Category Archives: :Location: USA

First Impressions 

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We arrived in Cuba after a seemingly impossibly short flight… well, an impossibly short flight preceded by a classic Josh and Sara route involving a 16 hour road trip with our roommates to the Traverse City Film Festival, a Real Madrid vs. Chelsea football match in Ann Arbor, Michigan, some intense archery and cake auctions and Gravitron shenanigans with Josh’s siblings at the Alma County Fair, and a quick road trip to Toronto with my wonderful mother in law.

Pasties in the Yoopee
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Josh and his mom… alias the Pres-B-Rapperz (please, please ask Josh for a repeat performance!)
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¡Hola Cuba!
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With our only direct flight option being to fly into Varadero, our plan was to arrive there at 1:30PM and get out of there as fast as possible. As previously mentioned, there are a lot of opinions surrounding Cuba, and we were no exception. We had placed Varadero firmly into the category of tourist kitsch, brimming with resorts, overpriced key chains, and restaurants proudly advertising English-speaking servers. However, the vagaries of buying Cuban bus tickets online meant that the only bus that would bring us directly to Santiago de Cuba had us spending the next nine hours in Kitschityville Horror.

Resigned to our fate, we found a friendly Swiss guy to share a cab to the bus station from the airport (he was actually on his way to visit a friend in Vancouver, but as a flight with a 12 hour layover in Cuba was the same price, he had decided to hang out in Cuba for the day), found a guarda-equipaje for our bags (in other words, for $2CUC, we stood them behind the chair of friendly cleaning lady in the bus station), and then we ventured onto the streets of Varadero…

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…And two blocks behind the bus station, found the most glorious white sand beach, sprinkled with only a few sunbathing bodies and a generous serving of reggaeton. Up the street from the water was a neighbourhood dotted with restaurants, where we received our inauguration to Cuba’s frustratingly charming habit of handing you a hefty menu while rapidly reciting the few choices that are actually available. (Side note: My favourite game while dining is now witnessing Josh’s unfailing optimism/denial* as he asks about a different dish that the waiter didn’t mention but perhaps may still be available, and then watching both the waiter’s and Josh’s faces fall into bemusement as the available menu options are repeated.)

Our unexpected welcome to Varadero
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Our resolve to consume only bottled water products lasted exactly how long it took us to realize that all cocktails contained ice cubes. So far, so good! 😉
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Ron de 3 años y Añejo de 7 años. 0.70 cents and $1.20 respectively
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While “No hay!” (We don’t have it!) is indeed ubiquitous in Cuban restaurants, the promises of apathetic service and bland food simply do not deliver. Avocados, spiced tomatoes, tender beef, fresh seafood, tropical fruit, and of course, the classic (and classically named) rice-and-bean dish “Cristianos y Moros” — literally Christians and Muslims — are served in huge quantities by generally smiling waitstaff

So what have we gathered so far? That some sections of Varadero are undeniably kitschy and removed from Cuban reality, while others are definitely not. That some food and certain sabores are lacking in Cuban restaurants, while others are most definitely not. And that some Cubans work in jobs they are not suited for and could care less about, while others (…following me yet?) definitely do not.

When there is a single and controversial political ideal that unites a country, it can be tempting to assign all responsibility for the small faults and annoyances in a country to that ideal. But with excruciating honesty, we admit that in our own country there is merchandise that is occasionally unavailable (I worked at Blockbuster on Friday nights, I saw the madness that ensued when we were out of Little Man!) and service that is occasionally the absolute worst (anyone else remember the terrifying Sub Zero lady?)

Yes, la Revolución has caused some difficulties, as further days of travel and future blog posts will uncover. But in our first few hours in Cuba, we happily discovered that first impressions can make a big impression on unfounded opinions.

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*Editor’s note: While Sara has indeed derived much entertainment from my interaction with waitstaff, optimism/denial are not entirely accurate. Example 1: when you order pizza on the side of the road and the guy asks “cheese?”, it is not unreasonable to ask “oh, what else is there?” If he had simply said “cheese” — full stop — I would have accepted that that was the singular option and that, for some reason, he felt the need to state that. Example 2: when the waitress takes your order for pork, then asks if you want rice with a side of pork, I can not be alone in thinking that clarification is needed, amiright??**

**(Turns out no clarification was needed. I was, in fact, being offered pork with a side of rice and pork.)

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One Night in DC

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We really don’t need any more proof that airline ticket prices are truly the most arbitrary thing in existence.  But if we did, my night in Washington DC could certainly be it.

After a truly wonderful week spent in Ottawa visiting friends and family, I am now making the long and incremental journey to meet up with my estranged wife in Tuxtla, Chiapas, Mexico.  The cheapest flights into Mexico are through Cancun, and the cheapest way from Ottawa to Cancun, according to the airline gods’ whimsy-du-jour, was to spend a night on the set of House of Cards (er, I mean, the capitol city of the most powerful nation on earth).

So with eleven hours, a camera, and the assumption that I’d be able to sleep on the next day’s plane ride (an assumption that did not take into account having the middle seat between two very rotund gentlemen), I set out to see the monuments to the visionaries that, with varying degrees of success and opposition, worked to build a better world.

First up: the Washington monument  

Chez Obama

 

I can only imagine the kind of farmers’ market the U.S. Department of Agriculture puts on..  

Now, I confess, I thought the Lincoln memorial was just him in a chair, and didn’t realize that the chair sits in a marble re-creation of the Acropolis.  I spent a while staring at the map wondering how I’d missed a mind-bogglingly large statue of the greatest president, only to realize I had to actually venture IN the giant Grecian temple.  

 

A tiny, foul-smelling elevator takes you down into an underground museum of sorts, depicting Lincoln’s struggles to maintain the Union, and his personal conviction that all humans are created equal, and that slavery has no place in said creation.  A truly inspiring leader, orator, and man of faith. 


Finally, having acquired a bike, I made my way much more efficiently to the beautiful and powerful monument of one Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
   

  

   

May we all have the audacity to believe.

(…like this guy, who despite five hurricanes has ensured that someone (often himself) has always been at the White House gates to remind the public/media/powers-that-be of some simple truths, 24/7/365 since 1981!)

  

This Adventure Made Possible By…

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Anna Maria Esposita for finding us on the side of the road in Salerno, putting up with our feeble attempts at Italian, and magically making our luggage appear out of nowhere.  Maya, for introducing us to AirBnB in the first place…our travels will never be the same.  Our barista in Vietri Sul Mare (thank you for the doughnuts, we hope you made it to Australia!), and our wildly flirtatious maitre d’ (that wine was impressively strong!).  Fernando, for the ride to the Tiber (we’re sorry if we gave the impression that we wanted to boat back to Rome).  Pope Francis for instilling humanity into our visit to the Vatican.  University of Manitoba College of Medicine for changing the direction of our lives while sitting in a Roman burlap tent!  Jamie Pierce, for pointing us in the direction of Cinque Terre in the first place.  Kaya and Aeden for being the best roommates we could have asked for, and Sarah, Alicia, and Stacey for getting lost with us in one of the most beautiful places on earth.  And for the calamari cones.  Genius.  The Lemon Man, for delicious homemade wine with a side of really disgusting jokes, and the Pizza Man for abusing/believing in your employees (either way, you made a pizza in record time, well done!).  Pak Kashmir Doner Kebab for starting a 3-month-long love affair with kebab…and for not judging us when we came back twice in one day.  The Sprachcaffe receptionist for helping two confused travelers find a place to sleep in a language school.  Pietro for being a (very charming) walking encyclopedia of Florentine espionage.  All’antico Vinaio for your legendary sandwiches and free wine refills (no, seriously, it’s for real!).  The lovely couple who shared coffee with us on the train to Venice.  Archie & sons…your front hall will forever evoke in us a sense of oriental mystery.  The kiosco girl (and all of Vienna, for that matter) for your patience as we realized we knew literally NO Deutsch (“Card!…48?”).  The Musikverien Usher for engaging us in a Viennese musical intrigue and, therefore, much better seats!  Our Bulgarian/Brazillian (Bulgrillian?) cellist hostel roommate.  We tried to find you on iTunes but alas we were…so far…but…so close.  The Heinrich and Kress families for welcoming us so generously into your homes (and travel snacks that nearly broke the bus tables!).  Artur & Irina, we feel like we have a real home in Germany thanks to you.  Robert, Christian, and Erwin, we hope we can jam and play Dutch Blitz again one day!  Johannes for an unexpected evening of German tango (we’ll bring our dancing shoes next time).  Julia & your roommate for making us feel so at home in Köln.  Viel Glück to both of you in your new jobs!  Oma for always talking about your home country and inspiring us to retrace your Sunday walks down the Rhine.  Maybe one day we can go back with you!  Linda, dankjewel for your bikes, your lovely attic, and taking a chance on us as your first AirBnBers!  Edwin and Farah, for taking the time to hang out with us even with your wedding being a week away.  Once a WOOFer, always a WOOFer (ps come to Manitoba, we’ll take you to the snake pits!)  The stars, for aligning so perfectly as to allow us to have a lovely lunch with Dorien.  The Alma Dixons for getting us to and from Europe in the first place (Mom, your axiom of ‘would you rather have stuff or memories?’ has successfully stuck with me into adulthood) and for showing us all the places you always talk about.  The Farnham Dixons for a lovely afternoon and some authentically British fish’n’chips (sans mushy peas, thank-you!).  Wendy for taking this whole motley crew into your home and showing us around Glastonbury. Elly for introducing us to your family (I cannot imagine a more adorable kid to blow bubbles with than your granddaughter) and an evening of reminiscing about icebergs and penguins.  Pete & Patricia for the most incredible Welsh hospitality, and for driving us all over the country at all hours of the night.  Mark Hanford for keeping us simultaneously amused and not dead as we threw ourselves off cliffs into the sea (still waiting for those carpets!).  The disembodied Welsh couple whose voices helped us find our way out of the mist and back to the path somewhere on Mount Snowdon.  Jack Johnson, for being you, and for entirely coincidentally being in Paris at the same time as us.  Andréanne, for showing us around your beautiful new Swiss home.  Irene and Martin for sharing so many things with us: your inspiring work and outlook on life and faith, the truly breathtaking landscapes, and yes, the little bears :P.  Andreas and Simone, also for sharing so many things with us (like mother like son, eh?): your friends, your family, your food, your car, your bike…. That night with the giant map (and the many road trips that ensued) is still a memory that we talk about regularly!  Aric and Gabriel, for being as excited about the high-ropes garden as we were and never judging us on our (lack of) Swiss German. Joël for sharing your beautiful pays et famille. Yannick for the best duck I’ve ever tasted, and Hélène for showing us the work you’re doing to help new immigrants become self-sufficient in Toulouse.  Ron, Nicole, Aimée, Sean (and yes, Cougar) for making us recognize the name Carcassonne, even if we’ll never pronounce it properly.  Les Cabys des Taillades (et oui, de Paris aussi!) for sharing your passion for history, many hours of games (we now have our own Möllky set!), French puns, and more wine and cheese than any North American could comprehend.  Mami Caby, for a beautiful afternoon in St. Jean du Gard, and the silk scarf that’s currently on display in our living room.  Isaac and Sylvia of JUCUM Barcelona for the generous hospitality, the 2AM tour of your majestic city, and showing us what we truly believe is the best beach in Europe.  Hind, Nour, and Adam for helping us finish off the bag of snails and confirming everything we’d heard about the welcoming nature of Moroccans.  Nour, of Sahara Desert Crew, for an unforgettable few days of sights and culture unlike anything else we’ve ever seen (also, your mad photography skills. ‘Nuff said.).  Cafe Restaurant Nora, for providing a literal oasis in the desert (Nothing tastes as good as Berber pizza and Berber whiskey at +50C!) The Samnoun family for taking us in when our hostel was suddenly infested with bedbugs, and Bousha for introducing us to the madness of the Medina (and many, many friends ;)…)

And of course, contributions from VIEWERS LIKE YOU!

Un regreso tan largo

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¡Hola amigos y familia del fin del mundo!

Uh oh… hace mucho tiempo que no he hablado en español, entonces espero que pueden entenderme.

Después tres aviones y 16 horas de viaje, Josué y yo llegamos finalmente en Norteamérica. En principio, visitamos por una semana con la madre de Josué en Alma, Michigan. Que bella sopresa que mi madre estuvo en el aeropuerto también, y ella pasó la semana con nosotros y la familia de Josué en Michigan.

Nuestro concierto en Alma, MI (con la madre de Josué):

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¡Panchos americanos! 

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Después una semana lleno de muchas historias y comida estadounidense (los porciones enormes :O (Comentario de Josué: pero nada como la comida de Verónica o Lanus!)), Josué y mi madre y yo viajamos por bus hasta Ottawa, Ontario, Canadá (whoohoo Canada!!!!!!!!!) para visitar con mi hermana, mi cuñado, y mi nueva sobrina Cedar!! Cedar se nació en noviembre, entonces estuvo la primera vez que yo la vi. Que bella semana que pasamos con mi familia en Ottawa – lleno también de muchas historias y fotos, la comida canadiense (mi cuñado es un cocinero excelente!) y ¡lecciones de mate, por supuesto! Mi hermana esta muy entusiasmada para llevar su propio mate a su trabajo 🙂

Aviones, trenes y automóviles (¡y buses tambien! :P) con la madre de Sara:

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Querida bonita gordita sobrina ❤ (con su pantalones chilenos!)

Image Y, para saludarnos a Canada, 20131112-204353.jpghabía NIEVE por 2 horas en Ottawa!

Con los “Air Miles” de la madre de Josué,  podríamos recibir una vuelta gratis si nuestra vuelta terminó en los Estados Unidos. Entonces, de Ottawa, viajamos por tres aviones hasta Fargo, North Dakota, una ciudad cerca de nuestra hogar de Winnipeg, Manitoba. Si, que raro: viajamos por el mismo cantidad de aviones para viajar de Buenos Aires hasta Norte América que de Ottawa hasta Winnipeg!!
En Fargo, los abuelos y tíos de Josué nos encontraron al aeropuerto, y junto conducimos hasta Morden, una pueblo donde viven los abuelos de Josué. Después algunos días allá, FINALMENTE Josué y yo regresamos a Winnipeg.
¡Que viaje! Pero, no esta el fin de nuestras aventuras… 4 días después que llegamos en casa, empezamos nuestro trabajo al , un campamento bíblico por los niños. Pero, este es una historia por otro tiempo…
A todos nuestros amigos y familia argentinos: No podemos exprimir que preciosos son ustedes a nosotros. Muchísimas gracias a todos por su generosidad, su hospitalidad, su paciencia, y su amistad. Argentina va a tener por siempre un lugar muy especial en nuestro corazón, y estamos muy entusiasmados para regresar y visitarlos otra vez! La invitación a nuestra casa en Winnipeg es siempre un invitación abierto.
¡Hasta luego!
con grandes abrazos de
Sarita y Josué

On the road, somewhere between Flint and Detroit

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Five weeks ago, I walked down an aisle made of all the people I love most in the world towards the man who means the world to me.

August 13, 2011

My other best friend :)

The wedding party... who made it a party!

Off to find an adventure...

Three weeks ago, that man (hereafter known as Joshua) and I were knee-deep in boxes as we packed up my apartment, trying to find places to store all our furniture and worldly possessions for the next 8 months (while still keeping all our travel gear accessible, of course!). Last week, our average bedtime started at 4:30 AM and ended at 8:00 AM, as we crammed every moment full of packing and gear-shopping and goodbye parties, while trying out our new tent by camping in my mom’s front yard.

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Mom and Sean road-tripped with us to Grand Forks to catch our Greyhound bus, which was serendipitously an hour late, giving us more time to sit together in random coffee shops by the bus depot. 🙂

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After 23 hours of Greyhound bus fun (the depot in Kalamazoo* has excellent breakfasts, by the way), we arrived in Alma, MI to spend a few days with Josh’s mom and co. before flying away to Argentina.

However, nothing Josh and I do could be so simple as that! Today, Sheryle drove Josh and I to Saginaw to catch our flight to Chicago, which would connect to Washington, DC, then Buenos Aires (BA), Argentina. But, upon arriving in Saginaw, we were informed that all flights in and out of Chicago were delayed due to rain, and by the time we waited for our flight to Chicago, we would miss our flight to Washington. Despair!

Thankfully, we underestimated the determination of our United Airlines agent. After pulling on his lucky baseball cap, he proceeded to plot out every possibility to get us back on track. I think our favourite option was when he found a flight that would take us up to Toronto and then back down to Texas… He then looked at us worriedly and asked, “I’ll have to check if you have the proper visas to get into Canada.” (I don’t think they get too many Canadians flying out of Saginaw! :P)

Anyways, I am writing this from a McDonalds parking lot en route to Detroit, because our miracle worker found us a United flight from Detroit that would bring us into Washington in time to catch our original flight to Buenos Aires! We are off and running… Wish us luck!

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*For the sake of all you bus-cuisine aficionados out there, the best breakfasts are actually in Milwaukee… Kalamazoo has very little by way of food, but sounds way cooler.