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Archive for June, 2009

Change is in the Cards

June 30th, 2009 at 04:04 pm

My dh is retiring tomorrow, on July 1. Originally, once he officially retired, he was planning to participate in a program that allows tenured faculty to teach 50% for 5 years. He has decided that doing this for one or maybe two years may be enough. So he will teach in the fall and then may completely retire at the end of 2009. Although his decision is not set in stone, it surprised me. I will support him whatever he decides... working 50% for a few years or "completely" retiring. So, now we are facing some decisions.

We live in a condo in Silicon Valley and have a second home in ID, where my DDs live. Our plan was to eventually sell the CA condo and move to the ID home once dh was 100% retired. Until recently, I didn't think it would happen for at least five years, so we were just coasting along. But now I am facing the reality of moving from the area that has been my home for ~17 years.

I love the diversity of Silicon Valley and the excellent access to so many activities. But the biggest change will be moving away from family and friends. My only sibling and best friend, my sister, lives 45 minutes away. My niece and her children live 25 minutes away, and I am very close to them. Over the years, I've made good friends and will miss seeing them on a regular basis. My dh's children live in Fresno, ~4 hours away, so we will see them less often, too.

But ID is a beautiful state, made all the more special because my daughters live there. However, they have lives and careers of their own. Although it will be great to be minutes away from them, I can't and won't expect them to alter their lives for us. Once we are permanently living in our new city, dh and I will have to work on making new friends and getting involved in community activities. And while I don't think it will necessarily be an easy transition, it will be an exciting challenge.

Another issue is that real estate is extremely depressed in our area, and we may not be able to easily sell our condo. So, dh and I have been discussing the idea renting our condo, something we did for the first three years after we bought it. We can rent it for enough to cover the payment and a 10% management fee. And, we could rent it for up to three years and still get our capital gains exclusion. Not that it matters right now... I think the place is worth about the same as we paid for it in 2003, so there is really no gain to consider at the moment.

I have been reflecting about why I am leaning toward renting our condo. To be honest, I feel we can always move back to Silicon Valley if living in Idaho is not what we expected it to be. It's not that I think we won't enjoy living in Idaho, but I know it will be different to live there full-time instead of just spending a few weeks here and there. So, we'll see... time will tell and help us clarify our decisions.

R & R in Alaska

June 29th, 2009 at 06:58 am

Five days after returning from ~ a month of intense work in Guatemala, dh and I left on our long-planned cruise to Alaska. It was a wonderful experience, especially because we were joined by my DDs and SILs. It was great to see them every day for a whole week, enjoying meals and some excursions together.

Alaska is beautiful and we had clear but cool weather most days. Juneau was the exception, where it rained as we sailed away through the icy fjord. The wildlife is abundant... we saw seals, whales, dolphins, eagles, bears, and even some reindeer.

I photographed this eagle near the Ketchikan rain forest.


The Glacier Gardens in Juneau are alive with color and texture.


Here is a view of Mendenhall Glacier (Juneau) from the observation area... it is magnificent.


This is Dawes Glacier, seen as we sailed through Endicott Fjord.


We saw some beautiful, rugged country on the train excursion to White Pass in Skagway.


The view from our stateroom was amazing.


We had three adjoining staterooms and had fun visiting from our balconies. My DDs/SILs are enjoying the view as we leave Seattle.


Cheers!


We're Back

June 17th, 2009 at 04:34 pm

The trip to Guatemala was very productive and culminated in success for our 18 students. Everyone completed the course requirements and we made it back safely to the USA. Our journey was not without some "problems," though.

While we were there, we experienced:
~ 3 earthquakes (1 strong, 2 mild)
~ two torrential downpours
~ the closing of one of our schools due to H1N1 flu outbreak
~ my dh sick enough to warrant going to the hospital (he recovered)

The day after we arrived back in the USA, all schools in Guatemala were closed until July 1 due to H1N1 flu. Unlike the USA, the Guatemalan school year is from January to October. Our timing was perfect because we finished the program the Friday before all the schools were closed by the government.

But, we're back, and eager to go again next year. Dh and I will rent an apartment and live there a few months, doing pro bono teacher training and just enjoying the beautiful city of Antigua. The schools want us to return and even went as far as helping us find an apartment we will be able to rent.

It was truly an amazing experience to wake up each day in this beautiful part of the world. The Guatemalan people are welcoming, and the city is a mecca for learning. Language schools abound and people from around the globe come here to learn Spanish or Kakchiquel (the Mayan language).

Apart from the cultural dynamic, the geography is breathtaking. I took the photos of these two volcanoes from the roof of our posada. This one is called "Agua," taken the day after a heavy rain when there was no cloud cover.


On the same day, I took this photo of "Fuego" which actively sputters all day long, sending sheets of lava down the mountain. You can see the lava if you look closely.

At the Marketplace

June 6th, 2009 at 05:19 pm

We arrived at Chichicastenango after breakfast Sunday morning, en route from a night at Lake Atitlan. The volcanoes that surround Lake Atitlan look like a watercolor backdrop at sunset.


We will be here just a couple of hours and there is much to see. The sights, smells, sounds, and colors of the marketplace at Chichicastenango fill the senses. Here in this bustling marketplace, I catch a glimpse of the lives of the locals, so different from my own. This is the area in the market where the locals come to buy and sell their produce.


Artisans proudly display their wares and eagerly tell you about the artist or the weaver and the region where an item was produced. Each village has its own unique weaving style, so it is easy to identify where people are from by the patterns on their huipiles (traditional woven top worn by the women). I wish I could buy a trunk full of items to bring back home, but alas, space is limited. But this visual treat, now digitally preserved, will be enjoyed again and again.


These are Nativity scenes (creches) made of clay and hand painted. Guatemala is predominantly Roman Catholic.


Although a stranger looking in, I am touched by the universal bond of motherhood. Guatemalan mothers, babies snugly strapped in their rebozo slings, are no different than mothers around the globe. They love and protect their children and it is joyful to see. But I cannot be obvious in taking photos... Americans have been warned... NO PHOTOS... because some Guatemalans believe babies might be kidnapped for adoption by foreigners. It is now very difficult to adopt Guatemalan babies, unlike a few years back when adoption was a booming, unregulated business.


"He's not heavy; he's my brother..." for 5 Quetzales (63 cents), though, I am allowed to take this picture.


Dare I try the freshly made blue corn tortillas or the luscious fresh fruit ready to be eaten? In my younger days, I would not hesitate to eat food sold on the street. But now I am more careful, knowing I cannot do my job if I were to get sick... I simply don't bounce back the way I used to. But I can still take in the wonderful aromas of the typical fare while I snack on my Trio bar and banana.