Mom’s day out in Ho Chi Minh City

Hello all! Mike has done a great job keeping you all up to date, but I figured I would weigh in occasionally as well.

We had a bit of a hectic morning on Friday. I had some work calls and other work to do for vChief starting early. Mike got the kids going with school but they were all clamoring for my attention, which I just couldn’t fully give them. And it was one of those mornings where school was a battle and it seemed like one breakdown after another from the girls. It took a while, but we made it through all of our work and headed out for lunch. Alas, we waited a bit too long to eat so there was a lot of hangry attitudes on all parts.

By the end of lunch I was about at my wit’s end, so afterwards I took a couple of hours of “me” time. Mike and I have realized doing this occasionally help us both maintain our sanity in light of spending 24/7 with the family.

I was excited to walk around the city and see the sights a bit. The kids don’t really love extended walking tours, so it is a real joy to be able to just do it alone! Saigon has a lot of lovely colonial architecture. I saw a beautiful church and the huge post office.


Post office

maps Hi Chi Minh City and the Mekong delta on the walls of the post office

After an hour of strolling around, I stumbled across a massage place (they are ubiquitous here as in most of Southeast Asia, to my great joy.) I got a lovely hot stone massage and then tried to make my way back to the hotel. It was damn near impossible to find a cab, so I ended up, after a long wait, hopping on the back of a motorcycle taxi. It was a bit of a wild ride- zipping between cars, occasionally onto the sidewalk or into oncoming traffic. Just par for the course around here, but I spent the whole ride alternating between squeezing my eyes shut and praying to the Almighty Lord. Luckily I made it back with all limbs intact and feeling rested and relaxed and ready to jump back in with the kiddos.

Fancy massage place. Paid a whole $20!moto selfie!

A few days sans Mike

So Mike went off to Montevideo Uruguay to sell the car. I felt bad for him having to drive 30 hours. I also felt bad for me having solo parent duty for 3 1/2 days. (I know, cry me a river!) As it turned out, we did just fine, though of course we missed him. 

While he was gone we did work and school each morning, had a lot of pool time, and went on an adventure each afternoon. 

The first day we went to Ipanema beach. It is far from where we are staying but the water is relatively clean (compared to the pea soup/ “broccoli water” in the bay) and of course it is pretty iconic so we didn’t want to miss it. Turns out it is quite similar to Copacabana but with just a slightly different view (islands in the distance and different peaks to view). The girls built sand castles, played at the edge of the big waves, and generally had a lovely time, despite whining about not wanting to go.  

Thursday’s adventure was visiting the Rio aquarium, AquaRio. We took the trolley down there which was fun for the kids. It is free on the way down but they charge coming back up.  The aquarium seemed like a pretty new facility. Super modern and nice with great exhibits. Caroline would hoot and holler with every new exciting discovery she found. Tons of cool fish and other marine life. They had a huge tank with big fish, sharks, and manta rays. They also had touch pools with starfish, clawless lobsters, and baby stingrays. Kids loved it but surprisingly our daredevil Mimi was a bit too nervous to touch the rays and then felt all sad about that after the fact. Overall it was a hit. Then we played at a playground, got some acai, and walked down a cool area with great street art. 

Friday we went up to a playground near our Airbnb and then went strolling through Santa Teresa. We happened upon the trolley again so took it a couple of stops. Then we went to Parque das Ruinas which is an old historic house with insane views of Rio. We snacked on some chocolate cake on the terrace, which the kids gulped down in about 40 seconds. From there we walked down escadaria seleron, some really cool tiled steps, and ended in the marina de Gloria area where the kids practiced cartwheels and then we had pizza dinner by the water. 

A lovely few days, but there was definitely a lot of “I wish dad were here” and “I miss dad.” We will be glad to have him back tomorrow. 

Back in Rio

We were happy to come back to Rio for a week before ending the trip. It was a bit of a necessity so Mike could drive the car down to Montevideo to sell it. But before he left we had a couple of days to explore more of Rio as a family. 

Last time we stayed in Copacabana near the beach which was fun. This time we are in a totally different area of the city- Santa Teresa- a historic neighborhood, perched on a hill, complete with a winding labyrinth of cobblestone streets and great architecture and street art. We found an interesting Airbnb with a pool and two bedrooms each with a loft. It has no indoor living/ dining area but there is a covered outdoor kitchen which has worked just fine with us, except the occasional mosquitos. Pool is on the cool side but kids have been in it every day regardless. 

Our first full day back we took off school for Memorial Day. We spent the morning emptying the car. Oh my the amount of garbage (literal and figurative) we have collected!!! We did a first round of organizing and purging but we will likely need another one. 

In the afternoon we went to Florista de Tijuca- a big jungle park in the middle of the city (contains lots of huge peaks including Corcovado, where the giant Jesus stands).  We drove around a circuit and stopped at a couple of points for to see the visitors center and go on a small hike. We were hoping to see some big butterflies but no luck. We did find a nice little playground and 2 lovely waterfalls. Kids did reasonably well on the hike. 

The little waterfall we hiked to
“Jungle” gym
The jungle

After we came back to our house, we wandered the neighborhood and found a nice little place for dinner. 

The next day we were back to school and work in the morning. Then Mike went to get the car washed… I didn’t think it could ever look quite so clean again. In the afternoon we went to another cool park- Parque Lage. Mike didn’t join us because he was on a failed mission to collect the car deposit from Western Union, but the girls and I had a blast. There was an amazing old building we checked out. Then we went hiking around the grounds and found lots of treasures. First were some cool caves. Then we saw these little marmosets (like mini monkeys with long tails) hopping through the trees. After walking up to a pond, we saw bigger monkeys farther up the hill and in the trees. That seemed exciting enough but later we were waiting around in the courtyard below the building for Mike to pick us up, and there were 2 monkeys we got to see super up close! Almost too up close in fact. One was basically about to pounce on a neighboring guy to get his snack. Then he just walked around the square and the girls wanted to go right up to him. I kept them back a safe distance but it was a pretty cool experience for all of us. There was a second monkey just chilling in the trees, so we got to see lots of that one too. All in all a huge success and super fun day! 

I think Mimi was crabby Julie came to share her stone bench
From inside the cave. They could have played in there all day!
Notice Christ the Redeemer looming above
In the courtyard of the building
Monkey number one. Serious trouble maker, this one

Monkey #2 in the tree. Loved watching him!

Final Titicaca adventures

Our time in Copacabana on the shores of lake Titicaca was a bit more mellow than expected given some illnesses and some rain. We didn’t make it out to Isla del Sol as planned, but we did catch up on some work and homeschooling. And we had some fun activities too.

On our last day we hiked up to Horca del Inca on a big hill near town. Mike and Julie were still feeling a bit sick to their stomach, and Caroline was tired so the three of them cut out early. Mimi was eager to hike, so she and I continued up to the top.

We couldn’t find the actual trail so we just scampered up the steep rocks until we were about 2/3 of the way up the mini-mountain. It was really fun and Mimi loved it. Both she and Julie are proving to be good little hiker/climbers this trip! Eventually we did find the trail and followed it up the rest of the way. The view from the top was gorgeous and there was some cool structures used by pre-Incan people for astronomical purposes.

After that we meandered home and had some noodles for lunch (lots of starch in our diet these days- I’m hankering for a gigantic salad!)

The kids had been begging pretty much every waking moment since we got to Copacabana to go on these hamster wheel floaty things on the lake. We finally gave in and let them go. The girls and Mike went out, while I stayed on shore with our stuff. Apparently Caroline was too afraid to let Mike spin the wheel for them and spent a lot of time screaming (she’s our nervous nelly) so the twins said it was no fun and she “wrecked it” for them. They tried to talk us into going again but we weren’t up for that… oh well. I think they will look back and remember it as a fun time regardless.

Later that afternoon Mike headed out to pick up our new minivan from the border. But that is another story entirely for him to tell….

Rainy hike

It was a slow day around here. Mike was feeling under the weather, so I had to take over home school duties. Was feeling pretty distracted because I also had a lot of work to catch up on… but I found once I really focused on one girl at a time we made lots of progress. 

Once we got through that I was eager to take a hike up the mountain behind our hotel. I could only talk Julie into coming with me, but that was actually great because we got some quality time together and she was such a great little hiker! She was eager to scamper and climb up the rocks. And she didn’t whine once 🙂

We got to the top to enjoy an incredible view of lake Titicaca and the surrounding hills. But it also started raining on us at that point. So we didn’t linger and were quick to get back down. 

I spent the rest of the afternoon working and taking care of some trip planning (booking a week at the Marriott in Santiago on points- thank you credit cards!!). I haven’t found it too hard to work on the road but we are lucky to have sufficiently good internet thus far and strong cell signal. Though we are struggling to get a strong enough signal to upload pics to this blog!

Dinner was at a little Italian place next to our hotel. Pasta was drying on a rod right next to our table- the chef came and scooped some up to cook for us… talk about fresh!!

Are we ready for this?

Oh my gosh. We leave for Bolivia tomorrow. I’m feeling awash in both excitement and anxiety. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know everything will be great. Really, really great! But I also know there will be lots of challenges and hiccups along the way. And… I just hope I’m not forgetting anything important!

Its been great to be in Santa Fe this past week for all sorts of reasons. It has been absolutely perfect to spend the last week in the US with my family, celebrating Christmas. All of my brothers and their families are just great people, and really fun to be around. And we had lots of quality family bonding over ice skating, cooking classes, x-mas eve farolito walk, exchanging gifts, shared meals, and more. My mom was a wonderful host, putting together three tables all the way across her small living room to seat a party of 15! And booking extra houses for many of us to stay in since we couldn’t fit in her awesome (but cozy) three bedroom place.

Its also been nice to know we are all packed up, have a test run with our first airbnb renters in our house, and the opportunity to pick up any forgotten items (and send others home). We also got the chance to meet the lovely family who will live in our house most of the time we’re gone, starting in late Jan. How funny that they just happen to be moving from Santa Fe! Our kiddos (all girls) got along smashingly, and hopefully we’ll be able to spend time with them in Madison when we get back (and hopefully they will have bought their own home by then).

So… why do I wake up at four every morning in a mild panic? I just have crazy visions of things going wrong, of us struggling with our mound of luggage (3 big suitcases, 2 other smaller checked bags, and a backpack for each of us…), of our thoroughly American kids refusing the food so foreign to their taste buds (tienes nuggets de pollo o mac y queso?), of not being able to find places to stay, of running out of gas or breaking down in the middle of nowhere, of getting some weird tropical ailment, of kidnappings and car accidentsand the host of other clearly improbably things that won’t happen to us, but still occupy an unreasonable amount of my brain space.

Back in the land of reality, I have some real anxiety about balancing life on the road with trying to keep a business running and maintaining good service to vChief clients on the road. I’ve tried to offload a bunch of duties to other people on my team, which helps, but there is still lots on my plate. And I know I’ll be pinch hitting on teaching the kids once in a while too, when Mike needs a break. Never mind all of the actual traveling and seeing sights and such.

So yeah, lots on my mind these days. Such as the 18 hour journey from Santa Fe to Houston to Miami to La Paz ahead of us tomorrow. (a) Thank goodness for iPads (b) let’s hope this melatonin stuff helps the kids sleep (c) you can survive 1 day of just about anything, right?

Wish us luck!