Category Archives: travel

This year, Rwanda

rwanda map

This year, we have known for months that our vacation would be in Rwanda. We are travelling with a friend who has been doing volunteer work there for years. She started out doing therapy for survivors of the genocide and then went on to help with economic development. She’s been providing goats to various survivors’ collectives which gives them an immediate and tangible boost to their development.

This year may be her last travelling to Rwanda, so we said we’d join her to do what work and assistance that we can. So this trip may be more volunteer work than sightseeing. Rwanda is suppose to be beautiful, rolling hills and forests, and is where Dian Fossey did her work with the gorillas. There will be lovely sights to see as we are doing whatever volunteer work we can.

Now, I’ll try to address some of the obvious fears that people have expressed to us.  Mainly, the specter of Ebola. The most important fact to keep in mind is that Africa is HUGE. The outbreak is in three small countries on the western part of the continent. Rwanda is inland, but on the eastern side of the continent. Here in Santa Barbara, we are closer to an Ebola outbreak in Dallas than we will be in Rwanda. Here’s a map showing the outbreaks as well as the little country of Rwanda.

Ebola outbreak 2014

The irony is that because we are coming from a country with a known Ebola outbreak (the USA), we’ll need to go through a medical screening to get into Rwanda.

The second expressed concern is the Rwandan Genocide (as shown in movies like Hotel Rwanda). The genocide occurred in 1994, 20 years ago. There are still scars that the country is recovering from, but it isn’t an ongoing crisis, and is often discussed as a model of reconciliation. We’ll see what it looks like when we are there, but I don’t expect there to be any problems for us.

I’m sure we’ll be posting here at least as much as we have for our trip to Malaysia last year (that’s a sarcastic comment since I’m well aware that the only post was the initial “we’re going to Malaysia” announcement). As we discovered last year, posting to Facebook on an ongoing basis is much easier and a much more immediate form of communication, so watch for out updates, there.

Take care, everyone!


We’re going to Bolivia!

After much hesitation and uncertainty, we finally bought our tickets to La Paz, Bolivia. We’re leaving Nov 2 and returning Nov 20, in time for our annual Thanksgiving party. Once we got our Rough Guide and could see photos and itineraries, we really started to get excited.

Bolivia is landlocked and spans both Andean highlands and Amazon lowlands. It’s geography is varied, it contains the ruins of Inca cities, it has the largest percentage of indigenous population, and proudly displays bright colors. The food looks interesting, bowlers are worn by women, and they make chocolate (as in grow the stuff!); what’s not to love?

We’re also trying something new this time; we’re travelling with just a tablet. Since WiFi is common enough (or so we’ve been led to believe), we’ll have a Nexus 7 (Android) tablet with Bluetooth keyboard and attachments that will connect to our cameras’ SD cards. We plan on our usual updates to the blog, and we’ll be posting on Facebook as well as Twitter. I’ll be testing our email list, so let me know if you want to be on that list and don’t get the test email.

That’s it for now. Harriet will be taking over the blog duties so there will be less equipment talk and more amusing observations on our travel.


And the winner is…: Alan & Harriet’s 2011 Summer Vacation Contest

Hello dear friends and family. We are so pleased with your participation, truly amazed by your interest and mildly aghast at the drivel you choose to read. Good god, don’t you have anything more important like the New York Times, The Nation, some NPR transcripts, a good book or your Facebook page?

Okay, before we make the big announcement, we want to share with you the last few entries that trickled in via email:
– Vincent (in Paris): Corrida, Mexico; Colombia
– Shyan (in Singapore or Malaysia): Liechtenstein
– Beth: South Dakota
– Christy: “I’m so glad you’re doing this; sounds like it’s become quite the affair…”
– Rob: “Yukon Canada  R u getting married?”
– Ron: “I’m betting you’re going to the distant landlocked country of Nevada, which has two major tourist-laden cities, Reno and Las Vegas, Gold production is a major industry in Nevada and if altitude is an issue, it must be Reno, where the altitude is 4500 feet.  Are you two getting married there?”

The Entries are:

EUROPE: Andorra; Austria (Salzburg, Vienna); Czech Republic; France (Loire Valley); Macedonia; Moldova; Romania; Greece (Santorini); Hungary; Serbia; Switzerland. ASIA, SOUTH ASIA & SOUTHEAST ASIA: Afghanistan, Bhutan; Cambodia; Kazakhstan; Mongolia; Nepal; Tibet (2); Tajikistan; Turkmenistan; Uzbekistan. CENTRAL & SOUTH AMERICA: Bolivia; Mexico (Guadalajara, San Miguel Allende, Corrida); Columbia; Paraguay; Peru (Machu Picchu). U.S. & CANADA: Bingham, Utah; California Sierra; Colorado (Aspen or Vail, Whistler); Grand Canyon; Lake Tahoe; Las Vegas; Memphis, Tennessee; Missoula, Montana; Missouri; Mount Rushmore, South Dakota; Sun Valley, Idaho; Nachitoches, Louisiana; Reno, Nevada; Sacramento, California; St. Genevieve, Missouri; Tulare, California; Yukon Territory, Canada. MIDDLE EAST: Jordan (Amman, Petra). AFRICA: Botswana; Burkino Faso; Ethiopia (Addis Ababa); Kalahari Desert; Malawi; Mali (Bamako or Timbuktu); Rwanda; South Africa (J’berg, Cape Town); Sudan; Uganda; Tanzania; Zambia; Zimbabwe. OTHER: non-specific Caribbean island; Hades

Some cyber gremlins messed with Alan’s system and a whole slew of comments didn’t appear on the blog (in a couple different places) until just this evening. (Sorry.) We urge you to read them all. Geez you guys are clever. We had to expand the prize categories.

And FINALLY, the winners are:

While some of you were ignoring clues and basics of geography and instead were trying to think of countries most of us would be hard-pressed to find on a good globe, others should be commended for their thoughtful analysis and reasoning. Kudos to Tara, Amy, Nina.

A very honorable mention to Beth for Mount Rushmore where “Harriet is going to don a white tyvek suit and lowered by ropes, scrub out the president’s noses with a toothbrush.”

Our house sitters, Kimber & Ben, guessed Mali. (Uh, guys, you know where to reach us if there’s a problem, right?)

Stephanie is going to be there with us… and she guessed Sun Valley. (Honey, if you don’t want to hang with us, just say so.)

A three-way (tie): Chuck, Andre and Michael for Kabul, Hades and Sudan respectively.

TWISTED, Honorable Mention
Laura L. and Judy S. for Memphis, TN or Hachitoches, LA in JULY! Are you nuts? Ed for “Slaughterhouse fantasy camp in Tulare”

From Todd and Gabi: “We’ve been beaten to the Nevada guess. The judge, Harriet’s nervousness, wearing white: you’re planning to rob a casino.”

MOST CREATIVE, Honorable Mention
To Elinor who entered Hollywood for among other reasons because, “The gold industry would be Oscar and gold albums. And the river runs thru it would be that one we get stuck up without a paddle, shit.”

MOST CREATIVE, First Runner-up (and not just because Ann is Alan’s mom)
“Well Darn, I thought it would be Santa Rosa. We are landlocked, We have a river, Russian River or we can run a hose from the front yard to the back, We will keep the house set at 90 degrees, keep Harriet from going upstairs to solve her altitude problem, We have an in-house Gourmet Chef, a bumper crop of escargot, an in-house tour guide who will take you to all the wine tasting you could ever want, (after which who cares what you eat and would solve Harriets attitude problem), concierge services, 4 stars on the door and only 30 bucks a night. Oh, well. Good Luck Harriet.” Seriously rethinking our trip now… and if any of you want to hang out with Ann in Santa Rosa, we highly recommend it.

This goes to Andre & Tracy for: “You are going to Andorra to attend the International Beekeepers and Fencing Conference For Cohabitating Adults. Tracy and I were thinking of going, but realized neither of us are beekeepers . . . or fencers.” Brilliant… and if only it weren’t sold out for this week…

Shannon, having just returned to the States after leading wine and beer tours in Italy and Spain, with just a few little clues on Day One guessed simply, “Sacramento.” So, so, close. The contest was almost over before started.

FREAKISHLY CLOSE, Honorable Mention
This goes to Nina, not because she guessed correctly, but because on Day One, she responded from Truckee, California, a mere 30 miles away from…

drum roll, please…

RENO, NEVADA situated on the scenic Truckee River with an elevation of 4,500 ft.; average July temperature in the 90s; and host to the USA Fencing National Championships in which Harriet will be competing. There will be 28 women from across the country in her division (Veteran Women’s Foil), 15 of whom are rated (meaning they’re very, very good and have tons more experience). The odds of her taking home a medal are about the same as those for she and Alan taking wedding vows, so hold the congratulations on both accounts for now.

However, congratulations are in order for GRAND PRIZE WINNER, CHUCK CAIL, for his entry posted on June 30th at 12:01 p.m.

Thanks to everyone for playing along. If anything truly blog-worthy happens in Reno, we’ll let you know. Now, get back to work or your summer vacation or read something interesting.

Lots of love,
Harriet & Alan

Clues #5 & 6: Alan & Harriet’s 2011 Summer Vacation Contest

What a creative, crazy, enthusiastic group we’ve gathered here today! We’re truly touched by your participation and research efforts. We’re also impressed that those of you who came into this knowing the answer kept guard so nicely.

Now, a few of you have asked for extra hints and more clues; and very early on, someone was so, so, unbelievably close. Really. Almost. Right. There. As a result, we’re going to speed things along, give you some extra help, and join together clues #5 and #6. But, as they say on Top Chef, there’s a twist: you only get one final entry. You can repeat or modify a previous guess; you can modify or second someone else’s guess; or you can take the plunge with a new guess. But remember, you only get ONE final guess so make it good. Oh, and you have to post your answer on the blog so everyone can see it. We will unveil the winners there as well.

Remember, in addition to the Grand Prize (first person with the correct answer), there are awards for the most creative answer and the best suggestion for our November trip. (There’s some heavy competition in that category.) And to encourage those of you who’ve yet to venture any guess whatsoever, we’re offering an autographed photo just for playing. How can you resist? So strip off your inhibitions, dust off that old atlas and give us your best guess.

Here are a few little things that might help:

Earlier entries via Alan’s email:
Vincent & Jean-Pierre: Botswana (until they realized the “Bs” were out)
Jean-Pierre: Paraguay (until he got the clue about English being the dominant language)
Rob: Zimbabwe
Also note there are some recent guesses that showed up in earlier blog posts.

The answers you see on the blog put forth by “Alan” come from Alan Herzfeld, not dearly beloved Alan Irwin.

Bonus Clue:
Harriet likes wordplay. You might consider reviewing everything carefully. There may be clues in addition to the official clues within a blog post. Today’s posting, for example, has a little gem (or two or more) in it.

Bonus Clue:
Marla, Harriet’s older sister, asked, “Would Dad go there?”
Answer: Yes, but it wouldn’t be his first choice, nor would it be yours or Gayle’s. However, if he were still alive, Dad would try to meet us there. Alan’s mom has some trouble with altitude, otherwise, she’d like to go there.

Time for the big finish everyone. READY? ALLEZ!!!

Clue #5
Jet lag is not a concern.
We fly out of Santa Barbara Wednesday morning, July 7th, and make one change of planes.
Alan and Harriet have both been there before.

6th and Final Clue
This is something Harriet, in particular, never thought she’d be doing and feels slightly ill thinking about it.
Alan is pretty calm about the whole thing.
There will be a Judge.
Harriet will wear white.

Careful… careful…

Clue #4: Alan & Harriet’s 2011 Summer Vacation Contest

Dear Friends,

Uh oh. A few of you seem to have dropped out and we suspect there are some who are waiting to do a last-second-eBay bid/guess sort thing. Maybe it’s time we answered a couple of questions and reviewed a clue that seems to have slipped by many of you.

To answer Sylvia’s question, the destination does not start with the letter “B.” So Bolivia, Botswana, Burkino Faso, Bamako and Bhutan are all out, however they’ll all be considered for November.

Clue Review: We’re all clear on the geography (landlocked) thing and that the average temperature this time of year is about 90 degrees. Good. Now let’s give Clue #2 another look-see, shall we: “a week in Paris… one of our very shortest… trips” means “less than a week.” Not that we wouldn’t spend more time in airports and in the air than at the destination itself if there were a compelling reason or free ticket involved, but in this case, we paid for our airfare and we’ll be “there” longer than we’ll be traveling to and from there. Hell, this little contest is lasting longer than we’ll be there.

Clue #4 (Trivia)
We do not need a visa to travel there.
The predominant language is English.
It is a popular tourist destination.
In addition to tourism in two well known cities, the major industry is gold production.

Oh, in answer to Gayle’s altitude/attitude question, we’ll just say that “altitude” was not a typo but we readily acknowledge Harriet’s “attitude” is (always) a consideration.