Friday, March 31, 2006

Back to North America

We are back from Peru, and it was a completely perfect trip. Well, except for the food poisoning Patty got from alpaca she bought on the street from an old lady outside a restroom. We did say we would be more adventurous this trip!

We started with a few days in Lima, where we spent time with friends and did sightseeing. Mostly, we went to the religious sites in Lima Centro and saw things like the remains of Sts. Rose of Lima, Martin de Porres, and Juan de Macias. The art we saw was phenomenal, and we could have easily spent several days exploring the churches of Lima.

However, we had other things to do. One night, we went to a peña, which is a traditional music show at a nightclub. The highlight of the evening was the fire dance, where a dancer taped a piece of cloth to someone's backside and attempted to light it on fire while the person danced away from them. The goal for the person with the cloth was to shake it enough to put out the flame. One person's cloth actually caught on fire!

The next night, we had Erica's and Raul's wedding to attend, and that was loads of fun. Peruvians really know how to party! It was at a beautiful outdoor venue, the Museo de Oro del Peru. There were swaths of white cloth strewn overhead, and paths lit with candles. The ceremony was very personalized. There was no officiant, just their families giving speeches about and to them. Patty actually shed a couple of tears, because they are just a perfect couple.

After the wedding, and we mean directly after - no nap - we went to the airport for a 6 am flight to Cuzco, where we had tours planned for the majority of our time there. We saw more than we would have on our own, and we also learned much more. It was pretty tough at 11,000 feet to 13,000+ feet to walk around so much, but it whipped us into shape. The altitude also erased our appetites, so we've come back looking good! To help with the headaches caused by lack of oxygen, we drank mate de coca. Yes, that coca. We aren't sure how much it helped anything, but it was delicious. It tasted like a very expensive green tea.

On our last day in Cuzco, we went to Machu Picchu, and that first glimpse of it was worth every penny and every minute (5 minute van ride, 4.5 hour train ride, 25 minute bus ride) we spent to get there. It was on the top of such a steep mountain, it was hard to imagine how anyone got up there before roads were carved into the mountain. The roads, by the way, were narrow. The bus drivers had to remove the side view mirrors because they get too close to each other when passing.

The flight back to Lima was perfectly calm and very scenic, but when we landed, Patty sat down in the airport and couldn't stand up. In fact, she laid down on the hard floor and couldn't even sit up after a few minutes. A good portion of the rest of the day was spent in the airport clinic, where Patty got pills and a shot (guess where!) to help with the stomach pain and nausea caused by that nasty alpaca. All of the taxi drivers, normally trying to get customers, really helped us arrange things so that we could go back to our bed and breakfast to rest. The b&b owner gave us the suite to spend the day in and rest (for only $15!). Our friend and travel agent coordinated everything with the airport taxi stand operator and Matthew. Our driver even stuck around for hours so that he could be ready for us when Patty could get out of bed. This was just typical of our experience with the residents of Peru. They all made us feel welcomed and treated us like they would their own families. Anyhow, Matthew did the souvenir shopping while Patty laid in bed and watched Transamerica while drifting in and out of sleep. Soon it was time to go to the airport for the verrrrrry long flight back to Atlanta.

That flight was very bumpy, but due to our exhaution, we hardly cared at all. In fact, Patty bent over to reach for something in our bag and fell asleep reaching for it. We spent very little time awake on the flight, which went from 1:30 am to 8:30 am. We came home and slept for much of the rest of the day as well, and we are just now recovering from illness and exhaustion two days later.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Gabriel with a lot to say

We hope that you will all enjoy this short little clip of Gabe being his amazing self. There is volume with this video, but Gabe wasn't speaking very loudly so you may need to max out your speakers.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lots of Photos

Gabriel is down to one pair of shoes that fit him, so we went shoe shopping, and along the way, we couldn't help but pick up some new duds, too. Here are his two new outfits. I finally broke down and got him the Vans I've been eyeing for a year. Look closely at the shorts in the second photo - they are cammies, but they are dinos. Clever!

Since he is now a big boy and a hiker in his own right, he has earned himself his own pair of hiking shoes. They look just like Daddy's.

It didn't take us long before we broke them in; the next day we were off to the Battlefield with our friends Wendy and Ty for a good hour-long hike on relatively flat terrain. They were great hiking buddies.

When Chip isn't hiking or playing with his trains, one of his favorite things to do is to talk to Aunt Laura on the phone. Here he is maxing and relaxing in Big Chipster Style during one of their long chats.

We took Grammie to the High Museum of Art this weekend. In the children's gallery, Gabe Luke embraced the spirit of the day and created a work of art of his own.

Today, we took Mom to the monastery and had a great time. It was kind of relaxing but spiritually rewarding. We got to say a prayer in the church, walk a little on the grounds, and we got a new Japanese maple (acer palmatum) bonsai. When we got home, Gabe stayed with his Grammie while we went to Kennesaw Mountain to do some training (more about that later) and test out our new pack. We got an Osprey Atmos 50 with the help of our REI membership benefits, and it is the most awesome piece of outdoor equipment ever, even though we'd never heard of the Osprey brand before we started shopping. It has a whistle built into the front clasp in case of emergency, a unique curved frame that allows air to circulate behind the back, which is the biggest problem we've had with packs in the past, hydration compatibility, and lots of other great features. With the pack loaded up, I couldn't feel a bit of weight. When the wind blew, I actually felt the breeze on my back. The performance of our Osprey was absolutely amazing, and we highly recommend this pack if you are ever in need of one.

We are excitedly making preparations for our trip to Peru next week. On Thursday, we finally decided definitely to add an excursion to Cusco and Machu Picchu to our trip. We knew that we made the right decision as soon as we made it, and we are really, really excited to go.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

Rock the Vote

We exercised our right to vote today! We are now on Team Mandisa. No other female's voice on the show even comes close to the power that hers has, and she seems like such a good person. We just wish she didn't feel like she had to fight with her weight - she looks so beautiful just as she is. Now we know it will come down to her, Taylor, and Chris. And by "we", we mean Patty. Matt is overlooking all of the contestants in anticipation of his own win next year.

Chip had a really super day today with Grammie and Paw-Paw. They took him to the park, and he made two new friends who played with him for a long time. He hopes he gets to play with him again soon!

Quote of the day:

"If you can't lose it, you might as well decorate it."
-spoken by a QVC host during the "Quacker Factory" segment to an oversized first grade teacher.

Monday, March 6, 2006

The Inaugural Hike, Part Deux

As promised, here are some photos from our hike yesterday. Mom is now officially a Georgia State Park Hiker.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

The Inaugural Hike

We had a great day today, even though we didn't all feel our best. It always makes everything seem a lot better when you spend the day outside on a good hike. Anyway, owing to the fact that I am upstairs and it's 3:30 am, I will post photos tomorrow. Oops, today.

So, I wonder whether anyone else noticed that when Three-6 Mafia (African-American) performed, and then Queen Latifah took the stage, and then T6M were awarded Best Song, the cameraman showed all the white folks taking a bathroom break? We hope Jon Stewart picks that up for commentary tomorrow. Now that should have won Best Cinematography!

Although we've been out and about, I referred to the fact that we don't all feel our best. Chip has a nose cold, and I have bad news and worse news. The bad news is that I have over a 101° fever; the worse news is that I accidentally used Gabriel's butt thermometer to find that out. It tasted like Vaseline. Now I'm really sick!

Anyway, photos tomorrow.