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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Maravillas del Mundo en Arena

Again, looking for “tastes from home”, I took the kids to see the Wonders of the World built out of sand. To be honest I was a bit skeptical. There isn't a beach around here so how good can these sand builders really be?
Over 40 sand artists from around the world came to Bogota for several months to carve blocks of sand into incredible art. The sand was brought from the River Sumapz in Colombia where the grains where determined to be the right consistency for carving. The sand was compacted with water under high pressure to create a block that would not fall apart. No chemicals or glue were used to hold the sand together. Some of the carvings are 26' high. In a few months when the exhibit is over the sand will be returned to the river from which it was taken.

4 large tents house the various carvings. They are divided by region of the world. Sights such as the Great Wall of China, Buda, the Great Barrier Reef, New York City Skyline and the Big Five animals of Africa are exhibited. It really is a wonder in and of itself to see these great sculptures brought to life in sand!

Nativity Scene

Taj Mahal

Great Barrier Reef

New York Sky Line

Great Barrier Reef

Walled Colombian city of Cartegena

Another city in Colombia
- Kris

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Day on the Ice

Sitting here at the computer warmed by the sun streaming through the window, I tend to forget that it is winter back home. Every year over Christmas break I come up with a list of things to keep us busy during the break. It was no different here, especially considering the kids got a full month off school.
One of the malls in town set-up an ice skating rink. Maddie especially loves ice skating. So one morning we hopped in a taxi and found the mall. After jumping through the hoops of “spend $50.00 in the mall and get your tickets for 1/8th the price” the girls laced up their skates and headed onto the ice.
I loved sitting there for their hour watching them skate around passing neon-lit trees. Most of the kids out there didn't have a clue how to skate. What brought memories of a fun past-time from home is a new adventure for the kids around here.
- Kris

Saturday, January 21, 2012

WARNING: horses are not as comfortable as they may look.

Yes, We rode horses. We were in Mexico, and riding horses on the beach sounded enjoyable. Mom, Maddie and Elena had already gone once and they could not seem to talk of anything else. The next time Elena and I went. I thought that I would try it, you never know, it could be fun. When we started we only walked, and that was fine, but when we began to trot, I realized why people sometimes complain about riding horses. It felt like your back was going to be broken into a thousand small pieces. Elena tried to give me some helpful horse insight, telling me I had to go up and down, and get the feel for the rhythm of the horse. This did not help. To avoid this pain I only galloped and walked. This was not the best first experience I have ever had. The second time I did not want to go, but mom thought I should go. You see, I do not enjoy intentionally inflicting pain on myself. Never the less I went. This time I had more fun. I stuck to my strategy of not trotting and that helped a lot. We galloped most of the time. I liked my horse, it was fast. When we turned around and started down the beach back towards where we began. My horse suddenly grew wings and began to fly. Not really, but he did start galloping a lot faster. Maddie and Elena who have been taking horse riding lessons, were left in the dust. My horse was so fast that I had to stop frequently to let them catch up. When we all arrived back at the tent they gave me a new horse, and told us to continue riding in the direction we were going. My new horse was slow and required a whip, which at first made him jump when I used it. Soon I got use to the whip and I could use it while galloping. My horse was again faster than the girls. Despite the blisters on my hands that are still healing, it was a lot of fun. I still don't like trotting though.


Another day spent in Panama brought us new experiences and more stories to tell. This time we headed out for a day with a Panamanian tribe that was still living like they did 100 years ago. We were picked up from a river bank by two men dressed in traditional clothes. They were both standing in a canoe, one at the back by a small motor, and the other in the front with a large stick. After we all got in they started up the motor and we went off at a surprising speed. The first place they took us off to was a waterfall, the canoe wound through a river, over rapids, rocks and more. Sometimes we had to get out of the boat and walk while the two men pulled the boat along. Finally we got to the waterfall and changed into our swimsuits. Dad and Damon headed straight for the waterfall, while Maddie and I were slower in the ice cold water. Mom sat on the side and watched. When we got to the waterfall it was blasting down on us making it hard to hear and see, but there were a couple places that we could sit under the constant flow of water! Maddie soon went back to dry off but Dad, Damon and I climbed up some rocks towards the top of the waterfall to see the small river leading to it. Slowly more tourists coming with different tribes started to arrive and crowd the place. After that we saw some guides from the tribes jumping off a huge rock down into the river. It looked like fun so Dad, Damon, and I went to go try it out also. After a couple times of doing it Dad decided to stay down while Damon and I took one last jump before leaving. While climbing up the rock it was slippery in some places and I took a wrong step. I fell down the side of the rock and caught myself just before it could get worse. I was lucky and only ended up with a few scratches and bruises. (I AMLOST DIED!) Luckily we had lots more fun in that day and I soon forgot about it.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Acapulco Cliff Divers

In Acapulco one day we went to see the cliff divers, so we got a taxi and drove up there. Once we arrived, we waited in a little air conditioned shop until it was time to buy tickets for the show. After we bought the tickets, we went to a little shaded area where we could see the cliff. There was another place to watch, farther down, but closer to the cliff, and we decided that it would be nice to go down there for the last few dives. There were about six divers. It took awhile for the divers to all jump off of a smaller cliff, cross some water, and climb all the way up the big cliff. Sometimes the water between the two cliffs was really choppy, and the divers held onto a rope until it calmed down enough for them to swim across. One of the divers (a bigger one) went around to the other side of the cliff where he didn't have to climb. We predicted that he would show off and do a fancy jump. A few of the divers climbed up a slightly harder way, and the rest went a little bit more roundabout and easier way, but they all got up eventually. One by one they jumped off. It was a really long jump. Just as we predicted, the bigger one was one of the first, and he did a flip before landing in the water. The divers had to time the jumping just right, they had to make sure the water was at the depth (the water kept going in and out of between the cliffs) they wanted and it had to be calm. The last diver did the best dive–he went all the way to the top of the cliff (the others went a short way below it), and did a flip. It was extremely high. Once the divers did their dive, they climbed out and up to the entrance by the ticket booth. At the end we realized that we had forgotten to go down to the closer place where most of the people were. It would have been cool to see the really high last dive up close, so it was too bad that we didn't go down.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mud Face

Putting it on
Dark Mud
Light Mud

Family Picture!!!!!

Panama City, Panama is one of the 2 places we traveled to. We stayed there for 1 week on vacation from school and work. Unlike in the United States, in Colombia, we get 1 month off school for Christmas break.
After a couple days at a resort sitting by the pool, just outside of the main Panama City (kind of in the jungle) we headed to finish off our stay in Panama by staying in the city. We wanted to see Panama a little bit so we picked out a few things to do. One of the things we planned to do was to go hiking. The Marriott hotel we were staying at got us a driver to drive us where we wanted to go. (Luckily we got one who spoke a little bit of English!) It took about 1 1/2 hours to get there, but what we originally planned to do didn't work out so we asked the driver where he suggested. He brought us to a place that had natural springs from the ground, making hot mineral water pools. After we payed for it, we found out that included a mud mask for your face! It had to be done before soaking in the pools. There were two different kinds of mud, a darker one for more sensitive skin and a lighter one that was just for normal skin. Mom did it first, covering her face in the lighter mud. When she finished she looked pretty funny! Maddie and I stepped up next, Maddie at the darker mud and I at the lighter. We applied it carefully all around our faces and soon it was Damon and Dads turn. Damon did the the lighter, and Dad decided to do spots of both all around his face! After that you were supposed to wait for it to dry, (which took around 10 minutes) and then wash it off. Mom and Dad got impatient and washed it off almost immediately, so that they could go and sit in the mineral water pools. Damon, Maddie, and I weren't so fast to remove it though. We wanted the whole thing to dry on our faces, even if it meant sitting around for what felt like forever! The mud dried in interesting patterns on our faces becoming lighter when it dried, and hardened. We had to try hard to not laugh though because it cracked when we did. (Which just made it even harder not to!) Finally we couldn't wait any longer and with most of it dried, we washed it off and went to sit in the mineral water pools.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Panama Canal

On our vacation we went to Panama for a week, and one day visited the Panama Canal. We got there just when a ship was coming in. We stood there watching as the ship very slowly went towards the door that was holding back more water. The ship had a train on each side of it, keeping it from hitting the sides (all ships coming in have to be at least two feet from the side of the canal, otherwise it is too big. When it got to the big doors, the water drained from the other side and leveled out. The doors opened and the ship went through. The doors were still the original doors because they have been kept in very good condition. Oncethe ship got through the doors, they closed and the water level changed again. After that we went into the visitor center-museum place and saw how it worked and everything. It told history about how the canal and locks were made, and it even had the bell from the first ship that went through the locks. We learned that the cheapest anyone's had to pay to go through them was only around 36 cents (it was a long time ago, and the person swam through). Usually it costs an average ship about 30,000 dollars to go through the locks.
The French started a waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in 1880, but they failed because of sickness and financial problems. When Panama gained independence from Colombia in 1903, they made an agreement with the U.S. to make a canal. The canal was finished in 1914. 200 million cubic meters of material were removed to make the canal.
They are expanding the canal for bigger ships, and is expected to be completed in 2014. It will have some new locks, and the canal will be deeper and wider in some places.
The canal takes a lot of maintenance, and Panama does not make very much money from it. They have to keep the canal the right depth and clean a lot of things. The Panama canal was interesting to see work.


Friday, January 6, 2012

The worlds largest...

The hotel we are staying at offers a complementary night tour. Last night we took ours. It was in English – good. The guide told us the goal was to see capyburas and maybe some caimans or crocodiles. We rode in a truck that had been modified into a short train. The guide scanned the brush with his flashlight, which shot a strong beam of light quite a ways out, looking for creatures which we might happen to chance upon. The first animal he spotted was out in a field. It was the worlds largest rodent – a capybura. It didn't move and we just stared at it for a few minutes as the guide told us a few facts we would forget as soon as we saw the next animal. The second animal was a wooly possum. We were driving as usual when the instructor had the truck stop. His flashlight beam settled in one place, but all I could see was a small fleck in the constant grass field. This turned out to be the wooly possum. It ran away after being in the spotlight for a minute or two. Shortly after we saw what the guide called a “night hawk” although I'm sure more complicated names are available for the bird. All that was visible was a faint outline, the guide told us that they lay their eggs on the ground rather than have a nest in the trees. The tour progressed further and we didn't see anything for a while. Then we could see the hotel looming in front of us, when the guide spotted one last thing. The side of the road was banked and in it was a whole slightly bigger than a golf ball. This was a tarantula's nest. In the nest we could see a small white ball – an egg sack. The tarantula living in this nest was a female. The tour ended shortly after the tarantula nest was spotted. It was worth it, we had seen a lot of wildlife in the short tour.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Morning Run

As I woke up this morning, the sun was streaming through the window of our hotel room. We are staying in the rainforest in Panama. After a relaxing day by the pool yesterday then falling asleep in the hammock on the porch, I was ready for my morning run.

I have found that running through a place gives you a different view of the area. Whether through the neighborhood I grew up in, along the ocean in New Zealand, among the monuments in Washington DC or on the diplomatic enclave in Pakistan, I see the world through different eyes.

This morning my run took me along a river to the Panama Canal. On our way to the Canal, Chad & I ran through a bamboo stand where the long bamboo poles bent over the road in an arch. They swayed quietly in the soft breeze.

To our left, at the fork where the river met the canal stood an old, grey lighthouse up the bank. The door was opened inviting us in. The steps were overgrown with grass, now just bumps leading us up the hill. We approached the lighthouse and peaked in the door. A set of spiral cement stairs filled the room. Mud nests with brown bugs flying in and out of them filled the corners. Chad went first to be sure the whole thing wouldn't topple down around us. He called me up warning me of bats along the way. Around and around I climbed until I reached the top. Large, open windows looked both ways down the canal. The silty water was still with the rainforest surrounding the area.

We continued up the canal into the little town of Gamboa. Wanting to stay close to the canal, I chose a side road. I had to turn back, retracing my steps because dogs guarded the way. We continued a bit into town before turning around, remembering we had to jog back as far as we had come! Bright colored cement homes lined the town road. A bus stop had people waiting at it.

Headed back along the river a ripple in the water caught Chad's eye. He stopped to examine and we were delighted to find a family of river otters. They ducked up and down. The parents chirped to warn their young. They swam in and out of the brush eventually disappearing from sight.

Back on the path again with sweat dripping off my face, I breathed a deep breath in. What a way to begin the day!

- Kris