Tuesday, January 31, 2006

6-0 Win For Airwaves

The Tuesday version of the Airwaves won another game tonight. Spanky had two, I had two, Bart had one...

And then there's the one worth writing about. Just a few minutes into the game, the other team's goalie launches the hardest goal kick I've seen in quite a while. This rocket was screaming. Unfortunately for them it hit Trey in the hip and flew 15 feet back... into their goal.

We thought it hit him in the crotch. It was a hip. It looked really painful either way.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Best Of Luck, John

Tonight is John Alois' last night at WMBD. He's a solid sportscaster and a heck of a nice guy. John has already started in his new job as a video producer at State Farm, but tonight is his last broadcast hurrah.

John had a "going away" party last night and something Shannon and I noticed is that although the faces have changed dramatically since we worked there, there is a camraderie that remains amongst the staff. I don't know if it is the culture of the station or what, but it is nice to see.

Update: A really classy goodbye.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Day 9 - Paradise

Boaracy is beautiful. The white sand beaches aren't sand like most of us know, but from what we were told by locals is ground up coral, so when you walk on it it feels like powdered sugar on your feet. The water is clear... a greenish blue... even more appealing than the waters I saw off the Caymans. We walked along the beach for a half mile or so to our hotel which was 90 steps from the water.

Day 9 - Fast Boat To Boarcay

Back to the trip...

So the ride that we thought was supposed to take four hours took closer to five and a half. Caticlan is where you take a boat to Boracay. Now when I think boat to island vacation spot... I was thinking ferry... and they had them. But our mode of transport was this wood boat. And it didn't have a dock so to speak, but a wood plank with a rail on one side. This gave Shannon nightmares/flashbacks to our cruise when our oldest was little... fears of dropping the baby into the water... and when we got to Boracay, same deal... they got as close to shore as they could and you walked into the water. Or you could have someone carry you... and this was apparently common.

Birthday Dinner

Shannon and I got to take her dad out for dinner last night. Red Lobster. Shannon explained to me how it was a pretty big deal when Peoria got a Red Lobster cause before that you had to go to Bloomington. I gave her that look I know some of you who know me know - "Really?"

It was her dad's 60th earlier this week. I've gotten to know him very well in the six years since we moved back and feel especially lucky that in that time he's been cancer free.

Thursday Airwaves Lose

The Thursday version of the Airwaves lost 4-2. I scored two, but couldn't break free to do anymore... good solid defense and a clean, well played game. Thanks to my friend Joe who looks to be Trent's replacement in goal for indoor.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Day 9 - Traveling To Boracay

We left at about 9 the next morning for the roughest part of our trip. The roads to Kalibo were sometimes paved and often times not paved. Add paved roads to one of the things we'll never take for granted. You think roads in Illinois are bad. Hah.

Anyway, the one upside to such a long car ride was that I had time to talk to my dad. He was a captive interview so to speak.

My dad always had a love for public service. He wanted to run for mayor of his town, but his brother (now a judge) ran first and lost. This was in the 60's. My dad has always been good at math and he went to school for engineering and his abilities got the attention of Boeing. He took a job with them and moved from the Philippines to Seattle.

When Boeing had their big layoffs, my dad was one of thousands. But he couldn't go home as he originally wanted to... civil unrest under Ferdinand Marcos was growing. So he took his severance and drove. He saw every state except Hawaii and Alaska... until he ran out of money and gas and landed in Milwaukee... where he eventually met my mom.

When his career as an engineer came to an end, he started another one... one that saw him at 51 become the oldest rookie cop in the City of Milwaukee.

Stories of his youth and the good olds days and the future... made the rough ride a special one for me.

Day 8 - Sara

My mom's hometown of Sara is about two hours from Iloilo City. We had hired three new vans (different island now) and about half way there, one of them broke down. We were eventually able to get another one and get the rest of my relatives to my mom's childhood home.

It's funny, they have done so much to the yard, I barely recognized it. But once we were inside, the memories started to flow. There were even smells that were familiar to me. Unfortunately, I had started to feel sick again and spent much of my time in bed.

My aunt (mom's sister) made sure to have a cake for our baby's first birthday.

When I was up, it was fascinating for me to see pictures of my mom from when she was young. She was second in her class in high school and won awards for... journalism. Her family runs a school in town that they started just after world war two, so children who didn't live in the city had a quality place to learn.

The story of the struggles her family went through just after she was born are amazing. You see, my parents were children in the Philippines during the Japanese occupation. After my mom was born, her family had to flee to remote areas of the province. As the story goes, my grandmother's milk dried up and they kept my mom alive by mashing up rice into a paste like substance.

Airwaves Win Again 3-1

The Tuesday version of the Airwaves won a hard fought game, 3-1. Jose scored first, I scored the second one. Our purple opponents scored to make it 2-1 before Trey sealed it. The Tuesday team is 8-0-1 over the first one and a half sessions.

Angie and I were talking after the game. This is exactly the kind of game we enjoy. Two teams with decent and similar skill levels playing hard, but playing clean. Close game. This league really needs to split up (not that there's really a good way to figure out how to do this) into teams that have little experience, teams that have some experience and want to play clean, and teams that think MLS scouts are hanging in Morton or have mistaken our league for a battle royal.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Day 8 - Iloilo City

Our first stop was the mall. It wasn't too much different than the malls you'll see here. Many local stores, but some from the states. I stopped at a Nike store and did the math on shoes just out of curiosity. A little cheaper, but not much... I'm guessing based on the market. Clothes and other items at local stores were good deals though.

Okay, so on to food. We had been eating pretty much the same three or four things at our hotel and the two or three other things when we got together with family, so we were all ready for a little taste of home. And of course we found it: McDonald's.

Even though I had thrown up a couple hours before, I was willing to risk it for a double cheeseburger, fries and a coke.

It tasted pretty much the same, but there are some differences between the golden arches here and there. For one, the idea of ordering by number, despite them having the numbers up on the wall, hasn't really caught on. I would order a number meal, and the person behind the counter would then ask specifically if I'd like each part of the meal. It was kind of like being in that movie "Lost In Translation."

The food was good... and I kept it down which was better.

After that we spent some time in the mall. My mom and dad took the two older kids so Shannon and I walked around with the birthday boy. Walking through this mall with my blonde haired, blue eyed, very American looking wife was an eye-opener. It was like being with a rock star... the stares and smiles she got were constant. I'm sure many the only times many of the people here see someone who looks like her are when they are watching sitcoms from the US.

Day 8 - Traveling Again

We had to get up early on the 2nd. On this day, my youngest celebrated his first birthday and when I say early, I mean 3:00 AM. We loaded up the two vans and headed for the Manila airport.

We started off at about 4:00 with a two and half hour drive so we could get to the airport to check in between 6:30 and 7. Our 9:00 flight would take us to Iloilo City, the largest city near my mom's hometown of Sara. A little more than an hour... not so bad.

Of course getting through the airport with 25 or so people now wasn't easy. And Shannon was especially annoyed as she essentially got felt up going through security.

We got some doughnuts as we waited, but the odd thing was the drink they had was Gatorade. I don't know if I was missing something, but it seems Gatorade over there is something you drink with meals.

The plane ride was a rough one for me. One doughnut and a little 7up was more than I could handle with whatever stomach thing I had caught... because I threw up on the plane. I actually felt significantly better after that.

24 Still Rocks

Five episodes in... and I am so sucked in. If anyone needs a testosterone boost, tune in. Over vacation, I was able to catch up on the second and third seasons. Only trouble is now I'm stuck to one a week.

Some random thoughts:

Its not that he's a bad actor, but I have trouble with Sean Astin in the role of some division head honcho. He still has such a youthful look and all I can think is "Rudy, Rudy."

Chloe makes me uncomfortable. Audrey does not.

How is it CTU always has some kind of a mole? Don't they do background checks on these clowns?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Day 7 - New Year's Day

This was our last day in Anilao for a while. Shannon tried to wash clothes as we had tried to pack light and were getting pretty low.

I took the four year old to the pool. For a kid who was fairly apprehensive about the water last summer, he was all about it on this trip.

New Year's Day without college football I have no interest in was kind of weird. Still, it was nice to spend time with relatives I don't get to see but once or twice a year... or in some cases once a decade.

Unfortunately, after lunch, I started feeling a little sick to my stomach... and without getting too graphic... it got worse.

Day 6 - New Year's Eve

Basically hung out on this day. Walked around the main street of Anilao. It is almost exactly as I remember it from 18 years ago. Shannon I took it all in. She pointed out things that we take for granted like a sign that advertises "ice cube available here."

At some point we came up with a big long list of things we won't be taking for granted... I'll share if I can find it.

I think the travel really caught up with us today. My oldest had a major meltdown at dinner causing us to head home early from the holiday party. We were able to see the fireworks show from our hotel balcony. Check that, Shannon saw em. I had already fallen asleep.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Go East Young Lady

Congratulations to former WEEK and WMBDer Jill Henriksen. Jill is the new morning and noon weather anchor at WICD in Champaign.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Day 5 - Hot Springs

My uncle Dilbert set us up for the afternoon at one of the resorts in Calamba that is advertised as a hot springs pool... harnessing hot water from a volcano and channeling it into a pool. In this case, resort is a large outdoor pool and hot tub that is part of a four room motel/kitchen.

So our large group spent the afternoon swimming and, as much as I hate to admit, taking turns on what is called a videoke machine. Basically it's coin operated karaoke with videos behind the lyrics.

The funny thing was, whatever company is doing this seems to be buying people's home videos and using them or buying old stock footage and none of it matched the songs people were singing.

Day 5 - Calamba, The Drive

Day 5 got us back in the van for a two hour drive from Anilao to Clamba. For reference, Mabini (where Anilao is) has a population of about 37,000. Calamba is a city with about 281,000.

The drive through was just our second taste of a bigger city in the Philippines. Calamba has a lot of what you'd expect from a big city here... the shopping, the fast food (McDonalds, Pizza Hut etc.) and traffic.

I had written a bit about driving before... apparently in Calamba, obeying stop signs and lights are optional. And here's a scarry story. So on our way to our desitination (which I'll get to in a bit) we get lost and have to turn around. Keep in mind we're on a four lane road (two lanes going each way). But instead of turning off on to a side road and turning back around like we do here, we turn from the right lane and start heading the opposite direction in the left lane... essentially starting a third lane going that way.

And no one freaked out...

Day 4 - A Celebration Of Marriage

Back to my trip...

I was really sore on day 4. On the last play of the basketball game, I got hacked going to the hoop and landed on my back. But this was not going to be a day to couch...

My Uncle Bani and Auntie Tessie celebrated their 25th anniversary with a mass to renew their vows and a party afterwards. It was heartwarming to take part in this event. My uncle and aunt are very committed to their faith and two each other and their love has brought them three wonderful boys.

Those boys took part in night two of hoops. I passed.

On The Job

Congrats to two former co-workers making news on Medialine's Changing Business Cards page:

Beth Brotherton, formerly of WMBD, has renewed her contract and will continue as morning anchor with WYFF in Greenville.

And Shaun Robinson, weekend anchor of Access Hollywood, added Red Carpet Correspondent for NBCs Golden Globes Pre-Show to her duties.

Get Well Soon, Dave

I was listening to the Bradley game on the way home last night and wondering: where was Dave Snell? Many of you know he passed out before last night's game. He thought it initially might have been food poisoning although the Journal Star is reporting it may be viral flu.

Dave's streak of 794 consecutive games broadcast was snapped, but from the sound of how everything went down last night, that definitely took a back seat.

Get well soon, Dave.

Dora's Pirate Adventure

We took the kids to see the traveling Dora show at the Civic Center last night. The place was packed and the kids had a great time.

Just a few thoughts...

The plot was that the three pirate pigs stole Dora's treasure chest and Dora, Boots, Diego, Benny, Isa and Tico went on your typical "Dora adventure" (three stops) to get it back. So they get to the last stop and of course, as Dora goes, they get back the chest basically by yelling at the pigs to give it back. Which, after getting the kids to help them yell this, the pigs do. Now I'm not one to encourage fighting, but Dora had to know that there were six of them and three pigs... and they should have been able to take em. Shannon laughed, but basically shook her head as I pointed this out.

For those of you familiar with Dora, each episode is basically the same, they have to find something and use the map to get through three places. My daughter, though just two years old, gets this and when she's watching the DVDs asks me if she can watch another one when they finish up at the third spot... she's anticipating the end. Last night, when she realized what was happening, she started crying. I asked her, "what's wrong?" She said, "daddy, I want to watch it again." We explained it doesn't work that way, which made her more upset. Being two is rough.

Update: I was actually pretty on board wth the whole show until Dora did her own version of Gloria Estefan's "Get On Your Feet."

The Battle With Jet Lag May Be Over

Everyone is asleep and with the exception of a couple minor interruptions, I slept, and am now up at regular time.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Day 3 - On The Court

My dad set up a game between our family and the locals. It seems he had been talking me up the past couple of weeks, so despite my knee and not having played since the 2002 Macker... I was lacing it up in an effort not to disappoint. A couple of my cousins were setting their sights high, but my goal was just not to get hurt.

As I mentioned in the last post, they take their basketball really seriously here. When I heard we were going to play, I figured pickup game like at the playground. Oh no. They brought out a ref and a timer and a scorekeeper.

Only one of my cousins ever actually played in high school, so we were overmatched from the start. These guys were skilled and they liked to run, so my goal was to slow things down. They didn't want to guard me up top, so I started launching threes and much to my delight, most of them were going in. That opened up the drives for layups and dishes... but in the end, we ran out of gas and lost by two.

Basketball

Basketball is like religion in the Philippines... not unlike the passion you'll find for the game in American inner cities. In the provinces I visited, you will drive through each town and invariably what you'll find is a town square, a church and a town basketball court.

In my dad's province, most barangys have teams of their best players and they play each other... and these teams are decked out in really sharp uniforms.

The NBA influence is great as well as you'll see kids and adults wearing the jerseys of the most recent champions and all-stars. NBA games are broadcast in the mornings live and rebroadcast at night.

There is also the Phillippine Basketball League and a minor league that draw big crowds and have the feel of American college hoops in March.

This passion got me back on a court for the first time in two and a half years.

Day 3 - Anilao On The Water

My daughter seemed to be having the most trouble adjusting initially. She'd melt down, but who could blame her with the time and climate change.

The kids had wanted to get in the ocean from the minute we got here, but it wasn't until the third afternoon that they were able to do more than get their feet wet.

My dad's hometown has great diving and snorkeling, but for now the kids were just happy to get their swimsuits on and splash around a bit.

Day 3 - Coming Home

My Uncle Bob died unexpectedly a little more than two years ago. It was a shock to our family as my dad's parents had only just died in the late 90's... well into their 80's. He was my godfather... a great guy with an unforgetable smile and laugh. He was my dad's best friend.

Part of this trip was to bring him home... to bring his ashes to the family crypt. We had a mass for him on the third day of our trip. It was good to remember, but hard to cause in a way it was like saying good bye all over again.

Jet Lag Strikes Again

Ten minutes into the Illini game, I was out like a light. Missed my soccer game (sorry Airwaves).

Morning News

I don't generally watch much morning news, but thanks to the jet lag I've been able to enjoy Gretchen and Laura's impression of the Olsen twins, Brent's analysis of why none of the Desperate Housewives won the Golden Globe best actress award and Susanna getting some fill in work for Garry.

Jet lag sucks. This is not bueno. I'm going to work.

And The Jet Lag Continues

I thought we had it beat yesterday. We all woke up about normal time for a weekend, the kids all took short afternoon naps and neither Shannon nor I took a nap as we had been doing every evening since we got back. Thought today, we'd be back on track.

Wrong.

We've all been up since 4. Good times.

Monday, January 16, 2006

More To Come

According to sitemeter... lots of people stopping since I've started writing about the trip. We were gone 2 1/2 weeks, so I'll do a bit each night till I get through it.

It's good to be home...

Day 2 - Anilao

My dad’s hometown of Anilao, Mabini, Batangas is about 130 km or 80 miles from Manila, which if it were here might take a little more than an hour. But rough roads in the province and traffic in Manila make it about a 2 ½ to 3 hour drive. For reference, Anilao is the barangay or village (like a subdivision here, some big some tiny) within the town of Mabini and the province of Batangas.

The first order of business was a barbecue with my extended family. My dad is one of seven and we had lunch with four of his siblings and their families and the resort my grandparents built.
The word resort has a wide range of meanings in the Philippines. I’m sure most of you hear resort and think of some posh, upper class deal and those do exist in the Philippines, but Riverside as it is known, consists of a few bamboo huts with no bathrooms (large outhouse) just a few feet from the ocean. Staying there would qualify as “keeping it real” as the cool kids say, but as it is today it really needs some work. One of my aunts would like to improve it one day.

With dozens of relatives in town at the same time, we ended up staying at Vista Mar, a hotel just down the road. And while the accommodations aren’t what you’d generally expect here in the states, our room overlooked the ocean.

The Philippines is 14 hours ahead of the Midwestern US so you can understand why by that first evening we were pretty much spent. Not only were we exhausted from the traveling, but our clocks were now totally reversed. I actually fell asleep sitting up during dinner.

Drivers and Driving

My dad had been there about a month to visit relatives and prepare for all of us coming. He arranged two vans with drivers to transport everyone. One of the drivers was charging him $800 for three weeks which comes out to $40,000 pesos. The exchange rate is $1US to 51 or 52 Philippine pesos, but I'll go with 50 when I talk about costs for the sake of my math limitations.

So while this doesn't seem like a lot of money, consider, according to my dad, a teacher in the provinces might make $7000 pesos or $140 a month.

Having a driver was necessary as we had as many as 40 people at one point to transport within the province Batangas, and to and from Manila.

Driving by the way is different if you've never traveled out of the country. You know how in Chicago, every once in a while you'll see some impatient person do a little passing during traffic jams on the median? In the Philippines, this is considered an extra lane while at full speed - and no one even blinks.

They pass on the left, they pass on the right... they ride your bumper, they use their horns constantly, but not out of anger as we do for the most part here in the states, but to communicate that I'm coming up faster and don't even think about moving into the lane until I've passed and move over or be hit etc. This is a constant thing over there and not once did I see anyone screaming or yelling out the window.

Drive like this in LA and you'll get shot. Over there it is the norm.

Day 2 - Our Arrival In Manila

The flight to Manila was short in comparison and as we landed, what struck my wife was the fact that many of the people started clapping. As we got off the plane, you could feel the heat and humidity right away. I probably felt it more as I was wearing a soccer warmup suit on the plane.
We smiled as a local band met the arriving passengers playing and singing John Denver’s “Country Road.” We were happy to see the sign that the Philippines is bird flu free.

My dad and my uncle met us. My uncle is a high ranking judge in the Philippines so the customs and airport big wigs were also on hand to make sure everything went smoothly. By the time we got our bags, we had traveled just short of 35 and ½ hours. And we had a 2 and a half hour van ride ahead of us.

Day 2 - Taipei

When we arrived in Taipei, none of the restaurants in our terminal are open and we have no local currency for drinks out of the machine. So my thirst, caused by the tiny cups on China Air continues.

This was Shannon’s first time out of he country (we‘re not really counting Cancun or her quick stop at the Montreal airport), so she wanted to take pictures in the airport, to which I pointed out the humor of her being Caucasian, surrounded by Asians, with a big camera, taking pictures of everything.

The gate for our flight to Manilla smelled of urine. Not good. When my brother in law took my oldest to the bathroom and the toilet was literally in the ground, my son asked him “do they have toilets in the Philippines?”

40 Year Old Virgin and Wedding Crashers

These were two movies I had really wanted to see since they've been out. Hilarious. I was watching them while the kids were asleep and was trying hard not to bust out laughing and wake them up. Totally inappropriate, but incredibly funny.

China Airlines

Just a thought about China Airlines...

The good - China Air has these personal, interactive entertainment units that allow you to listen to music, watch movies or play games. Friends know that since I became a dad, I've missed pretty much every movie I've wanted to see in theaters. On the way out, I was able to catch several movies The 40 Year Old Virgin, Wedding Crashers and The Island (plus Cinderella Man on the way to LA). This was a great way to catch up and really helped pass the time.

The bad - they serve drinks in the same size cups that pre-schools use… so basically you get about one swig of beverage with your meal or during snack time. Not a big deal on short flights, but if you're like me and used to drinking a lot of water/soda, you really felt like you had your hands tied.

The weird - the flight attendants don't seem to understand the call button concept. The calls are either ignored or they figure you pushed it by mistake as my daughter did. They'll shut it off, but won't ask if you actually needed something (according to my brother in law).

Day 2

The Hilton shuttle got us to our gate within a matter of minutes and that, plus the really comfortable bed was worth the extra scratch. We got in line to check in our bags at 9:30 that morning and got the “here’s what’s left” breakfast from McDonald’s. This wasn’t just a family vacation, but a reunion of sorts for a couple of things I’ll get to in future posts. When we got to Atlanta, we met up with a cousin and her family and my mom.

In LA, we met up with my sister’s family. By the time we got to LA, we had already been traveling 10 hours and with many little kids, this wasn’t easy. This was when we switched from Delta to China Airlines and this began the first of many unbelievably rude traveling encounters.

First we met the “carry on Nazi.” A guy from the airline sees our large family and starts getting on us about out carry ons before we even check in. As one of my cousin’s would point out later, it’s probably because many people try to "stuff an extra person in their carry ons" during these international flights.

Later, my cousin’s husband and I are in the international terminal, rushing to get overpriced hot dogs for our kids as they hadn’t eaten in a while. I’m right in line behind him, he gets his order and just as I’m about to order, the woman behind me puts her arm in front of my face and orders. I don’t know what her problem was, but I was so stunned, I didn’t say anything. Instead I just stood two feet from her and stared her down, causing several uncomfortable moments while she got her order.

At some point a short time later, before the airline called us up to board, a couple hundred people formed a line. A counter person gets on the PA and asks that they all sit down and not one person moves. When the airline brought us to the front (they recognized the six kids that are five and under), some people actually started talking smack to us. Again the “carry on Nazi” starts in on us and a couple of us give up bags just to get him off our backs.

The whole experience at this smelly, crowded gate area had me on edge and I was hoping this wasn't a sign of things to come.

But wouldn't you know it... not long before the flight is getting ready to go, Shannon asks me to get something out of her carry on, so I pull her bag down and get it... only when I turn back around to see some guy leap up and start stuffing his bag into the overhead compartment where our bag was not ten seconds before.

I look over and yell "unbelievable" to which he replies something to the effect of "did you want to put your bag here?" I told him, I had just wanted to get something out of this bag and yes, I'd like to put it back. This would not have been an issue, but we were in the front of a section and had no place to put bags in front of us.

A warning for those of you traveling to Asia... (I suppose it could have been this flight, but a later post will confirm that it was at least two)... it is like playing basketball in the post. Be ready to throw elbows and have an attitude if you don't want to get stomped on.

Day 1

My posts will be chronological for the most part, but I will stray to separate topics on occasion.

The first day of our trip actually began Christmas night. We had to stop off at 25 to drop off a couple of things. When we arrived, my daughter informed me that “this is not the Philippines!” We drove to a friend’s house in the Chicago burbs and had a home cooked Italian dinner. The plan was to stay at the O’Hare Hilton and have our friend keep our car, avoiding the huge parking cost and long drive the morning of our trip.

A Little Background

Before this month, I had been to the Philippines twice. Once when I was in first grade and once when I was a sophomore in high school.

Of course, even when I was a teenager, I didn't fully appreciate the how long of a journey it was for my parents to both get to Milwaukee where they met, nor did I appreciate how in so many ways the opportunities I had growing up here.

As a child, it was a place that didn't have all the conveniences I was used to... it was hot and sticky and there were lots of bugs and lizards... away from my friends over vacation... just to start.

These are of course feelings I'm not proud of, but I accept now as part of growing up.

Not to say that I was going to learn everything about the history or about my family on this trip, but my eyes and ears were wide open.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Hello From Jet Lag Hell

We're back. I'm not back to work until Tuesday and had planned to share stuff about the trip... you still may see it depending on how I feel and when/if the kids go to sleep. I say if because we are currently in jet lag hell.

No one in our house can get back on midwest time and we got back Thursday morning. We were all up at 4am...

I actually fell asleep during the Bears game and missed the first 20 minutes of the "24" premiere and from what I've read, it was pretty intense.

I may post about the trip tonight, unless I fall asleep sitting up which is possible.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hello From The South Pacific

Hello friends and faithful readers. All is well in the South Pacific. I've had internet access for the past couple of days, but my hotel room for this part of the trip is 90 steps from the ocean and I haven't wanted to waste a minute (got some time to kill right now before breakfast).

I'll be blogging at length about the trip... about what I've learned about my family, about their homeland and about myself... but probably not until I get back...

My best to you all... hoping you had a wonderful holiday.