Wednesday, December 29, 2010

In Review

2010 was a wild ride. I learned a lot about the world, myself and how the two of us might proceed together in the future. I looked over my list of destinations visited over the past twelve months and remember each trip with great memories. I've had the opportunity to check off a couple of bucket list items (snorkel, go to Africa), make some mistakes (really should've followed the advice of a tent repair kit), visit old friends (blog winner weekend and visiting people on work trips) and make some new ones (conferences, volunteering, getting stuck places). Best of all the "streak" has reached 28 consecutive months of travel, with the first three months of 2011 already confirmed. All in all it's been a wonderful year! My sincere thanks to those of you still reading along or to those of you who are new! Cheers!

Where I Went In 2010*:
Seattle/Portland, OR
Nashville
Utah
Reno/Tahoe
Michigan
San Jose
Madagascar
New Jersey
Miami
NYC
Raleigh/Durham (2)
Orange County/LA/Pasadena
D.C.
Atlanta
Houston
Lanai, Hawaii
South Portland, ME

*Entire states/countries listed meant that I visited enough places and cities that I feel like I saw it all in those places.

Monday, December 27, 2010

No Regrets

For anyone who knows me, they would probably say that I am a bit stubborn, impatient and unreserved. I don't want to say that I always act first and ask for forgiveness later, but sometimes that's the case. In an effort to truly live my life feeling like I have always made the most of it, I have made decisions to do things at the last minute, try things without knowing what I am really doing and act like a sponge - ready to soak it all in. I'm not exactly sure where all this comes from but I am always deeply affected when I hear people say things like "I've always wanted to ________" or "I'll never get to _________" or something along those lines. I feel like I need to talk them into trying or doing ________ before it's too late. Life is precious and limited.

As you know, if you've been following along, I really love Africa, in general. I have always wanted to go there, learn about it, read about it and somehow be part of it. So a few months back when my friend Kathi said she was going to Liberia, I asked if I could go too, not really having any clue what we were going to do there besides something about fistula clinics. So, this morning I took Kathi out for coffee to discuss what I am really in for. Kathi told me about the time she spent in Liberia as a missionary's kid and shared some mementos and photos from her time there. We talked about the history of the country and all the possibilities that lie within such a resilient, battered place. It sounds like we are going to go where we are needed most to gather information for our next trip in 2012.

Some of the areas we will be exploring will include not only the fistula clinics, but organizing well-baby clinics, working with a teacher who is working to reintegrate child soldiers, visit orphanages, work in the villages and other projects identified by Kathi's friend Emile. He is also arranging for us to meet some people, go to the beach and the market, etc. Even though we will go not knowing exactly what to expect - I think that will make the time there more meaningful, as the things we do get involved with will be identified by in insider, instead of us deciding. We will gather information and ideas to then plan and collect a team of people to return in January of 2012.

If you want to help we will be getting lists of things to bring with us on both trips. The first list we got includes a lot of items not practical to bring over - a bus, solar power or internet access - but a lot of things are manageable like school supplies, teacher instruction supplies, library supplies, hand tools, sports equipment and medical supplies. If you are interested in sending something along to Liberia just let me know!

In our conversation this morning, Kathi also mentioned the spontaneous nature of the Liberian people and said that they will often ask foreigners to speak or share a bible verse, so I will at least go prepared with that. I think it's going to be an experience like no other.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Wishes Granted

As a follow up to my post about my favorite travel toys, I had some updates. I received a couple of the items on my wishlist for Christmas: the water purifier, a headlamp (on my Amazon wishlist) and the waterproof stuff sacks. I also got a surprise gift from Brian - a Kindle! I am very excited at the prospect of carrying the tiny e-book around over lugging library books everywhere but it will be a slight adjustment too - especially paying for the books. I think it will be an ideal thing for longer trips where I don't dare bring library books for fear of losing them or losing the convenience of leaving books I am done with to lighten my load. I think the best thing about all the gifts that I got is that I feel supported by my family to keep on traveling!

I have the next week off of work, as a Christmas bonus, and I have a lot of things to do to get ready for my trip to Liberia. I just started reading This Child Will Be Great which is a memoir written by Africa's first female president, and the current president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. So far, it is a great combination of Liberian history and her own personal rise to power. I look forward to reading the rest of it!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Seen It All?

As most of you know, I am not the luckiest flier ever. Often delayed, I have my share of travel mishaps, delays and unplanned mini-trips courtesy of the airlines. What I experienced this evening is fairly bizarre, based on a series of events I thought I might share as I sit in my parents guest room, never having left.

1. Got to the airport with clear skies.

2. It started snowing like mad ten minutes later.

3. Got seated next to a Portland Pirates player. Was quickly reminded of why I stopped dating hockey players in college when I had to explain that working for a non-profit didn't mean I didn't make any money.

4. Was told before take-off that the snow would make it hard to fly so 21 people and their bags needed to get off and we would get $400 in travel vouchers.

5. Got booked on flight for next day and received said vouchers despite the flight being canceled right before I rebooked. (Never got something when weather was involved, and it was Delta!)

6. Tried to get a cab but was told none were running.

7. Called my parents for a ride, but multiple accidents had everyone stranded so I waited two hours.

8. Had crazy lady yell at me while I tried to explain there were no cabs to my dad. She started cussing and yelling that they were coming and I just had to wait a beeping minute. She was still waiting when my dad came.

9. Lent my phone to a lady who didn't have one a few times who turned out to be a jewelry designer who asked for my address so she could mail me one of her pieces.

10. Left the airport and ended up where I started.
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A Shore Thing

Today we went to three of my favorite places in Maine. The first was "the rapids" - really called Limington Falls, but it's a mighty river so the first name was fitting. My grandfather - aka Bumpa - used to take my brother and I there in the summer and let us swim in the river while adequately warning us repeatedly that people drown there every summer. I was mostly too scared to venture too far into the river but it was always nice to cool off a little.

The second place is Prout's Neck where Winslow Homer's studio is. A great view full of huge, beautiful beach homes.

The third place is my most favorite, Kettle Cove. I've always liked that it is a park you didn't have to pay to enter with a view of all the lobster boats, and some traps (pictured here). Hiking trails and boardwalks run all around and there are beaches on both sides of the parking lot. Best of all it rarely seems crowded. The best part, to all who have been there, is the Kettle Cove ice cream place right down the road that serves peanut butter Oreo ice cream, but alas, only in the summer.
Kettle Cove

P.S. Thanks to my mom for the blog title.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

There's Just Something About Home

It's been awhile since I was last in Maine, almost one year to the day, but I am back. It's funny how the more time goes by, and the older I get, things that were once familiar seem so far away. Many of my friends and colleagues tease me about how often I talk about the great state of Maine, but coming back here I remember exactly why. There is just something totally different about this state for me than any other state. Flying in and seeing the coast all snuggled in ice and the boats all wrapped in plastic for the winter, I get the feeling of returning to all the things I loved growing up.
My mom's sour cream crescents, magic cookie bars and Oakhurst's eggnog.
 I mostly dig all the food that you can't get anywhere else: whoopie pies (not the fake ones popping up across the country but the ones that come from a recipe that's been around for generations), Oakhurst eggnog, lobster rolls, Amato's Italian sandwiches (which I mostly just have with cheese and tomatoes, salt, pepper and oil - so I know it's not the real deal but it's still good), needhams (which I usually get at Amato's and love telling non-Mainers about how they are made with potatoes), double cheese pizza from Angelone's and many of my mom's favorite recipes.

I love catching up with family and friends, although I usually start to feel sad that I can't see people more often and feel that I am relegated to fill them in on the three or four most current anecdotes about my life while giving them the same twenty minutes to fill me in on theirs. It makes me realize how fast time goes by when I see some people only once a year if I am lucky and so much happens during the in between times. I am glad that we can keep up easier than we used to through Facebook, e-mail and them checking in on my blog. Thanks for doing that everyone and I hope to see you soon!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Best Ever!

About a year ago, I blogged about one of the greatest gifts I had ever received here. As the holidays roll around I always think about what would be the perfect gifts for the special people in my life. I sometimes do okay but usually give things that will be forgotten - gift cards, practical items, food, jewelry, etc. Maybe if I was as creative as I would like to be if I had some time to dig in I would come up with some better ideas. Or if I had lots of spare cash I would take more people on adventures we could share in.

In the past month I have been lucky enough to have received two awesome travel-related gifts from friends. I thought I would share them with you here because that way I can stop trying to think of ways to share them with people in passing, like, OMG, I just got this awesome gift and I need to tell you about it right now! Or, you need to come over for dinner (one, because I like dinner guests and two, so I can show you these neat gifts I just got). I thought sharing them might help you think of ways you can give gifts to your loved ones that they will cherish for years to come.
My friend Kristen kept telling me that I needed to scrapbook my photos from Madagascar. She was trying to help me figure out a way to incorporate the small journal that I wrote in everyday. The solution was a small scrapbook she made plus this cool little trunk that holds it, the journal and a bunch of small keepsakes like currency, stones, ticket stubs and cards people sent me while I was there.
If you've ever done a work holiday party where gifts are exchanged, you probably never imagine getting anything that A) you like or B) is really thoughtful. I was pleasantly surprised when I opened this journal up to find that it was both. One of my co-workers filled this journal full of prompts, ideas for reflection, little envelopes to insert flora or recipes into from the locals for my upcoming Liberian adventure. So cool!
In other news, I think our passports are bound for the Liberian Embassy for our visas and I have a doctor's appointment set for more malarial meds and a check-up. I leave for Maine the day after tomorrow to spend some time with my family. Stay warm wherever you are in the world!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Book of Memories

At one of my bridal showers, many years ago (about ten if you can believe it), one of the elderly ladies [aptly named Bunny Foss - what a great old lady name] in my church gave me this guest book. I remember thinking, "um, okay, this is not something I will ever use," but the thought was nice. I started thinking more about it on our honeymoon in Ireland, where stayed at some of the same places that Brian had been with his family and we found entries from years ago from his grandparents signing into the B&B guest books. It was fun to see who else and from where other people had come and stayed at the same places, especially the people we were related to.

As we returned home, drove from Maine to California to our first home and got settled in, we started having guests. I decided to put the book out and ask people to sign it, hoping for the usual - name, date, where hailing from, etc. What I have gotten since is a collection of little stories of things done with each guest, heartfelt thanks and compliments about Brian's cooking, the things we did together, etc. Not everyone signs it, so I don't have 100% representation of history but it's a gift that meant more to me than I thought it ever would. So maybe if you are traveling this holiday season and you have to find a little extra gift for your host(s) maybe find a little book to give.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Sing-Along Jeep

In my haste to wrap-up our trip to Hawaii and move on to "Blog Winner Weekend", I neglected to share with you the video of our sing-along Jeep. Undoubtedly, I found it funnier than you will but you get to see some of the island, bonus!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

7 Wonders of Kansas City: A Blog Winner Weekend

Here, in order of appearance, are the 7 Wonders of Kansas City that were partaken in for blog winner weekend. (Note: there are a million other random and fun things to do here, these are just 7 of them)

1. Vegan BBQ. First stop was lunch and here is the Pulled Jack [Jack fruit] BBQ at FuD, which was truly delicious.
2. Clark's Point. "Views of Kansas, Missouri, and the area's complex waterway system still amaze visitors; educational panels about the expedition — along with a bronze statue depicting the two explorers with their guide Sacajawea and dog Seaman — are other highlights of the spot." ~ from 10BEST.com
3. Airline History Museum. Okay, we went here because we thought Santa and some Star Wars fans were going to be there but that was a few weeks ago so we just took the regular tour. We learned a bunch of things about the beginnings of the airline industry, which we both utilize frequently, so it was pretty interesting.
4. Steeple of Light. At this Frank Lloyd Wright-designed church, three beams of light shine up in the air and can be seen from 10 miles away.
5. The Plaza Holiday Lights. As seen on many a holiday lights around the U.S. television shows, the Plaza lights are a sight to see, so we did. The Plaza's architecture, influenced heavily by Seville, Spain, is normally fun to look at, but add lights = even better.
6. Roasterie Cafe. Joel with his soy hazelnut latte. If we had time we would've checked out my favorite tour in Kansas City at the Roasterie, but we had to opt for the new Leawood cafe instead. A nice place for a good conversation and a beverage.
7. The "You're Not In Kansas Anymore" Badge. This activity involved driving into Kansas and checking into Foursquare and then driving out of Kansas and checking into some other state in Foursquare. Not an easy badge to get for non-Kansas City residents!
So, that's it. The quick recap of a 28 hour adventure (counting sleeping time too). We had a good time catching up and checking out some new things. My sincere thanks to Joel for being a willing and fun participant. I am looking forward to the next contest already!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bottle It Up

Vacation, no matter where you go, is just a magical thing. If done properly, it can energize and reinvigorate you body, mind and spirit. The trick is always coming back to “real life” and taking some of the freshness with you. I always try to think of how to do this too late and always vow to try to do a better job next time. I always like to bring back coffee beans (to recreate the vacation joe), an article of clothing and/or jewelry (to remind me of where I was when I bought it) and some photo inspiration (see beach chair below). 
Every place I visit reminds me a little bit of places I have been before. Powerful memories of meals, funny mishaps and scenery seen before flood my mind as I experience a new place. It’s weird that my brain feels a need to compare or find the familiar in unknown surroundings. It's a little like deja vu I guess. All I know is I have been very blessed to have had the opportunities to venture out into the world a little bit and that I will definitely be back for more very soon.
The resort from the beach.
Mr. Koi wanted to say goodbye - I think he really wanted me to feed him, which of course reminded me of Rufus, but I don't think he reads my blog.
I think the true success of a vacation is how excited you are to return home and put on your regular life again. With the holidays already in full swing, things are definitely happening that I am excited to get back to. Brian requested a "vacation from his vacation" this morning, I think I can probably figure out a way to make that happen in the near future. I'm nice like that. ;)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Island Hopping

After an hour ferry ride, our first stop in Maui was to sample some of the local brew. I always think of Elf when people proclaim they have the best - although this place was pretty darn good!
As we strolled through the town of Lahaina, along with a giant cruise boat full of other visitors, we came across this really cool tree.
Walking up some stairs to a place called "Dan's Green House" I thought we would find a head shop, but it was a tropical plant and bird store. Brian made friends with this 6 month old parrot who kept biting him. This store is the only one on Maui that certifies plants and birds to travel back to the mainland.
We ate lunch at a place called Kimo's, which was okay, but the view was incredible. I couldn't get over how cool this cloud was so I took his picture.

After some gelato and a little more walking around in the 80+ degree heat, we headed back to the dock and took an earlier ferry back to Lanai. We were glad we visited but it was very crowded compared to Lanai. Most people have left for the weekend and we are virtually at the resort with what feels like 20 other people. We were craving some pizza so we checked out a local place called Pele's Other Garden, it wasn't fancy but it hit the spot. Unfortunately when we were on Maui we found out that our sunset cruise for tomorrow had been canceled since we were the only people signed up - I think that would have made it perfect but since Brian hasn't been feeling well maybe it worked out for the best.

One of these things just doesn't belong here...


I will be the first to admit that I am not really the “Four Seasons” type – whatever that means. Well, I guess I can tell you what it means after a short shuttle bus ride into town. Two women sat in front of us discussing whose yellow, square cut diamond was larger and how they had to have their current spouses sign pre-nups in order to protect their own wealth. The other conversations on the bus were strangely similar – second homes, buying quarter horses based on hip proportions, and trying to make gift getters be more grateful. It’s not that I have a problem with any of these people; it’s just a stark contrast between them and where I live.
My attempt to copy the brochure photo of the pool.
I chose this place, this island, to get away. Billed as the “quiet, romantic and relaxing” island, I was all in. It’s funny to pretend to live in the same universe as some of the other guests, although I guess we really do live, vote, work and invest together – I just don’t plan on buying any quarter horses anytime soon. 
This island has definitely been a great getaway. I feel like I am in another country or on a cruise ship. Your itinerary is up to you and the biggest decision is where to eat your next meal. I have also caught up on some long overdue reading. I finally finished When Helping Hurts [a suggestion from my pastor] - a great book that discusses how to alleviate poverty without being harmful to the poor or yourself. The gist was to never do anything for the poor that they themselves can do. I also finished Seth Godin's book Tribes which talks about not being afraid to start your own movement [or tribe] through just doing what you are passionate about without any boundaries of fear. Being a leader without really having to manage the process. A great, quick read I would highly recommend. Tomorrow we're off to Maui!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snorkeling Superman Style

So day 2 got off with a bang and some breakfast and then it was down to the dock for a snorkeling adventure with Trilogy Tours. We went with a group of about 25 people and sailed into Shark Fin Cove, note in picture above the rock shaped like said shark fin.

This was my first time snorkeling and I was excited to cross off one more of my life list items. I was a little hesitant at first not knowing exactly the proper breathing coordination needed for such an activity. As soon as I got into the water with my mask, snorkel, float belt and flippers I tried breathing and got a little panicky. I took a deep, yogic breath and relaxed. From then on it was blissful. The fish, coral, reefs and even other people's flippers were an amazing underwater sight to see. The float belt let me kick around like superman with my arms out in front of me. I would've stayed in for longer than the hour or so we were in the water but the lunch bell was ringing on the boat.

On the way back we rode in the rubber boat and had a wet and bumpy ride back to the dock. I was most excited that the hyper-active French [or German or Swedish or something] children were on the other boat.
The rubber boat.
After showers we relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. Brian took a nap and I read some magazines. We had dinner at the Lanai Hotel in town - the beet Carpaccio and seafood pad thai were a great way to end the day.
BTW, finding plumeria flowers all over the ground is a perfect reason for a photo shoot, right?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

All Signs Point To...


The sound of wild turkeys in trees woke us at 6am. We made our way to breakfast (I had macadamia nut brioche French toast) and then it was off to Lanai City (which is named that, but is more like a hamlet in size). We got some sandwiches for a picnic and rented an orange (yah!) Jeep to explore the island. Since the island is 98% privately owned there is not a lot to see, just a lot of open land and hard to reach beaches. 

Our Jeep on the beach. Top was down most of the drive down and filled our lungs with red dirt.
We made it out to the northern part of the island to see the Garden of the Gods (not as impressive as Colorado, BSB said) and to Polihua Beach. It took an hour and a half to get out there (10.6 miles) over very bumpy, windy roads that reminded me of Africa. The sand on the beach was very coarse and the wind picked up and “sandblasted” us as we ran back to get in the car.
Leaping at Garden of the Gods.
We ventured to the other side of the island to see Shipwreck Beach and then dropped off the Jeep. We went back to the resort to go swimming and attended happy hour, complete with local music. After some table top shuffle board we dined outside. The temperature held steady around 75 all day. The necessity of this vacation was clear to me when we both realized that we had forgotten many critical items (sunglasses and dress sandals for Brian and pants, skirts, jacket, etc. for me). I mostly packed books and magazines I guess. Oh well, we will probably make it. 

P.S. Mom, the coolest thing at the Four Seasons is the tiny packages of Woolite with the toiletries so I can properly wash out my swimsuit. I knew you would want to know that my travel laundry needs were being met!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

This morning was a quiet morning for KCI security, with an hour to spare we cleared TSA in two minutes flat, after Brian surrendered his Chapstick for further investigation. We were also pardoned a 3 pound over bag - since it's Thanksgiving the gate agent said. Although it's always bad to start your trip with too much because it limits what you can add later. I haven't seen any stripping incidents by fellow passengers but I guess the day is young and there are two more airports to go. Hope everyone enjoys their holiday and I'll be talking to you soon on the blog!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Houston: The Next 36


a. Jessica and Jonathan at Ruby Tequilas.
b. The Downtown Aquarium's salt water tank.
c. Tequila Pineapple at Ruby Tequilas - not as good as it looks.
d. Aquarium's white tiger - the featured exhibit - not sure what the connection to the aquarium is.
e. Poser fish pretending to be a starfish.
f. Sunset in the city from my room.
g. Are we in Gothem? No it's Houston.
h. Sushi at Fish. Yummy!
i. Second tiger sighting at the aquarium, RRRAAARRR!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Houston: First 24


So getting bumped from your hotel for overbooking has it's perks. Besides the free room and free internet you also get multiple rides on the hotel shuttle. This provided me the chance to learn these fun facts about Houston, TX:
  1. Houston is the fourth largest city in the U.S. but is soon to take over Chicago as #3.
  2. Where the Enron headquarters used to be - this was pointed out three different times.
  3. There are 8 miles of underground tunnels under the city for pedestrians (kind of like at RIT) and they are open from 5am-4pm daily.
  4. The nicest people in the world live here, although the driver told me that the people were all really warm-blooded here and I am sort of assuming from the rest of the conversation that that is what he meant.
  5. You should eat at the District 7 Grill (which we did).
So, that's about it from here. [Will get up the next 24 soon.] Thanks again to Jonathan for helping me man the YVC booth at The Big Tent Conference!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Who Are You?

I chuckled as I read this article today and easily identified myself as an Outside Flight Ninja/Conflict Resolution Manager but it made me think of who my friends and family are. I'm pretty sure Brian is a less scary version of the Slow Burner. My favorite people to befriend in crappy airport situations are the Expense-Account Drinkers and I am amused by the Oblivious Boobs. There is a description of pretty much everyone I have ever traveled with. There unfortunately isn't a quiz to help you but once you read one that is you, you'll know. So, who are you?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scan Me, Pat Me, Wand Me Down

I had a conversation with a friend this weekend about the body scanners in airports. The discussion was around pilots being concerned about the amount of radiation they were being exposed to. Hmm, I hadn't thought about that. I just know the lane in the KCI airport to avoid so I don't have to go through that - I think I mentioned in a blog post awhile back about how TSA still hasn't resolved the stored image issues (like how long and where to store your image for later use). So, then I get to work Monday and see this article about the guy who refuses a scan and doesn't want the new touchy-feely pat down, way more invasive than the old ones, and is now being fined $11,000. Have you had one of those? They are un-com-for-ta-ble. I'll leave it at that.

In other travel related news I have been working on reading this article about a guy who spends 30 days in 30 different airports with a JetBlue unlimited pass. It's taking me awhile to get through because it's a little on the long side but it's funny and I don't want to rush it.

Finally from me tonight, I am making good progress on the blog winner weekend. I have found a vegan BBQ place, I am so excited, that was my goal for this week. We'll see how it goes.

P.S. Thank you to Kristin Huntley (www.kristinhuntley.com) for my new blog header!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hello? Kansas City, are you there?

Awhile back I had posted that the blog contest winner weekend had been booked and that I was in need of some ideas for the "7 Wonders of Kansas City" adventure. I didn't hear any suggestions and I need some soon, pretty please! I think it would be fun for you, and me, to give each item a shout-out to its suggester on the blog in the recap of the weekend. They could be seasonal (like your favorite things to do this time of year in KC) or normal (like you love going to Union Station), whatever you have, I'm open. I am running out of time as it is officially three weeks from yesterday that the barely 24 hour long adventure will take place (SW's block on the last flight of the day on Friday for Rapid Rewards tickets is to blame for the shortened stay). So far I have one or two ideas of my own and could use your help with a few, or six more. Just post the ideas as a comment to this post. Thanks!

Another reason I am feeling frantic is that there are two trips that will take place before the contest winner's weekend - Houston and Lanai, HI. The first for work, the latter for play. I am stoked about both as they will be two new destinations for me. But I am really most excited that today we booked a couples massage for Lanai and they said that it will take place in a cabana over-looking the ocean...just like in all the movies. I love making my movie dreams come true.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lookin' Good

As you can see the blog has a fresh new look! Thanks to Katie (http://schultzpartyoffour.blogspot.com/) for the ideas and secrets!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Where Is That Again?

In the same spirit of passing along news about Madagascar during my planning for that trip I thought I might pass along some news about Liberia as well as a little history in case you'd like to know a little more than its location on the map.


Liberia was founded and settled by freed American slaves in 1821-1822 through a private organization called the American Colonization Society. It was officially founded as the Republic of Liberia in 1847. This has made for a long and interesting history with the United States. Their official language is English, they currently have a female president and they, like many other African nations, are in a process of rebuilding after two civil wars, one in 1989 and the other in 1999.

Liberia has recently been praised for their efforts to reduce corruption by an organization called Transparency International and has risen from 30th place in 2009 up to 11th this year for African countries with the least perceived corruption due to efforts by the government to increase overall transparency. The president is working hard to rebuild and has made a bold move to put her entire cabinet on administrative leave until she decides who to invite back. The country is working hard to rebuild their military and police forces as well.

In trip preparation news we are awaiting an official letter to send with our passports to get visas. In order to get a visa granted in many non-tourist areas you need to give the embassy proof of why you are in the country. We also gained two more travelers who are friends of Kathi, one of my trip-mates. They are doctors coming along to assess the medical needs, facilities, etc.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Travel Toys

I used to read this magazine that always had an article from a jet-setter with all their favorite tech toys of the moment and their wishlist for other items they wanted. I always liked reading it and comparing to see if I had any of the of-the-moment items, which I usually didn't, but it was still fun. In thinking about those articles I thought I would do my own tribute with my own favs. Here are my lists:

My favorite travel items:
My iPod Nano 4 (16 GB) - I never leave home without it! It's chock full of music, t.v. shows and NPR and 60 minutes podcasts.
Ultimate Ears 700 - noise reducing headphones, great for drowning out screaming kids on a plane.
No vacuum required Space Bags for dirty (or clean) clothes - depending on which I have less of. (I realize this has nothing to do with actual technology but they are awesome enough to make my list.)
Griffin TuneJuice iPod charger - because you never want to have to hunt for an outlet in one of those unfortunate airports who put switch-plate covers over all the spots to plug in!
Cabela's Alaskan Guide LED Flashlight - this flashlight is small and very powerful and has white and blue light!
Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS Digital ELPH 14.1 MP Camera - okay, so maybe I bought it originally because it was orange but it is actually really awesome. Small, takes great photos and videos and has a pretty easy to use interface although I haven't figured it all out yet...
My Wishlist:

USB + AA battery solar charger - would come in handy in Africa especially, no need to drag along plug adapters and this one apparently charges up in the sun, stores the charge and lets you plug in later.
SteriPEN Classic Handheld Water Purifier - Destroys viruses, bacteria and protozoa--including Giardia and Cryptosporidium--using ultraviolet (UV) light for 60 to 90 seconds. So cool! No need to drink water with chlorine tablets no matter where you may roam.
Outdoor Products 3-Pack Ultimate Dry Sack - one of my trip leaders in Madagascar had these and they came in handy on many occasions. I have some plastic dry bags but these are waterproof nylon and are very easy to store.
iPad - I am not entirely sure I want this but it seems cool. I have used a couple and it would be so nice to be able to get work done on the road without my whole laptop coming along. I could use it for books too! (And the best thing about a wishlist is that you don't have to get it all, right?)
There you have it! My little list of likes, hope you enjoyed!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From East to West

The last week has been a whirlwind of plans! For now, the trip to Rwanda is on hold as I am not sure I am ready for the challenge of the work (and working alone) that the opportunity would provide and they are not able to provide meals anymore due to lack of funding. [Since I don't cook at home I don't think I will pick it up in a foreign country.] I am, however, going to Liberia in February for two weeks. I am going with two amazing women from my church to do a scouting trip for a medical missions trip in 2012. I volunteered to help with the trip planning and fundraising and figured I could be a lot more helpful to the process if I went on the scouting trip too.

This trip will be centered around working at Liberia's rural Fistula clinics. Fistulas are a common occurrence in war-torn countries and occur most often in young women who have been raped and are not physically developed enough to be able to give birth without medical intervention. Living with a fistula often relegates women to very low standing in society and they suffer both the pain of being shunned by their families and the medical complications that the fistula creates. The trip in 2012 will bring doctors and nurses to the clinics to perform fistula correction surgeries, conduct well baby clinics, rehab housing for the patients and the volunteers and whatever else we discover on the scouting trip.

So, this all happened kind of fast but I am so excited that it all worked out. I now need to work backwards a little bit as I don't really know exactly what to do to prepare. We got our plane tickets today. I know I need a visa and I have all my shots from Madagascar so now it's time for some research. If this topic is of interest to you, check out the documentary A Walk to Beautiful.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's On!

So as of ten minutes ago, my contest winner, Joel, is finally booked for the prize trip to Kansas City. The adventure will take place on the weekend of December 4th and 5th. We will be exploring the "7 Wonders of the Midwest" (which I have yet to make up). I need your help! If you live in Kansas City (or have visited) I need your submissions of places we should not miss. The only caveat is that they need to be vegan-friendly, so all the BBQ or your favorite slaughter house recommendations are out.

On a related note, several people have asked me about who Joel is so a two second description of him is that he is my best friend from high school's little brother. He currently resides in Virginia but will be moving to L.A. soon. He is the Director of Marketing for PETA and is a fellow adventurer, although he has been to far more exotic places and has traveled more frequently than I. Stay tuned for the adventure to come...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hotlanta!

Scary 7 foot mascot bear w/Whitney, Jessica and me. It's eyes and mouth moved too realistically.
I am currently in Atlanta for the Independent Sector Conference, which has been an incredible experience for me. Last night's reception took place at The World of Coca Cola and was a blast. They had a jazz band, international soda tasting, food, open bar, 4D movie and fun things to look at. Despite billing the event as a "dance party" there was not much dancing going on except for me and my new friend Jessica. We are a little worried about all the photos that were being taken of us, not sure where those will end up but it was a good time. The Atlanta Aquarium is just across the way so if you ever visit Atlanta you should check those both out!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Streak

Have you ever started something, developed a trend and then felt superstitious about breaking it? I realized today as I was recording my trips for 2010 (which I started doing in late 2008) that I have a streak going of traveling every month for the past 26 months. This has been mostly due to work but as you know, if you've been following along, there has been some fun along the way as well. I head to Atlanta next week and have two trips planned for November but my month of December 2010 is wide open and I am trying to figure out what to do.

I can't possibly keep the streak going forever, even though I would love to. I am trying to figure out if I should keep it going or throw in some balance since life can't always be one trip after another. I feel a resistance to settling down and staying put for a month, maybe I should go for that challenge but the streak is more fun to see how long it can go...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weston Weekend

The Rose Balcony room at the Benner House - ooo, roses everywhere!
This weekend was the Westin Irish Festival! We went up Friday night and stayed all weekend at the Benner House with a gift certificate from Brian's parents from Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad Beard!). The place was nice, comfortable and delicious food and within walking distance of the festival - no parking hassles! After checking in we headed to the festival and soaked in three days worth of music - with a couple of breaks for food and sleep. The weather could not have been more perfect and the festival posted record attendance numbers. We wandered around town a little bit, enjoyed the very start of the fall leaves turning for the season and saw friends and family there. Here are some pictures of the fun!

The outdoor stage
The Screaming Orphans from Donegal, my new rock heros! This was the stage six stories below the earth in O'Malley's Pub.
Mel and Thomas came by the festival on Saturday and we had some ice cream together in town. Thomas used the word "cold" often, he had a better hang on that than on using his spoon so he used his hand mostly.
There is a new cigar store in Weston where they make hand-rolled cigars. Not really something I buy but it was cool that the drying barn was a couple blocks down the street and this guy was making them for the festival that evening.
Hanging out with Brian Beard. (For the record - Brian said he didn't like this picture because he looked bald, but now you know, he isn't really bald it's just the photo.)