Where in the World is Kris? South Africa!

20190210_090454What an amazing adventure!  I knew Africa was far away – but I didn’t think about how much traveling there would be!   Planes, trains, automobiles, vans, buses and safari trucks!  And, of course, our own two feet!  The journey began last June when I signed up to go on a 10-day mission trip to South Africa with 10 other ladies from my church.  We met and planned for months – and now, Thursday, January 31, it was time to depart for the airport.  Such excitement!  We had first a 10-hour flight from Dulles to Accra, Ghana where we landed, changed out the crew and passengers, and had our passports checked (we stayed on the plane).  We then took off for another 5 hours to Johannesburg. Our foreheads were checked for elevated temperatures before we could come into South Africa – fortunately we were all good! We were greeted by our guesthouse representative and wisked us away to our lovely rooms, a refreshing pool and dinner!  The next morning after breakfast we returned to the airport for our next flight to East London.  It was a shorter flight, followed by a very long van ride.  We made it to Canzibe in time for dinner – which was traditional South African Bobotie, and moved into our house – 13 women, 2 bathrooms.

But, what exactly were we doing in Africa?  About a year ago 3 women from my church had a vision to bring Entrust, a woman to woman discipling program, to the teachers and workers at 25:40 in South Africa.  25:40 was founded in 2003 to help save children impacted by HIV/AIDS and poverty in the rural areas of Eastern Cape Province of South Africa.  This area is characterized by extreme poverty, high incidences of diseases and HIV/AIDS (more than 25% of the population) and lots of violence toward women and children. This beautiful area is sadly among the poorest regions in Africa, with more than 72 % of its people (about 4.6 million) living below the poverty line.  25:40 cares for these vulnerable children by having a safe space and advocating for them so that they are not the last rung on society’s ladder.  Preschoolers receive both breakfast and lunch daily, health monitoring, and early education.  School aged children receive a healthy meal, tutoring and assistance with their school work, as well as enrichment programs in the areas of English, Life Skills, Arts and Crafts, Gardening, and Hygiene.  All of the children are monitored for health, emotional, or educational needs, and either the needs are met by 25:40 or their caretakers are assisted in meeting those needs.

The workers for 25:40 work hard to love and assist the children.  Our goal was to not only encourage them but to also bring Biblical discipleship training to them.  This required not only our discipleship teachers but also others to fill the voids left by the teachers and workers.  Thirteen of us answered the call to go to Canzibe, South Africa to work in 25:40’s Masonwabe Preschool and the aftercare, to make home and hospital visits, and to bring nourishment to the souls of the 25:40 staff and local community women. Amber, Michele and Steffani taught the discipleship class.  Maggie, Caren, Val and Joyce taught the older preschool class and Angela, Lauran and I taught the younger class.  Tanya was the home and hospital visit person and Amy and Monique prepared our lunches and generally floated – putting out fires here and there and getting 25:40 business done. 52582505_10218756871218712_1883482449380376576_n

Our first day on the ground was Sunday morning so we all dressed in our long skirts (only unmarried women wear short dresses) and went to church.  It was so different from what we were used to!  The women sat on the left side, the men on the right.  There were no musical instruments – just hymn books and a pad for thumping to keep time.  We individually brought up our offering and laid it on the altar during the service – two ladies immediately counted it right then and there and told the minister the amount.  He said it wasn’t enough, so they had another offering!  The church service lasted 2 hours and then we had lunch, followed by relaxing, prepping, napping, talking, and walking.

Although we had been told to expect rain on Monday, our first action day dawned bright and beautiful!  I began with an early morning walk (with Monique as it was not safe for us to leave the mission grounds by ourselves) before morning devotions at 7:45. Here we sang and read scripture, prayed and began our day!  After filing out of the building, we stood in line and shook the hands of everyone who came behind us, even the preschoolers, before going to our classes.

The preschoolers were adorable and loved the attention.  We had table time and circle time, play time and nap time, story time and craft time, breakfast time and lunch time, and above all, potty time!  They loved stories and making noise, singing and eating.  When they played with the dolls, whether boy or girl, they would put the baby on their back and find a towel or piece of fleece to put over the doll and tie around their chest to carry the baby, just like their mamas or grandmas do (many are being raised by grandmas).


At outdoor time, they took car tires and rolled them around, saying “beep, beep” – these are their “toy cars”.  We sang “Head, shoulders, knees and toes” with them numerous times.

We had a little guy, around 18 months old, come to our room so his grandma could participate in the Bible study.  But he wasn’t happy unless I was holding him.  On the 2nd day, I put him on my back and wore him, just like his grandma did! Preschool finished at noon – and by then we were worn out!  The children got lunch and then most of them piled into a pickup truck and were driven home by the “taxi” driver.

After our lunch, which was leftovers or tuna, we prepped for the aftercare program.  They don’t have a long program, but after school the children would change clothes and then come to the program.  Here they got a hot meal and then activities by age group (grades 1-3, 4-5, 6-8).  This program not only keeps them safe for a few hours and encourages them in school work, it also provides a hot meal.  We did activities with them and on one day even painted fingernails.  thumb_IMG_0917_1024Part of our program with them was teaching that they are special – each has attributes given by God.  On our second afternoon I had the girls grades 4-8 come to a separate room and we talked about how they were special and different from the boys because they would menstruate.  I then handed out a purse to each girl that contained 2 homemade reusable washable sanitary pads, 3 pairs of underwear, a bar of soap, a washcloth, a toothbrush and some other small item.  They loved the purses and the contents!  It was so fun to see their delight and it made all the many hours of sewing the pads worth it!

Instead of doing preschool on our third day, I went for some home visits with Tata Nonno (an evangelist and translator) and Lauran, one of the other women from my church.  Tata Nonno drove us to a nearby neighborhood, we parked the car and then, after collecting sticks to ward off the wild dogs, we walked around to the houses.  We encountered chickens, inside and outside the houses, and nice houses (refrigerators and cement floors) and old houses (cooking fire in the middle of the room and dirt floor).  Most were round because, although they are more expensive to build, they are thought to keep evil spirits from having a corner to stay in.  We talked and prayed with the people.  One old man, 92 years old and blind, told us that yes, he would like to have Jesus in his life, so we prayed with him.  Another old woman, who wasn’t even sure how old she was, told us she never thought she’d see a white person in her house.  She asked us to pray for her arthritic feet so they would carry her up and down the hill to get water for her family – her children were dead, her husband never came back from the mines, and she was raising 5 grandchildren on her own (they were in school at the time).  She lived in a small rondavel with the cooking fire in the center and the bedding piled on one side.  She offered to give us a chicken when we came back next time!  At another house, the 11-year-old daughter saw us and gave us the biggest hugs!  Turns out that although she has cerebral palsy and does not go to school, she did go to the aftercare program and had seen us there.  She was thrilled to see us at her house!

At the end of our 4th school morning, we loaded back into the vans and drove on a bumpy dirt road for 1 ½ hours to the Coram Deo orphanage, also managed by 25:40. 20190207_075558 I gave the three 18” dolls I had brought to the little girls there and we played with the kids for a while before going to our lodging about 15 minutes away in Coffee Bay. Here we experienced paradise with lovely beach rooms on the Indian Ocean!  I roomed with Maggie, from BCC and Kholiswa, the African program director for 25:40.  We had the opportunity to go for a hike the following day to see the caves Nelson Mandela hid in during the revolution as well as to cliff jump into the ocean.  It was quite the hike – up and down hill, over rocks and rivers.  We went into huge caves, sat in fresh water pools and ultimately, climbed barefooted up a cliff to jump into the ocean water far below!  It was scary and amazing!  Later we also went by safari jeep to “Hole in the Wall”, a well-known natural arch on the Wild Coast not far away.

Early the next day we began our homeward trek – a 4-hour ride to the airport.  We began with a flat tire, got stopped by the police twice and made it to the airport with 15 minutes to spare!  This was the quick flight to Johannesburg where once again we stayed at the Sunrock Guest House.  Three of us had an early morning big adventure planned for the next day – the Elephant Sanctuary.  Our driver Norman met us at 5:45am and drove about 1 ½ hours to the sanctuary.  He told us some South African history and pointed things out to us as we went.  On our arrival, we first got to see the playful meerkats.  Then on to the elephants!  We fed them, brushed them, rode them, petted them, held them, walked them and even got kissed by them.

What an experience!  Our next stop was the Lion encounter where we not only saw some beautiful lions and tigers, we also played with some 3-month-old cubs!

And if that was not enough, we went on to a couple of African markets and then went to another animal place where we petted and fed giraffes. IMG_2689 What a day!!!  Our driver drove us directly to the airport where we met up with the rest of our team and boarded our plane, returning the way we came with a 5-hour flight to Ghana and then a 12-hour flight back to the US.

Unfortunately, my adventure did not end there.


After getting home, I snuggled into my bed for a short nap and a couple hours later woke up with a raging fever!  Since 104.1 is not something to be messed with, I called my husband and he came home and took me to the hospital.  I knew I had a cold, but after many tests, I found out I also had a kidney infection and an inflamed liver and, the following day, a bad case of diarrhea!  What a way to come home!  But what an amazing trip – to see the body of Christ in action as each member of our team was so important to make the whole trip work!

Where in the World is Kris? Australia


No photo shop – he’s a real koala!

“I come from a land down under, where women glow and men plunder.” Well, I’m not from there but Kate and I visited the land down under (and heard that song a lot) earlier this month!  Wow! Australia is amazing!  We didn’t have a lot of time, but we stayed very busy and saw so so so many amazing things. I just want to tell you about some of them.

First of all, I was a little nervous about the very long flight (and getting on the plane – but that’s a different story), but the reality was the flight is so long that I watched a movie, then took a sleeping pill and then still had a good 10+ hours to sleep so, when we arrived there I wasn’t feeling too exhausted (of course I had my neck brace, my eye mask, my foot sling, etc…)!  Our first destination was to fly north to Cairns and go to the Great Barrier Reef – which is actually almost 3000 reefs, so it isn’t really 1 reef.  (And, the Australian airline Qantas is great!).  Cairns is a sleepy seaside city, so we wandered and relaxed after arriving – no swimming at the beach though because of the crocodiles!  And they have some massive sized bats there – just flying around in the evening.  I don’t mind bats, but these made me feel a little uneasy!



Our excursion to the GBR would begin early the next morning. We elected to go on a smaller boat which would take us to two different sites. Both were sites were good and we saw lots of fish and coral and even a giant clam.

Confession though – I’ve dived in Bermuda and the Caribbean and can’t honestly say the GBR was any better but maybe if we had done deeper, more experienced dives?  The reefs appeared healthy and we got to hear a talk from a marine biologist about the health of the reefs and more.

We also did an aborigine experience – complete with fire and didgeridoo and a dinner buffet that included emu, kangaroo and crocodile. (Emu was “gamey” but the kangaroo and crocodile were quite yummy.)  I have no desire to play the didgeridoo!20181014_211413

We picked up the pace when we returned to Sydney – only a 3-hour flight away but when you take the 5am flight, you get a full day! 20181015_131118.jpgWe opted for a pass that got us the Hop-on, Hop-off Bus, Sea Life Aquarium, Wildlife Sydney Zoo, Sydney Tower and Madame Tussaud’s! I’m usually not that impressed with the open air, sightseeing buses, but it really was great for Sydney – the blue bus goes further out of town taking you to Bondi Beach (the famous Sydney beach).  20181015_163830We saw things we would not have otherwise seen so I highly recommend it! The bus also has a running commentary about the history of the area and what you are seeing.

We also thought the Aquarium was fun.  It has some wonderful glass tunnels you walk through while rays and sharks glide over you!  20181015_122218There we also got to


go on a little boat through the penguin enclosure – they really smell!  And we saw a dugong – a cousin to the manatee (they look very similar but the dugong has a tale more like a whale and the manatee has a tale more like a very large beaver).  The Aquarium’s dugong is named Pig – they feed him romaine lettuce every 15 minutes and he is quite a messy eater!  A few years ago we swam with manatees so it was fun to see the dugong.

At the zoo we saw a Tasmanian devil, kangaroos, koalas, an enormous crocodile and lots of snakes (but no petting of any of the animals!).  My thoughts as we went through the displays were I was glad I didn’t have to be the zoo keeper for all the dangerous, highly poisonous critters there!20181016_114633

We had fun at Madame Tussaud’s – posing with Spider-Man and Superman and Wonder Woman.  Kate liked Wolverine and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.  But my favorite display at Madame Tussaud’s was of the Queen and Prince William and Kate!


I think they said that the Queen has had more wax models made of her than any other person.  I couldn’t resist getting a photo with Nelson Mandela since I’m going to his country in a few months.  In addition to those places, we also did a tour of the Sydney Opera house – including a brief symphony concert!  The building really is unique with great acoustics and gorgeous wood.  20181017_180722Our guide told us all about the design and the architect – Jorn Utzon,a Swede, who was basically fired from the job halfway through the project.  He did live to see the day that UNESCO recognized the opera house as one of the most outstanding places on earth in 2007 even though it had only been built 34 years earlier.  There are more than a million Swedish made tiles covering the roof – and they are designed to never need cleaning.  The Opera House was the place to be that day as Prince Harry and Meaghan were also visiting about an hour before us!

Another place we enjoyed visiting was the Sydney Tower.  Rising high above Sydney it offers great views of the entire area – and we were fortunate because the rain dissipated and we were able to see those views!  We went late in the afternoon so we not only got to see the day view, but also the evening view.

1016180501Our biggest event in Sydney was actually climbing the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, or the coat hanger as they call it. What an experience! We showed up at our appointed time and after getting our flight suits on and divesting ourselves of all personal items, got our safety harnesses on and began the assent – through the pylon, up ladders, and finally to the top of the bridge.  1016180526  1016180553The view was magnificent, especially since we had done the evening/night tour, so all the lights were twinkling in the skyline.  I am always amazed by God’s creation – either the natural or the man-made and seeing the city lit up was wonderful!  We were also really thankful it wasn’t raining!!

Our last day in Australia was spent on a tour of the Blue Mountains.  I didn’t think we could top the climb from the previous day but…   We began by going to the Featherdale  Wildlife Park where we touched a wombat, petted a koala bear and fed kangaroos – even the joey in his mama’s pouch! This was a fabulous place and I only wish we could have stayed longer!


2018-10-31 (2)The koala’s fur was very short and thick and soft!  The kangaroos reminded me of my golden retrievers – they just wanted the food and would hold your hand to keep the food there.  Petting koalas and feeding kangaroos was pretty amazing!!20181017_091648.jpg

From there we went on to the Blue Mountains, named because the many eucalyptus trees cause a blue haze.  We didn’t see any wild koalas, but we did see some amazing rock formations (the Three Sisters).

20181017_125310 20181017_130939

We were told that that Aborigine Dreamtime legend is that there were 3 sisters who were turned into stone to protect them during a battle.  Unfortunately, the person who turned transformed them was killed in the battle and no one else could change them back so there they stand.  This is a beautiful area with the Katoomba waterfall,  rain forest and and eucalyptus trees!  We went to Scenic World and rode the skyway, a cable car that has a glass floor so you can see the valley below your feet.


20181017_145035The view of the waterfall from there was magnificent!  After that we went down to the valley floor via an old mining railroad that goes down at a 52-degree incline – the steepest in the world – which was quite the ride (we did it 3 times!).  We finished our day by going back into Sydney via the river – a river cruise!  (Interesting fact – Sydney Harbor and the river that feeds it is a known breeding ground for bull sharks – it’s not very safe swimming outside protected areas!!).20181017_180722.jpg

Australia gets lots of tourists – and most of them are from Asia.  I guess they aren’t used to Western toilets.  In every toilet they had picture signs showing that squatting on the toilet is not the thing to do – and to please throw the toilet paper in the toilet, not the trash. 20181017_115035.jpg As we wandered, we were as likely to hear Chinese spoken as English.  We did enjoy some amazing Thai food, right around the corner from our very quaint, Victorian flat (well, the building was Victorian but they had updated in the 21st century so we had old floors, tall ceilings and modern Ikea furnishings!)

So, with 2 days in Cairns, and 3 days in Sydney, our 5 days in Australia were over and it was time to return home!  We didn’t see everything but we sure experienced a lot! And our return trip was wonderful – 14 hours in first class sitting next to each other!  Yes, they gave me pajamas to wear and I lounged my way back the the USA!  20181018_125035.jpgI’m looking forward to my next trip!  P.S. While we were in Sydney, we saw the Royal Caribbean ship, Radiance of the Seas, set sail – maybe someday I can cruise from Sydney!20181016_130922

Kris’ International traveling packing list

In the last few years I have done numerous International trips and have made a list of things to take with me and I thought I should share my list.  Please feel free to add in anything that you think should be taken too!  I’ll add my thoughts about some of the things at the end but here is my list:

  1. Passport
  2. Credit card
  3. Charger for phone
  4. Neck cushion
  5. Ear buds or headphones
  6. Empty water bottle
  7. Snacks
  8. Disinfectant wipes
  9. Books and/or Kindle
  10. Glasses
  11. Eye mask
  12. Jacket/sweater
  13. Large, lightweight scarf or travel blanket
  14. Fuzzy socks and/or compression socks
  15. Gum
  16. Chocolates for the flight attendants
  17. pen
  18. Guide book
  19. Fold-up grocery bag
  20. Fold-up backpack or small duffle bag
  21. Power adapters
  22. Purse for destination
  23. Rain jacket
  24. Umbrella
  25. Shampoo
  26. Soap
  27. Fingernail clippers
  28. Sunglasses
  29. Band-Aids
  30. Deodorant
  31. Brush
  32. Ziploc baggies
  33. Sunscreen
  34. Pills/vitamins
  35. Good walking shoes
  36. Pants
  37. Shirts
  38. Underwear
  39. Socks
  40. Pajamas
  41. Swimsuit?
  42. Hat?

The first 17 items are the things you need for the plane – and maybe #18 if you still haven’t figured everything you are going to do and will work on it on the plane!

#4 – Here’s the neck cushion I use – https://www.amazon.com/Trtl-Pillow-Scientifically-Support-Washable/dp/B00LB7REFK/ref=sr_1_6?s=bedbath&ie=UTF8&qid=1530497647&sr=1-6&keywords=airplane+neck+pillow   I discovered I needed more support for my head (so I can sleep) then the regular u shaped cushions you buy at the airport provide.  This cushion allowed me to sleep!

#5 – Even when not watching the inflight movie, the headphones provide some protection from the noise – it is noisy in the air!  Earplugs are good too!

#6 – You can’t take water through security, but you can take an empty bottle and fill it up as soon as you get through.  Caution though, some flights won’t allow you to take the filled bottle on the plane, so you might need to drink it before boarding.  I usually take a reusable bottle but occasionally have just taken a regular throw away one.

#7 – Flights are long and while most carriers provide food there is no guarantee that you will like it and they have a limited amount of things available on board.

#8 – Those tray tables aren’t usually cleaned between flights – or ever – so you might want a small packet of wipes to quickly clean it!  Then, when touring, you may want to wipe down your hands when a sink isn’t available.

#11 – Block out the light on the plane because even when they turn the lights down, your seatmate might be watching a movie with lots of flickering lights.  I recently upgraded to a nodpod eye mask and it really was nice!  You can get them at Bed, Bath& Beyond (and much cheaper than at Amazon!)

#12 – Planes are kept at a lower temperature because people get nauseated on a plane when the temps rise – also it’s really cold outside the plane.  So, bring a jacket for when you get cold.

#13 – My daughter Kate always travels with a large light weight scarf, it’s perfect as a blanket on the plane, she knows where her scarf has been and if the weather is colder than anticipated she already has something to keep her warmer (and this has happened multiple times!).  When we got stranded in Newark airport overnight she had her scarf and I had my blanket – PRICELESS!

#14 – If you’ll be on the plane a while you want to get comfy so bring some nice socks.  Also, your feet can swell if you’re on the plane a long time, so you might want to put on some compression socks.  Just do me a favor and put your shoes back on when you go to the bathroom – that’s not water on the floor!

#16 – Flight attendants are people – and they aren’t paid very much.  They are paid almost nothing until the plane doors close.  So, be nice and bring them some chocolates.  They’ll appreciate it – and you!

#17 – You might need a pen to fill out that customs form.  Flight attendants don’t usually have pens available. And you never know when you want to write something down – or write a postcard.

#19 – In Europe, grocery bags are not free.  So, get a lightweight, foldable, nylon one and tuck one in your purse to pull out when you buy some groceries or souvenirs.  I’ve found them at Aldi and Ikea for about $2 but the cheapest I could find on Amazon was about $5 – https://www.amazon.com/Reusable-Friendly-Shopping-Washable-Groceries/dp/B078MLBMC6/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1530586529&sr=8-14&keywords=collapsible%2Blightweight%2Bgrocery%2Bbags&th=1

#20 – I always pack a fold up duffel bag or fold up back pack in case I need a lighter back pack for an excursion or more space for stuff coming home – we love to shop!  Here’s a nice one on Amazon for less than $10 (And I’d recommend this over the drawstring ones because the strings aren’t very comfortable on your shoulders!) https://www.amazon.com/Star-Art-Waterproof-Lightweight-Packable-Backpack/dp/B07559SC8Q/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1530587800&sr=8-13&keywords=foldable+backpack+waterproof+lightweight

#21 – Most cell phones and modern electronic devices don’t need to have a transformer to change the electrical current (voltage), but the American plug is just that – American.  In Europe it is 2 round prongs –  in England and other countries it’s different.  So, look up the adapter you need for the country you are going to and order the correct one on Amazon!  Here’s a European one for less than $2: https://www.amazon.com/Ckitze-Europe-Travel-Power-Adapter/dp/B001EB26MO/ref=pd_sbs_200_7?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B001EB26MO&pd_rd_r=1YNQ3F8RG0N5MWWGE4G9&pd_rd_w=e1YWZ&pd_rd_wg=22mcP&psc=1&refRID=1YNQ3F8RG0N5MWWGE4G9

#22 – For the plane you might want your personal item to be bigger than a purse – like a backpack.  But once you get to your destination a purse is handy – so pack it in your suitcase.  I LOVE my Travelon purse for traveling!  It has RFID so my info can’t be lifted, and it has a bunch of different anti-theft properties.  Here’s a nice one on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Travelon-Anti-Theft-Complete-Crossbody-Black/dp/B07B5367KM/ref=sr_1_38_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1530587227&sr=8-38&keywords=travelon+bag

#32– Just handy to have.  We often buy bread and cheese and make our own sandwiches before setting out for the day.

#36 – A good rule of thumb for pants is to pack one pair of pants per 3 days of travel or plan out time to wash clothes. Always save something clean for the flight home, it’s amazing the difference it makes traveling in clean clothes, it’s just one less thing to stress about.

That’s my list – what would you add??

Where in the World is Kris? Scotland

You take the high road, and I’ll take the low road, And I’ll be in Scotland a’fore ye,…

20180611_12300320180613_184052.jpgEdinburgh – the city of sad Queen Mary of Scotts, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, and grey skies!  Kate and I had originally planned to go to Stockholm – but realized we probably wouldn’t get a seat on that plane so switched and got to fly first class to Edinburgh!  We arrived on a rainy, cold, JUNE day and, after taking the bus to the city, were so grateful a taxi was willing to pick up a couple of drenched, lost wanderers and take us to our apartment!  After we had dropped off our suitcases and changed, we discovered the skies had cleared up some and we began to see the sights.  We had 3 must sees – The Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh Castle, and the Palace of Holyrood.  Happily for us, we discovered we could get a ticket that not only included the 3 of those but allowed us to use the Hop-On, Hop-Off buses for just a few dollars more!

We spent our first 2 days exploring Edinburgh and on the 3rd day we took a bus excursion.  So here’s what we did manage to see!  We felt like we barely scratched the surface of exploring Edinburgh partly because everything closed at 5pm, partly because I didn’t feel well the first day AND lastly, I had had a surgical procedure on my foot 3 weeks earlier and wasn’t really supposed to walk much!!

Edinburgh Castle – 20180612_172726 (2)This castle, built on rock high above the rest of the city dominates the capital. It changed hands many times between the Scots and the English.  Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI (King James of the English) here in 1566.  And here also you can see the Scottish royal jewels. 20180611_094057.jpg We just missed the 1pm firing of the cannons but instead got a picture of one of the soldiers in his kilt!

  • John Knox’s House – This house was built in the mid 1500’s – with some of it built in 1470. 20180611_115905It served as a shop for several merchants at one time.  As the area became more run down, there would have been many families living in it, one per room with as many as 10-12 in a family (ugh!).  John Knox, the religious reformer, lived here for a little while and it is believed that he died here.  He was ordained as a priest in the Roman Catholic church but became disillusioned with the church and was drawn to the idea of a reformed religion.  He was one of the main figures behind the abdication of Mary Queen of Scots as he thought that a King brought up as a Presbyterian would be better for Scotland.  Today, the Church of Scotland is Presbyterian.
  • The Royal Mile – The street going downhill from the Castle to Holyrood Palace. It’s a mile long and has lots of touristy shops, attractions and pubs on it.  We had fun looking for souvenirs and seeing everything!  We even saw an old telephone booth that had been turned into an ATM machine!
  • The Royal Yacht Britannia

    It was soooo thrilling for me to go on this!!! This was the Queen’s yacht from 1954-1997.  In order to save money, she had only twin beds put in the rooms so she could use the same linens specially ordered for the previous yacht!

    Prince Charles and Lady Diana honeymooned on this yacht (he had a double-sized bed brought on the yacht for the occasion) and later they vacationed with their boys, Prince William and Prince Harry.  We got to see all the different rooms – the bedrooms, the dining rooms, the living rooms!  We also treated ourselves and had scones and cake in the little tea room on board. 

  • Palace of Holyrood – The Queen’s residence when she is in Scotland. We saw the throne room, and Mary, Queen of Scots room.  Beautiful!
  • Dolly the Sheep – Yes, Dolly the cloned sheep – born in 1996 and died in 2003. She’s been stuffed and put in the museum.
  • Greyfriars Bobby and Kirk – A statue put up for a little Skye terrier dog who, after his master died, guarded his grave for 14 years – back in the mid 1800’s. But his story was immortalized by several movies, including one by Walt Disney.  Outside the church is the graveyard where many of the names JK Rowling used for her books came from (she often wrote in a little pub around the corner).
  • The Real Mary King’s Close – A Close is an alleyway and there are many coming off the Royal Mile. This close was named after a woman (quite unusual), Mary King, who was a merchant in the 1700’s.  The close was shut off when the Royal Exchange was built above it which preserved it (as the building was built over it, it meant the street was under the ground and there is a law that people can’t live under the ground, so all had to move).   But in 2003 it was excavated and opened for the public with tours by costumed people.  They tell the story of the street, or tenement area with buildings 8 stories high and families living in single rooms.  No toilets – people threw the contents of their chamber pots out 2x per day – I wouldn’t have wanted to be walking on the street at that time!  The guide also talked about the Plague and how easily it spread in this area.   Fascinating place and worth the money and wait to get on a tour!  It also served as a shelter during WWII.
  • The Last Drop – We ate dinner this pub our last night – it’s located right next to where the gallows used to be! The food was yummy. 20180613_185903 (2) I ordered a Scottish dish: haggis with neeps and tatties, not knowing what neeps and tatties are.  Turns out they are mashed yellow turnip and mashed potatoes.  All three dishes were yummy!!


We had lots of fun riding the Hop-On, Hop-Off buses  – we learned so much through the guides.  We learned about the inspiration for Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Deacon Brodie, a wealthy, trusted, pious, respected citizen during the day but at night a gambler and thief.  As he was a cabinet maker people gave him the keys to their houses so he could build their cabinets.  He returned the keys when finished – but after he had made his own copy.  When he knew they were going out of town for a vacation, he would use the key and rob them.  He went undetected for many years but after he was caught, they hung him on the gallows he had designed – see above😊.    The green bus had a live guide speaking in English (obviously!) upstairs and the red buses had prerecorded guides, and each went in opposite directions.  Riding the buses and listening to the guides, we could see so many things that we wanted to do – but just ran out of time!

On our last full day, we got a bus tour that took us first to Loch Lomond where we got a boat ride on the Loch.  We also learned the meaning of the song I began this post with.  After the rebellion in 1745, 2 friends are imprisoned – one is going to be released, and the other hung.  The one being hung pens the words, basically saying that he’d take the low road (underground as a spirit) and would be in Scotland before the living one could make it back.  Rather sad!

Not only did we tour some of Loch Lomond, we also drove through the Trossachs, a beautiful area where the lowlands and the highlands of Scotland meet.  And we saw some hairy coos – some of the highland cattle with their wild hair and huge horns!20180613_143042.jpg

Our last stop was Stirling Castle, an imposing castle built on a high rock, and having great importance to Scottish history.  Here many Kings and Queens were crowned, including Mary, Queen of Scots.  Nearby, at the Stirling Bridge, William Wallace (Braveheart) defeated an English army in September 1297.  The castle is magnificent – filled with beautiful tapestries- and sporting a huge great hall, a kitchen with “people” preparing “food” and decorated like Mary is coming back next week.

Unfortunately, we took a bus tour here and only got just over an hour to tour.  We could have used more time and in retrospect, we should have gotten a train and just gone to the city on our own.  Oh, well!  Next time!

One of the funny parts to our day was we really did get a into a Scottish traffic jam – a bunch of sheep were blocking the road and until their dogs and master could get them moving along, we were stuck there!20180613_105445.jpg

Kate and I loved our time in Scotland!  It is a beautiful country and I’d love to go back, especially as we never even walked into Edinburgh “New Town” area, built around 1767!  But, we have other places to go before we can return!

Where in the world do you think we will go next?  Do you have a suggestion?  If money and time weren’t a consideration, where would you go?


At last – Poland and Rothenberg

Although it has been a few months since I traveled with Kate, I never finished my blog post about our last trip in September.  So here it is!


With our four days in Prague over, we reluctantly got on the road early and headed north towards Boleslawiec, Poland, the mecca for Polish pottery shopping!  20170918_061956We had a factory tour scheduled and we didn’t want to be late.  The process for making the pottery really is interesting.  First, they press the clay into a mold.  After the piece has dried they add additional parts – like mug handles – and smooth the edges with a wet sponge.

The first firing in the kiln is next.  After that the painter uses a small cut sponge to sponge on the paint, each color having a different sponge. They use a paint brush to fill in any gaps.

The painters (99% of which are women) get about 3 hours to learn a new pattern.  When the paint dries the item is hand dipped into a vat of ceramic glaze, which completely covers up the painted pattern. (She’s not wearing any gloves!)

The piece is sent to its final firing after that layer dries and then it is ready to hit the market place.  Much of the pottery is shipped to the United States and japan but there is a lot available locally, with so many different patterns!20170918_104112

So, of course, after our tour we did some shopping!  We discovered a list and map available on line about the different shops, so although some of the hours have changed, it is a pretty good list for Polish pottery shopping.   Almost all the places take credit card and here’s the link to the stores, in case you’d like to know!

Complete guide for Pottery Shopping in Poland


My purchases!

The map below is not to scale but did help us get from place to place!Polish Pottery Map of Boleslawiec, Poland | JavaCupcake.com

After shopping, we ate an early dinner at The Blue Beetroot, which was delicious – real Polish perogies!

And then we went to our Polish palace to spend the night.20170919_073916.jpg

On our last full day abroad, we packed up our teeny tiny car and began the trek home, via Rothenberg ob der Tauber!  After traveling six hours we made it to the city, and, bless Google maps, right into the middle of downtown.  But as we drove into the town center, dodging pedestrians and tables, I pointed the famous clock to Kate – and hoped we wouldn’t have blue lights following us!  (Our route through the square!)20170919_171009_LI.jpgAdmittedly, I had been following another car, but it just didn’t seem right to be right in the middle of the town square!  Fortunately, we were able to eventually find parking and explore!

We enjoyed the Museum of Crime and Punishment (Kate had been there before but didn’t recall anything as she had only been 13 months/2 years old!)

20170919_165138-e1514910917136.jpgand the Christmas museum/Käthe Wohlfahrt store (the huge store that sells Christmas decorations year round)

before we were joined by Jen, a friend who had recently moved to Germany and drove 2.5 hours to meet up with us.  20170919_171407.jpgWhat a sweet and precious reunion!  We quickly checked into our hotel – Am Weissen Turm, a quaint 800-year-old building located inside the city walls – before getting some dinner.  20170919_175454And after dinner we all enjoyed the night watchman tour of Rothenberg –  a tour given at dark by the “medieval night watchman” who walks you around the city giving insight to the old city.  This was fabulous and so worth it!

All too soon morning came and in the darkness, we hugged goodbye with Kate and I returning to Frankfurt.  This time, our second time maneuvering a rental car around the airport, we didn’t get lost and were able to quickly fill the tank with gas and turn in the car.  We made it – over a thousand miles driven across Europe!  What a trip!  And BONUS – we got to fly back First Class!!

Step by Step – Cusco Peru Extreme

22687828_284811848694155_445272327911988148_n (2)One foot after the other – just keep walking – step by step – for 9 hours, up and down the mountains, through the eucalyptus trees, avoid the cactus, move over for those moving faster.  Would the hike ever end?

This day actually began several months ago when Rachel and I signed up with MMI (Medical Missions International, Canada) to go on a medical mission trip – Cusco EXTREME, where we would fly to Cusco, Peru and then go to a number of remote sites to give medical treatment.  We not only needed to raise support, we also each had to bring a suitcase filled with medicines.  It was so amazing to see God provide ALL that we needed!  I signed up as a “general helper”, not really knowing exactly what I would be doing.  Our team was comprised of a doctor (Mike), a dentist (Cal), 3 nurses (Rachel, Trudy and Corinna), me and a number of Peruvians to be translators, helpers and a cook.  Not only would we need English to Spanish translation, but also to Quechua, which is nothing like Spanish!

22713307_284743015367705_2816157323379230482_o (2)

Our team! American, Canadian, Peruvian!

Rachel and I left home on a sunny October Friday, flying first to Miami before getting a 2am flight to Lima, Peru.  From Lima we caught another flight to Cusco, which would our base for the mission.  The first person we met from the team was Vicente, our Peruvian leader who greeted us at the airport and took us to the hotel.  After an hour nap and a quick shower, we met the rest of the team – 3 Canadians, another American and us!  This, our first day in country would be a day to acclimate to the high altitude, see a little of the city of Cusco and get to know one another for on our second day, after church, we would drive several hours out into the countryside and begin.

Observations –

  • Watching Wonder Woman and reading the Spanish subtitles before arriving in a Spanish speaking country does help improve your Spanish.
  • Drink bottled water only – even for brushing your teeth!
  • No salads – cooked or peeled fruits and veggies only!
  • Toilet paper doesn’t get put in the toilet but in the trash bin.
  • There’s no heat or air conditioning in Cusco – all buildings are open air somewhere so they stay “refreshingly” cool.
  • Stop signs are a suggestion and any road can have more lanes then marked (and I never want to drive there!)
  • Diomox makes the fingers and toes tingle (it’s a medicine to prevent altitude sickness) – but take it anyway!

Day 2 -In Peru! Began with a typical breakfast – bread, cheese, olives, fruit juices, tea and coffee.  Following breakfast, we went to church – it was fun/amazing to sing songs I knew from home – but in Spanish!  20171015_110127 (2)However, in Peruvian style, the service officially started at 10 – which really meant at 10:40 or thereabouts!  At 12 we had to leave as we needed lunch and then to get on the road.  We drove for several hours with each town along the way having its own character. One was known for its earthen bricks, another for its breads and another raised guinea pigs, which is a delicacy here in Peru. At one point we got to the altitude of 14,200’.  At last the van stopped and we were told that the road was not passable because of the rain, so we would need to cart everything down into the canyon, cross the creek and then carry it back up again.  I was amazed at how breathless and huffy/puffy that little exertion made me, but we were at 12,000’ or so and not used to it at all!  After getting everything unloaded, we unpacked the medicines and sorted them into different duffels by type and explored our new home – the old 2 room school house – men in one room, the dental/optical/dining room, and women in the other room, the medical/pharmacy room.

Observations –

  • There were 3 types of toilets there – the squatty potty (no flush), a child sized toilet (with seat) or a regular size toilet (no seat). Regardless of which you picked, for all you need to bring a flashlight (no electricity or windows) and toilet paper.
  • Wood floors are hard and cold even with a sleeping pad. Dirty sheepskins provide extra padding and warmth, especially in a room that’s 54 degrees.
  • We are at Comunidad Quisinsaya – don’t try to GoogleMap it – it is too small to show up!

Day 3 – The dentist asked for a volunteer to help him and I accepted the challenge – or I drew the short straw!  After breakfast, Cal showed me the instruments and how to set up.  We got some tubs for sterilizing the instruments – soapy water, clear water, sterilizing solution, and clear water again.  And then the patients came!  Pull a tooth here, pull a tooth there, fill this tooth, and wonder at the deplorable conditions of their mouths!  20171016_135302Emotionally it was hard pulling the teeth from little ones – especially knowing that for some it was a permanent tooth and they would always have that gap.  At times I had to hold their heads still as tears poured from their eyes as Cal injected anesthetic into their gums.  Fortunately, I had brought a grocery bag of small stuffed animals and dolls that I gave to them to hold and then keep during their painful procedures.  And, although Cal could and did do fillings, few of the children had teeth that fillings would fix.   Patient after patient – pull teeth, clean the instruments, get ready for the next – they kept coming all day!  One patient had to have 3 molars removed (lots of blood and pus) and then have the hole sewn up – I helped hold the thread and later cut it – I’m glad that’s not my future occupation!  We had a few laughs – like when the lamb wandered in to watch Cal at work.  Or the when the kids came too close and Cal squirted them with water.  Our work day ended at dusk and then, after dinner, the town president addressed us and thanked us for coming to their almost forgotten community.  One of the teachers also thanked us and told us about their school system – how they teach the youngest children in the Quechua language and then they learn Spanish.  But the nearest high school is 3 hours away.

Observations –

  • Most women are wearing traditional skirts, sweaters and hats (the hats are different in each community).
  • When you are wearing 5 sweaters and 4 skirts, it really doesn’t make a difference if you take your sandals off before you step on the scale.
  • Don’t drink too much after 6pm if you don’t want to put your boots and coat on and take a walk to the toilet at 3 in the morning – but drink enough so you don’t get a headache or altitude sickness.
  • A room stays warmer at night if you cover the broken window pane with plastic & duct tape.

Day 4 – I began my day with a mountain fresh, Styrofoam cup, hair washing experience – cold but clean!  Then, with all our gear loaded into the two vans, we had a quick devotional time, sang a song in English and then Spanish and then most of the team set off hiking to our next location.  Since I had a hurt Achilles tendon, I rode in the van with some of the Peruvian helpers.  20171017_090747The roads were dirt roads, often with streams crossing them, but after a few hours we made it to our next location (the team would take many more hours to get there – 8 hours total) and began to get the rooms set up.  This community had us climb a ladder to our sleeping/cooking rooms with the dental and medical rooms below.  20171017_133112.jpgOur only toilets were 2 squatty potties and you needed to take a bucket of water from the outside tap in with you to flush them.  Eventually the rest of the team arrived – hot and tired.  Rachel had gotten so badly burned that she had blisters on her arm and ears – even though she had applied SPF 50 sunscreen several times.


Observations –

  • Wear a hat and longs sleeves when hiking at high elevation.
  • We are at Comunidad Ausaray – again, won’t show up on GoogleMaps.

Day 5 – Once again, a clinic day – now I’m getting the hang of the instruments used, how to prepare a filling and even how to take a tooth out of the mouth using cotton pliers!  After spending the previous day with only Spanish speakers even my Spanish is improving!  But what a long day – we began at 8 and ended at 6:15pm.  At the end of the day, we get treated to a bonfire with the town president thanking us for coming and having people from his church sing for us.

Observations –

  • Small toilets are better than squatty potties – especially when your GI tract is feeling “off”.
  • Tuck your pant legs into your shoes or roll them up before going to a squatty potty or when you squat, they may go down to the floor and get wet, just saying.
  • If the shower doubles as the toilet, you have to be really stinky and sweaty to want to use it, especially as the temperature drops and you only have lukewarm or cold water.
  • If you chose to not use the toilet/shower, wet wipes work great for the creases and crevices!

Day 6 – No shower since Sunday morning but another mountain fresh cold-water Styrofoam cup hair washing!  Once again, we pack up to leave – this time as Rachel isn’t feeling well, she rides in the van with me as the others hike.  Along the way we stop in a town and Domi goes shopping for some meat for our lunch.  The shop owner shoves the dog out of the way, opens the cooler and pulls out half a lamb.  She and Domi discuss the price and decide on only half the piece.  So, she puts the meat on a log stump and whacks it in half with the knife.  That doesn’t quite work so she gets the hatchet off the floor and whacks it good.  She then throws the part we aren’t getting back into the cooler and puts our part in a plastic grocery bag with the bone sticking out.  Domi pays and we then go to the pharmacy to get some paper towels.  They’ve only got 1 roll – so we buy just it and then finish our journey.  (I have to confess – a few hours later when lunch is ready, I really don’t have an appetite for that piece of lamb, so I eat some of the vegetables cooked with it).20171019_095353

As soon as we arrive people start lining up to get their turn to be seen – even if it will be a few more hours before we start.  Rachel, our head pharmacist, still isn’t feeling well so she takes a nap.  I explore – we have just 1 squatty potty at this location and the floors in the rooms aren’t stable – you can go through the floor if you step wrong!  Later, we discover that the water gets turned off around noon and doesn’t come back on until the next morning – so we don’t have water to even pour down the toilet – NOT a good thing!


After the team arrives, and we have lunch, we open the clinic and start seeing patients!  I take care of where I step and manage to not fall through the floor!  Rachel is now sunburned, blistered, feeling poorly and running a temperature.  After dinner, David, the missionary from Cusco, offers to drive her back to the city and his wife so she can spend the night and following day recovering.  She agrees and leaves, while the rest of us get a presentation from the community.20171019_194945.jpg

Observations –

  • Water is really important – for drinking (after it is purified) and to flush toilets – otherwise even squatty potties get full and VERY gross!!!
  • We are at Comunidad Umuto – yeah, not on the map either!

Day 7 – The plan is for clinic in the morning and then return to Cusco in the afternoon! The dentist and I finish early and, as we have a bunch of kids hanging around I suggest giving some toothbrushes to them. Cal decides to turn it into a toothbrushing lesson and has them all take out the brush we have just given them and then follow him as he brushes his teeth.  20171020_135816.jpgThey do it and then are delighted to also spit into a hole!

What a fun moment after soo many tears!  After packing up, we return to Cusco and rejoice to get hot showers at the hotel.  We then go out for dinner and get an interesting surprise – Cuy, or guinea pig!  I do take a bite (and pictures!!) and it tastes like chicken. Bed never felt so good that night!20171020_190907.jpg

Day 8 – Today we get to be tourists!  It’s the weekend and we are off duty and on our own dime!  We get picked up at our hotel at 8am and driven just over an hour to the Sacred Valley to the Via Ferrata.  The Via Ferrata is a path used to climb a mountain with a safety system permanently installed, in this case we had what looked like large steel staples sticking out of the mountain and steel cables next to it.  We first got fitted with safety harnesses, helmets and gloves – after a brief lesson on safety and how to use the carabiners we began.  Every few feet as we climbed we had to unhook one carabiner, put it on the next line and then repeat with the 2nd one.  It was hard, climbing up, up, up but so neat.

Then we crossed a cable bridge, which was definitely out of my comfort zone!

Fortunately, our guide took my phone from me and took pictures to prove our craziness!  20171021_115138When we had made it to the top of the mountain ((and after stopping for quick pictures at the “pod” hotel (see in the upper right background) – someday I want to come back and stay there!)) we then got to zip line down!

It was great!  One line was so long that we had to go tandem – and even then Rachel and I didn’t make it all the way to the end and had to be pulled in!

Upon our completion of the zipline we were driven to the train station at Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (1.5-hour ride).  There we found our hotel, got some dinner (I had alpaca steak!), bought our bus tickets and of course, did a little souvenir shopping before going to sleep – we planned on an early morning to get to Machu Picchu!

Observations – 20171021_183646

  • Make sure there is enough room next to the toilet for the door to shut when planning out a bathroom.
  • Get not only the name of the hotel, but also its address – makes finding it a little easier.





Day 9 – The tourists lining up for the buses to Machu Picchu woke us up around 5am (remember, all buildings are somewhat open air!) so we got up, had breakfast and went to stand in the line too!  By 6:45 we had arrived and walked briskly over to the entrance to Huayna (or Wayna) Picchu, as we had tickets for 7am entry.  We signed in, and then began the long, arduous climb up the mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu!  20171022_081726What a journey – it was step, rugged and by American standards, so dangerous that no one would be allowed to climb it!   But it was amazing to make it to the top, even if it was only 8,924’– and would have been even more amazing had the cloud cover lifted so we could actually see Machu Picchu from there!

After resting and enjoying the experience, we safely descended and then explored Machu Picchu – ruins from the Incas which are believed to have been built in the 1500’s and only used for less than 100 years before being abandoned.  Little is actually known about them but there are lots of theories!  (That mountain in the back right is WaynaPicchu – we had climbed to the very top!)


But we were tired and ready to leave so we caught the bus back to the Pueblo and then it was time to catch the train back to Ollantaytambo and prepare for the next week.

Day 10 – REALLY HARD DAY!!  After breakfast we loaded up into the vans for a very short ride.  We started our trek at 9:20, mostly following a road (why they couldn’t have driven us further down the road I REALLY don’t know).  We had a quick break at 11.  The altitude wasn’t bad – just 9600’.  We walked through a Eucalyptus forest and by some cacti – one person stumbled into a plant and had to get the thorns taken out of his leg.  Hand sanitizer doesn’t feel great on an open wound like that!  Our Peruvian leader makes arrangements for our cook to get a short motorbike ride to give her knees a rest – when he returns I get a ride too.  Unfortunately, that means when he lets me off, I have no one with me and really don’t know where I am going.  But the people tell me to go up the mountain.  I follow a horse pack and go up – then down – then up again.  I still haven’t caught up with Domi, our cook but I stop at the Inca ruins for a few minutes and see her down on the other side.  I shout down to her and she waits for me to catch up.  Now it’s two of us walking slowly, and not really knowing where we are going.


But we press on!  Inca trail porters pass us regularly, all carrying heavy packs for the tourists!  Eventually some of the fast ones from our group catch up with us – and then they pass us.  We are spread out on the Inca trail for probably more than a mile – I felt so alone as I couldn’t see anyone ahead of me, or anyone behind me and I just hoped I was still on the right path.  For 8 hours I put one foot in front of the other, up and down the mountains.  It was physically challenging as my Achilles tendon screamed stop.  It was physically challenging as my feet felt like they were on fire (lots of large blisters).  It was physically challenging when my walking stick didn’t catch the ground but sank a foot because there was no ground next to me – just a steep drop-off to the river a couple hundred feet below.  And it was mentally challenging because I just didn’t want to go on – after hyperventilating a few minutes I managed to keep on going.  And finally, I arrived at some grass thatched roof yurts and the team is sitting on some rocks.  Another team member said it like this “I have run two marathons and those are the only times I have been out of energy more than at the present. It hurts just to sit. A lot of the team have blisters on their feet and joints are screaming at us. It’s the steep inclines with big steps over boulders which wear on you. This village is~10,500’.


Our stuff was waiting for us – gear was hauled in by horses.  20171026_112355 (2)But the sun, and temperature, is dropping quickly so we changed into dry clothes.  It turns out the guys have to sleep in the huts and the gals get to sleep in what looks like a mud floored shed.  Gratefully, we go to sleep – and sleep well because during the weekend Vicente, our leader, managed to purchase some blankets for us so now I have one to put on the floor under me to help keep me warm as well as padded (the 20-degree sleeping bag with liner doesn’t keep the cold away enough!)!

Observations –

  • Check to make sure your walking sticks didn’t break in the suitcase.
  • You need more than a liter of water for a rough, 8-hour hike.
  • But, if you only have a liter, you won’t need to pee all day!!


Day 11 – Not only are the huts for sleeping – they are also for the clinic.  We set up in one and, after killing a large spider, soon have patients.  20171024_102734.jpgWe build a fire in the back of the hut to get rid of the bugs and mosquitos – but the smoke is hard on us.  Trying to keep the instruments clean is also hard as straw falls down on them.  One dog likes to keep us company in the hut and we stay busy all day, mostly removing teeth. Occasionally when the dentist didn’t need help, I would go over to the pharmacy and help count pills there!  Every prescription had the pills put first in small plastic baggies with direction labels, which were then put in a sewn cloth bag.  These bags were delivered to the pastors who gave them to the people.  But, before giving the bags, they did health education, preached the gospel and counseled! Around 4, as the sun and temperature went down, we closed shop.  After our early dinner, we had time for a bonfire and the marshmallows came out.  We had one wise guy who found some cow poop about the size of a marshmallow and was roasting it before being discovered.  But it was good to laugh!


  • Cow poop, when roasted, stinks!
  • Beanie weenie on rice is not my favorite dish for lunch – or any meal
  • Neither is soupy oatmeal

Day 12 – We are not moving on – we couldn’t get the horses for the day to move our gear.  We have a lot of gear – medical/dental equipment, pharmacy pills etc., a scale, and then the personal gear.  So the decision was made to have us stay another day at this spot and have the villagers hike to us, and not have us hike 4 hours.  Unfortunately, the bugs are worse and the smoky fire in the back of the hut only smoked us out, so Cal decided to move operations to under a big shady eucalyptus tree – after he shoveled all the horse manure out of the way.  20171025_103113_001.jpgTwo weeks ago I never would have believed that I would be in an open field with dogs and lambs wandering around, surrounded by majestic mountains, helping a dentist extract teeth!  One three-year-old wailed for a long time after we pulled 2 of her little teeth yet a 20-year-old stoically laid there as we used the hammer and chisel to break up her molar to extract it.  This day a lot of our patients were the porters who carry the food and belongings for the tourists hiking the Inca trail.

20171025_104910.jpgDuring one of the lulls, Rachel and I with 2 others from the team went up to the Inca ruins right above our little site.  What a beautiful view from there – high, snowcapped mountains towering over us!  We finished our day by packing up all the equipment and getting ready for the hike out the following morning.  We went to bed early as a heavy rain storm swept into the area.  (Is it too early to go to bed if it is only 7pm?)20171025_185103 (2)

Day 13 – Early start this day – up and packed up before breakfast at 6, ready to go by 7 – except the horses don’t arrive so we wait.  While moving the bags we discovered a baby scorpion sitting on the bags but fortunately no one got stung, although we are all covered in bites on the arms!  But, even though we have a hike before us we are looking forward to the hot showers, real toilets and beds!  Finally, we start walking – and walking!  At the Inca ruins we stop and wait for everyone to catch up, take a team picture, and continue hiking.  20171026_083339.jpgWe encountered lots of tourist groups hiking, as well as the porters carrying their stuff.  Just as we are saying “Buenas dias” to another set of porters, one tripped on a rock and face planted himself on the Inca trail.  Immediately blood gushed everywhere but the doctor and nurses were on it – applying pressure, getting gauze, putting on steri strips and stopping the bleeding by putting a tampon up his nose! 20171026_110358 He had broken his nose and cut open his nose and forehead.  He was in no condition to continue.  His fellow porters took the team gear he had and repacked it into their already full bags before we loaded him up on a horse to have it carry him off the trail.  An hour or so later we crossed a most rickety bridge and were off the trail,20171026_121728.jpg ready to load the stuff into the waiting van and truck.  Driving to the nearest medical clinic, we sought some local help for him – but they had nothing for him!  Yes, Peruvian medicine at its finest!  They did not think it was an emergency.  We couldn’t just leave him so some of the team went to the pharmacy, bought supplies needed to sew him up, and did so.  Meanwhile, a race around the nearby square was happening which caused more injuries.  Soon, in the triage room of the clinic, they had tourist with a broken nose and cut arm and a racer with a broken leg with the bone sticking through the skin.  Obviously, it was time to leave and get our Quechua porter to a hospital.  However, at the hospital in the bigger town they were having a party so they couldn’t see him either.  One of the pastors lived not far from there so we went to his house and in the back yard the doctor was finally able to staunch the bleeding using silver nitrate in the poor man’s nose (back yard to keep the blood from getting on the floor and to keep the man from getting the virus (or maybe typhoid) from the sick child!)  20171026_171000.jpgWith the bleeding stopped, we got back in the van and returned to Cusco, dropping our poor man off with his hiring agency – and we returned to the hotel, exhausted but glad we had been at the right place at the right time!

Observation –

  • Don’t fall on the Inca trail.
  • Be thankful for American medicine!!



Day 14 – We get a tour of the Presbyterian Clinic in Cusco before having a closing lunch with the team –  everyone will be leaving either this evening or in the morning.  Afterwards though we have time to go to the animal sanctuary for native animals – we see speckled bears, pumas, llamas and alpacas,

condors, a hairless Peruvian (ugly) dog, parrots and guinea pigs.

We stop at the White Jesus who overlooks Cusco and then have time to shop at an artesian market before packing up for our return home. 20171027_164303

Day 15 & 16– We have a little bit of time to buy some tea and to explore the Plaza del Armas in Cusco again before we going to the airport – so we make the most of our time.  We make it to Lima and then, since we have a 22-hour layover we stay at a hotel in the Miraflores section, and sign up for a city fountain tour with a dinner/dancing show afterwards.  The fountains are amazing and fun to see20171028_190850 – the dinner good and the show long for us tired travelers!  Our final morning in Peru we take a quick walk along the Pacific Ocean and watch the surfers before returning to the airport and flying home. 20171029_083614


Observation –

  • Lima is a HUGE city with richer and poorer areas – but all of it seems to be richer than Cusco.
  • Even after going through security, before boarding the plane you may have to have your bags searched again and dump out the water you just bought.

What a long, adventurous, rewarding, amazing, challenging trip!  Not next week, but I can’t wait to do it again!

Towers and Bridges and Steps- It’s Prague

20170912_220324Towers and Bridges and steps, we’re off again!  Honestly, I’m starting to not get nervous before going through security – although did you know that they don’t know what a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread looks like on their screens and they’ll have to search your bag to figure out what that lump is?  This adventure we decided would be a little longer – 8 days from start to finish beginning on a Tuesday night in September.  We met up at Washington Dulles, and, even though we were flying standby, instead of wondering if we would make the flight, got assigned seats before we even arrived at the gate, a whole row for the 2 of us – not that it meant I got a moment more of sleep than usual but I didn’t have to worry my head would flop on the man next to me.

In the previous blogs I gave a description of our days but since this was a longer trip I’m going to change the format and give the good, the bad and then funny!

Arriving in Frankfurt on Wednesday morning, a-whole-lot of sleep deprived, we picked up our itty, bitty, teeny, tiny rental car.  It was no joke that it was a 1 suitcase trunk because that’s all that fit there!  With little delay, we got on the autobahn to drive 3 hours.  Kate is an excellent navigator – with the help of google maps.  But – when we got 10 minutes from our destination – the home of Kate’s friend Kay – it completely and totally failed us as there was a closed road!  Remember, it’s 10am our time, we haven’t slept in over 24 hours and we have no “real” map!  Fortunately, Kate could call her friend and she pieced together where we were, drove to us and had us follow her to her house!  We made it to our first destination!

That evening we had dinner in a nearby city at Brawirt, located in a 600-year-old building.  (I’ve discovered I love being in a really old building – as long as the bathroom isn’t just as old!)  There we had some amazing food – Schwabian pork and cheese spaetzle (and yes, since I’ve gotten home I’ve found some recipes on Pinterest that look pretty good so I want to try them soon!)

On Thursday, we headed for Prague.  It’s amazing what some years with capitalism can do for a country.  Instead of driving twisty, tiny, country roads, we had a smooth trip on highway – all the way to the city limits.  Fortunately, Kay had told us that we needed a vignette – a sticker to show that we had paid to drive on the highways.  It was about $15, good for 10 days, and we purchased it at a rest stop as soon as we crossed the border – cash only!

Our AirBnB in Prague was great!  Our host opened the double wood doors and we drove through a narrow passageway (good thing it was a tiny car!) into a courtyard, 20170917_150800where we could park and leave the car for our stay (we used the small pedestrian door each time we came and went and opened the wider doors when we drove the car in and out).  We then climbed 75 stairs in a very old building, walked though our host’s apartment and into our own.

The view from there was great, the bed comfortable, and the bathroom “difficult” as the shower was really a tub under the very sloped roof!  (it was 1” from the ceiling at one end and made for some creative “showering”.)

Food in Prague was fun!  We purchased cheese, bread and pastries in the supermarkets each evening for breakfast and lunch the next day (Yup, bread and cheese sandwiches every day!).  We ate our dinners in different restaurants – one in the cellar of a very old building, one outside on a river patio with a water wheel turning near us, and then our favorite, one on a rooftop terrace overlooking the Old Town Square!  What a treat and so worth it!22343686_10155936709263291_289048764_o

During our stay, we managed to eat great Italian pizza, Czech goulash with dumplings, both pumpkin and mushroom risottos, ice cream, delicious pastries, lemon crepes, golem cookies, and trdelnik (a piece of dough wrapped around a wooden roller, baked as it spins over coals, sprinkled with sugar on the outside, and then coated with chocolate on the inside).

But, what sights did we see?  Lots and lots and lots!!!  I had gotten off the internet a list of the 25 best things to do in Prague – some were great and some we wondered why they were on the list!!!  Here are our top 10, in no particular order!

#1 – Museum of Historic Chamber Pots and Toilets – As we wandered down some quaint streets in the old town, we came across this unusual museum.  As the name and topic intrigued us, we entered.  What a fun and unusual museum!  They had so many chamber pots and unusual toilets, all with little placards to tell a little about each.  One that caught our eye was a chamber pot with a frog in it (to indicate the sounds that might come in the pot) as well as the rhyme, “Keep me clean and use me well and what I see I will not tell.”

Another one was French – given to newlyweds to end the “night of love” and filled with Nutella, bananas, chocolates and other foods which are then eaten by all present (umm, really???).  There were portable toilets, elaborately painted ones and then those disguised as normal looking chairs.  We also used their real toilets (a plus since it was free and everywhere else – even McDonald’s – we had to pay 50 cents to make our wee deposits) and the walls were covered with interesting bathroom art.

#2 – The towers of Charles Bridge, best climbed just before sunset – There are 2, one at each end of the bridge.  We climbed one at night and the other we climbed just before sunset so we got both daylight and nighttime for that one.  The town looks magical from these old (think 1300’s) towers.  It’s 138 steps to the top and it was just neat to emerge from the interior and lean back against the roof of the top of the tower and view the town on one side and the bridge and castle on the other.

#3 – Charles Bridge – or Karluv most –  Morning, noon, and night is a great time for this bridge!  Pedestrians only, it has lots of entertainment to enjoy while crossing – puppet shows and artists and statues to see (and touch).  Begun in 1357 and finished in 1402, it is Prague and it is free!20170915_141006

#4 – Old Town Square – A bustling area with lots of merchants, entertainers and tourists here as well as a beloved statue to Jan Huss, a church reformer, 100 years before Martin Luther.

There are lots of open air restaurants here but I recommend the roof top terrace restaurant U Prince – located across from the Old Clock Tower.  Here’s the view from the restaurant looking at the clock tower on the right and the square is just behind it.20170915_174635.jpg

#5 – Astronomical Clock – Located at the Old Town Square, this clock has been operating since about 1490.  But it is really neat when it strikes the hour and the Apostles pass by the open windows and bow.20170915_165957

#6 – Old Jewish Ghetto – the section of the town known also as Josefov.  Here you need a ticket to get into any part and the expensive ticket does get you into everything – the old cemetery and the 5 synagogues – so we visited it all.  It seems there was always a love/hate relationship with the Jewish population of Prague – at times they were depended on and at other times they were either expelled from the city or forced into a very small area.  In the 1600’s Prague had the largest Jewish community in the Diaspora.  But at turn of the 19th century, Prague was “revitalized”, to become more like Paris and the Jewish area was “sanitized”, turning the “malodorous” backstreets into blocks of luxurious five-story Art Nouveau mansions.  When the Nazi’s invaded there were about 55,000 Jews in Prague, but less than 1000 remained in 1989.  As our guidebook said, “In any other European city occupied by the Nazis in WWII, what little that was left of the old ghetto would have been demolished.  But, although thousands of Jews were transported to the new ghetto in Terezin and eventually to Auschwitz, the Prague ghetto was preserved under the Nazis in order to provide a record of the communities they had destroyed.  20170915_154855By this grotesque twist of fate, Jewish artifacts from Czechoslovakia and beyond were gathered here, and now make up one of the richest collections of Judaica in Europe.”          The cemetery struck us as crowded and old – just like the ghetto would have been.


The Pinkasova synagogue filled our hearts with sadness as we saw written on the walls the names of the 77,297 Czech Jews killed during the holocaust.  Every wall in the entire building has just names and dates on them (the name followed by the date of birth and the date of death or transportation to the death camps).



#7 – Prague Castle – One of the most popular sites in Prague as it is the largest castle complex in the world!  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been there since the 9th century (it’s old!!) although it has changed a lot over the years.  Since it houses the president of the Czech Republic, you do have to go through security to get in.  And lots of brides get their pictures taken here!


In the middle of the complex is the Cathedral of St. Vitus, which, although it was begun in 1344, did not get finished until 1929.  Inside it there is the Tomb of Saint Jan of Nepomuk, which is sculpted in solid silver – it is huge!  Then there is the Chapel of St. Vaclav (or Wenceslas in English), the walls of which are inlaid with 1372 semiprecious stones!  It is stunning!  We also visited the Golden Lane, which has above the shops a museum of sorts of knight armor.

There is also a crossbow shooting lane and we both got to fire a crossbow!

#8 – Infant Jesus of Prague located in the church of Panna Maria Vitezna – Infant Jesus or Prazske Jezulatko is a 45cm tall wax sculpture of a 3-year-old Jesus.  He has over 100 items of clothing in his wardrobe and is changed 10 times a year by the nuns.

Make sure you visit the museum where some of his clothing is displayed (It’s a little awkward getting to the museum because it’s at the front of the church on the right side – we had to walk through a service to get to it!)  We found this more interesting after visiting Brussels and seeing all the clothing for the mannequin pis (the peeing boy).

#9 – Petrin Hill Observation tower – or Prague’s little Eiffel tower (it’s 1/5 the size of the Paris one).  Just 299 steps to the top, you get a great view of the city!  The tower was built in 1891 for the Prague Exhibition.

#10 The hanging Sigmund Freud –


this isn’t really that great but so unusual that I have to mention it!  It was interesting to look up in the old town and see high above the streets a 7’ tall statue of Freud hanging by a hand and “pondering whether to hold on or let go.”  It is in the old town at the intersection of Husova and Betlemske.







Two places outside of Prague and worth going to are Karlstejn and Terezin.  We did them as ½ day trips.  Karlstejn was the summer castle of Charles IV and it served as a getaway place for him as well as a place to store his crown jewels and relics.  To see the magnificent chapel, you have to book a tour in advance – we did so the day before going and were able to get an English tour, which you will want and we did!  You are not allowed to take pictures inside the castle which is why we don’t have very many here!


Terezin, or Theresienstadt in German, is the town the Nazi’s turned into a Jewish Ghetto by displacing the 3,500 Czech residents and forcing 60,000 Jews to live there before transporting them to Auschwitz.  The Nazis used Terezin also as propaganda, showing how nice it was to live there, with cultural events, playgrounds and more – this 12-minute film can still be seen there. There is a museum, a memorial and several other buildings as well as the fortress here.  One building has recreated the woman’s dormitory.

Another building (hard to find, by the way) has a recently discovered tiny hidden synagogue in it.  The fortress on the outside of town, built in the 1780’s, (it’s most famous inmate was the young man who assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914) was also a SS prison that mostly housed inmates who had been active in the resistance.  Although the town now has residents, it also seems very ghost like.

And what things should you avoid while in Prague?  I can’t speak for them all but I would stay away from the KGB museum!  Trip Advisor made this out to be one of the must sees – what a dud!  The owner/guide was probably a former KGB agent who waxed on about the glories of the KGB and how they killed – with highly theatrical sound effects!  Boris was entertaining but not for the amount he charged to get into the museum!  And you had to listen to him because there was no information about the artifacts in the room, except what he told or made up?

Trip Advisor also said that the Lennon wall (think Beatles) was a place to go – as Kate said it was just a wall covered in graffiti and not worth the time it took to find!


We also visited Wenceslas Square but since the museum was closed and we weren’t interested in big shopping stores, all we did was take a picture and eat some (wonderful) pizza there!  And, for the record, shopping in Prague was wonderful!  They had all sorts of fun things – crystal (both Swarovski jewelry and dinnerware), Russian matryoshka dolls, chocolate, as well as normal souvenir t-shirts and bags, etc.  You could also in every store find cannabis – lollipops and chips, teas and muffins, chocolates and cookies.

With our 4 days in Prague over, we reluctantly pointed our teeny, tiny car towards Poland (we really were ready to come home at this point but still had places to go, things to buy and people to see!).  So, we bid Prague adieu – what a fun city!20170918_063325