan’s brothers and father have taken them out numerous times on various Minnesota lakes in their boats, and the highlights of the rides have been hopping on the tubes. These inflated giants get dragged behind at great speeds, and the uncles take great pride in trying to knock the kids off.

The kids, for their part, hang on for dear life as they fly over the boat’s wake, around tight corners, and across choppy waters. Good times!

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!

Greetings from Rimini

Unfortunately, we aren’t the ones doing the greetings from Rimini. We got a call last night from the huge family reunion taking place at our cabin, and enjoyed hearing how much fun the rest of the family was having at our house!

(A quick recap of the summer’s trials and tribulations: we got back from India, spent a week with family in DC, and then came out to Minnesota. Our plan was to hang out here for 2 weeks, and then spend most of July at our cabin in Rimini, Montana. Family from all over the US – brother and family from DC, mother from WV, sister and family from WY, sister and family from Missoula, MT, and, for the first time ever, father from Billings, MT – all made plans to converge on the little town outside Helena for a grand reunion. But two days before I was to drive out and get things ready, I blew out my knee playing beach volleyball. The grim diagnosis was a ripped ACL and torn meniscus, requiring immediate surgery and (at least) 6 week recovery time before any travel was possible. There went our plans)

But everyone else decided to carry on with the plan, so we got a fun phone call from them last night – great cell phone coverage! Sounds like everyone is having a good time: dad is acting goofy, Rob brought Obama pins for all the kids (except Tyrel, who still wants Mitt Romney!), Karla has a pink Obama shirt, Yiayia is unfortunately not feeling well, and Shari’s got her hands full with two feisty girls.

We wish we were there, and we hope everyone has a super time with lots of swimming, hiking, and campfiring. There have been many promises of pictures, so we are certainly excited about seeing them.

Meanwhile, our kids got to go to the MN zoo today, while I got to go to physical therapy. Hardly seems fair…

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!!

Fifth view of life in Bombay

Typical goods-hauling truck in Mumbai trafficThrough our first year here, we’ve posted a number of pages centered around things that we see in our daily life. As the school year is almost over, and we will be in the US for most of the break, this is the last page of pictures from India that we plan on uploading until August. We might have a post or 2 of wrap up from the year, but enjoy these last shots from this fascinating country.

In case you have missed any of the earlier pages, here are our imaginatively-named webpages in this particular genre:

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!

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!!

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!

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.