Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tayrona Report

We are home from the weekend camping trip to Tayrona. Ryan and Kathy have stayed on for one more day to hike up to Pueblito, the ruins an old city, and then go snorkelling or scuba diving on the way back to Cartagena.

We left early Saturday morning for our first independent trip out of Cartagena. The bus terminal takes half an hour to get to and we arrived just in time to catch the bus we planning to catch. However, it took ten minutes to find change for the taxi driver; but luckily, we didn’t miss our bus because it left 30 minutes later than we thought it did. Overall the bus was a pleasant surprise. Aside from being a bit scruffy around the edges, the bus had big and comfortable seats, left on time, and travelled without blaring music or video. The bathroom was the only drawback. Aside from being, well, basic, it was strategically placed at the front of the bus, sharing its special aroma with all the passengers. In the end, it deposited us right where we wanted to go, the park entrance, and right on time.

We stopped for lunch at a local restaurant at the park entrance and then headed for camp. We paid our park fee and hopped in a truck for a ride to the trailhead. We made the 45 minute hike in to the first campsite with a Colombian travel agent and his son and a Colombian hippie who made bracelets and necklaces that was going to meet his friends. The walk through lush rainforests was beautiful. We did, however spend lots of time watching the trail for horse poop - all the supplies to the beachfront camps are taken in by horse. Aysha seemed to enjoy the ride in the baby backpack, but on later hikes preferred to doze.

The first beach was Arricefes. When we arrived, the first accommodation we came to, the most expensive, offered eco-cabanas with solar powered lights and 24 hour service. It was run by some official tourist agency and was way more expensive than any of the others. I can see people looking for a bit more of a luxurious holiday enjoying these, but they were not for us. We stayed at its neighbor (closer to the beach) for $3 a night. We opted for hammocks over the tents
or the little rooms they had. Aysha did well in the hammock, taking turns sleeping on either Karla or me. Aysha's human mattress did not fare as well, and next time we may opt for one of the slightly sweaty smelling tents.

Arricifes sits on the a wide bay, separated by rocky points from sandy bays on either side. In this part of the beach the waves pound the shores. It is not only not recommened that anyone swim, it is forbidden. Although, after watching the waves for a while, it's hard to believe that anyone not dissuaded by their violence would be put off by a mere sign. Throughout the weekend, no one ever ventured near the water.

Even without the possibiltiy of swimming, Arricifes is cool and refreshing. Clouds intermittently block the sun and the wind off the water even justifies long pants in the evenings. On Sunday, we set out down the beach and along the trail to the next two bays. Right beside our campsite is another, that seems to cater to a more festive crowd. There were fires going and people sitting around them with drums and guitars. Past that, La Piscina (The Pool) is the first bay, where a line of rocks a couple hundred meters off shore make swimming a possibility. 30 minutes further along is Cabo San Juan, where more camping is available. From here, the beach is better protected by the rocky points and wading is a possibility. An hour above this beach is Pueblito.

The camping here was almost as nice, and the restaurant better than ours. Our restaurant was open for supper from 6:30-9:30, as well as for breakfast and luunch. We were hungry and seated at 6:30. It took two hours before we got our food. The restaurant has a couple of uh... shall we say areas where the relaxed atmosphere of the surroundings had triumphed. First, there was one person serving the 10 or 15 tables, and I would guess only one person preparing the food. The restaurant also kept costs down by producing only four copies of the menu, which needed to be moved around from table to table. Of course, it all worked out. By the time four people around one table had passed the single menu around and all had decided, the previous table's food had been prepared and the cook was ready for the next order. You could tell when an order came up by the ringing of a bell that would have made even Pavlov marvel. No matter what she was doing, when the bell rang, the waitress went to pick up the food and deliver it. More than once, our order or questions about the menu were interrupted by the arrival of someone else's food.

The waitress was a real sweetheart though. Once the dinner was done, she would sweep in and pick Aysha up. She explained that her last job had been taking care of kids and she missed spending time with them. She even pulled down one of the Christmas decorations (that were still up) so Aysha would have a little toy.

Monday morning we packed up, grabbed breakfast and began the hike back home. It was not quite as easy. From Cartagena we got a bus straight to the park. From Tayrona, we needed to catch a local bus into Santa Marta, the nearest town, then a cab to the bus terminal and a bus back to Cartagena. The bus we caught home was new and clean (with a great bathroom), but ended up stopping many times for passengers along the way, extending the trip by about an hour (It might be worth mentioning to some that after a three hours, any hour spent is a bus with a baby on your lap is governed by the same rule of determining the age of a dog).

When we got home, the AC was the first thing to go on, and then we took advantage of the multiple bathrooms to all hop into a tub and scrub off the days of grime. It was all worthwhile - every last itch bite, blister and nocturnal waking to a squirmy baby. Ryan and Cathy kept the camera for their hike up to Pueblito, so photos will be slightly delayed. Sorry!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Off for the Weekend

It’s been a while since the last update. Ryan and Kathy arrived last weekend and we have been having fun since.

This weekend we are going out to a party tonight and then we’re off to Tayrona National Park tomorrow morning for a couple days of camping on the beach.

The party is at June’s place. She arrived on the same flight as us in August, but she teaches kindergarten at another school. She is retired and has a great place in the old city. She appears to be having a great time here and seems to have made lots of friends. We bumped into her (like we do every once and a while) this week and she invited us over.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll be off on the 7am bus to go to the beach. It will be Aysha’s first camping trip!

Aysha is getting closer to walking and can take a few steps between attending adults.

Monday, January 16, 2006

New Roles for Aysha

Copy Cat- Aysha has started to copy things we do. This weekend, I was blowing up the air mattress (she was on it watching me) and when I took a break she crawled over to the valve and put her mouth over it. Today she went over and picked up Karla’s water bottle and tried to drink from it. The cap was on so she just held it up to her mouth and made sucking motions with her mouth. Once we had the air mattress blown up, Aysha really liked to bounce on it, first by herself and later by mom or dad (then, not so much by herself anymore). Just before we left Kuwait, we slept on one for a couple nights and she loved to bounce on that one when she was much smaller.

Bottomless Pit- She’s a hungry girl. There’s nothing that gets eaten in her presence without her crawling over or at least pointing to let you know that she wants to try some. In fact, she rarely wants to just try it. She wants to share with you.

Sad-to-see-you go Girl- Since we got home, Aysha has started crying when we leave for school in the morning and then when Claudina leaves in the afternoon. This can be prevented if she is distracted when the leaving party leaves.

There has been no more progress in the walking department. Karla and I tried a bit of coaching tonight, but she just couldn’t balance herself. On the hard tile floor, we always catch her, which I don’t think is any motivation for her to improve her steadiness.

Thankfully, she has stuck to her sleeping schedule. One improvement that she seems to have adopted after the Christmas holiday is that she is more willing to sleep in. On weekends, we can scoop her out of the crib when she first gets up at 5 or 6, change her and plop in between us for another hour of sleep (or more!). With the dark Canadian mornings and late nights with Grandma and Grandpa, she got use to sleeping a bit later.

One last miracle to report, two days after we got home, we received a phone call in the evening. It was the real estate agency calling to tell us that the owner had decided to fix the AC for us. The next day, a repairman came and took the parts that needed to be replaced. There was not a little scepticism at the business office at school over whether the AC would really be repaired. Saturday morning was almost gone when the phone rang to let us know that someone had arrived to fix the AC. After a few hours of work, the AC was fixed. One of the blower fans has been fixed so well that it no longer turns off, even when the whole AC system is shut down. This is good news for the visitors to come. We can accommodate you in comfort!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Christmas in Fernie

Aysha's new favourite toy - a cardboard box!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bar Mitzvah!

I said I would post pictures, and I will.  Tomorrow.  

One of my students is having his bar mitzvah tomorrow.  His dad came in before the end of school in December and asked if they’d cancel school so the whole grade 7 class could go.  The whole class has decided to go – the family even set up a bus to take us there, so class is cancelled tomorrow.  So I tonight am getting ready for the big event – preparing lesson plans for the one student that isn’t coming and the elective (mixed class from grades 6-8) and getting my clothes pressed and ready.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Back at Home

It was a long haul, but we made it back in one day.  Our first flight from Calgary to Toronto left almost an hour late.  We had to hurry to make both of our connections, but we made it, exhausted but relieved, back home to warm and humid Cartagena.

Aysha slept relatively little on the plane, preferring to socialize with whoever she could.  On the way to Toronto she tried to help the grade 9 student next her with her Fahrenheit 451 homework in between peeks at anyone open to a wave and smile.  The neighbour was travelling with her family, which included two younger kids, and was very sweet to Aysha.  In Toronto, we hustled through the terminal, stopping only long enough to buy a bottle of Crown Royal at duty free.  They made the pre-boarding announcement just as I popped into duty free and I was hurried along by the duty free staff who needed to go and deliver the goods to the passengers:  “Where are you going?  Bogota?  Hurry up!”  Aysha kept up her friend-making on the way to Bogota, looking between the seats and down the aisles for someone who would smile and wave back at her. The day before, on the way to Saskatoon, she sat by the aisle and waved at everyone in the line as they filed by to find their seats.

Bogota was another rush.  They were supposed to send our bags straight to Cartagena, but we picked up three off the belt and had to give them back to Air Canada to send to Cartagena.  We were lucky that one didn’t come out, or we would have tried to carry them all with us through the airport.  Our last flight was mostly empty and Aysha slept through most of it.  She cried during the decent.  She’s only cried twice on a plane – both times arriving in Cartagena.  The flight attendant came over and asked if it was here ears that were bothering her.  She disappeared for a minute and came back with two styrofoam cups, which had napkins wet with warm water in the bottom.  We were instructed to place them over Aysha’s ears to help her equalize the pressure.  Aysha, having woken up to pain in her ears, was too cranky to have anything to do with cups on her ears.  (Note for the curious and scientifically minded:  My own experiments observed no difference in the pressure of an ear covered by a cup versus an uncovered ear; however the cup did significantly reduce the volume of the crying, especially when the baby-side ear was covered.)

I was thrilled this morning to get up with Aysha at 6:30 and have the sun there to greet me.  I never remember feeling the winters as being so dark when I live in Canada.  I knew the days were short, but arriving home from 6am sunrises and having to wait until 8:30 to see daylight, it felt like it the day was half over before we it was light.  I’m sure being an early riser contributed to the effect.

Today is very conveniently a holiday.  Claudina is here and looking after Aysha while Karla is finishing her grading and I am trying to catch up on some emails that I had thought I would have time to send over the holiday and otherwise get organized after the trip.  It was after midnight by the time we got home and Aysha to bed.  It would have been a very rough morning if we had had to get up at 5 to get to school and teach today.  I highly recommend that everyone follow each vacation with... a holiday.

Photos of Christmas and the Birthday will be posted soon.  I promise.  For the past two mornings I have been up and checking my parents’ blog.   With Jenny and Dave, they have just begun a road trip from Fernie to Panama City, from where they will fly over to visit us.  They bumped a moose on the road (no injuries or damage) in their last entry and I have been eager to hear more.  I now better appreciate how some of you feel when you check for an update and there’s just the same old photos and news.