Sunday, December 28, 2008

Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

Colonia was designated a World Heritage Site in 1995 and is an amazing blend of Spanish and Portugese influences. After a couple of weeks in the big city of Buenos Aires is was nice to see a different side of South America.

The ferry across the Rio de la Plata to Uruguay took about 1.5 hrs and Colonia is very much a tourist destination although it didn't feel too 'touristy'. It's kind of like visiting Barkerville although it's not so much a display as it is a real place where people live. Most of the vehicles in town are very old and we were able to rent a golf cart to get around which was a really good idea except for the time Ross drove it into an area we couldn't get out of except by driving over a curb with a crowd watching and no doubt shaking their heads at the crazy driver. I pretended I didn't know him.

Just as a side note - our dinner (nothing too fancy) cost $1107.00. Mind you that's Uruguayan pesos which are 1:7 to Argentinian pesos and about 1:20 to Canadian which makes it about $50 for the 4 of us with wine and beer included.

We climbed the lighthouse tower (about 100 narrow, winding steps) and kept our cameras busy with the beautiful blend of old, stone buildings, cobblestone streets and lush vegetation.
More photos

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve in South America

It's now 1:00 am and the city is starting to come alive again. It was very strange but at about 11:30 the streets got very quiet, no couples strolling down them or cars roaring up them. Then about 11:40 the fireworks began. By midnight there were fireworks going off all across the city. An hour later and I can still hear the occasional loud bang right outside our apartment.

Apparently, Christmas Eve is a huge celebration here with Christmas Day being just a minor holiday and a chance to recover from the night before. Although the main streets were quite busy until 6 or 7 pm the smaller stores were all closed up by about 4 or 5.

We had our Hadfield traditional fondue (cheese followed by chocolate, not the usual meat) and managed to make do with the few things we had. The only thing missing was Mike! But we thought Sam made a worthwhile substitute :)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Our Apartment

We're really enjoying having an apartment in Buenos Aires and having the time to explore the city. The apartment itself is quite small but has everything we need (except for the fondue pot we need for our Christmas Eve dinner). I don't think our first apartment in Vancouver was much bigger.

Ross enjoying a cool one on the tiny deck. It's on the first floor which of course is the 2nd floor.

Today we did a bunch of grocery shopping for the aforementioned fondue as well as Christmas dinner. Ross is going to cook up one of his specialties - Chicken Parmigina - for the 25th. I think Christmas Eve is more important than Christmas and someone told us the shops will close by mid afternoon tomorrow so we thought we'd get it done today.

We also found incredibly cheap wine - about $3.00 (about $1 CDN) but we bought the better $10 bottle! We're doing a taste test against the more expensive $30.00 peso bottles (about $10).

Buenos Aires has a huge metal flower sculpture that opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. We walked the few blocks from our place last night but alas, we were too late - it had already closed. We may have to try again another evening. Buenos Noches.

[Not a great photo - taken from the bus - but it looks really cool.]

Monday, December 22, 2008

There's only one word to describe Iguazu Falls:

Wow! Neither pictures nor words can do it justice. If you've been to Niagara you've seen an enormous, majestic waterfall. Iguazu is quite different. Each section of Iguazu is probably not as impressive as Niagara but there are about 10 times as many sections. There are actually hundreds of waterfalls and the scenery, being sub-tropical, adds to the beauty.

Scott and Sam flew up with us and we spent 2 nights there. This video is from Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat), probably the most impressive part. The viewpoints are incredibly close to the water.



I've also decided to actually make use of the Flickr account I've had for years so here are some more photos of Iguazu.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mothers of the Disappeared


It may look like a party with balloons but it's actually a protest march. Every Thursday the 'Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo' march to protest the disappearance of their children in the 'dirty war' in the 1970s and 80s.

Eating out here is very inexpensive. Last night we shared a dinner for 4 from a takeout pizza place a few doors down from our apartment. Med. sized cheese pizza, 4 empanadas, 4 slices of faina (fried bread? It tasted ok with salsa) all for 30 pesos (about $10). Ross bought a big beer (1 litre) for 8 pesos and he though he got ripped off since he'd paid 3.80 pesos (about $1.30) at the store.

Our city tour took us to the Caminito district which is very colourful to say the least. Ross got a little taste of tango.There aren't many signs of Christmas here - no Santas in the mall for example. Every once in a while you'll see a store or cafe with a little tree with a few decorations on it and some of the shops have desperate looking strings of garland around the windows but that's about it.

Our city tour yesterday gave us an idea about the depth and breadth of this city and how much we still have to explore. There are many monuments and statues and plazas and museums and interesting neighbourhoods that we'll have to get back to explore.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Walking

Yesterday we wandered over to the largest street in the world, Avenida de Nueve de Julio. It actually took us 2 or 3 lights to get across the whole way. It was designed after the Champs Elysees and is home to various landmarks such as the obelisk. A short walk away was the Casa Rosada which I believe is now a museum but I'm not sure it's open to the public right now. It's the one where Evita stood on the balcony and addressed the masses.

You know the rule about 'pedestrians have the right of way' well apparently that doesn't apply in BA. In fact the cars (mostly taxis) will actually race you to the interesection to see who can get there first. If you don't make an effort to get across you may be waiting all day (where there's no light in particular or where the taxis are turning). They certainly aren't going to stop or wait for you.
First thing this morning we went to the Brazilian embassy to get a VISA for our trip to Iguazu. We filled out the forms, had our passport sized pictures taken, printed off a recent bank statement, stood in line then discovered we couldn't get the VISA until Monday at the earliest. Since we're leaving Saturday it was actually all for naught. So we're just going to take our chances. Later today we'll take a city tour although the tour is an hour later than posted due to the heat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cats and Evita

Walking down the street in Buenos Aires you have to be careful. Besides the uneven sidewalks with holes in them and pieces missing, there are lots of kiosks (selling magazines, panchos [hotdogs], flowers, etc.), women with babies, begging (although we saw the same baby with 2 different women), all kinds of people that haven't heard of the word excuse me or whatever it is in Spanish, cars and taxis that seem to have one hand on the wheel and one on the horn, lots of construction, and moisture dripping from the air conditioners in the apartments up above.

Our first full day here and we slept a bit to counteract the jet lag then headed off to the Cemetery to see where Eva Peron is buried. The cemetery is huge and each gravesite is the size of our first apartment. There were also a bunch of cats that apparently look over the dead. This is one of the "streets" in the cemetery with a few kitties in the foreground.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Preparing for those Nasty Bugs

Although it's not required for Argentina, Ross and I both headed in for some advice on travel medicine as well as a few immunizations and pills.  Hopefully, we're going to be heading off on various travels in the next few years so we're also getting prepared for that.

We started with the HepA/B Twinrix, moved on to the Yellow Fever innoculation, then I ended with a tetanus (Ross had his courtesy of his little incident in Yellowstone a few years back).

Orally, we're taking Typhoid pills (4 over 8 days) and then will take the Cholera/Diarrhea liquid (2 doses) which I think is for salmonella or e-coli or something.  To take with us we have Malaria pills (for our side trip to Iguazu Falls) and some Ciprofloxicin which is for severe diarrhea.  The other big advice was to wash all our fruits and vegetables in bleach.

We'll be leaving for Buenos Aires in a month and have rented an apartment for 18 days.  This map shows his apartment in relation to ours.

We're excited about going but sad that Mike won't be with us at Christmas for the first time.  The plane trip from Bantry Bay just proved more than Mike could handle!  Most likely my next blog will be from downtown Buenos Aires - right after our first tango lesson.

Monday, August 11, 2008

At the Farm

Finally arrived at the farm on day 15 of our trip after making our way through (in reverse) Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio Indiana, Illinois(not counting the ones in the blog below).

We took a few side trips to Niagara Falls and Cooperstown as well as Amish country apparently. One night while camping the Amish kept us awake all night partying next to our motorhome but that's another story.

Market day was last Thursday so Mike loaded up all the produce onto his bike trailer and headed the 3 or 4 miles into town. There were beets, cabbages, carrots, lettuce, squash, zucchini and whatever else you see in the picture below. Oh, the chanterelle mushrooms for $1/ounce which one of their friends had picked in the nearby forest. By about 11:00 only a few items remained and by 12:30 everything was gone. I made the mistake of wandering through the market and ridding myself of about $35. Although it's called a farmer's market there are many more baked goods, food stalls and craft booths.

Ross has been working hard in the fields and I did a bit of yellow bean harvesting but we're enjoying the restfulness and peace of country living. It poured rain one night and is always a bit wet with dew and foggy in the morning but otherwise the weather is great. The sunsets by the beach are a nice way to end the day. This view just a short walk from Mike's front door.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chicago

Another night with good internet so a couple more pics. Chicago is full of amazing architecture and wonderful sculptures. Apparently "The Bean" was off limits for photos for a while (which I found out later).About 5 minutes after commenting how great our weather had been the big black cloud behind me opened up and we did the rest of our Hop-on-Hop-off tour with big plastic ponchos over our heads.You know how when you see a shooting star out of the corner of your eye and then you wonder if you really saw anything? Last night, camped a bit south of Chicago in a heavily wooded area, I looked around and started seeing little flashes of light in the air, just as it was getting darker. After about 4 or 5 I realized I must be seeing my very first fireflies. It was really cool - just looked like wayward embers from a fire, drifting up then quickly extinguished. The air was full of them. Even though we were out in the middle of nowhere, some birds or insects (cicadas?) up in the trees made an incredibly loud noise all night until just before dawn. Between that and the humidity - not much sleep!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

3 provinces, 3 states and counting

(BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa)
Landed tonight in Iowa in search of ancestors. Apparently Ross's great grandmother on his father's mother's side and his great grandparents on his father's father's side. The first one is easy to find - right in a cemetery in a small town south of the Twin Cities. The cemetery even had a chart so we knew where to look.

To find the second cemetery we went down several miles of dirt road with intersections precisely 1 mile apart and this warning sign among the cornfield:Eventually our GPS indicated we had 'reached our destination' but no sign showed us that we were in Brownville, Iowa. There are about 3 farmhouses there. We eventually found the cemetery tucked way behind some trees with no signage. You probably can't tell but from the road we could just barely see the tops of a few memorials poking up. It's a miracle we ever saw it. I got some pics of the headstones for our family archivist John.

Mostly this is the view we've had since we left the Rockies:
Needless to say I'm making my way through a series of books.

Mind you we did pass the geographical centre of North America a few days back:Does anyone have any idea how you'd actually determine something like that! Okay I just googled it myself. One more note - Ross refused to stop at the 16,000 sq ft SPAM museum in Austin, Minn.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Why my job is so hard to explain to people

As a teacher in a DL school I'm constantly trying to explain to people what I do. Because it's kind of complicated sometimes, if some random person asks what I do, I've been known to avoid the answer all together and say I teach Gr. 5/6.

DL (Distributed Learning) is a combination of distance ed, correspondence, online learning and homeschooling.

Yesterday I was in an online meeting with a group of educators from around BC discussing an online student management system. The meeting ran a little late and I'd scheduled a meeting using our online classroom (Elluminate) with some students I have in New Zealand. They waited patiently while I finished up my other meeting then we met and discussed some of their curriculum. The grade 6 girl showed me her Sc. project using her web cam. Then, before that meeting was finished a Gr. 7 student IM'd me on Google Chat with some questions about dividing decimals in math. We moved over to Elluminate and did a few examples on the white board.

Another time a few weeks ago I was meeting online with my guitar student in Invermere (many miles away) demonstrating 6/8 time signature when my son Skyped me from South Africa where he was on holiday.

This is a world of difference from a 'normal' teacher's day. It's cutting edge, challenging and complex but I enjoy it. The downside is, because of the lack of consistent contact we lose the students that don't have the independence and motivation. We're putting some strategies in place to try to minimize that next year and our most important tool may be Elluminate.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A telemarketer hung up on me! Isn't is supposed to be the other way around?

Me: Hello
Telemarketer: Is this Mrs. H..
M: Yes
T: I'm doing a research survey on respiratory ailments. Do you have asthma or allergies?
M: Who are you doing the research for?
T: I'm doing a research survey on respiratory ailments.
M: But who are you doing this research for? What's the name of your company?
T: Respiratory research.
M: That's the name of your company?
T: Yes. Do you have asthma or allergies?
M: What are you going to do with this information?
T: I'm doing research on respiratory ailments. Do you have asthma or allergies?
M: What are you going to do with this information?
T: CLICK.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

One size doesn't fit all

My 2 year old great nephew thought it was the perfect size. Don't even think about touch typing though - my fingers don't even come close to fitting.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Late News

Rec'd an email today informing me my XO laptop had shipped, more than 3 weeks after it arrived. Even then apparently it took 3 weeks to get from 'delivered' to my doorstep. Is this a government organization? Strange how they can track it right to the minute give or take 3 weeks.

Tracking info:

Jan 21, 2008


Delivered







Jan 18, 2008 8:03 AM


On FedEx vehicle for delivery


KELOWNA, BC



Jan 17, 2008 11:48 PM


At local FedEx facility


KELOWNA, BC



9:50 PM


Departed FedEx location


RICHMOND, BC



7:02 PM


Arrived at FedEx location


RICHMOND, BC



Jan 14, 2008 12:38 PM


Arrived at FedEx location


MISSISSAUGA, ON

Monday, February 11, 2008

From the sublime to the ridiculous(ly small)

Yesterday I splurged and replaced my 15" monitor with a luscious 22" Samsung. Then today my XO computers arrived. I just barely know how to turn it on.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

How can you tell someone's from Vancouver?

Who else would use an umbrella in the SNOW!?

Still Waiting

Despite the fact that I put in my order on Nov. 12 (the first day possible) my XO computers still have not arrived. I do appreciate the fact that they emailed me in December to tell me they wouldn't be arriving in time for Christmas and that Canadian customers would get theirs in January/February.

And I wonder what happens to the ones I donated. It would be quite a task to follow the trail of the donated computers but would be nice to have some idea of that side of it.

Piece by piece by 5000 piece

Slowly the puzzle takes shape:

Any help would be appreciated, Mike.

Exploring Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) proved to be quite a contrast to my recent trip to Croatia. The number of touris...