Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Back in the Saddle

May 23, 2017

For the past month I’ve led my family on an international exploration.  Over 30 days we were in ten different countries working with five different languages (six if you include Swiss German) traveling by plane, train, automobile, bus, boat and on foot.  We visited 20 different people and while I haven’t calculated the total distance we covered yet, I’m estimating that including the flights to and from the US West Coast, we’re a bit over 15,000 miles.  We saved four years to make this a reality, planned and executed every step of it on our own, and had an amazing experience that will stay with us the rest of our lives.  It was exhilarating and exhausting, every bit as fantastic as we imagined and better than we could have hoped.  We are grateful to God, friends, family, and all those who prayed for us and helped to make it a reality.

But now we’re home so I’ll start writing again.  Talk more with you soon!


Contingency Planning

January 21, 2017

Space travel in and of itself is pretty cool and neat.  But what about if something goes wrong?  It turns out contingency planning in space can be a pretty curious area for consideration even though most people are never going to hear about it.  This article changes that, providing a glimpse into an important but not very cheery topic – what do you do with the body of someone who dies in space?  It’s an important question, but not one that has been completely and thoroughly thought out.

It’s an important consideration soas not to endanger or even inconvenience other crew members with bacteria or smell.  Though jettisoning a body out of an airlock – an interstellar equivalent to a burial at sea – may seem beautiful, the practical considerations of such an action – especially when instances are multiplied over time – is hardly as poetic.

Equally curious to me was the offhand comment about burning up trash during the re-entry of resupply ships.  Is it common practice to arrange trash on or outside a ship re-entering Earth’s atmosphere with the intention of that material being burned up?  Are there risks to this in terms of bacteria or other nasties floating about in the atmosphere and perhaps gradually working their way to the ground?  If not, is this another possible solution to mounting concerns about what to do with all the trash we generate?  Fascinating!



A Long, Strange Trip

November 4, 2016

We’re traveling to Vietnam.  To see the sights and visit friends and there isn’t much we can say beyond that which is frustrating but what can you do about it?  Towards that end we drove our kids to Phoenix on Sunday to stay with family, an 8-hour drive that went smoothly.  Tuesday afternoon my wife and I flew from Phoenix to LAX, there to wait for six hours for a flight that left at 12:30am Wednesday.  I was in pain from a lower back problem, but we were getting by.  The Asiana ticketing person was very kind and bumped us out of the middle of a five seat row and upstairs on the big plane to a 2-seat row of our own.

The flight went well.  Painful, but what do you do?  You try to sleep, and I was able to get a few hours and my wife was able to get a few more.  But 13 hours on a plane is not fun no matter how you slice it.  I’ll simply say that this flight was worlds better than the United flight we took to Europe over a year ago.  Despite the strange food, the staff was very friendly, always ready to serve a cup of water or juice.

We arrived in Seoul at 5:00am.  The airport was pretty deserted, and I could barely debark the plane the pain was so bad.  I took another 600mg Ibuprofen and prayed for it to kick in.  It took a while, and in the meantime I couldn’t even stand up.  The thought crossed our mind in more than a fleeting way that we might not make it to Hanoi, that I might not be able to tolerate the 5-hour flight from Seoul to Hanoi.  We prayed and tried to rest, and eventually the ibuprofen kicked in and we got on the plane.  I was uncomfortable, but not in pain at all for the flight.  I watched Leonardo DiCaprio in Revenant to try and get some inspiration.  If somebody could live through a bear mauling, I could make it through a 5-hour flight on a padded seat.

We had to pick up our visa in Hanoi and wait through the line for customs and immigration.  Our friend, J.P., was there to greet us outside the baggage area, and he had an appointment for me in a few hours with a chiropractor in town.  We checked into the hotel first.  The staff was very friendly, bringing us small cups of green tea.  They also arranged for banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich with a variety of marinated pork meat cuts and pates on a French roll with some fresh veggies.  They were delicious, and we wolfed them down in time to catch an Uber ride to the chiropractic clinic.

That turned into a 3-hour effort on the clinic’s part to get me out of the worst of the pain.  Nothing seemed to help.  They did some light manual manipulation.  They used lasers.  They used ultrasonic treatment.  They used ice packs.  They used acupuncture.  They used electro-therapy on isolated muscle groups.  By the end of the day I hurt as much if not more than I did that morning.  Eventually they gave me some codeine pain medicine and some anti-inflammatories and told me to come back in the morning.

It was 5:30 PM and just about dark  by now.  Walking out of the clinic was difficult, and they were going to send one of their staff with us to help make sure I could get to our hotel all right.  I eventually convinced them this wasn’t necessary, returned their back brace, and under my own power and stubbornness hobbled out the door.  I was still in a great deal of pain, waiting for the drugs to kick in as we headed back to the hotel.  J.P. and the Mrs. headed out to pick up some cash at an ATM.  He headed home, and she opted to go out shortly after to get us some food.  We munched on a couple more banh mi sandwiches – chicken this time, and not nearly as tasty but still more than adequate.  I prayed that I would be able to sleep.

God is good, and I did sleep very well.  Jet lag didn’t seem to be much of an issue so far other than being tired at the end of the day.  The next morning I felt better and was able to have breakfast downstairs at the hotel before heading out again via Uber for my follow-up chiropractic appointment.  I was feeling much better at this point, and they did a few minor things before suggesting that I return that afternoon.  Elated, we headed out for lunch.  J.P. took us to a newly famous site, a typical Vietnamese restaurant newly dubbed Obama Bun Cha.  It’s famous because on President Obama’s recent visit to Vietnam, he ate here with famed media chef Anthony Bourdain.

I doubt the food was exceptional, but it was delicious after enduring so much in the past few days!  Bun cha is a traditional Vietnamese dish consisting of a broth with meat bits (pork, this time) that you put over rice noodles.  We had a few deep fried egg-roll type things that were also delicious.

We walked around a bit, stopping in for some coffee at the most delicious chain of coffee shops called Cong Ca Phe.  They serve a coconut coffee that consists of a small amount of coffee mingled with a coconut milk/ice/sweetened condensed milk slushee sort of concoction.  It was amazingly delicious, and our host pointed out the decor that highlighted some of Hanoi and Vietnam’s Communist past.

I went back to the clinic for a few more adjustments and another round of acupuncture.  I left feeling less good than in the morning, but overall still much better.  We headed back out, this time to see the famous Hoa Lo Prison, also known as the  Hanoi Hilton, the prison in the middle of Hanoi where American prisoners of war were held during the Vietnam conflict.  More than half of the self-guided tour and exhibits emphasized the prison’s less famous past, as a French prison for Vietnamese rebels and revolutionaries from the late 19th century to the mid 20th century.  It was a fascinating perspective, to say the least, and we left recognizing the power of perception and how things are portrayed in determining what we believe to be true.

We returned home with J.P. to meet his two daughters.  Then the group of us headed out to our first street food experience – a place known as Street Sushi.  And the name is exactly accurate.  It’s a sushi place that sets up each evening in an area that, by day, serves as a parking lot.  The sushi is served from a portable cart.  You sit at low plastic tables on small plastic chairs.  The menu is an impressive assortment of hand rolls, sushi, and sashimi.  We enjoyed several rolls and sides for a fraction of what it would cost in the US.  I think dinner for all of us came to about $20 US!

Afterwards we walked a short distance to Lotte building.  We headed to the rooftop to enjoy a cocktail for the adults and juice for the kids.  The view was spectacular in all directions, with the twinkling lights of Hanoi splayed out far below.  A beautiful way to end the evening, before heading back to our hotel in the Old Quarter and falling blessedly asleep!  I still had pain and discomfort, but it seemed clear at this point that I was going to be able to continue to function and get through the trip.  Thank you Lord!

Getting Things Done

August 3, 2016

How do you deal with national issues like food waste and traffic congestion?  We have our traditional approaches that we think of, but it’s fascinating to see how other countries deal with these situations.

China is experimenting with solutions to traffic congestion that don’t require as extensive a support infrastructure as light rail or subways.  Their approach is to elevate buses – but not on separate tracks, but rather on existing roads.  The buses are designed to actually travel over vehicles on existing streets!  Some infrastructure is required but it doesn’t look as massive as building a completely separate transportation system.  I wonder how they deal with trucks and other large vehicles on the road?  Maybe they design a separate transportation system for *those* vehicles instead?  Hmmmm….

Food waste is a major issue around the world, particularly in Western countries.  Italy passed laws with the goal of eliminating 20% of food waste nationally, going from five million tons of food waste per year to four.  Part of the solution is bureaucratic – making it easier for food to be donated to those who need it, even if it’s slightly out-of-date.  Legislation about making it easier for farmers to donate excess produce is also part of the mix.

But the other aspect is cultural – changing the way people deal with the food they have on their plates at restaurants.  Apparently in Italy it isn’t very common to ask for to-go containers for leftover food. Money is being spent on advertising and educational campaigns to convince Italians that there’s nothing demeaning about taking unfinished food home and making another meal out of it.

Small steps can make a big difference.  And sometimes it’s just helpful to see how other people approach a problem – something I love about traveling.

Meanwhile, in Kentucky…

June 27, 2016

…an ark is born.

While I’m not sold completely on the young earth issue, I do believe the Noah account is literal and historical, and it would be fascinating to see a replication of that boat!

Uncovering Beauty

May 26, 2016

Four years ago almost I was blessed to travel with a group of parishioners to Israel.  Among the many amazing sites we visited was the town of Bethlehem, and the Church of the Nativity.


Of course it’s an amazing place, and as old as it is, there is undoubtedly a constant stream of maintenance, upkeep, and rediscovery that goes on there.


They continue to discover new things under the plaster of the walls, under the floors, literally everywhere.  This article details yet another discovery recently made- part of a series of angelic mosaics.  Beautiful!







Finding Eden

May 10, 2016

When I was younger I wrote a short story about an explorer bent on finding Eden.  But I’m hardly the first one with such an aspiration.  Here’s an interesting travelogue detailing one person’s travels to various places in the Middle East that claim to be Eden.

Who Do You Trust?

February 9, 2016

Would you trust a stranger to plan your next 3-day weekend getaway?  If you give them a per-person budget that would cover accommodations and travel?  And you don’t find out where you’re going until the day you leave?

This is kind of fascinating – it would be fun to try someday!

A Room with a CPU

February 5, 2016

I finally have a reason to make Amsterdam a destination – and I already know where I want to stay!

Curious Travels

November 9, 2015

I love to travel.  I love to see different things, breathe different air, taste different foods, hear different languages floating past me on the sidewalk.  I appreciate the obviousness of being the other compared to feeling that way so often in my own culture.  If there’s something that captures my imagination and sets me daydreaming, it usually has to do with someplace else.

All of which was summarized and crushed into guilt by a green puppet and purported Jedi master almost 30 years ago.  “This one a long time have I watched.  All his life he has looked away…to the future, to the horizon.  Never his mind on where he was.  Hmph.  What he was doing.  Hmph.  Adventure.  Heh.  Excitement.  Heh.  A Jedi craves not these things.  You are reckless.”

So, it isn’t without a fair amount of guilt (of course) that I admit this about myself.  But I’m hardly the first person to love to travel, and recklessness perhaps is an integral part of the whole going elsewhere process.  “It’s a dangerous business, going out of your door.  You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.” (J.R.R. Tolkien)  Movement is dangerous, though that danger isn’t always perceived by the traveler.

Take, for example, the story of children sent under false pretenses from England to Australia.  Permanently.  That was the experience of some English orphans, like this girl.  She was told she was going on a day-trip to Australia, not that she was being given a one-way ticket across the world, not that she was exchanging one set of trials and tribulations for a completely new set.

Sometimes the danger is less to the traveler and more to those amongst whom the traveler sojourns, whether for a few hours or years.  The traveler in some ways ought to know of the dangers that present themselves.  They take these upon themselves or discover them en route.  But to the people who receive the visitor, whether intentionally or unawares, there are dangers in confronting the other in a place they never expected – their own homeland and daily routines.  Such might be said for the menfolk who gather together and relinquish their pennies to meet travelers on a caravan of love.

Where are you going and where have you been and where is the other in your life today?  You might catch a glimpse of it in your spouse’s eyes, or in the laughter of children or grandchildren.  Echoes of the familiar that, for a moment, look and sound out of the ordinary, exotic even.  The other is everywhere and everyone and oddly enough, even ourselves.  Remembering this is so important.  “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”  (St. Augustine)