Monday, April 26, 2010

Off to see the Elephants!

Our last couple days have been great, we spent all of Saturday climbing at the Crazy Horse Cliffs outside of Chiang Mai. They were beautiful limestone formations and we had a blast!

Sunday we lazed around during the day, checking email, doing laundry, watching a bit too much TV.... but we were saving our energy for the Sunday Walking Market that afternoon/evening. The street was closed off and the walking market went for at least a mile. Both sides and the middle of the street were lined with tables selling everything from soap carvings to thai pants to chicken satay. We had a fantastic time wandering the market for hours and bargaining with the vendors.

Yesterday we spent all afternoon exploring the Chiang Mai Zoo. It is a huge and well-kept zoo, on par with other great zoos in the States. We saw their three Pandas, some Malaysian Sun Bears, Penguins, and much more. We also spent some time watching the Asian Elephants in preparation for our next adventure...

Today we are taking a bus to the Thai Elephant Conservation Center near a town called Lampang. We are spending three days there learning about their elephants, how they are trained, bathing them, playing with them, visiting their elephant hospital, etc. It is a highly recommended activity in every book we've read and we're really excited for it! If you want to check out their website, it's There are a bunch of great pictures on it that will give you a better idea about what we're doing.

We'll do an update and lots of elephant pictures when we get back on Friday....

Thursday, April 22, 2010

jumping off karsts and flying to Chiang Mai

Our last day in Railay was set aside for Deep Water Soloing (DWS). We took a longtail boat out with a group of about 10 other people and spent the day climbing up big rock formations (karsts) and jumping off them into the water. Travis was a bit more ambitious than Sarah and didn't hesitate to climb hard and jump from high spots. Sarah had a hard time commiting to the first jump, but then it all worked out.

Unfortunately, Sarah was also wrong about there not being any jelly fish. There were some huge pink ones floating around the DWS area and it made us very nervous.

After a couple hours of climbing, jumping, and swimming, we had some lunch and did some snorkeling - beautiful, colorful fish everywhere! Then some more DWS and headed home when the waves got too big.

We had a great time climbing and jumping, but we both decided we prefer to climb with ropes. Although it seems like you would be more free climbing on rock without a harness or rope and jumping into the water when you needed too, it was actually more stressful for us. You don't have the option of taking a break and sitting back in your harness to rest. You also have to constantly watch how far and where you're climbing, so you have a safe place to jump/fall into the water.

The next day we took a longtail boat, a van/taxi, and two flights - arriving in Chiang Mai around 5pm. We found our most recent traveling expedition through Thailand to be just as easy when we arrived, so nice! We've settled into a nice guesthouse in the old city area of Chiang Mai and plan to stay here for the week.

After a day of exploring the city and visiting the night market, we spent today in spot - around a stove. We enrolled in a day-long Thai cooking class and had a great time. We started by going to the local market to learn about the different ingredients and buy what we needed, then took them back to the cooking area to make some delicious food. We each signed up to make different dishes, so Travis and I know 12 Thai dishes between the two of us - not bad for one day. So everyone get ready for some authentic pad thai and spring rolls when we get back!

That's the update for now, we're doing a walking tour of the city and its beautiful wats (buddhitst temples) tomorrow, then Sarah is going back to the Thai cooking place to take a course on carving fruits and vegetables, while Travis goes to the local climbing shop to boulder around their wall for a bit. We head down to Lampang to spend three days at an elephant conservation center next week, so we are packing it all in while we can.

love and hugs to everyone!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Our time in Railay comes to a close

We have had a wonderful time on Railay Beach here in Southern Thailand. We have one more day here and fly out to Chiang Mai (northern Thailand) on Tuesday the 20th. Tomorrow we are spending the day Deep Water Soloing. We go with a guide in a longtail boat out to some different rock formations in the ocean (these formations are called karsts) and climb up them. We do this without any gear (ropes, harnesses, etc.) and when we get high enough or too tired, you just jump off backwards and into the water. Don't worry everyone, tourists with much less climbing experience than us do this each day, we will be safe... If you want to see a demo, Travis says you can look it up on youtube.

We've taken a break from climbing ourselves over the last two days and have been busy watching the Krabi Rock and Fire International Competition. Each day from 10-3 was the lead climbing marathon where teams of two climbed as many routes as they could over the five hours. Then there was speed climbing (with many of the same competitors) who tried to outdo each other and get up the route in the least amount of time. It was incredible to see them scrambling up the cliffs! Last night we watched the finals of the fire competition - stick and poi. Also amazing!

We are excited to head to Chiang Mai and take cooking lessons and explore all the markets. We'll keep you posted as our adventure continues....

p.s. we just posted some new pictures!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Shaving and Bangkok

Firstly, if you have been following international news, you may have heard of the protests against the government happening in Bangkok. We wanted to let everyone know that we are keeping an eye on the situation and our current plan does not involve going into the city of Bangkok - so don't worry everyone! We will be flying out of Bangkok to come home, but the airport is well out of the downtown city area where the protests are happening.

On a much lighter note, we wanted to share the story of Travis trying to shave last night. It began with a fantastic climbing session on the nearby Diamond Cave cliffs. We were scaling the cliff face as the sun was setting a brilliant pink and it could not have been prettier. But it was still very hot, despite being about 7pm. So Travis decided it was finally time to break out the beard trimmer and shorten his facial hair. We knew the trimmer would not work when it was plugged in because it requires a 150 volt current and the one here runs between 200 and 250. But Travis hoped the battery that charges as you use it still had some juice from the last shave in CT (although that was about 5 weeks ago). He knew he had to go fast, so he turned on the trimmer and ran it all over his face as quickly as possible...but it died part way through. So he was left with patches of longer beard all around and the rest of his face was smooth. Basically it looked like he had been attacked by a frantic child with a razor.

After a minute of despair, I suggested he let me shave him with my disposable razor and soap. He panicked and said, "no way!" Very afraid that I would cut open his face. Travis pleaded with me to go around to the different rooms or restaurants and ask people for either a beard trimmer or shaving cream. I finally convinced him to just let me try with the razor and soap and that if it hurt I would go look for something else. So I got out razor and soap, turned on the faucet to wet his face and.... there was no water, just air bubbles and a loud gurgling sound.

So we got out the bottled water and pack towel, wet and lathered his face, and started shaving. Surprisingly to Travis, he had to concede that my method worked ok. The shaving done, and still no water to rinse off with, he went to the front desk to find out what was going on - face still covered in soap and hair. They said, "no water right now, maybe soon." So he jumped in the pool still covered in beard hair and soap!

Ah, the adventures you never guess you'll have!

This morning we rented a sea kayak and snorkel masks and spent 2 1/2 hours paddling around. It is just so beautiful! Besides the phenomenal cliffs and sparkling turquoise waters, we saw some really cool multicolored crabs, an incredible bright blue bird (Leslie we tried to take a picture, but it didn't work too well), and schools of shiny fish that jump out of the water in groups, it's like a Planet Earth documentary here. We tried to snorkel, but nothing too great right around here...we're going to try another spot in about a week.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Law School

Ok, everyone, it's official. Travis and I are headed to Boston in the fall! I have chosen to attend Northeastern's School of Law and we could not be more excited!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

hot hot hot

Well we are having a great time in Thailand. It is very hot here so our activities are dictated by the weather. We are getting up early to climb in the shade, then spend the afternoon on the beach and exploring the area jumping from shady spot to shady spot. We are making sure to drink plenty of water though. We have found a place selling 6 liter bottles of water for relatively cheap so we keep getting those and filling our smaller bottles. We've decided to line up all the big jugs and keep track of how much we drink in a week....

We've been eating lots of pad thai and thankfully Sarah's stomach is slowly recovering from whatever plagued it the other day.

We just put up some new pictures, a final installment from India and some ones from Thailand. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Beaches and Climbing

We made it! We had an easy flight down to Krabi, bus to Ao Nang, then a longtail boat ride to Railay Beach. We have found a nice little bungalow (for 500 baht a night, about 18 US dollars) and rented it for the week. Yesterday we climbed a bit but had to stop in the afternoon because of a torrential rainshower. Today was beautiful, but hot, and Sarah wasn't feeling great, so we relaxed and took it easy - laying on the beautiful beach and napping in bed. We are both eager to get climbing, so hopefully Sarah will feel better tomorrow.

The beach is a gorgeous tan color and the water is picture perfect aquamarine. There aren't any major creatures in this area, so swimming is even better (no sharks, jelly fish, or other crazy animals in the water). Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the land. There are gigantic, red and orange centipedes that are about 6 inches long and as wide as your thumb, with tons of creepy crawly legs - yuck! They also happen to be poisonous... We saw three after the rainstorm yesterday and were majorly freaked out! Hopefully that was a rare siting, but probably not....

We are loving the awesome thai food - curries and pad thai galore - and are planning on taking a cooking class on one of our climbing rest days.

That's the update for now, we seem to have found a pretty speedy internet connection and will try to post some Thailand pictures soon.

lots of love to everyone!
S and T

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ah... Thailand!

 The last couple days have been quite a journey - literally. We took the overnight Darjeeling Mail train to Kolkata and arrived tired and ready to leave India. But we were pleasantly surprised with Kolkata - we were in the non-touristy section so we didn't have to deal with a constant bombardment of food and wares. We were able to wander the town and bit and get some necessary errands done. After a meal at McDonalds - a cultural experience in itself since the menu and atmosphere are completely different, no beef products, a paneer wrap, and security guards at the doors.

Today we flew to Thailand and are already loving it! Everything is cleaner and much more traveler-friendly. We easily booked a hotel room at the airport and caught the 24 hour shuttle to the hotel. It's the cleanest room we've seen in at least a week and we're going to truly enjoy our clean sheets and hot shower tonight!

We're flying to the south of Thailand tomorrow morning - to Krabi. And are already dreaming of the glorious beaches that await us....

More to come soon, as soon as we find internet that is....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The last few days have been spent relaxing and exploring Darjeelijng. Travis and I went to the local zoo and saw some animals found in India. Some favorites included the Indian Tiger, Asiatic Bear (very furry), and the Red Panda. We also visited the Himalayan Mountain Institute and saw the gear used in many Everest expeditions. The sherpa who accompanied Hillary on the first summit of Everest, Tenzing Norgay, lived near Darjeeling and founded the HMI so much of his gear was in the museum - very cool! We also went to the Happy Valley Tea plantation, tried out some of "best quality" tea and took a tour of the factory where they dry and process the tea.

We have made a number of observations while wandering the town... Travis noticed that here, and even in the much busier cities, there are no to-go coffee cups or places to get them. Everyone may be rushing around in a hectic manner, but they always take the time to squat down with their friends and drink a cup of chai. A less quaint habit is that of the morning phlegm. Each morning you can hear everyone deeply clearing their throats and hacking up phlegm that is then spit at random all over the street and walkways. This is definitely an hazard to watch out for when walking to breakfast!

The book "Holy Cow" has made the rounds from Leslie to Travis to Sarah and we definitely recommend reading it! Anyone who wants to get an idea of India should read it. The author describes the life and culture vividly. Over our time in India we have experienced the first 100 or so pages first hand - crazy traffic, beggers everywhere, all manner of vehicles and animals in the road, the inability for locals to say "no," fantastic chai tea, the paradox of generosity and swindling foreigners out of money, and delicious spicy food.

If anyone knows of a similar book relating to Thailand, we'd love to know about it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Sad Parting of Ways...

Today Travis and I said a sad goodby to Leslie, Eric, and Carrie. They headed down the windy road from Darjeeling to Bagdora and then boarded the first of many planes that will take them back to CT. We were sad to see them go, but we all had an incredible time over the past few weeks. The trek was a great time to strain the body instead of the mind - lots of strenuous hiking, but plenty of quiet beauty. We spent 4 nights, 5 days in the foothills of the Himalayas and didn't see much but fog - despite multiple 5:30am wakeups to try and have a clear view. One morning we jumped out of bed, ran up a hill, and were rewarded with a few glimpses of the elusive and beautiful mountains - spectacular and huge!

Travis and I are enjoying a couple relaxing days in Darjeeling and then head to Thailand on April 1st. We are wishing Leslie, Eric, and Carrie a safe trip home and will try to post pictures over the next couple days - send us speedy internet wishes everyone!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

a whole new world

It would seem like there's not much to say after a day of flights.  There flights work like local buses.  I think if they could find a way to keep the plane moving and drop people off, they would do it.  To catch a bus, you simply jump does slow down...and the same for getting off.  so we went from Udaipur to Jaipur in 35 minutes, then Jaipur to Delhi in another 35 minutes, then in delhi we had 15 minutes to catch our next plane.  They got a shuttle bus just for us and moved us directly to our next plane without leaving the tarmak.  where in america do you get that kind of service.  Then our plane from Delhi was direct to Bagdogra...That was the calm part of the trip.  The 3 hour car ride to Darjeeling was wild...they make our switchbacks look like a straight line.  and we went straight 7,000 ft.  AND it is a whole new world.  there are many nepalese and tibetians.  the driving reminded us that we were still in india.  But our lunch was full of dumplings and noodles with a dash of indian dishes.  So its 9pm and the gang is all asleep.  We did get up at 5 am to catch our flights.  We've repacked our bags and we're ready to go. we love our guide who speaks excellent english.  The weather is refreshing...warm during the day and cool at night.  We have a guide and porters so we're in for a treat.  We'll be huffing and puffing with our day bags.  its alot of ups and downs.  so this is really it for a while on the blog.  we'll be back on thursday night...or whenever the 25th is. 

the himaylas from the plane were we are fogged in but as we go up in elevation he said it will probably clear...hey, if we never see the mountains then it only means we HAVE to come back.  the rhodendrons are in full bloom and they are pretty spectacular. 

with love from  India and soon to be Nepal...we found out that we actually hike back and forth between the two countries. 

Friday, March 19, 2010

feet, friends, and festivals

march 19, 2010  Leslie writing;

Its mid afternoon in Udaipur and the group is all taking a rest from the intense heat of the day. Me, I am raring to go.  I have gotten more sleep on this trip than I have in many years.  But you would never recognize me on the streets...slow paced walk...strolling would be how some would describe it.  That's just the pace around here.  As a matter of fact the one time that I walked briskly an indian man made a comment to me.  And that explains the feet part in the title.  First our feet are flithy by the end of the day.  but don't worry they get a good scrubbing each night.  Next since we arrived in Udaipur 3 days ago, we have not been in a car or a tuk tuk once. The Rajasthan part of our trip has been alot of driving.  We were in Delhi for a total of 14 hours (10 of those asleep), then we had a day in Agra where we were truly moved by Agra fort and the Taj Mahal.  Next onto to Jaipur for 2 nights, then Pushkar for one night and then here to Agra.  lots of driving in between.  So you can imagine how thrilled we were to land in Udaipur on use only our legs for transportation. Its a great  place to wonder around.  our hotel is smack in the middle of everything so its easy to wander around on our own and use the hotel as a meeting place.  Except that we really have our "gang' as the meeting place.  on the first day, walking down a street we saw 2 guys playing cards.  We asked them what they were playing and that was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.  I went in the shop to buy an ankle bracelet and next thing we know carrie is outside learning the card game...From the card game we joined them for Chai...that's the tea with milk and spices that is drunk all day long...We spent the last 3 days hanging out with these friends.  they are shop a jewelry store, Babu is the owner of journals and other handmade books, and Akshay is a tour guide.  They all speak very good english and they have offered us many wonderful tips for our stay in udaipur.  They found us a lovely woman to give us a cooking out we can make a mean dal, purri, pakoras, and chappatis.  Babu sent eric and travis to his must see eric in order to understand but it was a great experience.  These barbers have one up on the american ones...travis and eric got head, shoulder and arm massages along with haircuts and shaves.  of course i can't forget the sitar lessons eric has taken.

Udaipur is a lovely place...but i guess our timing was pretty special unbeknown to us. They are celebrating the Mewar Festival for 3 days.  It is a festival for woman to get all decked out in their brightest colors.  now Rajasthan is known for the bright colors of the sarees so you can only imagine the ocean of brillant colors that bathed our  eyes yesterday.  It is also the festival celebrating the mother goddess and it only happens here and in jaipur.  We finally finished with the festival at 8pm and sat down at the restaurant on the roof top (which around here is everywhere) and as soon as we sat down the fireworks from across the lake started. what a show...what a view...the sliver of the moon, the white palaces, the lights and the fireworks...i don't know, but it was a pretty impressive festival...

oh i guess i should add the game of cricket that travis joined in the middle of this festival. That was his second of the day...the first was with 3 little kids who also gave him a run for his money.

Cant wait for tonights part of the festival...

It has been an eating delight all the way.  Tonight's thali meal which means "all you can eat" recommended by Babu as his favorite place should be quite the experience.

We leave Udaipur tomorrow morning for a day of travel...up to Darjeeling.  Cooler and very different.  But you will probably not hear from us for the next week because we begin our trek on sunday morning.  We have a fabulous trek planned from village to village with views of the highest peak in india as well as Everest.  But what's the difference - all those peaks are going to seem other worldly.  We will be staying in tea house and although cell phones are EVERYWHERE here and used by everyone we don't really expect to see a computer for the week.  Then it will just sarah and travis who will take over the blog because carrie, eric and i will be on our way home.  We are so looking forward to sharing stories and pictures with you.

Everyone wants to know when we are will happen...this place is contagious...

Perhaps we can get some more photos up for you before the end of today


Monday, March 15, 2010

Picture At Last!

We finally have a moment to breathe and are taking the afternoon to relax in Jaipur and load some pictures, send some emails, take a nap...

We spent the morning touring the palaces and forts of Jaipur - what beautiful architecture and sculpture work! We have also been doing some shopping at the local markets and working on our bargaining skills. Jaipur is known as the "pink city" because all the buildings in the old, original part of town, are painted pink. Everything was painted pink about a hundred years ago when the king wanted to welcome the Prince of Wales to the city - pink is the color of hospitality - and the color stuck.

I'm keeping the post short today and am going to work on posting pictures instead.... Just click on the mini-slideshow to the right and it will take you to an online album. The internet is a bit slow, so there aren't tons of pictures, but we'll keep posting as we go...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

An Average Day with Eric

March 14
The temperature reached 100 degrees today, which led me to wonder: what's the hot season like? 

Lets do some math.  9,000 people a day visit the Taj Mahal.  Figure that they take 20 photos each.  The Taj Mahal is open to the public approximately 300 days a year. That's 60,000,000 photos every year. Not for lack of talent or trying, but not one will capture the beauty of the place.  Kipling, who had a way with words, wrote that words could not describe the Taj Mahal.  You just have to be there.

Mungo Jerry's 1970 hit song "In the Summer Time" has always been the go-to song in my head when I am daydreaming, getting chewed out by a boss or being lectured by Leslie.  A line in the song goes like this..." when the sun goes down we can make it, make it good in a lay bye".  I never knew what it meant until today. A lay bye is a truck reststop.  I guess I have to thank India for that insight.

They drive like madmen here.  Or, it seems that way.  If it truly was however, you would see accidents or the signs of previous accidents in the form of dented fenders, broken headlights and so on.  But you don't.  Why?
In economics, a moral hazard is a situation in which a person will take unreasonable risks because they think they will be bailed out of their troubles by insurance, by lawyers, by their moms and dads. In India, those safety nets can be safely assumed to be non-existent.  And so while their seemingly madman-like behavior appears to be unsafe, they may actually be some of  the safest drivers on the planet.  I will take my chances on the roads of India than on the streets of New York any day.

Left to their own, without silly breeding by humans for silly characteristics, I have learned that all dogs basically end up looking the same:  short hair, 40 lb range, shepherd-like snout, droopy ears.  A no-frills smart as heck creature.  And it makes me wonder.  If humans ended up loving and having offspring without regard for their mate's skin color, ethnicity or social rank, what look would we tend towards?  Your ideas are welcome. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

kerala, the land of coconuts

The slow life of Kerala is coming to an end.  This morning we joined the naturalist who took us on a bird watching expedition. The kingfisher is one of more magnificent birds I've ever seen. Take a moment and google it to see a picture. we saw at least 3 varieties.  The 28 different birds that we saw were all beautiful so it was a lovely morning.

We leave again, (5 hotels in 5 nights) to go to Cochin...a real city with lots of people. We will be coastal for one more night.  I believe Eric has already got the name of a music shop for us to in Kerala the smell of coconut is everywhere.  we wear it, we eat it, we drink it, you name it they do it. Did we tell you that Sarah and I had a massage which was basically a coconut oil bath...

time to check out...i promise I'll get sarah to post some pictures since I Know you want to see what its all about.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

still in backwaters

march 10th.  we're back on land but continue to be surrounded by water.   We've just watched another incredible sunset wondering whatever happened to eric.  Last thing we knew he was playing the tabla and getting a lesson.  We imagined that he went home with the instructor.  But that's just us having fun.  Actually he went out on a sunset cruise with the Tabla teacher.  Meanwhile Sarah, travis and I went down the path along the canal and went back to the home to get our fabric fitted.  Let me explain...earlier in the day on a similar walk down the path, we said hi to everyone and talked to a few.  One woman was cleaning her fish and happy to talk with us.  Next thing we knew we were invited into her house.  We were seated, given fresh coconuts to drink and learned about her life.  All the while she continued to cook and care for her 3 year old son.  She excused herself for a moment to take a bath in the canal since her husband (by arranged marriage) would be home shortly to go off to temple.  After her bath, she dressed herself in a beautiful outfit which we of course, complimented.  And then came the offer to buy us fabric in town and her friend could sew us an outfit tonight.  So we went for our fitting and tomorrow we'll get the finished goods by 9am.  At first she said come back at 10 but then remembered that she had to be in the fields working at 10am.  so after a sunrise birdwatching expedition we'll go back to her house and get our outfits.  meanwhile Eric will be taking another tabla lesson. 

To back up just a drop...we had 24 hours on a houseboat through the backwaters of Kerala.  These are people who live among the rice paddies.  this is considered a rice bowl of india.  And I agree with the locals that these are the friendliest people.  We have slowed our pace considerably...yes, this is true for even me.
I can't post any pictures at this moment...but stayed tuned we'll get to it a bit later. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

First Days in India!

Well, we made it! We entered the totally new and incredible land of India last Sunday and have been loving every minute of it.

After days of flying, including a layover in London where the flight information system had failed, we finally arrived in Bangalore, India early Sunday morning. We were lucky enough to meet up with our new friend Raju, who has helped us to plan the details of our trip over the last few months.

After a few hours in Bangalore, we boarded another flight to Kochi. At the Kochi airport, we met up with our driver for the week, Bijou. He took us to our first destination, a homestay in the country. It was a beautiful house with a lovely family.

After too little time at the homestay, we got back in the car with Bijou and headed to the "small town" of Allepey. This bustling city has been great to explore for the last 24 hours and we are staying right next to the Arabian Sea - beautiful and so warm! We spent a couple hours on the beach last night and met some great new friends who are striving to break the world record for frisbee - for speed and distance throwing.

I am frantically typing as we have to go pack up and head to our next adventure: a 20 hour houseboat ride down the backwaters of Kerala (the southern area we are in now), which is one of the top 100 places to see before you die.

More details and pictures to come, but we are posting a few now....

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


New pictures have been posted and a text update is coming soon! Travis and I have arrived back in CT safely and are frantically unpacking, laundering, repacking, and doing last minute errands in an effort to get ready for India (our flight leaves in less than 48 hours!) We promise to try and keep the blog updated as we travel and love that you all are out there reading it!

Friday, February 5, 2010

An Update... Finally!

Our apologies to everyone who is following our blog, we know it's been way too long since we've given you an update! On the bright side, we have lots of new pictures and events to share with you.

Remember, you can click on the picture slideshow to the right and see all of the pictures in a more viewable
size. We've posted lots of new and great ones!

Since it's been awhile, we are just going to post some highlights about recent events:

Travis has been moved up to Grouse Mountain and has been working very hard up there each day. He is helping with the set up of lights, cameras, and all the cables that go with them. For those of you who don't know, the Today Show will be filming at Grouse Mountain each morning once we get going out here. Travis can also be seen in the background of a local news clip: The small room full of equipment is our transmission room. Then we see Travis is the background taping up his finger while our friend Van is hard at work coiling cable. The red tram they show footage of is what Travis rides up to work each day and what we will all be taking up each night when we start filming live. I am still based at the IBC (International Broadcasting Center) in downtown Vancouver and am keeping very busy with airport pick ups, general errands, and segment research for the producers and production managers. 

We've been eating at lots of great restaurants around town and have definitely found some delicious and cheap local places to go. These include a fantastic Japanese Ramen House, the JappaDog hot dog stand (hot dogs with toppings like bento flakes and nori strips), and a yummy greek wrap place. We're also enjoying the newly expanded menu at the IBC commissary - free food for us NBC employees and it's pretty good too!

I got a chance to go up to Whistler last week and it was beautiful! I also got to see the official bobsledding/luge/skeleton course. It's so big and icy! I can't post those pictures yet (they are very strict about what we can post and write during our time of employment) but one day... Whistler has plenty of snow and the events should be great! The medal ceremony stage is still under construction but it is going to be beautiful!

We are both definitely getting into the flow of work and feeling adjusted to Vancouver. Of course, starting next week, we are going to switch schedules and begin the crazy shifts (probably 2pm to 2am or 10pm to 10am) so we're trying to get lots of sleep and prepare ourselves for that.

Not much exploring happening anymore because we are too busy. Our days generally consist of waking up, getting ready for and going to work, having dinner in the commissary, coming home, going to sleep. So nothing too exciting to share. But the captions on the newly posted pictures will give you a bit more info.

We love you all and are thinking of you often, xoxo

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

It's still raining, but we're still smiling...

It's Thursday and it's still raining. But, determined to continue venturing out, we went to the Museum of Anthropology. It was beautiful and breathtaking. The totem poles are just so incredible! There were also some great displays of other carved items. We also saw these big boxes that were made to be watertight for storage of food and possessions. The carvers would take a long strip of wood and notch it in three places, creating four panels. Then they would steam the wood to soften it so it bent at the notches and formed the four sides. Then they sealed the fourth edge and another square to the bottom to create a box, incredible! We also saw some old ceramics, carved wooden pipes, masks, knives and arrows. After the museum it was still pouring rain and had gotten very cold, so we took a bus into downtown Vancouver and went to see Avatar again, but this time in 3D. Overall, another good day, but the weather is definitely wearing on us. A lady at the nearby pharmacy said this is an unusual amount of rain, even for here. It is a bit warmer than normal, so we are getting rain instead of snow. Even the locals are tired of it. Cypress Mountain has closed completely because the grounds are getting ruined and need to be used for the Olympics.

On Friday it was still raining so we had a lazy morning then ventured out after lunch. Thankfully it had quit raining and we were able to walk around more of the city. We took the opportunity of dryness to explore Chinatown. Our first stop was the beautiful and simplistic Andy Livingston Park. It was lots of grassy areas with pretty trees and a stream running down through it. The stream flowed into various pools along the way and there was a pathway of cement shapes running through both the grass and over the water that you could walk up. It was beautiful! It's hard to describe but there are pictures in the online album to give you a better idea.  Then we went to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s Traditional Chinese Garden that is a replica of a 15th century Ming Dynasty tea garden. It was beautiful as well, and for the complete opposite reasons as the Livingston Park. It was ornate and every detail was done to perfection. The stone floor of the outdoor garden was composed of thousands of different colored stones that were arranged into patterns, the rooms were made without the use of any sort of nail or screw. We drank Chinese tea and learned that the pools in the middle of the courtyard were intentionally cloudy so that they reflected the sky and clouds better. We also saw various artifacts, tiny women’s shoes for women who bound their feet (the ideal size was 7-10 centimeters long!), and intricately sewn children’s clothing. After this garden, we wandered around and finally found a place to get a snack. After leaving the restaurant we both were sure we ate a ton of MSG (and we felt the effects for the rest of the day). Yuck! From Chinatown, we wandered up to Gastown – the oldest area of Vancouver and where the city got its start. The area was founded by Gassy Jack, hence its name, and, of course, I had to get a picture of Travis posing with the statue of Ol' Gassy! We also saw the steam clock, which is just what it sounds like – a big clock powered by steam. From Gastown, we mad our way back to downtown Vancouver and happened to hear some music. So we went down to the Robson ice skating rink where there was a band playing on a stage next to the rink. So we joined the audience on the stairs (they even had bins of seat cushions for people to use and return) and listened to the band and watched the people ice skate. It was wonderful! For dinner we went to Tsunami Sushi and had a great time! We sat at the sushi bar so there was a ring of water with big wooden boats in a train floating around in it. On each boat were different plates of sushi, maki rolls, oysters, chicken wings, gyoza (dumplings), ginger, and wasabi. The plates were color coded to indicate their prices, and you just took whatever you wanted to eat as it went by. Travis and I sampled quite a few different dishes and had a great time watching the sushi float by. We, unknowingly, ate raw scallops and they were actually quite good.

Saturday we woke up to sun! Hooray! So after breakfast we packed a lunch and took the bus to Pacific Spirit Park near the UBC campus. We spent the next two hours hiking on the trails through the park and taking loads of pictures. It was so beautiful! Such huge trees and lush ferns and moss. The trails were leash optional for dogs so there were tons of dogs running around and playing together, so cute! We walked across the park and had lunch looking out of the Pacific Ocean, then took different trails to get back to the other side and catch the bus home. After a little rest, we took the sky train into downtown and decided to inquire about Olympic event tickets again. There weren’t that many left, only hockey, curling, and ceremonies! So we decided to get tickets to the USA vs. Norway men’s hockey game. The only tickets left for this game were “obstructed view” but we went for it anyway. The other options were seeing women’s games, which Travis didn’t want because they don’t hit each other, or seeing a game with two random teams, like Latvia and Switzerland. The tickets turned out to be really good seats (row 5!), so we’re hoping the obstruction isn’t too bad. After another good dinner at “our” ramen house, we went back to the Robson skating rink and listened to a great jazz band play and watched the ice skaters.

Sunday we headed out into the rain, again, and went to Main St. The whole street was lined with outdoor shops. After going in one expensive one, we found the Mountain Equipment Co-Op that was like a huge superstore of outdoor stuff – clothes, tents, shoes, books, etc. You pay $5 to be members for one year and then you can shop there, and the prices are very reasonable. After the co-op, we went climbing for a couple hours and had a good time. The gym was still busy, but much more manageable this time. Then we came home, cooked a nice dinner, and settled in to bed early to get ready for work the next day.

Today was our first day of work! We got up early and headed down to the IBC (International Broadcasting Center, where all the different networks are based). Erin, the manager of the Runners, gave us a brief introduction and then assigned our first tasks. Travis was given the responsibility of “Olympic Venues” so he spent much of the day being driven around Vancouver to learn where all the venues were and information about them. I say he was driven because there is a whole team of people whose job it is to drive the NBC crew around in NBC cars. My job was to unpack and program cell phones. So another runner, Valerie, and I spent 2 hours inputting numbers into the master phones, and the next 5 hours synching those phones with the 100 or so other phones that are distributed to each member of the Today Show crew. It actually wasn’t that bad though because we had two people unpacking phones and Valerie and I programming, so we really spent those hours getting to know each other and chatting about everything imaginable. The whole group of "Runner" staff seems great and we're both excited to be working with everyone! We left work early today, around 5pm (we’re told to enjoy it while it lasts because many days will be 9am to 9pm) and a group of us headed to the Olympic Store to look at all the merchandise. Most of us bought the “hot” Olympic item – red mittens that have the Olympic rings on the top and the Vancouver maple leaf on the bottom. Very cute! Overall a good first day, although, happily, we are being eased into the workload. We'll keep you all posted as the week progresses...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

First Days in Vancouver...

Well, we made it! Travis and I arrived at Vancouver International Airport on Monday afternoon and passed through customs easily. The highlight of the plane ride for me was playing with a very cute 14 month old girl who was seated with her family in the aisle across from us. We had a great time bouncing and looking out the window - plus it kept my mind off the stress of flying! Another highlight was seeing a woman (about mid-twenties) get off our plane wearing a full Pikachu ( from pokemon) outfit, yellow from the head down and a hood with Pikachu's face and ears on it) and cowboy boots!

Once we got our bags, we grabbed a taxi and headed to our new home, the Cambie House, which is in a residential area of Vancouver.We settled into our room at Cambie (that was, to our surprise, actually a house, rather than the dormitory/apartment style building we had been expecting). Our room is quite nice though, a bit less formal than it seems in the pictures, but inviting and certainly fine for us. We met our roommates: Erin, Tenille, Omar and Nigel. Erin and Tenille are from elsewhere in Canada and are going to school here, Nigel is from New Zealand and Omar is from Iraq, both are here working for a bit.

After settling in, we went grocery shopping and discovered that while Vancouver seems very similar to an American city, there are enough small differences to throw you off (especially when you are sleep deprived). For example, brands we have in America (like Raisin Bran or Yoplait) have different designs and logos here. Butter comes in blocks wrapped in foil and looks like a package of cream cheese (of course I took a picture). And many things are labeled in French. There is also a large Japanese population in the area so we see lots of Japanese restaurants, stores, ingredients, and language characters everywhere. We hope this means good sushi is forthcoming! Another highlight of the walk to the grocery store was seeing an odd little house in the row of regular houses. It has a very strange looking roof of black and brownish yellow that looks rippled. It is squat and has a cute little chimney. All in all it definitely looks like a hobbit house. I tried to take a picture, but it was getting dark. I'll include it but also try to take a better picture later, since it is so funny!

Tuesday was our first day of Vancouver exploration. Thankfully we were able to sleep-in somewhat and left the house feeling awake and ready to go. We took the sky train (the local subway) into downtown Vancouver and immediately did the opposite of cultural immersion – we went to Starbucks. After wandering around aimlessly for a bit, we found the Canada Center for the Olympics (a new glass building and gigantic white tent both on a new pier out over the water). Next to that we saw our workplace-to-be: the International Broadcasting Center (IBC). We couldn’t go in, but we could see piles of boxes and equipment stacked up in all the rooms – clearly we are going to have some unpacking to do next week. Then we found the Vancouver Information Center that was very helpful. Besides maps and cultural information, we also learned that some Olympic Event tickets are still available for purchase (even by Americans like us since we are in Canada already). We are going to try to get tickets for an event soon, once we arrange our work schedule. Next we walked around Robson Street and found a great Japanese Ramen Bar. Travis said it was very authentic, and just like being in Japan. It was my first experience with something other than packaged Maruchan Ramen and I thought it was very good. After lunch, we walked down to the coast and had a lovely stroll around the edge of Stanley Park. Even with the constant mist and low clouds, it was a beautiful walk. The forest here is so unlike what we are used to and the trees are absolutely huge! Our walk led us to an area with totem poles and then to the Vancouver Aquarium. One interesting thing about the aquarium is that some of the outer walls have tiles of mesh and plants growing out of them. A sign said that the plants collect the runoff from the rainwater in order to ease the burden of all the street drains. Excess runoff is also collected elsewhere and used to flush the aquarium toilets – what a cool way to be green, especially since it seems to never stop raining here! The aquarium was awesome! We saw fantastic jellyfish, the biggest freshwater fish in the world (the arapaima), and a giant sea turtle. We also saw a cute otter sleeping on its back, some beluga whales, and pacific northwest dolphins (which are black and white). A highlight for me was the Planet Earth Shallow Seas movie in 4D. Travis thought it was a bit cheesy, but I loved it. It was a 20 minute movie about creatures in the ocean, we got the 3D effect by wearing 3D glasses, and the 4D effect from the theater. During the movie, our seats rumbled and shook, we got sprayed with mist and air, bubbles came out of giant blowers in the walls, and our legs got hit with a little plastic whippy thing. For example, when the camera went underwater into a school of fish, bubbles would blow out of the wall; and when a whale blew out its blowhole, we’d get sprayed with mist. It was so much fun! We also saw a short dolphin show that was great. It’s amazing how fast they can swim (35 km/hour) and how high they can jump! Plus they are so smart and playful! After the aquarium we took a bus back into the downtown area and wandered some more. We hit a crepe place (I got a nutella and strawberry crepe that was yummy!) and then a hot dog stand for Travis. All in all, we probably walked about 5 miles and our feet were tired at the end of the day! We're hoping to go skiing/snowboarding this week, but the mountains have been closed because of the rain and and warm temperatures (in the mid-40s). So fingers crossed the conditions get better!

Today we had a leisurely morning, mostly because we couldn’t come to a decision about what we should spend the day doing. After making and discarding a variety of plans, we finally decided to go to Granville Island. It was definitely a good choice, and we spent a lovely couple of hours wandering around their public market (lots of fresh fruit, veggies, fish, meats, homemade breads and treats, and a variety of other stalls). Travis' favorite thing was seeing stand after stand of fresh fish. We are definitely going to go back and do some shopping for meals. After the market, we walked through some of the town, which was dominated by galleries and craft stores. My favorite shop was StoneAge Art Company, which featured statues and figurines of all sizes carved from stones in Zimbabwe. They were beautiful and amazing (and very pricey)! The owner of the shop was born and raised in Zimbabwe and travels there often to visit friends/family and pick sculptures for his business. After wandering some more (highlights included a small house on a raised platform high in the air with a crane (see pictures) and houses built out on the water with their boats anchored outside their doors. We were very jealous!) Then we headed back to the market and had a fantastic lunch from some of the vendors (homemade smoked salmon chowder and a prawn salad roll for Travis; chicken pot pie and a raspberry tart for me, yummy!) After lunch, we wandered down to the pier and found a stand next to the water that sells fish and chips, we'll definitely have to come back for that too. After that, we came home, gathered our stuff and went to a nearby rock gym. It was crowded but very fun. Hopefully we will be able to go back a couple times before we leave and keep our climbing muscles in shape for Thailand.

That's the news so far, we are hoping to visit the Museum of Anthropology tomorrow and take a hike along the Pacific coast. Then explore Chinatown (markets and an authentic Chinese garden) the next day. All in all, we're keeping busy and having a great time!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Holiday Greetings

Hello and Happy Holidays!

This is our inaugural post on a blog that we hope to update fairly frequently. Our intent is to keep all of you, family and friends, informed on our travels and adventures.

Most recently, we spent a wonderful week skiing (Sarah) and snowboarding (Travis) in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, with Travis' family (parents, sisters, aunt, uncle, and cousins). All in all, the 11 of us spent Christmas week flying down the slopes, playing lots of games, and eating way too much food!

We are currently at the family house in the Catskill Mountains of New York (an annual Rubury New Year's tradition). This week consists of more fun in the snow (sledding this time), playing lots of games, and eating way too much food! A holiday pattern is definitely developing...

Travis and I are heading to Vancouver on January 11th to begin six weeks of work for NBC's Today Show at the Olympics! Needless to say, we are very excited! After much searching, we found a (hopefully) nice and fairly affordable place to stay in downtown Vancouver. It is a block away from the SkyTrain and will be a perfect home base while we work in and explore the city.

We return from Vancouver on March 3rd and leave for India on March 5th (Yikes!) with Travis' parents, Leslie and Eric, and sister Carrie. Carrie is already planning to immerse herself fully in India culture (complete with primitive bathroom accommodations and food from carts on the street). Meanwhile, Eric and I are voted most likely to soak in the culture while scouring the town for a Starbucks.

It is going to be a fantastic next couple months and we promise to post pictures and stories as often as possible!

All our love and happy holidays to you all,
Sarah and Travis