Monday, September 05, 2016

China - October 2014

We had planned to go to India to visit Mukul and his family in September of 2014. We were going to spend some time in Agra and then go to Kerala in the south to enjoy the serene backwaters. When Mukul announced that his only child Sukumar and his wife Sonam were expecting their first baby in September, we suggested postponing the trip. Although Mukul was far too polite to suggest this himself, he was thankful that we were flexible. We certainly didn't want to intrude on this important family time for them. So we decided to postpone that trip for a year or two, which left us in need of a new trip for autumn of 2014.

We contacted our trusted friend Toni at Myths and Mountains, who had arranged our previous trips to India and Bhutan and Vietnam. We explained the situation and asked where she had a guide who was as excellent as our dear friend Cuong in Vietnam. She said that she has a fantastic guide in China named Wang Jun, and that if he was available to guide us, she knew just the trip that we would love. We trust Toni very much because she knows how we like to travel and what we enjoy doing. She knows about Craig's multiple sclerosis, and understands that we want to do a private trip so that if he gets ill or has particularly low energy on a certain day, we can adjust the itinerary as necessary.

She talked to Wang Jun and when she found out that he was indeed available, we signed up for the trip "China: Guizhou and Guanxi - Festivals, People, and Their Land." This trip would take us to the less-visited southern provinces of Guizhou and Guanxi, where we would visit ethnic minority villages in the mountains and learn about their ways of life. We had visited minority hill tribes in Vietnam last year, on the other side of the Chinese border, and had really enjoyed it.

We would be able to take advantage of Hainan Airlines' new non-stop service from Boston to Beijing on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which was quite appealing. Round-trip non-stop tickets from Boston to Beijing cost us less than $1000 was less expensive to fly to China than Ecuador! We decided to add several days in Beijing at the beginning of the trip, so that we could experience some of the important attractions there, including the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, and the Great Wall of China.

Toni put the trip together for us, and we applied for our Chinese visas. The process was painstaking and took the better part of a Saturday to get the paperwork in order, but all went smoothly and we received our visas quickly.

We always like to believe that everything works out for a reason, and this was no exception. Mukul's granddaughter Sara was born healthy during the time that we would have been in India. And our dear friends Jared and Dave wound up getting married in New Jersey over Labor Day weekend. If we had been in India as originally planned, we would have missed the wedding. Luckily, we were able to attend, and they even asked me to participate by doing a reading at the ceremony.

We had an excellent time in China, and we were able to meet adorable Sara when visiting Mukul and family in India in 2016!

Our detailed China travelogue is now available at Craig and Steph's Vacations.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Yasmin's QuinceaƱera - January 2016

It had been 18 months since we last saw our compadres in Guatemala. We have visited them at least once a year since 2007, so this span was way too long for our liking. But it was with good reason: at the end of June, Paulina gave birth to their seventh child (and second boy), Ian Ivan.

Our usual July 4th visit would not be possible with a newborn infant taking up the family's energy, so we thought that we might postpone the trip for a couple of months. However when baby Ian was only a month old, he became seriously ill and was hospitalized for 40 days in Guatemala City. He and Paulina stayed at the hospital, three hours' drive away from the rest of the family. Humberto and the older girls held down the fort at home, preparing meals and cleaning and preparing the guest rooms that they rent out.

Obviously this was not a good time to visit, so we postponed our trip until January to coincide with the 3rd eldest daughter Yasmin's quinceaƱera (15th birthday party - the Latina equivalent of a Sweet 16). Ian is back at home where he belongs, and his health is getting better day by day. We missed the kids terribly, and desperately wanted to meet the newest addition to the family.

Because I am now able to easily work remotely over the internet, we decided to stay longer than usual. We would stay 10 days!

It was a wonderful trip. We are so proud of Yasmin, who has grown into a lovely young lady. It was great to get to spend time with the seven kids, as well as their extended families. Baby Ian is a charmer, with a very happy disposition.

I worked during the weekdays when Aracely and Eddy were in school, and on evenings and weekends we found plenty of time to play with them and help the family prepare for, celebrate, and clean up after Yasmin's party.

Full details and photos are up on our main web site,

AndersonPonty Band at the Cabot in Beverly - 5/20/2016

We had a fantastic time last night seeing AndersonPonty Band from the second row at the Cabot! It was our first time at the venue and it is beautiful. Jon Anderson, Jean-Luc Ponty, and the band were tight, sounded great, and had tremendous energy.

We had seen them from the mezzanine at Berklee back in November. Sitting closer this time was a different experience. We could really see their facial expressions and interplay as they fused jazz and prog rock. When Jon stepped away from the mic during instrumental interludes, we could see his meditational gestures, the fact that his mouth was still moving, either singing, chanting, praying...unable to be heard by the audience but having his own spiritual connection to the music. We could see the loving acknowledgments to his wife Jane, who was present in the first row, cheering him on as always.

Jon mentioned that he and Jane had visited the Peabody Essex Museum and specifically called out the Chinese house. At that point the percussionist banged the gong for effect, causing Jon to burst into giggles.

There was a large screen behind the band, where complex music visualizations spun and pulsed  to the melody and rhythm of the music. Mandalas swirled and morphed into other geometric designs.

Jean-Luc Ponty's violin is a wonderful addition to Jon's music, and the lyrics that Jon has written to accompany Jean-Luc's instrumental pieces seem very natural.

The band seemed to be having a great time, and the audience certainly was as well.

And at the end of the night, Jamie Glaser threw out a couple handfuls of guitar picks. Most of them went to the front row, but I noticed Craig's foot sliding under the seat in front of him to claim one that someone had missed, and he gave it to me. smile emoticon

We took Craig's 80-year-old mother as a Mother's Day present, and she absolutely loved it. In fact, one of her favorite parts was the drum solo. Rock on!

It was a magical night that we won't forget!

Set I:
  1. Intro
  2. One in the Rhythm of Hope
  3. A for Aria
  4. Owner of a Lonely Heart
  5. Listening with Me
  6. Time and a Word / One Love
  7. Infinite Mirage
  8. Soul Eternal
  9. Jig
  10. New New World
Set II:
  1. Revealing Science of God (spoken excerpt)
  2. New Country
  3. Under Heaven's Door
  4. Wonderous Stories
  5. Long Distance Runaround
  6. Renaissance of the Sun
  7. State of Independence
  8. Enigmatic Ocean I and II
  9. And You And I
  10. Violin/Keys duet
  11. Roundabout
  12. Re-Remembering Molecules / Yours is No Disgrace
  13. Soon

State of Independence  (excerpt)

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Three weeks working remotely in Morochos, Ecuador

10/16/15 - 11/7/15

We planned this trip to Ecuador as somewhat of an experiment. Now that our compadres have reliable internet access, I received the go-ahead from my employer to try a working vacation. I would work full time over the internet while visiting the family. A three week trip would only require a single vacation day - the day that we traveled down there. It seemed like this would be the best of both worlds, allowing an extended visit with the family while still being able to fulfill my work obligations. We hoped that it would work out successfully, so that this could become something that we do regularly in the future. Now that Craig is retired because of his MS, we only need to worry about my work schedule. Proving that I could be an effective remote employee could open up new possibilities.

[We have posted our detailed trip log and photos over at our main website,]

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Anderson Ponty Band at Berklee

Amazing show by the Anderson Ponty Band tonight! Jon Anderson and Jean-Luc Ponty played songs from their collaborative album Better Late Than Never, as well as additional songs from both of their catalogs. The versions were lively and mostly jazzy, though there were touches of reggae, Celtic, and country blues stylings. The arrangements were intricate and tight, and we enjoyed them very much.

We were in the front row center mezzanine at Berklee, so we had a great view of the stage, and of course the acoustics were amazing.

Set I:
  1. One in the Rhythm of Hope
  2. A for Aria
  3. Owner of a Lonely Heart
  4. Listening with Me
  5. Time and a Word / One Love
  6. Infinite Mirage / Soul Eternal
  7. Enigmatic Ocean Parts I & II
  8. I See You Messenger
  9. New New World 
Set II:
  1. New Country
  2. Under Heaven's Door
  3. Wonderous Stories
  4. Long Distance Runaround
  5. Renaissance of the Sun
  6. State of Independence
  7. Jig
  8. And You and I
  9. Roundabout
  10. Soon

Jean-Luc Ponty addressed yesterday's tragedy in his native France, saying that tragedies can happen anywhere...Paris, Boston, NYC...and that music can be very healing. The entire city seemed to be lit up for France tonight. We noticed the Pru and the Garden, as well as many electronic billboards.

We haven't been to many concerts lately, but this one was definitely worth it! Thanks, APB, for a great night of entertainment!

Anderson Ponty Band 11/14/15: Infinite Mirage (clip)