Monday, April 14, 2014

2013: A Year in Review

Have you noticed; it seems that the older you get, the faster time flies by.  It seems so long since I have written anything here – and, strange as it is to say; I really miss you guys!
So, now that it’s mid-April of 2014, I will ease into the “New Year” by summarizing my 2013, which turned out to be an important year.  I’ll just hit some highlights, by quarter – so my year will appear to “fly by” for you as well.

We opened the New Year with a fun trip to beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Our great friends, the Broussard’s, oldest son, Andy, was getting married in the romantic Loretta Chapel.  We enjoyed the wonderful ceremony and great social time with the Broussard’s, their family, and friends.  I was even able to get a day of skiing in on the day of the wedding.  The snow and slopes were great too!

In February, I participated in a mini-triathlon with my two sisters, in Duncan Oklahoma.  Thankfully, it was an indoor venue.  We all did great on the 300m swim, 8 mile bike-ride, and 5k run – I was even able to win first place in my age group.

The biggest news in 2Q was my participation in a 7 day Mission Trip to Nicaragua, where I got to practice my Spanish, work on some building projects and participate in Vacation Bible School for over 500 kids, in two locations.  We were able to go swimming in the Pacific Ocean one day, and I was able to help one of the Mission-trippers, who got a little too far into the ocean, get safely back to the beach.

This was huge!  Susan and I were so happy and proud to welcome our first two grandchildren into the world.  Beckett Ryan Ratcliff was born on July 16th, in Ft. Worth Texas.  Troy Allen Tanner was born seven weeks later, in Newport Beach, California on September 2.     
    We were so excited for the expansion of these two wonderful young families.  We have been lucky enough to see and visit both of these precious boys often, since their births.  
Lastly, we went on a wonderful trip to the beautiful, and incredibly friendly, Notre Dame campus for a football game.  Even better, the Sooners won 35-21, making the trip even better!
After flying out to California to meet Troy in Southern California, we flew back out in late October, to northern California for a trip to the Napa Valley, a quick tour of the Stanford campus in Palo Alto, and a benefit concert with Neil Young, Heart, Diana Krall, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.  Now if that’s not checking things off a “Bucket-list” kinda trip, I don’t know what is!

We ended the year with all of the kids (and most importantly, both grandsons) at our house, for a wonderful family Christmas in Oklahoma.
Okay, I have to cheat and add that Oklahoma beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl was either the best possible way to end 2013 or the greatest imaginable way to enter 2014.  Either way, we loved it.  Could the Sooners make a run at the 2014 “Final Four”?  Only time will tell!

Monday, November 4, 2013

I'm a Traveling Man

I’m a Traveling Man

Do you remember that old Ricky Nelson song; “I’m a Traveling Man”?  That’s a little bit of what I feel like these days.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hitting the road, but this fall has really kept us, just like Willie Nelson; “On the Road Again”!
This has been a busy fall for us.  Besides our very first grandsons, who need to see us as often as they can (my words, not theirs), football weekends, weddings, and my two Spanish classes, I have been quite busy.  Work has been very hectic, too.  My boss has been assigned to a Special Project, since June (that will stay special until year-end), and guess who gets to do his job too?

Anyway, as you can see on the map below, we have covered lots of ground this fall, by land and by air.  Since mid-September, we have made the following trips:

Los Angeles area (Population = 3.8 million; 1,340 miles from Edmond) to meet our grandson, Troy Allen Tanner, who was born September 2nd.  This included side-trips to Anaheim (pop = 329k), and the coastal towns of Encinitas and San Juan Capistrano.
Chicago area (Population = 2.8 million; 788 miles from Edmond) in late September.  This included a drive over to South Bend, Indiana (Eastern time zone, Pop. = 100k) to watch OU beat Notre Dame 35-21.  The weather was perfect, and the Notre Dame fans were very friendly and welcoming.  We also went on a fun bus tour of Chicago, and we got to eat at a really good Irish restaurant in South Bend.
Dallas/Fort Worth (Population >2.0 million; 215 miles from Edmond) To see our excellent grandson, Beckett Ryan Ratcliff, who was born July 16th.  This included a side-trip to the OU - Texas game at the Cotton Bowl, in Dallas.  Oklahoma lost this one 36 – 20; partially ruining the year.  The many UT fans weren’t as classy as Notre Dame fans.  Go figure!  Despite this setback, Beckett was fun to be with (smiling and giggly).
San Francisco (Population > 1.5 million (including San Jose); 1,638 miles from Edmond).  This was a fun trip to visit the beautiful Napa Valley and attend a Crosby Stills, Nash & Young concert near San Jose.  The concert was a benefit for The Bridge School, for special needs kids, and also included Heart, Diana Krall, Elvis Costello, Fun, and others.  We love visiting the Napa Valley, and fall is the best!  We also took a brief tour of the Stanford campus in Palo Alto.  Vey pretty!
Houston (Population = 2.1 million; 457 miles from Edmond) to attend Stephanie’s wedding.  Steph is one of Erin’s best buddies from high school. Erin & Hutt were there, as well.  The wedding was outdoors, and the venue was fun.  Great weather, great food, and we got to see our Katy friends the Taylors!
I'm always ready for another roadtrip, but this weekend, we're staying home!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Notre Dame

Question:  Can you add something to your Bucket List after it's been made?  I don't know the official Bucket List Rules, but it seems a bit "after the fact" to update a Bucket List after it's been published.

As a true Irishman, I have always been a fan of Notre Dame, ever since I was young.  Growing up, going to a Catholic school in Detroit, we always rooted for Notre Dame (whether an Irish kid or not).  Of course going to see Notre Dame play was a high honor, especially at Notre Dame Stadium, with Touchdown Jesus looking down on the field (see upper right in the picture) below:

Well, last year, when Notre Dame played OU in Norman, I was there, along with son-in-law, Ryan, to witness my first ever Notre Dame game.  Well, Notre Dame won - even though I was pulling for my Sooners (the Luck of the Irish, right?)!  On that day, Notre Dame used a stifling defense to beat the my Sooners.
Well, good luck or not, Susan and I are heading to South Bend, Indiana in a couple of weeks for the OU - Notre Dame football game.  So I get to cross it off my Bucket List, as I attend a Fighting Irish game, against my Sooners, in Notre Dame Stadium - the home of Knute Rockne, Joe Montana, George (Win one for the Gipper) Gipp, and even Lou Holtz!  Maybe this year, it will be OU's tough defense that wins the day!

To finish, I have two random thoughts about Notre Dame:  Random thought #1:  
I have, on my staff, a young Aggie Petroleum Engineer, named Steven Young.  Well, I recently found out that Steven is related to Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger, famous from the 1993 movie about his dream to play football for the Irish.  Even this morning, at my Spinning class, they were playing the movie, "Rudy" in the video exercise room.  Must be  a sign, right.

Random thought #2: 
At OU's first home game this year, I introduced myself to long-time OU Assistant Coach Merv Johnson.  Coach Johnson runs OU's walk-on program and does radio commentary for the Sooners.  As it turns out, before joining the Sooner staff, in 1979, Coach Johnson coached at Notre Dame, and (according to Wikipedia):
 "Merv Johnson was the coach who was instrumental in keeping Rudy on as a scout-team player"!  

I am really excited about our upcoming trip to Notre Dame!  Can you tell?

Monday, July 29, 2013

He's Back....

After learning that a bunch of guys play basketball up at the church on Sunday afternoons, I decided to show up yesterday.  Don’t worry - it’s an indoor, air-conditioned court.  After almost four years in retirement, I played my first round of hoops, since myself imposed retirement in 2008!  Yeah!  First, a little history, and then I’ll tell you how I did.
I have played recreational basketball all of my life. I didn’t play for my high-school team, or certainly not college level, but I have played on Club teams, intermural, and pick-up games all through high-school and college.  I played on Shell league and church league teams in Houston, before moving to Midland in 1997.  There I played with a rigorous bunch of guys a 6:00 AM - 3 mornings a week.  After moving back to Houston, I played on church league teams and another morning pick-up team, even though I was traveling out of the country about one week out of every month.  I was never the MVP or leading scorer, but I had a niche of being a good rebounder, and a decent passer.  I liked to think of myself as poor-man’s “double-double”.  Whatever I got, I earned through hustle – not necessarily skill.  I like the pictures, below, from my “retirement game”.  I’m the one that is blurry – I was heading up the court for a break, while others were standing.

I retired in 2008, after I turned fifty.  My knees were hurting, and I had had a pretty serious eye injury, that needed protecting (I wore goggles for a-while, but hated it).  I was working a pick and roll, and I rolled into a defenders hand at full speed.  The injury below almost cost me a 12 day trip to Ireland with my whole family!  It happened at 6:30 in the morning of the day that we were leaving at 2:30 PM.  I had to get the blessing Ophthalmologist and an eye-surgeon (that day), before they would let me go on an overseas flight.  I had two black eyes all throughout Ireland (kind of gives new meaning to black Irish, no?)!  


Anyway, as I ran the court yesterday, there was one guy older than me, but most were in their 20s and 30s.  I think I did okay.  I snagged a number of rebounds, scored four baskets, and drew a couple of fouls on other drives to the basket.  The guy I was covering hit one 3, but I never let him drive on me.
The highlight was: after grabbing a rebound, I brought the ball up the court.  There it was – I saw it plain as could be!  The defense was in a 2-2 zone, and (as my daughter, Erin, has known since early childhood), the 2-2 zone has a hole in the middle!  I slowed as I approached the 3-point line, looked left, to give the defense the thought that I was passing to the wing, blew by between the two perimeter defenders, and laid it in off the glass!  The old man took it all the way home!

Anyway, I think I’ll join these guys and play whenever I can.  After all, I have a couple of grandsons who need to learn about the hole in the middle of a 2-2 zone – and I’m just the guy to teach them!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Summer of Our Content

In contrast to John Steinbeck’s dark (and final) novel; The Winter of our Discontent” (which in turn is a reference to the initial line of Shakespeare’s Richard III, that reads:  "Now is the winter of our discontent …”, Susan and I are having a very “contented” summer.  Here, I’ll list 5 things that make me content, and tell you why.
Several things that have been in the works for quite some time, are now coming to pass (or at least they seem to be).  First of all, Susan’s Mom is within a couple of days (hope this post doesn’t jinx it) of completing the sale of her house in Ardmore.  Joann moved to Edmond last year, while her house was “on the market”, but between a slow sales environment in Ardmore, and some necessary repairs, the sales process has been slow.  The closing is scheduled for later this week, so hopefully she won’t have to worry about Carter County property taxes, insurance, yard work or any of the other challenges long-distance ownership entails (#1).

 Then there’s Sarah, our eldest! Sarah & Ryan have started their second summer in the Ft. Worth area. Both enjoy their jobs; Sarah at Cook’s Children’s Hospital, and Ryan at Hughes Jr. High in Burleson. Well, they have bought and moved into their first house, in Burleson – just 15 miles south of FT. Worth. If that wasn’t big enough news, last week, they brought home their first child, Beckett into their new home (#2).
Sarah was induced last Monday, but it took until 2:41 on Tuesday morning for Beckett Ryan Ratcliff to come into this world. It was so cold in Sarah’s delivery room, who can blame Beckett for delaying his birth, or his monogram of BRR (that room was freezing)! In case I may have forgotten to mention it, Beckett is our first grandchild!

Not to be outdone, Hutt & Erin, who were married last November are also moving to (of all places) Burleson, Texas!  Hutt has been Youth Minister at the church in Graham, Texas – but recently accepted the position of Youth Minister in the (much larger) Burleson church of Christ.  They have purchased a home about 4 miles from Sarah & Ryan, and will be moving there in early August.  I know Sarah will be grateful to have Erin nearby, and the Hutsons may get some babysitting practice (That’s #3)!

Jordan and Erin Paige are having a busy summer in Huntington Beach, California as well.  Not only did both earn promotions this year, but also Jordan’s promotion was to become a section supervisor, in his Petroleum Engineering group, with Occidental Oil & Gas (Oxy).  But that’s not all!  Our golden California couple will be having their first baby in just a few short weeks.  Jordan, you’re “on the clock”!  Beckett will soon have a boy “Cali cousin” very soon (#4)!

To top off the summer of content, I got to participate on a weeklong Mission Trip to Nicaragua, where I practiced my Spanish first hand, and hopefully made life better for some great people in Nicaragua (That’s number 5, in my list of contentedness). Okay, Okay, the upcoming College Football season is #6!
I saw window sticker on a suburban in Burleson last week.  It caused me to wonder how many grandchildren we might have, ultimately.  Now, I have already been warned that grandchildren are measured in quality – not quantity.  But, when you consider the fine qualities of our kids and their spouses, you can help but wonder…
So goes the Summer of my Content!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


What makes a good vacation for you?  Well, anytime you can pack three activities you like into one trip, it should make for a fun vacation, right?  If you know me, you know that I love traveling to new places.  Secondly, I really do like to help people who are in need.  Add to that, I had the chance to practice my Spanish for a whole week, so you can tell why I was looking forward to a week spent in Nicaragua.  So with that in mind, I headed out in early June, along with 30 other members of the Edmond church of Christ for a week-long mission trip to Nicaragua.   
      We were going to do some work projects and host several days of VBS (Vacation Bible School), in a number of locations.  In addition we spent time getting to know the local Missionaries and their families, and even spend a day on the beach.  I’ll give you more details about each aspect of the trip, as I take you through the week.
Nicaragua is a relatively large country by Central America standards, with both a Caribbean and Pacific coast.  The country is about 50,000 sq. miles (Oklahoma is 70,000 sq. miles), so just a little smaller than Arkansas.  There are roughly 6 million people in Nicaragua (Okla. Has 3.7 million).  The country is quite poor, with a GDP per capita of only $3,300/yr (for comparison, the U.S. GDP per capita is $49,800).  Nicaragua is poorer than neighboring Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. 

Flanking a line of volcanic peaks down the spine of the country, Nicaragua has hot humid lowland plains, both east and west of the mountains.  The Caribbean coast is referred to as the “Mosquito Coast”.  The Spanish first colonized the region in the 16th century.  Nicaragua achieved its independence from Spain in 1821, and since then Nicaragua has undergone periods of political unrest, dictatorship, and fiscal crisis—the most notable causes that led to the Nicaraguan Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s.  This led to the Sandinista regime, founded by Augusto Sandino (the Managua airport is named for him), and partially funded under the table, by the U.S. through the Iran Contra scandal (remember Oliver North?).
Today, Nicaragua’s main exports are agricultural products like coffee, beef, cattle, and rum (made from sugarcane).  Some light manufacturing (think textile sweatshops) and tourism are starting to play a bigger part in the economy.  One hot topic of discussion, in Nicaragua, is the proposal of a “second” canal, rivaling the Panama Canal.  Due to the layout of rivers and the two huge inland lakes, Managua and Nicaragua, the canal could be relatively easy to construct.  The question appears to be;  What is the need for a second canal, so close to the first, and who will be the economic and environmental winners and losers?  Like many issues in Latin America, expect the debate to go on for years.  It will be resolved….maňana! 
In my travels, I have visited many countries that are considered “emerging economies” (this means poor, in English).  Is it just me, or does it feel odd to you to see a horse drawn cart running through the heart of town, while the driver talks on his cell phone?
Our agenda, while in Nicaragua included work projects on several homes in the city of Masaya, just 30 miles south of the capital of Managua.  We planned to be in Masaya for 3 full works days, then following church services and lunch with the local Missionaries on Sunday, driving some 30 miles west to the city of Diriamba, where we would have an additional work day on Monday.  While in both of these cities, we also were supporting the ongoing VBS activities in which over 600 kids were led through games, puzzles, and other fun activities by the ladies in our group, and a number of our extremely capable teens.  The trip wound up with a long drive down the Pan American Highway, to the beach town of San Juan del Sur, where we rode the waves, caught some sun and relaxed, after a fast paced and exciting week.

Overall, I’ll say the trip was fun, lots of hard work, rewarding, humbling, and spiritually uplifting.  That said, it was not hard to fall asleep at night, because I was tired after each and every day. 
Masaya is a large (~100,000), rather poor city, with lots of twisting and unnamed streets.  You learn to drive totally by landmarks, and hope the street is not one-way (in the other direction).  Our activities centered around a number of house projects, and the three-day VBS at the Masaya church. 

The work projects were on some (unbelievably) poor homes of church members or extended families identified by the Missionaries.  The projects involved framing rooms, putting up sheetrock, and putting in concrete floors (sometimes the only room, of three, that had anything but a dirt floor).  The work was all done by hand, other than a few minor power tools (saw and drill).  The teams included experienced and less experienced visitors, our Missionaries , and other local help.  It was carried out in hot (> 90 degrees), humid (>90 %) and sometimes, even rainy weather. 

 The physical challenge of making a wheel barrel full of concrete involved mixing volcanic ash, gravel, cement, and water (all by hand) in mini “volcanos” on the ground.  Then, shovel by shovel, the concrete was loaded into a wheel barrel, and poured out in a cleared, level, spot.  The wet concrete is then leveled and smoothed into a floor, and left to cure.  More than once, I mentioned how much I missed my cushy desk-job in an air conditioned office!

On the house that I worked on, for the first two days, there were four generations living there, including a grandmother (Abuela) and a newborn baby.  The work at their 3-room house included framing up and sheet-rocking the middle (of 3) 10’ by 18’ rooms, and then installing a concrete floor in the middle room. 

I need to say a word here about my Spanish.  Our group of 30 had eight to ten fluent Spanish speakers, a few with no Spanish skills, and many of us in-between.  I had been catching up on my Spanish studies over the last couple of years.  Although I am not good enough to have a “real-time” conversation with a native speaker (Kim Romero kept telling people “much slower for him”), I did great with the kids!  I could ask them their names and ages, how many brothers and sisters they have, their favorite colors, and what noises all the animals make.  I had fun playing around with it, and I hope they all had fun with my poor pronunciations and simplified “gringo grammar”!

On the third day’s work project, Saturday, we moved on to work on a different project.  We were going to install a big concrete floor (maybe 30’ by 40’), in a house that was going to have some more extended family moving in.  We arrived to find a room filled with huge piles of sand, gravel and cement.  I wondered where we were supposed to put the floor, only to find out: right under all the sand, gravel, and dirt.  So our first step was to shovel all of these “raw materials” out of the room and into the street outside, where we were going to build the concrete.  We had plenty of workers, and we quickly had the materials outside, and the floor cleaned and leveled.  That’s where the concrete building began, and went on, and on, and on.  I lost count of how many cement volcanoes that we built up and loaded into the wheel barrels, but my back and shoulders were aching by the end of the project. 

  We had a couple of nice breaks, one for ice cream, and one while Dustin handed out candy to the crowd of children that sat on the opposite curb to watch us work.  They probably laughed at how many of us it took to do the project, and how many water breaks we took, but we provided some free entertainment, and they had front-row seats!  At one point I looked up to see a horse-drawn cart stopped right where we were building concrete volcanoes.  I wondered what the guy’s problem was, until I realized that he was delivering more gravel, ash, and cement.  That didn’t make me smile……

On Sunday, we had lunch at a restaurant on the town square.  The Nicaraguan cities of Leon and Granada are the old Spanish colonial centers of Nicaragua, but like many colonial towns, Masaya has large “town center” that includes a large park and, of course, a huge Catholic Church.  In days gone by, much like the town square in current day Santa Fe, this central church and green-belt were the epicenter of the town’s activities.  Today, it provided an ice cream as we left Masaya behind.
There was an interesting change in scenery as we drove west toward Diriamba.  We left the city behind, and drove through a much more rural part of Nicaragua.  It reminded me of Costa Rica, where you could see volcanic peaks and lush green gardens and jungle along the sides of the road.  David pointed out places where he had seen monkeys playing in the trees on previous visits. 

We checked into the La Bohio hotel in Diriamba, and it was really nice, with a lovely courtyard filled with flowers, trees and even a few hammocks.  Did I mention hot showers?  What a treasure!  We had a very nice dinner at the adjacent restaurant.  Once again, the organization was superb, as we walked in to see a table for 34 set up and awaiting us.  I had a jalapeño steak, with Coke Zero, and it was really good!

We had an interesting plan for a work project, on Monday, in the San Marcos area.  We were building 7 outdoor showers/vegetable garden combos in the yards of e few of the local church members.  The plan, which I understand came from Pinterest website, was to use 6 wooden pallets, built into a U-shape, on top of some concrete bases.  The shower is then lined with black plastic.  The unique part of the design was the wooden “pockets” that were left on the outside of shower.  These were sealed up, and could be filled with the rich volcanic soil, and planted with seeds for vegetables like carrots, peas, or cucumbers.  The family could use these gardens to grow veggies for their own use, to sell, or to share with friends and families.  As this explanation leaves you wondering: “What is he talking about?”, see the pictures below.

The concept was simple, and all the supplies we needed were provided by the local church.  In the yard I worked in, several families shared a common dirt-floor shower, and our showers were going to be a nice “upgrade”.  One thing we didn’t count on was the need for power.  Power distribution in the rural parts of the country can be spotty, and if you are a long way from the source, your power is less than ideal. 

Imagine that we were out there, ready to cut and drill, with all the supplies that we needed – only to find that we had only one place to plug into for power, it didn’t reach the showers, and wasn’t strong enough to power a circular saw and a drill.  The power we did have was just too weak to run the saw and power drill with any decent force.  In this case, we would have been better off with a couple of hand saws and screwdrivers but, sadly, we didn’t have them in our kits.  We did what we could, rescuing some old nails from abandoned boards, and got the showers all assembled, but the locals will finish the projects with their own tools in the near future.  It was a great idea, and it was fun to build with my team, but we just didn’t have the horsepower to get the job done. 
We finished the day back at the San Marcos church, visiting with the adults and kids there.  I can’t count the number of spontaneous soccer games and volleyball rallies I watched, with both big kids and little kids taking part.  This was somewhat of a wind-down of our mission-trip activities.  We had also completed our housing projects, or at least had left them nearly completed.  We had earned a day of rest.

San Juan del Sur:
We set off, on Tuesday morning, for the scenic 150 km drive along the Pan American highway, down south to the resort town of San Juan del Sur.  This highway is the main north-south artery running all the way through Central America, from Mexico to Panama.  San Juan is a growing tourist attraction in Nicaragua, and is very similar to the beach towns in Costa Rica (Tamarindo and Quepos on Playa Manuel Antonio) that I visited last year. 

  At the beach, in San Juan, we swam in the surf (really good waves, despite an ebb tide), rested, relaxed, lounged in the sun, and had a great day.  I spent about five hours either in the water or throwing a Frisbee on the beach.  I have a life-long love affair with the Pacific Ocean, with its deep cool waters, beautiful vistas, and cooling breezes.  I had a super lunch of garlic grilled fish in a cabana right on the beach.  

One of the real treats about traveling is learning about the local dishes.  I love to try new dishes, and we had some good ones on this trip.  It was Napoleon who said; “An army travels on its stomach”.  Making sure that there was good food for this group of over 30 Oklahomans was another thing the trip planners did well.  We had chicken dinners, and even pizza a couple of nights (Papa Juan’s, no less).  Throughout the trip, breakfast were ready for us when we awoke, lunches were provided right when we needed them, and the dinners were timely and varied. 

There are a lot traditional Nicaraguan dishes.  Each region,   according to geographical and cultural characteristics, produced various dishes, drinks, and sweets. Throughout the years, those dishes became known in the whole country.  Some cities still are still known as the one that originated the idea of some food and they still specialize in creating this food, but most of the dishes passed to be national dishes. 

Gallo Pinto: most people in Nicaragua eat this almost daily and it is considered a national symbol. It is composed of a mixture of fried rice with onion and sweet pepper, red beans boiled with garlic. They are mixed and fried all together.   
On our last night in Nicaragua, we ate at a very nice restaurant, called El Colibri (The Hummingbird).  I understand that this place was used by the producers of the show “Survivor – Nicaragua” to feed everyone (except the contestants, who had to eat scorpions and spiders, of course).  The place was very nice, and looking at the tired, sunburned faces around the room, I could sense everyone’s thoughts were shifting to home.  The fish and kabobs were great, and the chocolate cake and rich coffee were what I needed for the long drive back to Diriamba, where we needed to pack up and be ready to head to the airport early Wednesday.
We arrived, quite late, in Oklahoma, and all hurried for home and our families.

We’ve only been home a week, and I’m already wondering what changes will take place between now and next year (if I am able to go back).  I know that I have two grandchildren on the way, that I can’t wait to meet.  This has been a difficult year for me so far.  I have already attended 4 funerals, and lost a couple of more people whom I’ve known.  It’s also been a trying year at work, with lots of changes that I didn’t agree with.  I needed the renewal and reflection that this trip to Nicaragua brought me
One of the real treasures about a trip like this is getting to know the people you travel with better.  Aside from all the new people I was introduced to in Nicaragua, I enjoyed meeting and getting to know all of our trip participants, young and old alike.  They were great to work with, and fun to “hang out” with!
                                                                          Hasta el aňo proximo!
      (Until next year!)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

33 and counting......

On my recent trip to Central America, a couple of people asked me;  “How many countries have you visited?”  I actually didn’t know the answer off the top of my head. 

My work has taken me to a number of places over the world, and my non-work trips have taken me to a few others.  So, on the way home from Nicaragua, I closed my eyes and counted countries by visualizing a world map.  I came up with 33 countries, counting the USA.  They are, grouped by region, as follows:

North & Central America (7):

  • USA
  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • The Bahamas
  • Cayman Islands

South America (3)
  •       Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Uruguay
Europe (10):
  • Ireland
  • England
  • Spain
  • France
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Italy
  • Switzerland
Asia (6):
  • Russia
  • Azerbaijan (50 trips to Baku in 8 years!)
  • Georgia
  • China
  • Japan
  • Hong Kong
Middle East (3):
  • U.A.E.
  •      Turkey
  • Egypt
Africa (4):
  • Gabon
  • Angola
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Côte d'Ivoire

There are lots of places that I still want to go.  High on the list are Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Peru, Fiji, Portugal, Northern Ireland, Wales, & Scotland. 

In the immortal words of Robert Frost, I have:

"…miles to go, before I sleep.  Miles to go before I sleep……"