From Bo

“Do you want to lose your power ring until Peru?!”

(I just found this while looking back over the blog, couldn’t believe we hadn’t published it. Good stuff. )

And other things we never thought we’d say (or hear!)…

“Mom, Dad, meet our pigeon friends: Hopper, Tweety and Mike”. –Vaughn and Luke, Ibarra Ecaudor

“Hey Fish! I saw some fish!” — Luke, speaking to “Fish” our snorkel instructor

“I saw two fish! And I named them. One is August and the other is Peanut Ball.” — Luke, Taganga Colombia

“Here we are–fascinated by the Hebrew we heard in the diving boat.” — Bo, Taganga, Colombia

“I’m dizzier than a bug’s brain.” – Vaughn -Taganga, Colombia

“I’m going to open the present. It’s only for kid weddings.” -Luke, La Paz, Bolivia

“Just don’t play with your toys so much you forget to look for poop.” – Jamie, Buenos Aires

“Guess what color my poo is?!? Green. Christmas poo??? That’s the best.” – Luke, after stomach bug #465

“I think think we just bought our children hot chocolate in a hooker pick-up bar.” — Jamie, Buenos Aires

“I can’t believe we pulled this off.” — Bo and Jamie, everyday

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Doors

We’ve been on the move; five countries, eight months, 27 different hotels/apartments/homes, one lovely lady and two of the best boys on the face of the earth. At every place we stayed, we tried to get the boys picture in front of our door. Along the way we added in a few churches and fancy buildings. Here’s some of the doors we’ve gone through together…what a joy!

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Vamos a Crested Butte!

It’s official. We’re moving back to Crested Butte!

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More than any place in the world, Crested Butte is our home. It’s nice knowing a place and knowing the people. We have a lot of memories in Crested Butte and are ready to make some more. Of course CB is a cool little spot with a healthy lifestyle in an amazing setting, but it is the people who are drawing us back.

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We have good friends in Crested Butte, that we’ve missed and are grateful for in a new way. Also, we really like being a part of the community. We’ve spent nearly a year being the outsiders and it will be nice just being one of the natives.

Much of our family is just down road. Yaya and Poppie will surely be up and we can go thaw out in Montrose. Maybe best of all, John David, Jamie’s brother, is at Western State now so we’ll be seeing him and his friends on our couch soon. Curfew is 9 pm…but wait he’s 21! How did that happen?

It will be a good thing to put Vaughn into 1st grade in a great little school where he already has friends and they have all heard about his adventures in South America. Luke has been talking about “Rockin the Whales!”, Whales being the name of his pre-K class, with his buddy also named Luke for months now. Watch out Miss Rebecca!

As Jamie starts to work in teaching and theater again and I move into business consulting, there are a lot of good people connected to Crested Butte so it turns out to be a good move on the career front too.

But let’s face it. The real reason we are moving back to Crested Butte is because Lucy LOVES snow. We’ve missed that dog so much that she gets whatever she wants from now on! So we’re headed back to Crested Butte.

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City Life in Buenos Aires

We like it here in Buenos Aires.

The city feels one part Europe, one part US and one part something all its own. It seems to be both coming and going; fading into the past and diving into the future. It is super sophisticated and kind of messy. We ride the spray-painted and rickety subway to the children’s museum, grab some awesome Middle Eastern take-out on the way home and when finished we take our trash out and throw it on the corner with recyclables separated so the “waste pickers” can find them faster.

Buenos Aires is a massive city and we ended up in the Palermo Soho neighborhood. There are old sycamore trees lining the streets, cafes on nearly every corner, trendy clothing boutiques and dogs, lots of dogs. Not the wandering, stray ones we’ve seen everywhere else in South America, but the kind with sweaters and color-coordinated leashes. So loved are these pups that people let them poo on the street and then leave it there for everyone to admire. Luckily our boys have been in training and are very skilled at jumping the stink bombs.

The house we’ve rented has an office, a nice courtyard and plenty of space for everyone. The kitchen is fully loaded including a dishwasher. I mention this because we haven’t seen a dishwasher since we left the states. We also haven’t had a bathtub. This place has a huge bathtub, much to Vaughn’s delight. In fact, as we were touring places to rent, his only criteria was if it had a tub. So Vaughn approves of this place too.

It feels nice to be in a home that seems like it could be ours. It’s cool to be surrounded with so much culture and so many options. Great food and drink are good for the body and the soul. It’s not perfect of course, but for us and for now, it seems just about right.

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Moving On to Buenos Aires

After another unbelievable day in the bureaucratic jungle, Jamie just walked through the door with our Bolivian visas! With those, our new US passports and four tickets to Buenos Aires, we are leaving bright and early tomorrow morning! Although we’re not out of the woods completely, it seems we’re going to make it.

I will never forget what we just went through. If life is measured in memories, we just gained a lot of life. We gained new appreciation for what we can take on and work through. Jamie was amazing and I’m proud to be her partner and grateful she is my boys’ momma. Vaughn and Luke just took each day as it came with only the occasional request for ice cream or some playground time. We, as a family, circled the wagons, checked our priorities and got after changing our situation. It took good people here on the ground and a lot of moral support from back home. We are now more grateful for each other, for our health and safety and our friends and family.

We also lost a lot. We lost $1000s of stuff in nice outdoor gear and electronics, but those can be replaced. We lost a lot of private data in the form of an external hard drive and copies of personal documents. We are taking the steps to protect ourselves, but we lost a certain amount of financial and identity security.  We lost and are still loosing a bunch of time, money and energy. It will take many more days and even weeks to put this all back together. We lost having a sense of wonder about Bolivia and hope for edifying adventures in this country. Instead we got more than a week of walking in smog at 12,000, three head/chest colds, endless hours of waiting in line and a continually being cold because our warm cloths were stolen and haven’t had time to find new ones. I’m sure Bolivia can be great and I know most of the people here mean well, but we are just ready to get out of here.

With the loss acknowledged, we’re moving on and doing it with our heads held high. We’re moving on with a greater appreciation for a number of things and one of those is that we don’t have stay here any more!

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US Embassy Visit and Update

We just got back from the US Embassy and we’ve made some progress with a surprise twist to keep us on our toes!

Before I give the update, Jamie and I want to give a big THANK YOU to our awesome friends and family, especially Dave and Linda Gann. It is great to know that we have so much support and back up. I got so many emails of people offering to send money, I felt like I was a Nigerian prince who had billions in a bank just waiting to be unlocked if you’d just wire some money! Thankfully, we had other ATM and credit cards that were not part of the double theft so we are not in need of money, just passports.

Back to the Embassy visit this morning…As we explained our situation, the gentleman helping us said they had a report of four passports that were found and he left to go get more information. Our tired hearts leapt with cautious hope. He returned with a lady who explained that four US passports had been reported found within the Bolivian prison system yesterday. What?!? We had them repeat themselves because that didn’t make sense, but then again a lot of things around here don’t make sense to us. Our best guess is that the thieves smuggled the passports into the prison to use as bribery to release a cohort, but who knows.  We don’t even know if they are our passports. What we do know is that the Embassy is going to speak with the prison today to see if the passports can be recovered, but they will of course not pay any sort of bribe to get them back.

So we have a chance, however small, that our actual passports could be returned. If that doesn’t work out, which we’ll know tomorrow, then we can either get a temporary passport or wait 7-10 days for actual replacements. We’re leaning towards the real thing. Assuming we’ve paid our bad luck dues in Bolivia, we could have passports in a week or so and continue on our journey with a few thousand less dollars and a few hundred new gray hairs. Plus, we have travel insurance from www.worldnomads.com and they have been nothing but helpful with some of our previous smaller thefts.

Everyone at the Embassy was professional, clear, timely and kind. The grounds were clean and the flowers were in bloom. After we walked out of there, I turned to Jamie and said, “That was great. I didn’t know how much I need to know that we had help here on the ground. It makes me proud to be an American.” Although I like country music, I am not an overtly patriotic person so it takes a lot for me to say that.

Despite the pictures of snow-capped mountains and gleaming high rises we saw in our guidebook, La Paz is a rough, haphazard and pulsing city. It makes getting simple things done much harder. This place makes working things out in Ecuador seem like a breeze. For example, the taxis only pick you up if you want to go the way they are already headed and if they get a bit confused along the way, they will just kick you out of the car. Don’t get me wrong, the people are generally very sweet, but more often than not, not able to help. I had a national police officer not be able to tell me how to get to the tourist police office. Really?

In this context, yesterday Jamie took the boys on a whirlwind taxi and hotel tour of La Paz and found us an extended stay hotel with warm water, wi-fi and room for two boys to play. I got the police report filed after only six hours which I think must be a record.

Today, Jamie is headed to the airport and the hopefully open office of Avianca Airlines to get an update on the lost/stolen backpack. We are changing all of our passwords and double checking our financial and personal safeguards.  The boys, who have been so patient, are in the living room playing with all eight of their toys wearing their two super hero costumes. When I’m done with this update we’re headed to a large and nice playground nearby.

Tomorrow, we’ll head back to the Embassy and maybe find a pharmacy so we can buy some lotion and other toiletries. Actually, we might find the pharmacy today because let me tell you something: nothing makes you feel like a man like using your wife’s deodorant.

That’s what we know for now. Thank you again to everyone for you thoughts, prayers and encouraging words. We feel like you’re here with us!

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Travel Light for Now

We are in Bogota waiting for a redeye to La Paz, Bolivia. Jamie and the boys enjoyed one last morning at the beach while I packed up our things. I thought picking up and zipping up would take all morning, but it only took an hour. We simply don’t have that much stuff anymore.

When we decided to do this sabbatical we did a mega purge. We moved from a four bedroom with a huge family room to four suitcases and a backpack. When we left Cotacachi for this travel phase we moved everything into two suitcases and a backpack. Now that we’ve throughly used our swimming trunks, cheap t-shirts and snorkels we are leaving those, plus a few other things we won’t need in the cold highlands of Bolivia.

It feels good to be so nimble and without much to drag around. Travel is challenging enough without bringing things you might need. It’s just the four of us, some clothes for the next week, stuff to keep our bodies clean, a nice selection of Apple products and a few toys. As we head into South America’s poorest country, I suppose it is good we’ve been practicing living with less. It’s also amazing that our less is more, way more, than most of the people we’ll meet.

I’m looking forward to Bolivia. Most days, I’m also looking forward to our return when our stuff isn’t dictated by what we can fit into the back of a small taxi. When we land stateside in just a few months and pick back up for life as we knew it, we’ll have nearly a clean slate on which to add our new stuff.  As I consider just how few things we have and ponder what we need and what we want, I hope we will be a bit more intentional filling that slate up than we were before.

I’m looking forward to that.

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Two – no make that THREE weeks in Taganga

One of my favorite precepts of our travel phase was that if we got somewhere and didn’t like it- we could just move right along regardless of our original plans, and visa versa — if we showed up and loved it, we had the permission to stay as long as we liked. Taganga, Colombia has most definitely been a STAY place for us. Our one week in Santa Marta turned into one night in Santa Marta and two, now almost 3, weeks in Taganga. We found a great little apartment to rent that is steps from the beach, has air conditioning, and someone who helps sweep up all the sand that finds its way in on our clothes and hair and everything else. Ah, life at the beach…

Taganga drew us in in a way few places have, and it’s hard to explain just why. It is not safer, cleaner, friendlier, cheaper, or more beautiful than Cotacachi was, for example. And yet, every time the day of departure came close, we found ourselves asking the landlord for a few more more days, one more week…

It is a working fishing village boasting one cobbled walkway along the water with good restaurants, dreadlocked-artists selling shell necklaces on felt pallets, and some obligatory beach-ware stands.  All other streets and pathways here are made of dirt and populated by chickens, children, cats, dogs, turkeys, and card tables – the latter being where one’s neighbors congregate for hours at a time to play games and hope for a breeze.  Which they get in spades each hot afternoon when an in-no-way-subtle “breeze” comes racing down from the Sierras behind us and collides with the ocean air. Makes keeping glasses on the table and hair out of your eyes difficult, but also makes the heat bearable and keeps the bugs away- I love it.

All in, Taganga is a rough around the edges, hot, peaceful, helter-skelter, fishing and diving sweet spot. The Carribbean sea from this spot is neither turquoise colored nor warm, but on good days is instead the bright clear of a mountain stream and nearly as cool. On not good days, there is trash that washes in on the lapping waves and impassable mud rivers throughout town when it rains. To get word of tourists getting mugged on the trail from town to Playa Grande is not uncommon and yet the path is never empty. There is a lot that is difficult about Taganga, but for us anyway, it’s beauty and charm and …. I honestly don’t know the word… unique something, has been completely captivating.

We’ve posted a huge amount of photos here to add to the description of this place. Believe it or not, we’ve taken over 900, so sharing 60 is very conservative by comparison. 😉  And to start this off… here’s a video Bo caught of the loud, chaotic, completely unsafe (and therefore very South American) celebration of Colombia’s Independence Day we managed to catch on our 2nd night here.

As one spray-painted sign next to the water says, “Vive Taganga!”

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Awake in Colombia

As I wake up to the sound of high heels and chatting business people in the hallway instead of the giggling school children and honking bus horns, I realize, in that still half asleep kind of way, that we’re in a new place; we’re in Popayán. There is hot, fresh coffee ready 24 hours a day around here which is all the motivation I need to get up. Jamie and the boys fast asleep in the other bed (did I force Jamie out of this small bed last night?), I quietly grab the laptop and head up to the rooftop.

The sun is creeping up through the green hills and distant clouds. Sipping my coffee in a t-shirt, shorts and flip flops feels luxurious. The climate seems something close to perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. Humid, but not wet. The smell of fried corn bread is in the air. Horse hooves clop alongside the revving of motorcycle engines on the street below. I can see the domes of three churches popping up in a sea of red tile rooftops. Two cats have decided to join me, soaking up some early morning rays on the terrace.

We’re sure enjoying this new place. Some of the reasons are obvious: the amazing historic white-walled city center, the amiable and snazzy people, new and tasty foods and a clean, safe hotel (the boys would add the five channels of cartoons on the flat screen mounted above their bed and the indoor playground at the very modern mall). Below are a few pictures of our latest adventures to give you a taste!

Some of the other reasons we’re enjoying it here are a bit more elusive because they have more to do with what’s going on inside us instead of around us. Here’s a guess at some of what’s going on…

We are able to just take the place in as it comes without judging it as much as we did in Ecuador. In Ecuador, we had to live with whatever we experienced for months on end so we measured a day’s events against our high hopes and expectations for the whole time. Since our time here is short we’re trying to savor it but we also know that we have plenty more travel ahead of us so we’re not taking the frantic squeeze-it-all-in approach as is typical of the standard American one-week vacation. Also, our time in Ecuador desensitized us to the many things we are seeing in Colombia that would have overwhelmed us previously. We’re now used to random boy-sized-holes in the sidewalks, to traffic that seems to be aiming for you and to not understanding at least half of what is said.

So here we are, safe and sound in Colombia. Today we’re feeling grateful for this chance to see and do new things together. Packing up and leaving Ecuador was hard. The two days of travel on hot, dusty and bumpy roads was tough. And tomorrow we’re going to pack it all up again and hop on an airplane to Cartagena. Surely, there will be some surprises along the way. Hopefully, we’ll take them as they come with a bit more grace than we had when we arrived on this continent. If learning to live in the moment and face each day with a centered stance of calm and possibility is one of our goals, and it is, then we are currently attending the best university on the subject. Speaking for myself, I think I can handle the course load…as long as they have fresh, hot coffee available the whole time.

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La Esquina de Juan Montalvo y Pedro Moncayo

This has been our address while we’ve lived here in Cotacachi, Ecuador. It has been easily the most eclectic home we’ve ever had, but it has (mostly) kept the rain off our heads and (mostly) kept the sun off our backs, and it has been ours. It has given us neighbors to smile at and beds to sleep in that are the same every night – and on sunny days we have even had hot showers in the evening. I can find my way around it in the dark with no bruises to show for it come morning. We have enjoyed its bird’s eye view into the neighborhood and the life that is all around us. We can see both the top of the Cathedral and the top of Imbabura Volcano from the windows at either end. It has been hot, cold, loud, beautiful, comforting, safe, funny – home.

It is now pre-dawn and, once again, Bo and I are about to wake up our little boys and ask them to come with us as nomads. God Bless those precious hearts for all their trust in us. Wow do we love them!

There are so many things that were going to go into this goodbye post, but leaving is work, packing more so, and frankly I hate goodbyes and put them off as long as possible. We are grateful. We. Are. So. Grateful.

We are also, once again, without an address.

However, a few bus rides more, some hostels and archeological sites to sample and then landing in Cartagena, Colombia! Which is a fairly good trade we feel.

Vamos a Colombia!

Categories: From Bo, From Jamie | 10 Comments

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