Johanna 's Travel Blog

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July 04, 12:06 AM
grand island LA

Yesterday was momentous—we finessed our way into the BP headquarters in Huma and were greeted by well intentioned military folk in uniform who were sincerely sorry for the disorganization and lack of ‘projects’ for volunteers. This was after we sat through a mandatory 4 hour training where we received ’certification" of our 252 response training.

This class was taught by Chris, who had both been on the beaches and working as an instructor since the disaster hit—about 70 days ago. I think that I will write a separate post on that one. I did notice a lot of rumors and misinformation. Jobs for the cleanup were surprisingly difficult to get. They had all been contracted out and a large percent of the lucky “able bodies” (AbleBody is one of the larger outfits contracting out for clean up)were kicked off for drug and alcohol use. Over 80% according to the numbers we heard.

James on the training: we sat, we took a test, we left. Falk Alfred is the contractor that has been put in charge of BP training. A squat man with a lot of experience and little patients for unimportant information does 3 trainings of 45 people every day. The class involves the poorest quality powerpoint we have ever seen—inconsistent capitalization, a lot of useless information and emphasis CYA (cover you ass)
section 1. the hazards your will ‘probably’ not encounter
section 2. some familiarity with the tools you will use
section 3. outdated ‘stop the job’ video that criticized every oil company except for BP

The 20 question test was done as a group (true / false) and didn’t focus at all on the complexity of dangers of the process.

We then made a plan to head toward Galliano, one of the clean up sites. We opted not to go to Venice, which was reputed to be over saturated with people. On our way, we went to the heart of Jazzy New Orleans. The french quarter has a certain architectural charm and from what we could see after midnight was mostly populated by folks enjoying the Essence festival with Hurricanes in hand (the hurricane is a cocktail similar to jungle juice that is cheap and gets your drunk quickly).

We walked around an artistic and quirky area near Jacques-Imo’s where there were artists collaborating next door and cute cafes and bookstores that satisfied me far more than the commercial and barf covered area several blocks away. Thanks Sam for the great suggestion!

After a fantastic dinner and the complimentary dessert of creme brulle (that they give to all guests) we sought out Cafe Du Monde , the birthplace of the beignets. A hole-less donuts like treat covered in powder sugar. it was about 3 am by the time we finished eating and the heat and humidity felt relentless.

johanna Is heading to New Orleans to help with the Oil Spil
July 01, 09:14 PM
johanna heading to New Orleans to help with the Oil Spil
July 01, 09:14 PM
July 01, 09:07 PM
NEw Orleans LA

Introductory Note: Prior to our trip, I looked into a number of organizations and established relief projects where we might offer our time, services and technical skills to do on the ground efforts and also assist with building systems to help with future disaster planing and relief efforts. That was unfortunately unsuccessful, and without any defined prospects we excitedly prepared for our vague (but hopefully worthy) adventure!

We started out after work on Tuesday, packing far too many things (mostly snacks) into Perry’s car and got as far as Virginia. One state away and about 5 hours in, we got as far as Blackberg, by Virginia Tech. I was hopping for a cute college town but we were greeted by enormous duck statues in questionable taste and some racial profiling at 2am.

For the record, the officer was amicable and helped us get to a place to stay (it still felt weird…). We found a Super 8 and for about $20 each, the four of us slept until the traffic woke us in time for the dregs of a stale pastry complimentary breakfast. James and I had an impromptu driving lesson. Minutes before our ambitious departure for 36+ hours of driving I learned that Perry’s car was stick!

I have very little previous exposure to stick shift, my first time was in Boston where I mostly listened to a friend cry about her ex as we drive slowly by his house. Repeatedly.

I felt terrible that I couldn’t be an equal partner in driving (James was already removed from the equation since he is still learning to drive automatic..) so this morning, I only stalled out a large handful of times and held up parking lot traffic once. Progress!

Perry and Jesse piled into there car and we were off to….Panera. Today we wanted to make it through at least four states, and as I types this now, i can say we have VA, TN, GA, AL, MI under our belt. Several hours of ted lectures, itunes and discussions of system dynamics, we made it to Knoxville and stopped for lunch. James and I enjoyed a picnic in a grassy commons while we listened to a military band and ate mulberry that we had tucked away in our rapidly defrosting freezer bag.

Reflects on this stop:

James: in Knoxville, there was a man who passed us while we were on the grass enjoying our picnic and said “Have a nice stay” calling attention to how we Northerners stuck out like a sore thumb eating on the grass.

Jesse: Jesse and Perry approached a construction worker and asked for directions to Chik Fil’a. He immediately got excited, almost jumping up and down and said “Yeah, i just found it the other day, it is hidden in that big glass building” He went on to describe in detail about how to take the left revolving door and so they triumphantly got their food, right where he said it would be.

We were also impressed by the reduced costs of living—parking garages for $1 an hour, a jumbo lemonade (32oz) for $2.40 and a really cute handmade skirt I picked up for a reasonable price.

Back on the road, and full, but thinking about food again, we called our coworker Tyler, a native of Birmingham and he recommend that we head to Dreamland for the Best BBQ in the state. The boys were really excited for sausage and ribs and I enjoyed some tasty southern sides of coleslaw, potatoes salad both zestfully seasoned with the mayo. They gave us plate after plate of white bread to sop up the BBQ sauce and the same bread served as one of the 4 components of the banana pudding (easy whip, vanilla budding, bananas, and white bread) that we shared for dessert, stuffing us for under $60 (our most expensive meal to date). This comfort food jogged Perry’s memory as a kid in Vancouver enjoying the simple pleasures of white bread, baked beans and cheese-product. Yumm

Perry and Jesse took the Myers Briggs test and for the record, their types make sense in the schema of programmers I know…INTJ for Jesse and Perry was INFP.

Getting late, we are listing to a Japanese singer who in a hybrid language (Perry told a story about a boat adventure from Taiwan to Japan in search of a mythical island…) and we hope to stay wake for the next 220 miles to New Orleans.

Waffel House visits: 1
Chik Fil’a: 1
Fireworks/ gas stations: 2
Panera:1 * they don;t recycle in VA :(
Energy drinks consumed: 8

July 01, 09:06 PM

May 16, 09:30 AM

Madison Wisconsin

Noah is moving out…of his freshman dorm

Mom and I came out to Wisconsin on Friday to help him pack up and ship out. I recall doing this for each of my 4 years of college with help from Dan and a mini van we called “the lemon”. In my case, Dad would drive up, we would have the car loaded with my already packed boxes and be on the road after breakfast at a diner. The diner being the goal. Working with dad was efficient—maybe because he is a productivity expert and we had a 6 hour drive ahead of us, but quite frankly, anything involving mom is takes longer.

Noah had two exams on Friday night and one on Saturday morning and did not have much packed up. We had to pack his bags to be sent on the plane stored at school, FedExed and handled by Lazy Bones a wash and store outfit on campus. This took the better part of the day.

Prior, we had a little time to explore the college town which reminded me of Ann Arbor with bluer skies. Breakfast at the Sun Room cafe, a local favorite and then up State Street to the weekly farmers market that surrounds the beautiful Capitol. Local produce, crafts and a lot of nice people moving in the same direction.

We also went to the Odd Museum, home of Wisconsin’s history and some of the odd inventions the state lays claim. We saw a piece of bread from the 1800s (the oldest in Wisconsin) and other artifacts of quackery.

Lunch on Friday and dinner again on Saturday were at Ian’s on Sate State We concluded, when you find something good why mess around? Also, the majority of restaurants were filed with the families of graduates and the local kids out for their high school prom. Ice-cream after made for a nice treat. I had the turtle one (no real turtles were harmed in this process) a reputed local favorite.

I had a chance to dumpster-dive, and liberated several great books and some awesome clothes. College students produce the best trash.

Today we are going back to the action to eat at The Old Fashioned. I’m so excited for cheese curds (deep friend cheese balls) and then bidding Madison farewell until Noah returns in August. I hope to come visit him next year even though several people mistook me for his younger sister (I’m 6 years older!) without parental supervision….

March 06, 06:32 PM

Ah a brief sojourn in the beautiful surf before we found ourselves back on buses for the past next 9 hours. We returned to Gaudy’s Hostel in San Jose and were bumped up to a nice room on the 2nd floor. It seems that every time we stay (this is the 3rd) we have a nicer room.

Waiting to hear from Anthony (Marco’s son) and hopefully see a fun time in San Jose. He went to a technical college, like James, so I have my doubts :)

Tomorrow we head home. This past week has been great, I wish we had more time to travel and explore,

Now only to buy some souvenirs and good coffee for DIA/WFC folks!

March 06, 08:20 AM

We just saw a huge-ass sea turtle!!!

We’re staying at a hotel right on a national park/beach that’s a nesting ground for leatherback ocean turtles. We’re practically the only ones on the beach (there’s only one other hotel on it, and only one other couple staying here), and we didn’t see anyone as we crept outside in the pitch night. The beach is officially off-limits after 6pm this time of year.

About 100 meters from our hotel, we saw a dark trail in the sand, and at the head of the trail, heading back toward the ocean, an enormous blob. It was six feet long and five feet wide, and probably would have come up to my waist— this was a huge mound of something, 20 meters away from us. We weren’t sure what it was though, because low-tide had receeded the ocean by over 50 meters.

I froze. Johanna inched closer, and the creature moved at her and hissed. We thought it was some kind of ferocious jungle predator and started running, before we stopped, shaking with the anticipation and knowledge that we had a real-live-honest-larger-than-imaginable ocean turtle that could probably swallow us just by looking at us.

I tried taking a picture, but all I got was a screen of black. We went back and got Johanna’s camera, and in those few minutes, the turtle had gone another 20 meters and perched on the edge of the water. Johanna’s camera did no better than mine. So we have no proof, but it was awe-tingling and majescredible. I would never have believed the guidebooks claims of a “miracle of nature”, but I would never thought I’d see a sea turtle either.

March 06, 08:17 AM

Again we woke with the sun and after a filling breakfast were off before 8am to hike the waterfall trails of the national park. We estimated we could do the 4km trail before we had to check out at noon, however, the walk to the park (about 2km) and a short discussion about paying the entrance fee ($10 per person) again left us only about 1 1/2 hours to hike. Few animals sightings to report other than a few cute coatis and mariposas that James lovingly renamed “flutterbys.”

Quick shower, tasty lemon juice and loading our packs onto burnt backs later, we found ourselves back in Offie’s 4×4 to get to the Leberia bus station. Luckily, we got there shortly before 1pm and were able to buy tickets and board the bus heading for Tamirindo.

The ride was longer than expected (3 hours, mostly due to unexpected stops to pick up and drop off passengers) and we stuck to the sweaty seats. By the last leg the bus was populated exclusively by gringos going to Costa Rica’s 2nd most popular beach. We arrived and quickly took in the grandeur (5 star hotel and the like) before getting a cab ($30) to take us to our hotel selected because it was away from the action.

Starving we set off down the beach to walk back to Tamirindo, it looked like we could follow the water around, but we discovered that was impossible. However, we found several water taxis (tho the hotels and cabs on the Tamirindo side assured us they did not exist) and got a beach-front bite at “Eat at Joes” Clearly this side was designated for the wealthy surfersort, we heard more English than anywhere else and saw 4 macs in our fist 5 minutes sitting at the bar.

Devouring nachos and a surprisingly substantial vegetable quesadilla, we got change to pay our kind water taxi driver and set back to our secluded beach to finally go for a swim

The water was perfect—gently rolling waves and several brakes and a lovely temperature. We splashed around for about an hour as the sun was setting and then took a walk down the beach watching for tortuagas and gathering sea shells. The beach, Playa Grande, is more national park than people-beach, and huge turtles are said to like this time of year to lay their eggs.

We are now listing to the luxuriant sounds of the waves in our quiet beach-facing cabin.

March 05, 09:51 AM
Ricon de la Vieja Costa Rica

After a relaxing day in the shady breeze at our hotel, we decided to start a hike into the setting sun to some hot springs near the park. Little did we know that they were two hours away, and there were only three hours of sunlight left.

With nothing but a water bottle, James’s Droid cellphone, and my camera, we trekked up and down innumerable rocky cliffs, forded three streams, climbed to a canopy-level zip-line platform, and evaded a stalking jaguar. When we got to the springs, all we found was a murky puddle, and the sun was setting.

Our journey back got progressively darker, as the trees inched in over our heads. We used Droid to find our way when we lost the trail, blinding the jaguar with my camera’s flash, and saw a bird in one of the trees. Returning victorious, we flopped back in the hammocks and starting planning our next journey.