Sunday, May 20, 2018


So I just added myself as a contributor to this blog, hopefully that won't make anything too confusing. It's a gmail/google accounts thing that I hope will make it easier for me to post photos and therefore to blog more often...
Ok! That's all! 

Saturday, May 19, 2018


Last week I visited Japan for the first time - it has always been on my bucket list but somehow way off in the misty future. But then my nearly-youngest cousin was getting married in Tokyo, to a man from Peru, so suddenly it made sense to go - and my parents helped make it happen ;-). It is rare for so many of my maternal relatives to get together, scattered as the family is across the world (Peru, US, Canada, Japan, and other random places like Albania).

The bride cooks lunch

downtown Tokyo

Two aunts and an uncle

Big in Japan
Apparently tourists can rent a geisha costume for the day

Mother of the Bride adjusts the bouquet 
After the wedding and reception, the family gathered on the 41st floor of the building another cousin lives in; the views were spectacular and it was a good time just to talk and reconnect.

These are my cousins Sachiko and Tani; it had been 18 years since we had last been together! In fact 18 years since I had even seen either of them (it was at Sachiko's wedding in Vancouver that time). It was so much fun to catch up, at a very different stage in our lives, reminisce about our childhoods, learn about our each other's lives now. So grateful. 

Ten - Dhjet - Diez

Valerie is TEN years old!

She had gifts in the morning and cake at school (not pictured), then we sang to her in the evening as well. (My parents are here!)

Then on Friday, we invited some friends over for a cat-themed party with games and more food.

This is the first actual birthday cake I have ever made for either of my kids - carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. It came out perfect! 

I think she liked it! 

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Jantzi Christmas

When this post goes up, I'll be on my way to Japan for my cousin's wedding! Meanwhile, I realised I have very few photos of the Jantzi grandparents during their visit to us for Christmas and New Year's. The kids were extremely excited. 

I think there is a grandparent hiding in the photo below: 

I think Terry has some more photos - I'll have to bug him for them...

Monday, May 07, 2018

Southern Africa

Continuing to fill in the blanks... in January I got to visit southern Africa for 2.5 weeks, where I added two new countries to my life list and nearly filled the last blank page in my passport. When I got back there was literally one blank side left. 

Bear with me, this post has a LOT of photos!

Lesotho - man in the background is my colleague Vuriyayi Pugeni

Again Lesotho, Growing Nations Trust

Debating details of conservation agriculture

Some food

A bit of material culture - I am fascinated by missionary subcultures; these books in a mission guesthouse really  index a time period
A farm in Mozambique

The Zambezi, view from the hotel we stayed at

Future garden site for a school in Zambia

This was a work trip, but we had some fun too, managing to squeeze in a half-day at Victoria Falls.

I didn't get many photos of Zimbabwe - I think I was just really tired by then. This is part of the Cape to Cairo thing. The African continent is really, really big. 

It was a good trip; it felt like way too long to be away from the kids and Terry, but it was a good trip. 

Saturday, May 05, 2018

The Return to Sotira

Six year ago, almost to the day, we attempted to join some friends in a hike to a waterfall called Sotira. It... didn't quite work out as planned... but the event took on the warm sheen of nostalgia over the years thanks to the lovely photos and the intercultural adventure of it. I had literally forgotten that we didn't eat a real meal for 7 hours (with a 4 year old and a toddler), and that the kids and I all threw up on the bus trip back to Tirana. But the friend who organized the original trip always felt bad about the "disaster" in her mind, so this year she organized our triumphant return on the May 1 holiday, only to have things.... not quite go as planned. 

Same group as last time, minus 100 random hikers and plus two more kids
The kind man who carried Gabe for part of the hike last time (husband to our friend Ledi) now has 2 kids of his own and threw out his back the evening before our hike while playing tennis. You can see hi looking pained above. So instead of driving 2.5 hours past Gramsh to get to Sotira, we instead drove about 1 hour up Dajti. 

Apparently everybody else in Tirana had the same idea as we had to drive around a bit to find a picnic spot, but eventually we found one.

The kids really had a great time wandering around in the woods and finding flowers. Val got upset about all the trash she saw littering the ground. It was really nice being out of the city, in a higher and cooler spot. So even though we didn't see Sotira (again) a good time was had by all.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

More Spring

I have to take a pause in the belated revelry to post some more recent photos - last Saturday we borrowed a car and took a wonderful day trip to a dramatic little peninsula just north of Durrës,

 Nearing Cape Rodon

The weather was just perfect. Well, the kids said it was too hot to hike but we made them anyway. There were a lot of young people out playing volleyball and barbecuing meat.

There were also some strange, gigantic bunkers - the small single-serving size bunkers are everywhere, especially along the coastline, but I had never seen any this big, and with weird spikes on the back that made them look like gigantic fossilized battle-tortoises or something sic-fi like that.

There was just something so Albania about the bunkers by the church by the sea (we could see Montenegran mountains from the peninsula), with the scrubby wild brush and young people playing volleyball in the middle of it all.

This is a medieval church there that was apparently built (or made to be built) by Skenderbeg's sister.

We weren't planning to get in the water, so didn't pack bathing suits or anything but on the way back we stopped at a more developed beach and the kids couldn't help it, they just had to jump in. (The resulting mess of wet, sandy clothes stressed me out but we got it sorted.)

And a good day was had by all. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Christmas Fair

It's kind of strange to remember the dark and cold season, just as the days are lengthening and warming so dramatically. In fact looking at the photos reminds me I need to wash their winter coats for storage.

Over the holidays, there was an amusement park fair set up in Skenderbeg Square, the central plaza of the city. Thus this strange tableau of a lady waving and Skenderbeg in the evening light. 

View from the Ferris wheel

The kids LOVED this ride! They did it at least twice every time we went. It just goes around and around. I don't get it, but it was great to be able to get them out of the house in the dark of winter and enjoy the lights, hot drinks, and festive atmosphere. One night we saw carollers but only just as they were finishing singing, bummer!