A Travellerspoint blog

A Memorable Memorial day!!

Normandy on memorial day

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We had the incredible experience of being at the United States memorial at Omaha Beach in Normandy on Memorial Day. Throughout this trip there have been moments of feeling a great honor being an American and sometimes hesitation in our previous actions as a country. But always pride that we are citizens of the greatest country in the world.
When we first arrived in France and realized Memorial Day was going to be in a few days, we decided that we would rent a car and drive to the north coast to see where the American troops first came ashore during D-Day. This was of particular interest after seeing the plaque outside of the Dachau Concentration camp that read “this camp was liberated by the American forces in 1944…..”. I knew being at the American memorial would be special, but being there on Memorial Day would be even heavier.
When you first arrive at the memorial, you enter through the modern museum that explains the war in great detail and shows how Europe needed our help to survive the atrocities of the German powers. The museum was very well done and simple and elegant, there was a quote carved into the stone, just before you walk among the gravestones that says something to the effect of “ ….if ever there was a question into the motives of our intervention, we were not there to conquest but rather help. All we asked for in return was a place to bury our heroes where they died…..”, it really moved me to see that our sacrifices were simply to help other nations in need and not take over their land.
When you first walk onto the grounds you can see nothing but white gravestones, perfectly in line, as far as you can see. There are over 9,000 gravestones, which appear to be much more than it sounds, they are in perfect lines from every angle and the grounds are perfectly manicured. Crosses, Star of Davids and blank headstones were all that existed. There was an American flag and French flag placed in front of every gravestone, in perfect symmetry. It felt very heavy emotionally and yet a place of such somber energy, somehow gave hope and pride for the country we are from. America is the greatest country in the world and the sacrifices our citizens have made for the rest of the world could not have been more evident than the day we spent at Normandy.

In the words of my father in law "Freedom is not Free". And this I can attest to after seeing such a tribute to our armed forces.

Posted by ryanober1 12:19 Archived in France Tagged ryan Comments (2)

Cruise!

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Hello Everyone! Sorry for not writing in a LONG time... we have been very busy, the cruise had wifi but for 1 dollar per minute. The cruise was wonderful! We went to 6 countries in 9 days. Denmark, Germany, Finland, Russia, Estonia and Sweden. I liked Tallin Estonia the best, it was a medieval city with tons of forts and green parks! Stockholm Sweden was nice too, I loved the city square! For Germany we just went to a little port town and just walked around. To be honest I had never heard of Helsinki or Finland! So it was truly a new experience!

Prior to the cruise we spent a week in France and toured Normandy, Le Mount St. Michael and Paris! We met our family: my grandparents and two cousins in Paris and traveled with them on the cruise as well. Today we got off the boat and are staying in Copenhagen for the day and deciding what to do in the new couple of weeks.

Sorry for the typos.... i am writing on a danish key board so i cant even find the comma!

Riley

Posted by ryanober1 00:18 Archived in Denmark Tagged riley Comments (0)

Teenagers in Paris!

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So, we are officially the parents of teenagers! Morgan and Riley celebrated their 13th birthday in Paris! A definite memory maker! Their cousins Emma and Max and Nana and Grandpa met us in Paris making the day extra special. The girls and Emma had a French manicure and pedicure in France (crazy) and a mini makeover at the MAC store with a no nonsense male French make up artist and to top the day off, the girls were allowed to wear hoop earrings, a highlight for Morgan. Ryan freaked out a bit, but recovered quickly! We ate dinner near the Eiffel Tower and just as we rounded the corner to get a better view, midnight struck and the tower began to twinkle, lighting up the Parisian sky! A breathtaking sight! The girls smiles were priceless as they “oohed and awhed” as they gazed up at the tower of lights. A great way to end their birthday night! They did have one last chocolate crepe, a must while taking in the sights!
One of my good friends asked me if I was able to really take in all that we have done, and it is a difficult question to answer. We are traveling at mock speed and we have visited 19 countries in 17 weeks, so its easy to question whether or not you truly can get an honest feel for the cities we have visited. I am trying to take it all in, by absorbing the culture, whether good bad or indifferent. I must say that celebrating the girls’ birthday under the sparkling lights of the Eiffel Tower is a definite highlight for me. I am so proud to be their mother and so very grateful that they came into this world 13 years ago. We have embarked on a new journey raising teenagers. I am sure the journey will take some twists and turns, yet I feel this trip has been a gift to our family in so many ways. We are learning to be better communicators with one another, which will hopefully help our family dynamic as the girls navigate their teen years!
We are now in Copenhagen getting ready to embark on our Baltic Sea cruise with the Oberholtzer clan! We have never been on a cruise ship before. The girls can’t wait to have some freedom to run around, eat as much as they want when they want without us! I am looking forward to seeing the Norwegian sites via a cruise ship, a new mode of transportation for me! Bon Voyage once again!

Posted by ryanober1 01:55 Archived in France Tagged julie Comments (1)

On a train heading from Chuisi, Italy in Tuscany to Milan

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We have a 6-hour layover and then catch a night train to Paris. It has been an eventful and busy 2 weeks for the O’s. The last time I wrote we were just hanging out and catching our breath in Oia, Santorini, it was great to recharge, and helped us get through he last 2 weeks, which have involved 4 countries and a hectic schedule.
We started our Italian adventure in Venice, what a cool city that was!! Just like in the movies and what you have always seen on TV and read in books. Crazy expensive but when you figure absolutely everything has to be imported or brought by boat, you can sort of justify it. A surreal sky color throughout the day and night, a lot like the painted sky in the Venetian in Vegas (seriously). It was fun to just walk around and find dead ends that stop at the canals, and find tucked away trattoria’s and pizzerias. We did the obligatory Gondola ride through the canals, I am sure it would have felt different with a glass of wine and just Julie, but with the girls and cans of Sprite it lost a little of the romantic energy.
After 2 days we rented a car in Venice and headed north through the Dolomites in Northern Italy, looked like a cross between Yosemite in Northern California and the Black Hills in South Dakota, only very tall. Beautiful scenic ride through Italy up to Austria where we drove to a small town outside of Innsbruck up in the mountains called Godden. It was a pleasant little hamlet with mountains everywhere. I would love to come back and ski here in the winter, the slopes looked fantastic. We toured Innsbruck and had a nice lunch (wiener schnitzel) by the river that runs through the middle of town. Julie said Innsbruck is one of her favorite cities yet, and could see it as the most livable we have been to yet. We even toured the Swarovski crystal factory, apparently the most touristy place in Innsbruck.
We drove to Germany next and had our first Autobahn experience, very fun for the girls and I to drive 200 kph in a station wagon (I don’t think Julie enjoyed it as much). We were passed like we were standing still by Ferraris, Lamborghinis, BMW’s and Exotic’s a surreal experience I was glad to share with the girls. We made it to Munich and stayed for a couple of days. We saw the Glockenspiel, the large clock that has the life size wooden figures reenact a battle and a love story at 11 and 5pm each day. We also went to the BMW factory and saw all the new models and history of the company (Julies highlight of Germany I’m sure). The 2nd day was entirely dedicated to Dachau, the concentration camp.
There aren’t really ways or words to describe what I saw and felt there. The level of atrocity was palpable and still lingered even though none of the bodies or people are still there. The realization that a person could treat another person in that manner is hard to comprehend and even harder to accept. It was summed up for me by one of the first people to arrive in Dachau, when he gave an account of his first impressions on the audio tour. “…..It didn’t seem like it could be Earth, I kept feeling that I was in a dream on another planet….. how could something this horrible happen on earth??...”. The way I think most people would feel after being at a place like this.
One positive thing to see at Dachau was when you first walked up to the entrance, there is a plaque that reads, “….. The AMERICAN forces from the 8th division, rainbow Division, freed the people of this concentration camp….”. It felt good to see that our involvement around the world has had positive impacts. A welcomed contrast to our experience in Vietnam at the museums.
After a somber and deep conversation at dinner we all slept really well and got ready for our next leg to Switzerland. We passed through Zurich, as it was pouring rain and all the hotels were extremely expensive, a theme that would present itself throughout Switzerland. We drove to Interlaken, a city I had heard about in the states, it was beautiful, between 2 large lakes and nestled high in the Swiss Alps. We loved the city and did day trips to Mureen and a waterfall that is inside a mountain. To get to some of the cities the only way is by Gondola, I did not like that one bit, you literally go straight up a cliff face, about 3000 ft. above the ground, not much fun for me. The little mountain towns don’t have any cars or mopeds, so it’s walking only, really fun and scenic. As a note for future Swiss visitors, take out a second mortgage before you come. Starbucks, 2 coffees and 2 hot chocolates was $35, a simply meal at McDonalds was $65 (we hadn’t had McDonalds in over 2 months and we couldn’t afford anything else, so no comments about our choice of eating establishment). Hotels were over $350 for a tiny room. Needless to say, one night was enough.
We left the beautiful Swiss scenery to drive through the Alps and into Italy, which was intense and spectacular. The roads were 1 lane and no guardrails at 4-5 k meters. Winding up and over the Swiss Alps down into the Valleys and then back up and over the Italian Alps was exhausting as a driver, but I WILL go back and do the same route on a motorcycle some day!
We stayed in Bellagio at a bed and Breakfast that night. Lake Como is as spectacular as everyone says and we all really enjoyed it. From Bellagio we visited Milan for the day and then drove for a few hours to a small town in Tuscany on our way to Rome to meet Julies Dad and Step mom. We happened to stop at a tiny town called Chiusi, unknowingly that is where we would be returning for our week in Tuscany, and another example of what a small world it is.
We made it to Rome, and after circling the city; we finally broke down and decided to buy a GPS for the rest of the trip. We had struggled (yelled and screamed at each other) in every town we had driven to because of horrible directions, street signs, bad maps, etc…. for long enough. We had 3 days in Rome and saw the Coliseum, works from Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Brunetelli, Raphael, The Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, the Sistine Chapel, St Peters Square, the Vatican and what felt like thousands of other famous sites. Exhausting pace to keep up for 3 days but well worth it, what a fascinating historical city.
Then to Tuscany, we day tripped to Sienna, Florence, Assisi, Montelpuciano, and several other small Etruscan towns. You can see why people love it here; it is scenic, quiet, unique, safe, and artistic. I loved everything about Tuscany but my allergies (they were kickin into high gear the whole time we were here, arghhhhh.). In Florence we saw the Uffizi (some of the best Italian and Renaissance art in the world), several churches, and Michelangelo’s “il David”. The David is as impressive as everyone says and was one of the only pieces of art we all agreed on, and kept our attention for more than 3 seconds. It is special.
The girls have requested a “church and museum free” few days, so we are now heading to Paris and then quickly to the coast to see Normandy and Mt. Saint Michelle, then back to Paris to meet my parents and Max and Emma for the big 9 day cruise through the Northern European countries. The girls have put up with a lot of “educational” days so their break from learning is a fair request.
We are trying to get out of Europe as quickly as possible, probably only seeing Spain and Holland before heading to South America, not because we don’t enjoy it here, but the cost of everything is ridiculous. We would love Europe scenery and museums with South East Asia prices. Sorry for the extremely long blog, I doubt anyone is even still reading, but we have had an action packed few weeks and I wanted to share as much as I could.
I hope everyone is well and enjoying summer in the States.
ryan

Posted by ryanober1 14:56 Archived in Italy Tagged ryan Comments (1)

Tuscany update

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Sorry for not blogging for a while…. we are still alive!

For the past week we have rented a villa in picturesque Tuscany! Our Grandparents our visiting us, we met in Rome and drove to the small town Chiusi. Rome had a lot to see, we saw the Sistine Chapel, the Coliseum, and The Vatican, witch is actually a separate country! That marks number 17! From our house in Tuscany we have taken many side trips to different cities. We went to Sienna, Montepluciano and Florence. I loved Florence! It was an amazing city; we saw art that you see in books, but in person! For 2 months we studied Leonardo da Vinci in 6th grade with Mrs. Butler, it was amazing to see art that we studied. After the Uffizi museum we went to find David, it was a lot harder than we thought because there was only a Xerox copy of an 8 by 11 paper that said “David” with an arrow. The building that held him inside was not that pretty; I would think the building that had the most famous sculpture in the world would be dramatically beautiful! Once we stepped in and saw the 17-foot we had an expression on our face that said `am I really seeing this right now?’ I looked around and saw many college classes taking notes as there professors talked, and I realized how lucky I am to see this and every other museum and city I have at age 12.
Tomorrow we leave on a train to Paris, and our planning to be in Normandy
on Memorial Day, then getting back to Paris for Morgan and my Birthday.

Posted by ryanober1 09:13 Archived in Italy Tagged riley Comments (0)

Austria

What a beautiful Country

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We drove in from Venice Italy to a small mountain town outside of Innsbruck, and were immediatly impressed with this country. The people have been very friendly and helpful, everyone we have encountered speaks english, as well as their local German dialect. The food was good, Shnitzel, Bavarian Pretzels and lots of beer selections.
Its the most European feeling place we have been yet. Although Turkey and Greece consider themselves part of the main European grouping, they are still Unique and have more of the Eastern influences than Italy had. And Austria is even more western than Italy, not by the language as much as the culture, look of people and architecture of structures. Although much older than the US, you can see some of the elements used here that were brought to the architectural environment in the "new world". It is surprisingly green and the mountains are spectacular. We had a great lunch by the river in the old town, saw the main tourist attraction, "The Golden Roof", and walked throughout the town. It was quaint and clean, I really enjoyed it.
We all said that with the exception of the buildings, it could be any town in America by the look of the people and general feeling. We are only going to be in Europe for a short period, as it is very expensive and blowing our budget. We have spent more in 3 weeks in Europe than we did in 3 months in South East Asia, seriously!! For 2 lattes and a chocolate milk, I spent $27 at Starbucks today. I will officially be getting my coffee at convenience stores until we get to South America.

Ryan

Posted by ryanober1 15:01 Archived in Austria Tagged ryan Comments (0)

Riley's Europe update

Traveling can be challenging, but very rewarding

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As you could imagine life on the road with 2 almost teenagers in a small hotel room can be challenging, don’t get me wrong, this trip is truly an amazing learning experience. Every day I am thankful for this opportunity, even if I don’t actually say that, sometimes it can be expressed as screaming to get my own space ☺. Today I was looking at all of our pictures, and it is crazy to think of everything we have done in just over 3 months. We have done adventure stuff such as petting tigers, and zorbing, as well as museums. It is funny because every time we walk into a museum Morgan and I complain that we really don’t want to go in, weather it is about art or history, but at the end we end up saying that we really enjoyed it.

In the past week we have been to 5 countries, we left Santorini to Athens. We went to the Acropolis, which is 24 centuries old! (Really everything is 2400 years or older in Athens). America is such a young country! We think old is 200 years ago- that is modern to the Greeks! Then we flew to Venice, I loved all the canals and the gondola rides. We made the mistake of renting a car to travel a lot of Europe. We drove up to a small town in Austria outside Innsbruck. Being a mountain girl I loved it, we stayed in a hotel surrounded by mountains and trees and BEAUTY! We also went to Swarovski Crystal Factory Museum, I had never heard of it but apparently the family is from Austria. While getting lost in every city we go to, it was even harder in Germany because there are about 5 signs on each road each saying a different name. Also it doesn’t help that the names are all close to something like “oberhausnaf” (with are last name we feel at home ☺) We stopped in Germany for 2 days in Munich. While we were there we visited a concentration Camp in Dachau. I don’t even know how to start with my emotions and how to explain it. Please read in the next blog. Today we drove to Switzerland, we stopped in a small town for lunch, we realized the currency was not the Euro because it is not in the EU, like the other countries we have been to. At Starbucks the bill was 25 CHD (the Swiss currency) when the normal bill is about $10. So I guessed the exchange rate was $1 = 2 CHD, it turns out it is $1 = .98 CHD. It is so expensive here but Switzerland is so beautiful with the Swiss Alps and lakes !

Posted by ryanober1 14:40 Archived in Switzerland Tagged riley Comments (0)

Its been awhile...

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It’s been awhile since I last blogged. No particular reason, not too busy, or too tired, or nothing to write about, I just haven’t been compelled to write anything down. Maybe it’s the acceptance of being on the road and pacing ourselves more than we did in the beginning. It has been an interesting few weeks travelling from the extremes of an amazing, small and beautiful Buddhist country to an overpopulated Hindu nation, on through to an Arab country of great wealth, a unique Muslim country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and now finally in a Greek Orthodox country with incredible history and coastal beauty. What you can experience in a few weeks when travelling at such a fast pace. Not often you can see 4 of the worlds major religions and 5 distinct cultures in such a short period. I will summarize each country briefly and honestly, hopefully without offending anyone or any of the cultures. I am aware that my perception of a country is based on simple short experiences and not of a life long understanding of the local culture and history, so my version of a place is from a simple minded western ideology that might not fully grasp what it is I am experiencing. (My version of a disclaimer).
After Bhutan, which I have already blogged about, still one of my all time favorite places, we met back up in the New Delhi airport. I didn’t want the girls to arrive without me so I landed earlier, checked into a hotel and then met them at the airport a few hours later. My experience in India was… interesting, to say the least. Julie really summed up all of our experiences well in her blog, please read for more details and descriptions.
After India we decided to stop over in Dubai, it was cheaper to go there and then on to Turkey than direct, and it’s not everyday that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a stopover on your trip. It was a really surreal place, clean, modern, sterile, in the middle of the desert, and yet only in the last 20 years. It was a fascinating place, kinda like a Vegas with men and women dressed in Arab clothes everywhere. The traditional clothes of the black robes and faces covered on the women, and the men in long white sheets with the traditional headdress were everywhere. So were really expensive cars (in front of one mall we saw 4 Roll’s, 2 Maserati’s, 3 Ferraris, and a few Bentleys, not abnormal in Dubai). It appears that we have funded the country very well with our reliance on fossil fuels. It is interesting to think we need certain countries to support our oil needs and they need our money to prosper. The balance of the world is very interesting to witness on a real level, the balance of economies, religions, needs, products and people… In Dubai we did also go to the top of the worlds tallest man made structure, the Burj Kalifa, an unreal building and view, I didn’t like it, you can feel the structure moving in the wind at the top, it gets winds of 190 kmph at times that high up.
After Dubai we left for Turkey and spent 3 days in Istanbul. Turkey is considered the only country on 2 continents, and in the heart of Istanbul, the Bosporus River splits Asia from Europe. It is a really cool city, with great energy and sites. You really do get the feeling it is a city at the crossroads of many cultures and people. We all agreed we wanted to return to Turkey and spend more time exploring and learning about the uniqueness of what it has to offer. By this time the girls made a strong suggestion that they needed to catch their breath, sleep in a few days, and cook something rather than eat at a restaurant for a few meals… Greece here we come.
We arrived in Santorini, a small island in the Cyclades chain in the Aegean Sea and began our relaxing. It was well needed and well deserved by the girls and Julie; they have been troopers and have not asked to slow down very often. We got a great cave house in the best village on the Island, Oia. It is a gorgeous and magical place. We were there at the perfect time, the tourists started to arrive the last few days we stayed. We made friends in some of the shops, there wasn’t a lot to do, which is what we needed, so we would talk to the shop owners and walk around each day and make ourselves like the locals and just chill. The girls made their first stop at the market and got all the supplies needed to cook the majority of meals in our little house. We figured we had eaten 270 meals in restaurants or out, this was a great break for all of us to have some home cooked food, as always Moe and Riley made some awesome meals and provided great service ;) !
Greece is the halfway mark, in several ways, we are exactly ½ way through our trip in time, we are ½ way around the world, and we are on the way home, rather than away from it… The girls have done great and seem to really be learning and grasping the trip and what it offers them in experiences and memories. Julie is showing flexibility and the willingness to “just go with the flow”, and I am still embracing every minute. We are now closer to being back than we are from heading out, its heading towards home that is now a reality. It’s a different thought process but won’t change the experience.
Greece was also the first time we have seen any family since we left. Joelle and Scott, Julie’s sister and Brother in Law, met us here and we realized just how much we have missed our family and loved ones. They have been great to hang out with, talk to, and catch up with. We had lots of laughs and funny moment’s, I think they enjoyed Santorini as much as we have. The family connections are now starting to happen. Jim and Nancy next week in Italy, My Mom, Dad, Max and Emma in 3 weeks for 7 countries on a cruise, and then Joanne and Chris in 8 weeks in Peru. I can’t wait to see all of them. It is great to have the familiarity and comfort when on the road for so long.

Ryan

Posted by ryanober1 15:16 Archived in Greece Tagged ryan Comments (1)

What a life to be a Santorini Dog!

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In Santorini there are hundreds of stray dogs all over the streets. They all are very well taken care of by the locals. There are bowls all over the village of water and food, it makes me happy to see healthy dogs- a lot different from the Indian stray dogs :). It crakes us up when we see dogs laying on top of the house overlooking the beautiful Santorini ocean! It is common that the dogs follow tourist home and you feed them and let them sleep either on the porch or inside. A few nights ago 2 dogs followed us home, we fed them but did not let them in, we did not know that dogs were allowed inside so we still feel guilty that we didn't let them in. We keep joking that we would want to be a dog in Santorini- but its true!

2 days ago our first family visited! Aunt Jojo and Uncle Scott! We are so excited to see them! Today we toured with them around the island. We went to the Red Beach which was really pretty!!! Then toured a wine museum- lets just say we found out 27 different ways to make wine :) Im sad to leave here, but after 2 weeks I am ready to keep moving!

Posted by ryanober1 11:18 Archived in Greece Tagged riley Comments (0)

Recovering, Processing and Enduring

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Traveling for 90 plus days has been challenging to say the least. We are living the dream, but sometimes the dream becomes a bit fuzzy and convoluted. I am still on for the ride, which is good because we don’t have a “home” to return to at the moment. This thought sits in the back of my mind for the most part, but has been known to rattle my psyche from time to time. My mantra replays daily in my heart and head, LIVE IN THE MOMENT! I am trying not to worry about finding a rental property in Laguna in high season that allows two large dogs once we return to California. I am trying not to think about the large storage unit holding all of our possessions waiting for our return. It would be great to be at a place upon our arrival in the states that we could willingly purge our worldly possessions and live with just backpacks and a bunsen burner, but whom I am kidding? We do miss our own beds, warm showers with adequate water pressure, flushable toilets, toilet paper, cold drinks with ice, reliable electricity. Just the basics, but I am learning that our “basics” are considered luxuries in most countries around the world. My gratitude deepens each day of this trip, this I know for sure.

With this being said, let me catch you all up to speed with what has occurred in the past few weeks since I last blogged. Blogging, by the way, is like publishing your private diary, but plagued with the notion that words have to be spelled correctly and sentence structure must flow for the reader. Pressure, pressure pressure! I visited a famed astrologer in Jaipur, India last week. He gently reminded me that I needed to practice self-respect and continue to increase my self-esteem. I am sure he would frown upon my trepidation of blog posting. I am a work in progress, but aren’t we all?

So, on with my blog……Four weeks ago, Morgan and I were on a scooter following riley and Ryan on a beautiful seaside road weaving in and out of the rain forest on Ko Chang Island in Thailand. I must say I was enjoying the wind in my hair, the smell of the ocean and the thrill of exploring the island with my family on motorbikes. My scooter didn’t have as much horsepower as Ryan’s and at times I needed to accelerate at full throttle just to climb the hills. Morgan and I were determined to make it up a steep hill without losing momentum. A sharp switch back turn approached quickly and a taxi truck (yes pickup trucks are used as makeshift taxis in Ko Chang) filled with tourists hanging out of the truck bed forced me to take the turn at a sharp angle. The next thing I knew, the scooter had skidded across the street, the taxi continued to drive down the hill without stopping to see if Morgan and I were injured AND there I was with my 12-year-old daughter standing upright in the middle of the street trying to understand what just happened. To say the least, it was a terrifying experience. Morgan was agile as a cat and was able to leap off the bike before the scooter slid across the asphalt towards the pickup. She suffered some road rash and was obviously scared. I, too had road rash, and my ankle was on fire, but I was in shock. The what if’s started to enter my mind. It could have been so much worse. We were extremely lucky. I felt horrible that I had put Morgan in danger. I just walked to the side of the road signaling Ryan to get the bike out of the middle of the road. Well, I probably was yelling obscenities, but I will blame it on the shock and the pain. J Once the bike and the four of us were huddled on the side of the road, I began to sob like a baby. I was scared! I was so grateful that Morgan was ok! My ankle was badly bruised and swollen but I had to put my big girls panties on and “suck it up” and get back on the scooter because we were 25 minutes away from our hotel. Needless to say, Morgan chose to ride back with Ryan (I don’t blame her) and Riley bravely straddled my scooter with a smile and whispered sweet words of encouragement as I slowly made my way back to the hotel with a bruised ego, bruised ankle and grateful heart that Morgan and I walked away or scooted away relatively unscathed. I went to the international medical clinic in Ko Chang and was received an x-ray and an exam by a doctor who looked to be 12 years old (either I am getting older or the doctors in Thailand are minors). He diagnosed me with possible torn ligaments and sent me on my way with an ankle brace and pain meds and instructions to stay off me foot. Not easy since we are on the go at mock speed to see the world….I had to come to terms with my injury and realize that my ankle was going to force me to slow down, probably a blessing in disguise

Fast forward three weeks, we arrived in Delhi, India and I was still experiencing significant pain in my ankle. Our host family recommended a physician at the local clinic in Faridabad, a town outside of Delhi where we were volunteering for the week. Faridabad is off the beaten track and is not your typical tourist destination. The clinic was a bit seedy, not so clean, and not so sterile. I was a bit uneasy waiting in the makeshift waiting area deep in the bowels of the bustling clinic. Fortunately our host family knew the head of surgery at this particular clinic and we were able to schedule an office visit at 7pm with virtually no waiting time, absolutely unheard of in the USA. I didn’t have to fill out any paperwork. They really didn’t care to know my name. The Dr. invited me into his office, took a look at my ankle and verified that it was a severe sprain with possible ligament damage. He advised me that I should continue to wear the air brace that I received in Ko Chang. He gladly wrote me 2 prescriptions for pain and an anti inflammatory without a prescription pad. He didn’t charge me for the visit and my meds were only $4. He was a nice man, quick and to the point. Quite an experience! Luckily the medication helped significantly and I was able to volunteer at several sites including a slum school, a special needs school, an all girls orphanage and a small orphanage that our host family manages.

I am still trying to process my experiences in India! Many people tried to prepare our family for India before we arrived. Yet, no words, no adjectives, no descriptions can portray an accurate account of Delhi. All of my senses were heightened during our 10-day stay in India. Every one of my five senses worked overtime to try and manage the constant stimuli attacking my personal space at mock speed. The smells of curry, body odor, urine, human waste and incense stung my nostrils. I carried VICS vapor rub in my backpack to help numb my sense of smell, a trick I learned from Trip Advisor. The sounds of Delhi consisted of horns blaring at high intervals and screeching brakes and backfires of tuck tuks and large buses as they swerved in and out of the perpetual traffic jams that perpetually exist on every street and every sidewalk. There is also a low hum of dogs barking and beggars begging and street vendors vying for your business by heckling you as you walk by just hoping that you might buy their wares for a few rupees. My experience with touch was universal. I am a touch feely person. I like to give hugs, I touch people when I talk to them. When I worked with the children, I touched their skin, brushed their beautiful thick hair and painted the girls nails. Even though most of the kids were dirty, a kind of dirty that I haven’t encountered. They had calloused feet, tangled hair, a layer of dirt ground into their skin that even a loofa wouldn’t take off, yet I still hugged them tightly, looked into their eyes with love and compassion and I hoped that my touch somehow brightened their day. We all need to be touched, even if we smell, even if we are lonely, dirty, poor, wealthy, young or old. Human touch can be very therapeutic. I was amazed at the resiliency of the children we came in contact with at the different school sites. In the midst of such despair, children yearned to learn and master their ABC’s and times tables. My taste of India consisted of curry, chapatti and chai tea. I had a hard time with some of the spices, my tummy rumbled through a few meals, but I came to LOVE chapatti and even learned how to make the dough, roll it out and cook it on an open flame. I must say our host family made incredible chapatti, rice pudding, curry potatoes and chia tea. I drank several cups of tea a day. I told Cronti, our hostess, that she could sell a cup of her chai tea in America for $5 and put Starbucks to shame. She was appalled that someone would pay that much for a cup of tea. It is ridiculous and embarrassing to admit my frivolous habit. Needless to say, I love Indian chai tea!

The amount of garbage piled, stacked, thrown and smashed into the ground, streets and sidewalks reminded me of the scene in in Star Wars where Luke and Princess Lea are stuck in the garbage compactor and they are swimming through the garbage to escape the crushing walls of the trash compactor. I never saw a garbage can, a garbage truck or any discern for littering. I thought the movie “slum dog millionaire” would have prepared me for the amount of garbage that encompasses the land, but I was still shocked. Like I said, I am still trying to process my India trip. It’s kind of a love/hate relationship. I loved the kindness of our host family, the dedication of the teachers at the slum schools and the generosity of the caretakers at the orphanage. I love the bright colors of the women’s saris and the controlled chaos of the streets. The tuk tuk rides never disappointed us…its like a cheap roller coaster ride, just keep all limbs inside and hold your breath and you somehow safely make it to your destination. The Taj Mahal was just as breathtaking as all the National Geographic photos I have seen over the years. Standing at Gandhi’s gravesite was inspirational. I struggled with the filth, the reverence for men and boys, the acres and acres of slum houses that bordered the walls and gates of the mansions, the impoverished children running barefoot through the slums. I was emotionally and physically exhausted when we were in India. I think it took me a good week to decompress and to recover from the overstimulation volunteer experiences. I am sure I will continue to try and make sense of what I saw, smelled, tasted, touched and heard in India. It’s all part of the journey!

We have since traveled to Dubai, the playground of the rich and famous of the Middle East. Quite a contradiction to Delhi and Jaipur. Then we touched down in turkey to explore the fascinating city of Istanbul. We tried to cram in as much sightseeing as possible in three days. The city is rich in history and every alley seems to lead to another beautiful mosque, museum or market. I hope to return to Istanbul one day and spend more time learning about the history of Turkey.

We are now in one of the most beautiful places in the world…..Santorini Greece. Put a fork in me and call me done. I could unload my backpack for good and call our cave dwelling "home sweet home". It is absolutely beautiful here with the cliffs speckled with white cave homes capped with blue domes and framed with blue shuttered windows. Cobbled streets lead you to steep stone stairways that snake down the cliffs to the sea. The cafes, taverns and restaurants and shops offer a breathtaking view of the deep blue ocean. We are staying in Oia, which is a village known for beautiful sunsets. It is an absolute dream to watch the sun disappear into the horizon from our patio each evening with a glass of greek wine! So, as the greeks say with exuberance, OPA!

Posted by ryanober1 12:09 Archived in Greece Tagged julie Comments (1)

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