Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 2017

We left New Orleans with many happy memories and the remains of a box of yumminess that had been brought by S from California.
We had one day and night in Florida before our flight out of the country, and were able to spend time with T and C who now live there.  They kindly drove some hours to meet us and took us touring down to Key Largo.
Our last US lunch, by the sea, did not disappoint.  And we even found key lime pie for dessert :-).

Festive Florida:
Thirty-nine hours of traveling found us at our Batu Feringgi doorstep, unable to get in because the gate was padlocked.  That was sorted out within an hour or two and then we found 3 cm of water on the kitchen floor.  That got sorted out too.  Worse than those bits of excitement, the next day I found a desiccated gecko in the toaster!!  After toasting!

Soon after, Another session of Talk Time at the Indonesian Consulate's shelter. Seven volunteers and 26 participants. 

Six months to go in our ten year escapade overseas...

NOLA New Years!

Flying from Miami/Florida to Louisiana you pass miles and miles of bayou, the land largely submerged. A few impossibly placed buildings, seemingly surrounded by water.  You have to wonder at what rate coastal areas are disappearing.

Landing in the wonderfully-named Louis Armstrong airport we immediately catch the New Orleans vibe

And then spot this sobering? helpful? sign: 

Leaving C and L as advance guard to explore the city, T, M and K headed to Lafayette, Louisiana to meet M and K's long-lost first cousin, whom we'd not seen for years and years and years.  While we regret not having made the effort sooner, for he is one of our very few cousins and a really interesting guy, the timing is good because he is in ill-health and not expected to be around very much longer. We found that he reminded us very much of our deceased brother.

We stayed two nights in Lafayette (he treated us to a hotel!) and had fabulous meals both evenings. This fellow greeted us at one restaurant where we enjoyed crawfish etouffe 
We heard many great stories of Cousin Ed's life and our family, including the real story of the spelling of the name "Stroad". But first, verification that our grandmother was indeed full-blooded Native American--Lakota Sioux.  Amazing.  Wish we had known her, though the scowl she presents in photos is quite off-putting. How did our grandfather meet her, one wonders. Ed did not know.

The Stroad story is quite marvelous, and differs greatly from the one M and I were told as kids (= two great aunts simply thought Strode was boring and common, so they changed it).  Apparently,  our great grandfather, Elisha Stephen Strode, born 1845 in Kentucky and the youngest of 10 children, served in the Union Army during the Civil War. Poor dear, he suffered there from hemorrhoids, a common complaint at the time and attributed to the strain of moving dead bodies around to bury them...  His were so bad that he left the army and began receiving disability checks.  The first check had a spelling error, which he never bothered to try to correct, and hence Stroad was born.

Cousin Ed has four daughters, three of whom we met--so fun to know them and gracious of them to make time for us
Ed told us a bit about his life.  He had many years with the US Air Force in VietNam in electronic warfare (jamming radar) and earning multiple medals.  Here are two he found to show us
He then worked on offshore oil platforms in Louisiana, prospected for gold in Georgia and Nevada, and started a film production company.  He also had bit parts in a number of films, including Lonesome Dove and Secretariat. Interesting, sweet guy.

Time to head back to New Orleans. Our visit had exhausted him in his frail health, but I think we were all glad we had the time together.
Spotted in a Lafayette restaurant, an unfortunate typo--making it the place to go to make ADA-related complaints
New Orleans' French and Garden Quarters are like what one imagines France wold have been like in the late 1800s.  Lovely, grand houses with great charm. 

So much good food to try! 



 Raw oysters: T enjoying and S bravely trying

Crawfish anyone?

And there was plenty to drink
And great music!
Jeff Chaz--we bought a CD
Well-sated in NOLA:
Christmas spirit was evident

K chickened out on a bronco ride but B gallantly stepped in
In the Oh dear in America department
A little rain didn't slow us down, though some live musicians had to turn off their amps

New Years Eve! 

Managed to find an AWESOME spot to see fireworks--a loaded barge trundled down the Mississippi River, and stopped directly in front of us !
Among the best fireworks shows any of us had ever seen.

We also found time for some exploring.  Here, an excursion across the river to Algiers Pt.

Looking excited to see Algier's Pt,
M found a statue in her honor
Just walking along...
and a fight breaks out

No apparent damage.   

The perfect anniversary gift  for K was found, in a jewelry store in the French Quarter. Two stunning pearls for the boys, and gold for T who holds everything together. And all were there to witness the discovery--a magical moment
Happy new year!!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Epic Christmas journey

Penang - Kuala Lumpur - Heathrow/8 hour layover - Miami/airport hotel overnight, and finally Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where a joyous, near miraculous reunion of family coming from four different places actually arrived at more or less at the same time.  Yay!

For the KL - London leg we got to fly on the upper deck of an Airbus A380.  It is basically a two story airplane, with business and economy seats upstairs.

The Majestic Colonial resort was a great spot for Christmas for our group of 11.  It has a beautiful beach, very comfortable rooms, and all you can eat and drink.

Cam came ready for the occasion with loads of home-baked Christmas cookies, including fattigman!
appreciated by all

The first full day we toured a cigar factory

And did some rum tasting...

Then it was on to the pool. It's bar and it's Bali beds" were a big hit with the fam

There were always more drinks to be had


And more food!

 And we were even serenaded at one point

Christmas Eve arrived. More celebration!

The stockings were hung in the hotel room with care
in hopes that St. Nicholas would soon arrive by speedboat
There were many thoughtful gifts

And what would a resort be without a casino

That calls for a little dancin' in the street
Fuel for the revelers....

Back to the water!
Alas, time came for a farewell drink the night before departure 

Goodbyes ending our Punta Cana reunion

NEXT:  Louisiana New Years