Archive for the ‘Part of the adventure’ Category

I’m posting this because, simply put, it’s one of my favorite pictures from our Rwanda experience so far. I think I don’t have to say too much as to why it is.

We’ve been lame about keeping our posts coming. It’s hard to take a snapshot when you’re traveling at Mach 5. But I’m thinking now that even if it’s a “twitterish” post, it’s better than nothing. And as I’ve heard over and over from folks: post pictures. Lots of pictures.

So here’s one for now. More’s on the way.


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The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2010. That’s about 11 full 747s.


In 2010, there were 29 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 69 posts. There were 152 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 257mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was March 8th with 305 views. The most popular post that day was About our RTW.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were mail.yahoo.com, thelittlecroissant.blogspot.com, mail.live.com, digg.com, and facebook.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for rtw blog, cartagena colombia, carnaval de barranquilla, mayan wedding dress, and guatemala attire.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


About our RTW October 2009


Our RTW – A Retrospective March 2010


Walk like an Egyptian: The good, the bad, and the ugly. November 2009


There’s more going on in Antigua than Spanish class… February 2010


We are the Majority January 2010
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We’re picking the blog back up because, well, we’re stepping out again and want to share it with you along the way.

As you can see, we changed the title of the blog because we’re are moving to Kigali, Rwanda at the end of January 2011.  We are going for a number of reasons, one of which is an amazing opportunity to work with Indego Africa (www.indegoafrica.org).  Indego Africa is an innovative social enterprise that seeks to alleviate poverty by providing export market access and business training to women artisans in Rwanda.  I (Casey) have taken the position of Country Director, and Cara will be filling in different roles as needed until she secures a job in her passion: HIV prevention.

Excited and overwhelmed are probably the best adjectives to describe us right now.  We have a lot to accomplish in the next four weeks: finishing our current job responsibilities well, packing all our belongings, packing for a move to Africa, selling what we can, hauling most of what we own to Montague, CA, looking for a place to rent in Kigali, and trying to see friends and family before we leave.  We do hope to see you all – it just may mean you have to come to the City to do that.

We are very thankful for all our loved ones who continue to be supportive and encouraging to us with our wanderlust and desire to live/serve overseas.  This opportunity came up unexpectedly (to us) but it’s been something we’ve been praying and dreaming about for a long time.  There is no better time than the present.

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As we boarded the very last flight of our RTW.

As we sit here in San Francisco (in Farley’s coffee shop to be exact), it’s quite an experience to think back to our trip and feel the distance between now and then.  It was just two weeks ago today that we landed at SFO and unpacked our bags.  In many ways it feels a lot longer ago than that.  Job search, reconnecting with friends, moving back into our flat, moving my (Casey) mom into her new house in Grants Pass, visiting Cara’s family in Northern California and/or catching up on all the things that were left undone while we were away.  All this “new” stuff in our lives in comparison to our “normal” lives over these last five months has an unwanted effect.  Our trip is already too long ago.

We have struggled with this transition in many ways, and in other ways we have settled back in nicely (back into our own comfy bed for instance).  and even though we still have wide-open days (yes, we are both unemployed), it just doesn’t quite feel like it did just a mere two weeks ago when we woke up in Guatemala with a wide-open day ahead of us… or Sydney or Bangladesh…  I (Cara) have asked Casey many a times, “how we can do this (the RTW part) for a living?”  We’re still working on that one.

But it is a good, and an important, exercise to sit down together and reflect on the adventure and where we’ve been.  Because even now our RTW is a point of reference for us, and every time we remember it we keep a little bit of that experience present with us.  It was once said to me to “spend money on experiences, not on things.”  And I guess the meaning of that has to do with things can go away and, if you’re like me, you forget about them when they’re gone.  But experiences are yours forever and no matter what your current situation may be, no one can take those memories from you.  It’s an investment in your own fullness of life.  In my humble opinion, the second best decision we ever made (after marrying each other), was quitting our jobs and traveling around the world.  Such an incredible investment in experiencing each other, and the world with each other.

I think in some ways we have put writing this blog post “on-hold” since we’ve returned.  Procrastinated.  Put it off.  Whatever you want to call it.  It seems a bit overwhelming to try to summarize our trip.  Or pick a few instances of which were our favorites.  I mean, how DO you put 5 months of experiences together into a blog post?  But we’ll do our best…

So as our last post we wanted to share with you some of the things we think about when we think back on our trip.  Many people ask the natural question, “What were the highlights,” or “What was your favorite country?”  We’re going to try and answer some of these questions by remembering some of those experiences that will stick with us for many years to come.

By the Numbers

Days on the trip: 120

Two legacies of Ancient Greece, Athens

Continents: 6

Countries: 21

Number of flight segments: 43

Number of times we packed our bags: 52

Nights spent sleeping in airport: 2

Visas and entry/exit fees (in US$): $890

Cost to replace items lost by Ethiopian Airlines: $2,650

Amount Ethiopian Airlines compensated us because they were required to by the Warsaw Convention: $320

Total value of items lost or stolen on trip: $4,250

Pictures taken: 6,397

Trogir, Croatia

Memorable Moments

  • The moment I realized that my hard work of fitting everything I needed for 5 months in my one 22 inch carry-on bag, was all for naught!
  • Our plane ride from SFO to Munich (Virgin Atlantic).  We were so excited, that we journaled and watched tons of movies – Casey hardly slept a wink.  For me, this will stay a beautiful memory of the beginning of our RTW adventure.
  • Cara coming out of the bathroom in the Cairo International Airport, minutes before our flight, slumping down on the chair next to me, and with her head in her hands saying, “I think I’ve hit my low point.”  While trying to flush the toilet, it shot (exploded!) pee water all over her legs and shoes (my [Cara’s] shoes were soaking wet, just minutes before our overnight flight at 11 pm.  All the airport stores were closed and our bags checked.  Imagine: wet socks…wet pee socks!…for the next 6 hours.  Arg, I get grossed out all over again remembering this one).  As many of you know, she’s a germ-a-phobe.  And we had a long flight ahead of us.  So I wiped her pants and shoes with antibacterial gel while she sat there sighing.  What a darling husband I have.  To get down on his hands and knees and wipe my clothes down with antibacterial wipes.  Oh how I love him, and in that moment I could see, even more, how much he loved me.
  • Watching Cara talk with the women we stayed with in Cartagena, Colombia – it was her first immersion experience and to see her be so stoked to speak espanol was awesome.
  • Waking up just moments before our car hit a dog on the road in Bangladesh.  I turned around and watched the poor thing suffering on the road as our drivers continued to drive forward (me in tears).  I spent the majority of my time in Bangladesh car sick.
  • The business exchange with the shoe salesman in Luxor, Egypt.  I doubt he will ever give a gift back just because it is Egyptian Pounds and not Euros.
  • Exploring the deep caves at Semuc Champay in Guatemala – each person carrying their own single candle in one hand  and swimming with the other across deep water crossings. The trip became increasingly darker as candle after candle burned away as we struggled to find the exit before it went completely black.

    Semuc Champey, Guatemala

  • Swimming and giggling in the waves of the Caribbean Ocean together as the sunset (first time we were able to swim at the same time b/c we had someone to watch our stuff on the beach).
  • Our lunch on Playa Blanca in Colombia
  • Watching my husband drive an ancient dhow sailboat in the Indian Ocean along the island of Lamu, Kenya.
  • Standing at the foot of the Great Pyramid of Giza (Egypt) and atop the Pyramid of the Sun (Mexico).  Two different cultures on opposite sides of the planet, same design.  Extraordinary.
  • Being homesick together in Vietnam.  We stayed lying in bed for 2 hours not wanting to go anywhere while we reminisced about all the people and things that we loved back home.
  • Our few days in Istria, Croatia – specifically the San Mauro farm.  Dreaming of our own little farm someday.

    San Mauro Farm - Croatia

  • Standing together on the white lighthouse in Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, looking across at Argentina together.
  • Seeing the worm pop out of my little toe at 2:00 am in our hotel room bathroom in Sydney, Australia.
  • The first over-night train ride from Cairo to Luxor.  Casey’s first night sleeping on a train, and the excitement we had experiencing that together.  A connected memory to this was the return over-night train ride back to Cairo – Casey had hit one of his low-points as the negative parts of our Egypt experience had settled in. They were two very different train rides.
  • Sitting by a campfire in Uganda and learning about what our friends from other countries thought about America (Iraq, England, Israel…)
  • Feeling Casey’s excited energy and watching his smiles as we explored the ancient city of Ephesus (Turkey)
  • Taking Cara to the National Orchid Garden in Singapore.
  • Dreaming together about living in Africa, outside the Dembi Dollo Catholic Church in Ethiopia.
  • My birthday celebration in Dembi Dollo, Ethiopia.  Coffee ceremonies, Obama t-shirt, and the warmth of good friends.
  • Our turkish bath! Yeah – and hearing the dude slap Cara, knowing I’d be getting a half-second later.
  • Walking the streets of Cartagena, Colombia with Cara.
  • Our overnight visit to the Argentinian estancia where we were reminded of our ranching roots.
  • Standing in an Ethiopian adoption home holding Sammy and Jenn Peppers’ son in my arms as he screamed bloody-murder!
  • Falling asleep on the grass next to Casey in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, Australia
  • Jen joining us for a week in Cartagena.
  • My first safari – in Uganda – and the great people we met along the way.  The elephants were awesome.  This is also a memorable moment for me (Cara) with getting to see the excitement in Casey’s eyes as he would see each new animal.  A very special time for me as well, as I was able to share a part of my love for Africa with my husband – and he was enjoying it!  I have a picture-memory in my mind of him standing outside the top of the safari jeep with the wind upon his face and a huge smile. Lovely.
  • The absolute downpour at the Acropolis and standing under the tree watching the water rise around us.
  • Buying our Turkish rugs.  …and the conversations we had after it.
  • The football matches: Istanbul and Cartagena.
  • Driving motorbikes through the mountains of Vietnam together.
  • The look in Cara’s eyes each time I’d look at her and say, “Can you believe we are in (insert blank)?!”
  • Finding out that my great-grandmother went to heaven (while in Dalat, Vietnam)
  • Handing our U.S. immigration form with 21 countries listed, and finally hearing an immigration official finally say to us, “Welcome Home.” Amazingly, customs didn’t even blink.  The agent looked at our card, asked us how long we’d been out of the country, then waved us through.  Wow.
  • Experiencing it all with my best friend.

Airlines, Ranked Best to Worst

  1. Thai Airways
  2. Virgin Atlantic
  3. Singapore Airlines
  4. Emirates Airlines
  5. Quantas
  6. Kenya Airways
  7. (Many others)
  8. Copa Airlines
  9. Aerolinas Argentina*
  10. Ethiopian Airlines*

* airlines we will never voluntarily fly again

Lessons Learned: Advice for the Reader/Traveler

  • Whenever considering a decision that has (significant) financial ramifications, consult the wife.  It can cost you in more ways that one.  But you’ll get some cool rugs out of it. – wow, he beat me to that one (we’re writing this each separately!)
  • When traveling to countries where the price of goods are negotiable (particularly countries in Africa), go into it knowing the initial asking price is 4X what the locals pay.
  • Pay the $5 for the water on the other side of security so you are guaranteed some hydration on your flight – because you certainly can’t rely on the water service on board.

    Dalat, Vietnam

  • Europe does not allow for a 22 inch carry-on (like Americans do) – 18 inches only!  This certainly bit us in the butt later…
  • When in negotiations don’t feel guilty or shamed into agreeing to a price simply because you are “rich” and they are “poor.”  This is demeaning to both people.  Always know the vendor will never agree to a price where they are losing money on the deal.  If you get someone down to $15 from $40 know you are still paying way over their cost.
  • Go ahead and pay the extra $1 for the trinket.  She can use the extra money and this one time it’s not that big of a deal.  But doing that a thousand times will cost you $1,000.  Chose your “purchasing philanthropy” wisely.

    Health Clinic - Dembi Dollo, Ethiopia

  • Try to embrace your own culture (even when it sometimes may embarrass you – ex: we speak our mind even when not asked our opinion) and accept the fact that as an American, there are many things that we may value that others do not (ex: our own personal space, or throwing away your own garbage).  Bottom line: we may have differing values than others and we should respect others’ values and cultures as theirs.
  • When going to a football (soccer) match, know the colors of the home club.  Better yet, buy the club’s scarf and wave it proudly.  You never know how that will benefit you in the days to come.
  • Get out into the local culture as much as possible.  The best experiences were meeting shopkeepers, local craftsmen, boat captains, etc. and spending time with them in their homes.  This is the “real (where ever you are).”

    Khulna, Bangladesh

  • Listen.  You’ll learn more than you ever would by talking.
  • Step out of your comfort zone and reach out to people you don’t know.  You will literally make friends all over the world.  We started our trip in Germany with new friends we met in Yosemite and ended the trip with new friends from Mexico City that we met in Cappodocia, Turkey.  Small world.
  • It is different to travel as an American when the President of your country is Barak Obama rather than George W. Bush.
  • You can go without a lot of what you thought you couldn’t go without.
  • Casey and I walked away from this trip learning what hospitality really is.  We learned that we want to exhibit this better, especially with visitors of our country.
  • Find someone who loves adventure as much as you do and who can rough it through anything, and travel around the world with them.  You will never forget the experience.

    Welcome home

  • If you’ve always wanted to do something, you should do it.

Final Word:

Casey: Life is an adventure.  Live it like one.

Cara:  Do it!

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77 Days

Here is the latest email to Ethiopian Airlines regarding my lost luggage.  I will send this email every two days to a list of sixteen Ethiopian Airlines staff and departments until I get some semblance of resolution.  I have become numb to the ridiculousness of this situation, but still need an official statement from EA that my luggage was indeed lost.  As though 77 days wasn’t proof enough.

“Dear Ethiopian Airlines,

As of today, 6 February 2010, it has now been 11 weeks since Ethiopian Airlines (EA) lost my baggage on flight ET810 from Entebbe, Uganda (EBB) to Kigali, Rwanda (KGL).  Despite my repeated requests, I have still received no confirmation from EA as to the status of my baggage, or EA declaring it lost and compensating me according to EA policy.  I HAVE NOW BEEN WITHOUT MY BAGGAGE FOR 77 DAYS.  I am on a trip around the world and have been on this trip for almost three (3) months without my personal belongings.  I am still on my trip and the personal cost to me to replace my luggage, clothing, shoes, jackets, toiletries, etc. has been significant.  Lost baggage file: KGLET12367.

Complicating the situation is that your baggage tracking system states that on 7 December 2009 the baggage was delivered to me at Kigali (KGL).  In an email on 28 January 2010, Tariku Banbojie of EA customer services states: “I would like to inform you that the file indicated that baggage was received and delivered to your end on the 7th of December 2009n at Kigali to your end.”  On 7 December 2009 I was in Gambella, Ethiopia having flown there on Ethiopian Airlines.  As your flight records will state, I flew from Addis Ababa to Gambella on 28 November 2009 (ET139) and returned to Addis Ababa from Gambella on 13 December 2009 (ET138).  It is impossible that I received my baggage in Kigali, Rwanda on 7 December 2009 as your baggage tracking system states.

On 28 January 2010 Tariku Banbojie informed me that I would be contacted by the KGL baggage staff as to the status of my baggage.  I have yet to hear from anyone from Ethiopian Airlines – IT HAS BEEN TEN (10) DAYS AND NO ONE FROM ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES HAS CONTACTED ME AS PROMISED.  Prior to this, EA did not respond to my email for over sixteen (16) days.  This has happened numerous times.  This is not the kind of customer service EA prides itself on.


I await your response.

Thank you,

Keith Cobell”

Traveling light for 77 days

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One thing that my dear Casey has learned about me is that I am a planner.  And with being a planner come a variety of quarks that I bring to our team.  For instance, I need to research things before I make decisions, prefer to have everything neatly printed before leaving, I like to spreadsheet everything, and more often than not, I find much pleasure in having a nice little list of to-do items that I get to cross off as I go, so I know that I haven’t forgotten anything.  We all have our quarks, right?  So in this case, Casey likes to whiteboard things and I like to put them into an Excel file.

So one of my “things” has been to keep a small running tab of our travel stats.  We’re just at the half-way mark of our RTW so I figure now is a good time to share a few of these factoids.

  • Number of times we’ve packed our bags since October 13th: 34 times
  • Packages sent home to the United States: 3
  • Number of weeks that Casey’s luggage has been missing: 6
  • Amount of air flights: 25
  • Countries visited in October: Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Greece and Turkey
  • Countries visited in November: Egypt, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia
  • Countries visited in December: Ethiopia cont., Kenya (x 2), Rwanda again, Bangladesh
  • Until December 6th, the longest we stayed in one place was 3 nights.
  • Longest place we’ve stayed in the past 2 and a half months: Ethiopia, 2 weeks
  • Holidays we’ve celebrated internationally so far: Halloween in Ephesus (Turkey); Casey’s Birthday in Lamu (Kenya), Thanksgiving and Christmas in Kigali (Rwanda); and New Year’s Eve/Day in Khulna (Bangladesh).
  • Countries we’ve done a double-take (visited a country more than once): Rwanda and Kenya
  • Number of different sites/cities we’ve visited: 40
  • Amount of money we’ve handed over to Wells Fargo in “international non-ATM fees”: $130 (okay, I’ll admit it: I’m a little bitter about this one)
  • Top honor: getting to hold Jenn and Sammy’s son in the orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
  • Lowest point for Cara: this is a tough one…it is either the last night in Egypt in the Cairo Airport when the toilet exploded all over me before boarding an overnight flight (all change of clothes were in my checked baggage and we we’re minutes within take-off, and the kicker: I’m a germ freak), or, the night that I was tortured by mosquitoes in 100 degree heat and humidity for a solid 6 hours.  Hmmm…flip a coin I guess.
  • Amount of times we’ve stopped and thought we need to pinch ourselves to wake up: every day.

To be continued…

I’ll keep counting of course [insert wink].


One of the many tarmacs that we've walked.

Yet another currency that we hold - Casey feels rich!

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Both are from Ethiopia!

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