I was lucky enough to chaperone the 9th grade trip to the island paradise of Saboga in the Gulf of Panama. Just 57 ninth graders and me.
We took an early morning superfast ferry, watching the Panama City skyline fade off in the distance.
ISP’s freshman trip consists of students roughing it by camping and then learning to sail and windsurf. I participated as needed, but really just hung out and supervised, all while you were slaving away at a real job.
Eventually it was time for me to give it a try.
Next I went out on a sailboat with some fellow chaperones and decided to try "the trapeze," which is when you hang way off the side of the boat to make it go faster, as long as you don't *almost" capsize your colleagues.
Eventually I actually got something right and successfully "tacked" whilst sailing my own one-person sailboat. ("Tacking" means turning, ya landlubber. You have to squat down so the boom doesn't hit you. It's weird.)
After a hard day of learning, we ate dinner on the beach and continued to enjoy the view.
Day two was more of the same, interrupted by some mediocre snorkeling. On the morning of the third day I was tackled by a few of my students...during a beach football game before the ferry home.
The timing was a bit funny, because while our school was whisking me away to a tropical island, they were also whisking Sarah away to Buenos Aires for a coaching workshop. As I’ve said before, we lead a tough life. In this specific case the toughness was finding someone to stay with our children and drive them to and from school. Thanks Eduardo and Luis Carlos!
And what did Sarah think of Buenos Aires? She sent me pictures like this threatening to stay there forever.
The following week, ISP celebrated the written word during Literature to Life week...
... and celebrated family fun at the aptly named Family Fun Fair.
For pi day (and Einstein's birthday, dontcha know) I hosted the school's first lunchtime Mathematics Pub Quiz! It was a total success! And by that I mean that no food was thrown at the host.
And we topped it all off with a night out at Eduardo's mandatory wig karaoke birthday party.
Sarah embraced the Little Mermaid wig and performed "Part of Your World," complete with a fork prop. We also sang a mean duet version of Prince's Kiss.
Oh yeah, I also accompanied The Eldest as we bicycled across the continent from one ocean to another in a single day.* But that's worth its own blog post.
* technically correct, surprisingly.
This year our kiddos celebrated the season of Lent by giving up not seeing their Grandma and Grandpa. Whoopee!
Living in a traditionally Catholic country, we were given a week off for Carnavales, which was ample time to introduce Sarah's parents to both coasts of this small country.
We started smack dab in the middle, by exploring the flora and fauna around Lake Gatun.
As our boat was heading back to the dock the driver (captain?) noticed an iguana swimming nearby and we stopped for a closer look.
Another boat of tourists pulled up to take a look, and then the cap'n of that boat leaned over and grabbed the iguana!
He spoke with our captain and it was decided that the iguana would be put on our boat and released on land near the dock for its own safety from poachers, supposedly. They attempted to keep it under a plastic crate in the front of the boat, but three seconds later it escaped and hid in the crevice under the far front of the boat. It didn't bother anyone there for the five minutes it took to get back to the dock, but once everyone was off the boat, the captain tried to get it back on land and found that either it had already escaped, or was deep in some other nook or cranny on board and unable to be found.
I wouldn't want to be the next group using that boat. Luckily for us, it wasn't our problem. We had flowers and sloths to examine.
While the craziness of Carnavale isn't really our style, Pat and Carol were not about to come all the way to Central America and miss the whole thing. We decided the best time to check out the debauchery was at 10:00am on Monday morning, Mardi Gras Eve.
After dealing with a security checkpoint where Sarah was forced to turn over the variety of writing instruments she carries in case of documentation emergency, we walked along Avenida Balboa on Panama Bay and watched people setting things up or just waiting around. We decided against lining up for another security checkpoint to get access to the dance area, and instead chose to exit the Carnavale zone only to find out we had to go through another checkpoint to get back to our car. We felt very secure. We would have written the guards a thank you note, but they had confiscated all of our pencils.
Time to head to the Caribbean!
We rented a beachfront house an hour past Portobelo on the surprisingly chilly and rough Caribbean Sea.
Then we took a boat to the beach! But not the first beach we asked for because the sea was too choppy to get there, so we went to the other beach we asked for.
It rained on us en route!
We also got a quick tour of the mangroves.
The Little Lady and I got torn up by the coral attempting to use our boogie boards, so we all just lazed around in the water.
On the way home the Big O successfully conquered the old fort in Portobelo...
...as well as a plate of prawns back in town.
Next up was the obligatory wander around Casco Viejo.
Carol really wanted to capture the colorful houses that we see off the highway whenever we drive into town. I didn't think they'd turn out well, but she got some cool shots!
This last one looks like a tilt-shift shot. Impressive
We have been lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents visit us down here in the tropics. We miss you! Thanks for coming!
Well...we just had visitors here and I need to catch up on my blogging! Here's the final installment of our Mexico trip last month...
All the descriptions of this town are right: it really is a riot of colorful buildings shoehorned into a canyon. And we got to stay on the rim with an amazing view!
The town itself felt much more like a real, functioning place after expat-heavy San Miguel, though there were plenty of domestic tourists a few doors down from our AirBnB at the Pípila statue. It commemorates when a miner (as opposed to a minor, though he might have been that too) nicknamed Pípila burned the door to a building in town holding a bunch of Spanish soldiers. Did I mention that was the beginning of the Mexican Revolution?
Anyhoo, it was quite a sight.
I took approximately 719 pictures of the view.
Guanajuato is built into a canyon and access from the rim is via winding walkways which were awesome to explore.
(The town wasn't actually deserted. Except at dawn.)
We did, in fact, do a few other things besides wandering around and taking pictures, like relax on a rooftop after working hard to finish a decently-sized ice cream cone.
We also enjoyed the Diego Rivera birthplace/museum as well as excellent food: carnitas in the huge Mercado Hidalgo, a tasty and fancy meal at El Campo, and perhaps the best meal with had in the country, which is certainly saying something, at Mestizo.
Another quirk of the city is that the citizenry built tunnels to contain the underground river, which then sunk further underground allowing the tunnels to be converted to walkways and roads. It felt like exploring a twisting dungeon.
Ok, one more cityscape pic:
After an early morning to catch a luxury bus to the big city...
...we rounded out our Mexican vacation with a trip to the neighborhood of Coyoacán to visit the Frida Kahlo house/museum, which was, like most stuff here, pretty darn impressive.
All in all, an amazing time was had in central Mexico. We'd head back in a heartbeat!
After the planes, trains, and automobiles of Mexico City, we were excited to experience some older forms of transportation in San Miguel de Allende.
We spent an awesome afternoon exploring nearby Coyote Canyon via the aptly named Coyote Canyon Adventures.
Our day began with a lunch on the cooperatively owned ranch where were served some of the most beautiful food we've had in a long time; much of the ingredients were grown on site, and the cheese was made that morning. Scrumptious!
Then we hopped on our steeds and headed out.
We all got to try our hand at galloping.
I also got to try out GoPro's editing software which kinda makes some things seem more epic than they really are...
The whole experience was quite amazing and something we wholeheartedly recommend.
Upon reflection, we decided that perhaps the pack animals were doing too much of the work, so our next trip out of the city was self-propelled.
We booked a bicycle tour with Bici-Burro, and started our journey at the train station. Our guide (and the awesome owner of the tour company) Alberto led us first to Old San Miguel, established in 1542.
We then explored deserty scrub which reminded us of California, con más nopales.
There was also a fun excursion along some swampy bits. Although the river was too flooded to ride along the path Alberto prefers, our detour led us to some beautiful scenery.
All in all, SMA was a great little town, which seemed almost unreal in its adorableness. We had a good balance of adventurous days and more mellow town-exploring and shopping days. The plethora of expats meant that there were plenty of interesting ways to spend our time... and money.
After bidding farewell to Warren’s sister’s family and the parentals in Mexico City, we headed up to San Miguel de Allende via luxury bus. SMA boasts beautiful architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries, a plethora of contemporary artists plying their trade, and Warren’s uncle and aunt! Phil and Pat are spending the winter there so it was a great chance to continue the family reunion whilst also continuing to consume the awesome food, culture, food, weather, and food of this fantabulous country.
Phil met us for a late meal and enchanted The Eldest with stories of old Mexico.
The next day we headed for the Tianguis market so Phil could give us a tour of all the tchotchkes. Instead he just introduced us to mamey, a fruit which he described as halfway between a banana and a sweet potato. Or was is a pineapple and a regular potato. Regardless, it tasted like chicken.
The town was as stunning as everyone said, with amazing views, great food, random celebrities, and a chill vibe.
One mellow visit we made in San Miguel was to the toy museum, which houses handmade fun from across the country.
We also had some adventurously active adventures in SMA, but to peek at those you'll have to wait until the next post...
We all had a ball celebrating the holidays with Warren's parents and sister's family in Mexico, starting with the eponymous city. I took 546 pictures during our five days in Mexico City. It's been quite a slog just getting through them all, but a fun slog. I've made some tough decisions and got it down to the top 419 to upload to this here blog.
We stayed across from Alameda park and the Palacio de Bellas Artes. A nice walk down Avenida Madera led us to the zócalo, a jaunt we enjoyed many times (along with millions of other people).
It's always great to give the cousins time to hang out together. And the grown-ups were pretty cool too!
But enough of that, you came here to see an unnecessarily large cache of CDMX pics!
The cathedral in the zócalo is kinda impressive
As I'm sure you know, Mexico City is built on a lake, which may not have been the smartest place to build one of the world's megacities. But one part of town still has its ancient Aztec-built canals: Xochimilco, which is almost as fun to explore as it is to attempt to pronounce. We had an absolute blast touring the twists and turns of this corner of the city, though the next day some of our intestines were twisting and turning as well, possibly from the food.
The whole thing made me think of my time at the Mekong River Delta floating market, though I don't remember a floating xylophone duet in Asia.
During our jaunt on the canals we visited a reptile house. The Little Lady was in her element, ready and willing to show her cousins her snake-wranglin' skills.
The next day most of us attempted to conquer the ancient city of Teotihuacan with a pit stop at Our Lady of Guadalupe. (Sarah and The Eldest lounged at hotel just because they didn't feel well.)
Before checking out the ruins of the Templo Mayor we managed to ice skate in Mexico City's zócalo. It was the first time for the cousins, so the twins showed them what's up. Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures during, but take a look at this bird's-eye view of the crazy double rink plus skinny connector trail-thingamajig:
And what trip to la Ciudad de México would be complete without visiting all the ancient artifacts at the Museo Nacional de Antropología?
We ate at Sanborn's House of Tiles before hitting the road to explore the state of Guanajuato, which you'll read all about in our next post.
A huge thank you to our family for traveling from California and Grand Cayman to hang out with us!
From the polar bear decorations in the median strips to the Santa caps worn by the grocery store workers in the tropical heat, Panama does enjoy the (New England/Northern European-themed) Christmas spirit. One fine December day we found ourselves at The Biggest Mall of the Americas for a bit of bowling and it was almost, but not quite, filled to the brim with shoppers and enormous ornaments.
You may have noticed in the image above that there was a bit of room in between some of the shoppers. Enough room, in fact, for a ginormous marching band.
We also made it to a classic ice- skating -rink- in- a-mall!
As she did in Ho Chi Minh City, Sarah joined a choir to fulfill her dream of sweating while singing Christmas carols in interesting buildings around the world. This year's concert was held in the Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo, which is far more colorful than the picture below implies. The grand finale was "The 12 Days of Christmas in Panama," in which the narrator was gifted aguacates, chicharrones, pastelitos, hamachas, patacones, and a toucan in a palm tree.
After school let out we took a quick trip up to the mountains of El Valle de Anton (the subject of a forthcoming blog post), but made it home for the Big Day.
We awoke to a beautifully executed Lego tree.
For future consideration: the Cinta Costera (the walkway along the Pacific coast) is where everyone wants to be on Christmas afternoon…
…while just about anywhere else is where we wanted to be whilst our neighbors continually shot off fireworks from 7pm until 2am.
We're currently in the middle of a trip enjoying the sights and smells of el lugar de las Aztecas. Feliz belated Navidad everyone!
We're in the depths of post-visitor doldrums. The kids' SoCal abuelos were here for a mellow five days together, and while a we did have to work a couple of those days, we managed to show off our city a bit. Since they had visited Panama a few years ago, they'd already seen all of the obvious tourist sights, so we had to dig a little deeper to find something new!
First, Casco Antigua for lunch at Lo Que Hay, ice cream at Granclement, souvenir shopping, and a view from the top of a church tower.
Then a visit to Gamboa including a motorboat ride to spy some wide life on Lake Gatún. (Thanks for the video Dadio!)
After experiencing the emotional roller coaster that is Les Mis, the Californians hugged their grandkids goodbye and hopped on a flight home.
Thanks for all the cookies, Trader Joe’s products, silly Christmas tchotchkes, easy-going-ness, and love! See you in a few weeks for our next adventure!
It's not what you think. This isn't a super early blog about the upcoming holiday season. We've never been organized enough to post about events in the future! Instead we'd like to share some pics of the holiday festivities we've enjoyed over the past month.
First, All Hallow's Eve.
We moseyed over to the neighborhood near our school, just across the toll highway from our house. There are a decent number of families there from ISP so our kiddos were able to hit a few houses with the large group of kids and then binge in the gated community's common room.
Afterwards, the best pics were of The Big O, who took off his zombie coat and lazed around looking like a 1950s method actor.
After October 31st comes, surprisingly enough, November. In Panama, November is Mes de la Patria, or Patriotic Month. Flags are everywhere, and each division of ISP goes all out for the school's Mes de la Patria celebration - students and staff, decked out in local garb, dancing regional dances. Most of the school participates, probably because the national ministry of education decrees it so.
But the kiddos did look pretty cute.
Some teachers and I also got in on the action.
The Eldest was not forced to participate (this year...!).
And then there was the 4th Thursday in November. Our lovely friends hosted a Thanksgiving potluck that was practically perfect in every way. We're grateful to be able to spend the holidays with our Family-Away-From-Family!
Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone! December is right around the corner!
Living in The Hub of the Americas®, close to so many exotic locales, where would we choose to go for our first sizable vacation of the school year? Back to our own country, oddly, but nowhere near home.
Since Sarah was going to a conference in North Carolina, we decided that it made sense to head up to DC before Sarah popped down the street to The Carolinas. Fall weather was another big draw, although we had to head to Target to get coats for all of our kids. For real!
Sarah set up an awesome, historic Airbnb in the Capitol Hill neighborhood a mere ten minute walk to the capitol.
Our first day out we drove to the 'burbs where Mr. Washington owned a bit of land.
It was also an opportunity for us to meet up with our old friends Sam and Megan, and their kiddo who is a little younger than ours.
Shake Shack in Union Station to top it all off.
Did I mention that we successfully convinced two of our favorite coworkers, Eduardo & Luis Carlos, to explore The District with us? Whelp, we did. We didn't have quite as much excitement as they did (no trapeze lessons or day trips to NYC for us this time), but it was so much fun seeing the sights with them.
What's that in the background? Some museum or something.
Do you think The Little Lady or Eduardo makes a more convincing president? (I mean compared to each other, not the actual president. We all know the answer to that.)
Next we took advantage of the ol' DC bikeshare to interact with some monuments!
In all we saw eight museums (some more than others, and that's counting a sculpture garden as one, which is actually cheating), the National Archives, the Capitol, the Supreme Court (we saw a 15 minute session with all the justices!), the biggest library in the world, and quite a lot of each other.
We are certainly thankful that we're lucky and blessed enough to be able to have this kind of adventure. Perhaps the children will be inspired by this visit to someday serve their country and invent an actual two-person jacket.