Saturday, December 5, 2015

Without words

This is Mike...
While walking through Miami International Airport, after arriving from Uruguay, I stumbled upon a new customer service hologram. These new pods will be coming to a airport near you. The hologram image was of a beautiful, tall, well busted Latina. The lady in the hologram spoke English and Spanish fluently, and could access other languages if requested. All you had to do was push a button and you could be electronically guided. Soon all of us will be saying, "I can remember a day when people did this."
   I went to a restaurant in Austin, the other day, that has 3 registers two of which were touch screens and one which had an actual human. These positions were formerly starter jobs for young people trying to save for a surfboard, car, or whatever. We are being maximized by our employers and soon to be replaced. Many tech companies are trying to develop driver-less cars. What about the taxi drivers or school bus drivers who have families to feed? I get it, I see the advantage of having a hot pod like I saw in Miami, it works 24/7, never requests holidays off, and never has any of those pesky pregnancy issues.
   I miss seeing the bio-luminescence in the waters of Central America, seeing the fisherman come in after a long days work. I miss the simplest of things that give depth to human interaction. When I become a grandfather I will tell my little ones of a time where people went out shopping, spoke with cashiers, shook a bank teller's hand, laughed at silly jokes. I'll explain till I am blue in the face that the world is not in the computer, it is outside your door. Years ago I took a communications course in college and learned that non-verbals represent 90% of communication. The squint of your eyes, the tone of your voice, the smile on your face all add depth and punctuate what you are saying. I will certainly encourage my little ones not to settle for the shallowness of words and explore the beauty of interaction.

Customer service hologram coming to a town near you.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Steiner Ranch, Austin, Texas, USA

This is Elise.  So here we are back at home.  Everything is familiar but strange to me now as I look at it all with different eyes.  It took us over nine months to get to Santiago, Chile and we are home in the blink of an eye.  I felt like I had been sucked back through a time warp.  We arrive in Dallas Fort Worth airport on Thanksgiving morning and use the ladies room to freshen up.  They were the cleanest, nicest bathrooms I had seen in nine months.  We get a breakfast sandwich.  It isn't just a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.  It's apple wood smoked bacon, chipolte aged cheddar and a farm fresh egg.  I am not used to so much description and choices.  Everything is so big.  I do enjoy having ice in my drink again.  It's been so long since I had an iced drink, I don't even miss it anymore.  Everyone is very polite and professional.  Immigration and customs went smoothly.  If I had known they weren't going to search my bag, there are some things I would have brought back.
As I walk around my house I think "This is a nice house.  Is it really mine?"  The toilets, fixtures, faucets, everything is made with so much more quality.  I wondered if the renters had gotten a bigger TV because it seemed so large.  But no,  it's the same TV I thought was smaller than our neighbor's.  The house seems too big, with too many lights.
I have to go to Verizon to get cell phone service and they have stacks of new tablets and phones just sitting there with no bars on the windows or armed security.  So unheard of in the poverty stricken countries we have been in.  I see everyone walking around with big, new phones and my eyes bugged out when I saw how much they cost.  Does everyone have $800 to spend on these things?
My body seems to not like the food here.  By the end of the trip I was able to eat bread and other wheat products without any ill effects.  Here my hands and feet hurt.  My eyes look swollen.  I don't even know what I am eating that is bad for me.  I only know that when we were traveling, I was able to eat whatever I wanted.  I was eating white bread, empananas, whole milk and sugar with my coffee, all without a thought to portion control, fat content, or calorie content.  I also didn't exercise other than just walking around.  After a few days here I had to go buy some probiotics again because I am so bloated and gassy.  It's funny because here I am eating salads and mostly organic but I am running into problems.  On my trip I gave no thought to organic or healthy.  I just ate what was around.
I asked at the girls public school about getting them re enrolled.  They asked for some homeschooling records to place them.  I had never heard anything about having to keep records before.  I guess now they would have to be tested to re enroll.  For now, I am going to keep the flexibility of homeschooling.
Texans are very nice and friendly people.  It certainly is much easier doing everything in English.
Overall I am very happy we did the trip and it was worth every penny we spent.  I am actually depressed it is over and planning our next step.  We never stayed anywhere long enough to get the kids in school and really settle in.  That is what I want to do next.
I just read Mike's post about selling "Black Beauty" and got very sad.  It was an amazing trip and that vehicle holds some amazing memories for me.  We gained so much from the trip but we also had to experience a lot of loss.  We had to give away pets and possessions along the way.  For me the trip was like life but condensed.  I experienced tremendous ups and downs.  When it was over I looked back at the good times but regretted all the things I had wanted to do but somehow didn't.  Some people had said we were running away when we started this trip.  I found it to be the exact opposite.  I was running towards life full speed in all it's messy, imperfect beauty.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Truck has been sold

Well, I sold the truck late last night and am scheduled to fly out tonight. It was sad selling "Black Beauty" as it finalized my return and the conclusion of the South American portion of the trip all in one event. We had an amazing time with our 4Runner, she held up nicely under tough circumstances. I wish it wasn't 20,000 miles (30,000 K) to drive home otherwise I would have. Shipping was not practical for both price and timing, so selling was the best option. Speaking on behalf of my whole family we loved our SUV.

We were able to cross rivers.
We were able to drive to remote areas.

Sometimes we took scary car ferries like this tiny boat.

We were able to go into Barrios we would not otherwise have seen.

We were able to go almost anywhere.

She helped us get to our new homes.

We were able to drive countess miles on glorious deserted beaches.

We were able to visit special spots off the beaten path.

We shipped the vehicle across the Darien Gap.

We drove to incredible spots.

Our car got injured in transit.

Being able to stop anywhere at anytime was priceless.

We mended our car as we would mend ourselves.

Black beauty was our playground, our car, our home for 9 and a half months.

We drove to hidden ranches and hidden valleys.

We drove on muddy slippery roads

We drove on scary unsafe roads

We drove to remote border crossings.

 Above all, we drove where our hearts led us and this wonderful SUV helped us get there. Black Beauty, for many you are an inanimate object but for us you were our world and a valuable travel companion. You will be missed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Near Punta del Este

I took a drive to Punta del Este today to check out the famed beach community that is overrun each year by rich Brazilians in the summertime. As I got closer to the beach and saw the skyscrapers I stopped and decided it wasn't for me. It looked like Miami from the distance so I drove off the highway to the slower beach town I was next to to enjoy the beach. It is so similar to Florida here with the piney woods and flat topography that it's surreal. The major difference is, it is much more expensive here than Florida, like a rotisserie chicken costs $11, gas costs $6 a gallon, and a new mid-range Ford F150 costs $72,000. The beaches that I went to today were tranquil and enjoyable which I greatly appreciated.

It is kinda weird taking these pictures knowing the vacation is coming to an end.

This is a much nicer beach than a bunch of skyscrapers everywhere.

Inlet waterways meeting the ocean.

Uruguay is a relatively safe place and as such the homes are inviting rather than walled compounds like in other parts of Latin America.

Piney woods just like in the south eastern US.


Montevideo is Uruguay's largest city and capital, essentially the city has three regions that vary a lot depending on where you are. The areas of the city differ depending if you are in the port area, urban center or the beach suburbs. Since I am trying to sell the truck I am actually driving around the whole town with my "For Sale" sign on it for exposure. I did choose to stay in the beach suburbs so that I can enjoy the outdoors without ten trillion people breathing down my neck. As cities go, Montevideo has a more rundown feel and look about it. This is surprising considering how much revenue this tiny country gets from tourism. Well, maybe the majority of tourists actually stay at the beaches and is why the downtown has that neglected feel about it. Somethings I will never know, but for a place to visit I think Montevideo downtown is just so so. The beach community is your typical healthier, younger group of people so that is where I chose to stay.
   When I walked along the beach, which is really along the Rio Plata, I walked through plumes, no, dare I say a forest fire of marijuana smoke. Since I wasn't exactly sure what the pungent skunky aroma was I had to stand there for a while to make sure. And yes, it was what I thought and after a long while I went back to my hotel had two dinners and fell right to sleep. As it turns out, weed is legal here and is probably the reason why having a huge bonfire of cannabis was no big thing. And for the record, I did not inhale and was merely observing the frolicking, giggling crowd of happy carefree people from my vantage point downwind in the fog of their smoke.

The main center of Montevideo

The theater

Downtown walking district is filled with shops.

Nice fountains and parks in downtown but there are a lot of beggars and homeless here.

This city has a very European feel about it.

Nice buildings adorn the streets but there are a lot of not so nice buildings too.

The main beach road is a 4 lane road each way.

Islands just off the beach

The beach was not crowded.

Skyscrapers lined the street to capture the views of the water.

I like the walk ways along the main boulevard.

A German overlander enjoying South America's warmth as well.

About 3/4 of a pound of Cherries for $6 (.32 Kilo for 6 Euro).

The beaches outside Colonia

The beaches outside Colonia are probably too far to walk for most people but are an easy taxi ride away. I was struck by how clean the city truly is and the great pride residents there take in ensuring the city retains its charm. Families were out in force enjoying the water, beaches, and restaurants. Colonia is one of those special towns, and for me, definitely in the top 5 of the journey.

The streets are just so charming in old town Colonia.

Looking down on Rio Plata and the beaches of Colonia.

You can almost see Buenos Aires under the cloud in the horizon.

Little islands in the river added to the beauty.

Nice modern homes right next to the beach staring at $199K.

The old bull fighting ring which has fallen into disrepair.