Friday, September 28, 2007

Neighbors for Dinner

My parents neighbor, Jeff, was in Cameroon with the Peace Corps about 20 years ago. He, his wife Susan and their daughters Jessica and Sarah (maybe with no "h" like me, but an "h" is usually a safe guess) came over for dinner the other night.

Mom had told us about her Peace Corps neighbor before we had even made it back to Indy, but even if we hadn't know ahead of time, we would have figured it out when we arrived. He was wearing Chacos. Sure sign.

Jeff had good stories to tell. It seems that he was in Cameroon about the same time that Mike Tidwell was in Zaire. I read Mike's book about his Peace Corps experience, The Ponds of Kalambayi, a couple of months ago. Both Mike and Jeff were working on fish farming projects (raising tilapia) and I believe they both trained in Oklahoma. Jeff said he was supposed to train in Zaire, but there were some planning problems. Something to do with a gorilla refuge. I don't think Jeff and Mike were in Africa at the same time, but a similar period.

I think Jeff was interested to hear about how the Peace Corps has changed since he was there. Twenty years ago there wasn't internet in the U.S. Now the Peace Corps volunteers all over the world are blogging from their posts. The people we will be joining in Samoa have cell phones. One guy has a wish list of things people can send him on his blog and it includes Final Cut Pro and the Mac OS leopard when it is released.

I was glad to get the opportunity to talk to Jeff and not just because he could talk about his Peace Corps experience. One of the main things that I was keyed into was the type of people Jeff and Susan seemed to be. Very fun-loving and laid-back, but also very accomplished and interesting. I would like to think that the Peace Corps either attracts those types of people, or that the experience had that effect on the volunteers. I liked the idea of thinking that in 20 years I could be that sort of person. Though maybe not in Indiana. But then again you never know.

— Sara

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Spa Day

So I am lying on a table covered in goo and wrapped up like a burrito, well more like an enchilada, in plastic wrap when....

oh, wait, maybe i should start at the beginning.

Tuesday was spa day. Cale and I went to Studio 2000 downtown on Monument Circle. Cale picked it out because it is in a historic building from the 1920s or 30s and still has a lot of the original Art Deco architectural elements. The space encompasses a space that was originally a barbershop with all sorts of fabulous Art Deco details.

I started out the day with a hot stone massage and reflexology, moved on to the body wrap I was talking about earlier, a facial and face massage, next was about 20 minutes in the hydrotherapy tub (i.e. bathtub with jets) and finally a shampoo and style.

Cale had an algae bath in the hydro tub and some sort of "Inner 'C' Conditioning Vichy Shower," (whatever that means), a hot stone massage and reflexology as well, a clarifying face mask, sports manicure and shampoo and style as well.

We got there are 10:30 am and didn't leave until 4 pm.

Cale seemed to find it incredibly relaxing. It is possible that I am not good at relaxing, or that trying to relax stresses me out. I would frequently notice that my hands were tensed up in weird positions or find my self wondering how much longer this was going to take. Almost like I felt guilty for wasting the time or something. Must have been all that Catholic schooling.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Maybe we are too on top of things

We found out our staging kits had come in the mail on Saturday as we were driving to Ramsey. We thought about adding a detour to Indy to pick them up, but decided against it.

(Yes, I know this means I am two weeks behind in posting things, if you are following our travels correctly. I just don't want you to get used to regular, timely posts. Who knows when we will have the internet in Samoa?)

Instead we had my dad open one up and read through the info to see if there was anything we needed to do in the next week while we were in Ramsey. The only thing it wanted us to do right away was contact Sato Travel to make our domestic travel arrangements. Sato handles Peace Corps travel and they purchased our flight from Indy to L.A..

That Monday, I got on the phone right away and called Sato to set it up. That is when things started to get a little unsettling. The man I spoke with at Sato could not find any record of us. He had me spell my name and Cale's name repeatedly. He put me on hold to check with the international desk across the hall and again to check in some other system. Still no luck.

Cale and I are both a little nervous. Oh no, something has gone wrong. This is when it all falls apart. Bureaucratic snafu and now we cannot get to Samao. But the guy doesn't seem to think this is too big of a deal at all. He is all set to set up our domestic travel even though he can find no record of us.

He asked me if we were late invitees. I told him that I didn't think so, we got our invitation two months ago in July. Then he seemed confused about when we were leaving, asking if we were calling to set up travel for staging September 26th. No, we are leaving October 8th. Wait, he says, what country are you going to again?

As it turns out, the are currently processing travel requests from a group that is leaving for some other country just the week or so before us. He doesn't seem to be concerned about the lack of information about us. He says we are calling right on the end of the 30-business-day window it takes for passports to be processed, so they probably haven't received that information yet.

Apparently, when the Peace Corps says in a letter to contact Sato Travel immediately to set up our domestic flight, what they really meant was at our leisure.

Our reservations were made and I made sure to call Sato back the next week to see if we had found our way into the system. We had. Yay!

Speaking of this domestic flight. We leave Indy at 7 am on Monday the 8th. I think that means that we will get to the airport around 5 am (my dad is really big on getting to the airport early and I am also super paranoid about not missing this flight, that is for sure).

I was pretty sure that 5 am was actually in the middle of the night, but I have been told that is actually in the morning and a time of day that other people see frequently. In fact, my mother apparently goes jogging at that time of day and Cale's mom is up milking goats. That is because they are crazy people.

— Sara

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Staging Kit

Staging dates
Monday October 8, 2007 - Tuesday October 9, 2007 in Los Angeles

2 pm: Registration
3-7 pm: Welcome to the Peace Corps and training program

8:30 am - 12 pm: Training Program
1:30-6 pm: Training Program
7 pm: Shuttle to airport
11:15 pm: Flight to Samoa

5:30 am (local time): Arrive in Samoa

— Sara

Monday, September 17, 2007

Roughing it

Cale's mom lives in Ramsey, Indiana with her boyfriend, Milton, and their horses and goats and a couple of barn cats. For Cale and me, it is pretty off the beaten path, but I know Annette wishes she lived farther out in the country, especially now that she has new neighbors with a four-wheeler making all sorts of noise.

Our first day we went into Louisville to take a tour on a working steamboat, the Belle of Louisville. It started out questionably. Raining. Loud pipe organ playing ear-piercing music. Questionable buffet lunch. But the weather cleared up and we sat out on the deck and watched the shore go by and it was pretty pleasant.

Monday was the day of absolutely nothing. We sat on our butts and read magazines and whatnot. A much needed respite.

Later in the week we went furniture shopping with Cale's mom. She was looking for an end table of sorts to house her TV and printer. She also mentioned that Milton wanted a recliner and that she was hoping to get a reclining love seat to replace the couch in the living room. Cale and I wanted to get her the reclining love seat as a present and we found one that she liked, but she wanted to make sure that Milton liked it too, so we didn't buy it that day. As a surprise, Cale and Milton went and picked it up the next day, so it was ready and waiting for her when she got home from work.

Whenever Cale visits he introduces new technology to his mom's life. First it was the Mac laptop, then it was the Nikon D40. This time he helped her pick out a stereo and set her up with a bunch of music in her iTunes. He also switched her from Yahoo to to Gmail.

On Thursday we drove to Spencer to visit with Cale's grandma. She recently sold her home in Arizona and bought a place closer to her daughter, Cecelia, in Spencer. While her new home is being renovated, Cale's grandma is staying with Cecelia and her husband, John. They have a whole collection of cats in that house, something like four or five. They also have a new puppy named Sammy. Cecelia and John live on quite a bit of land and have horses and whatnot. I am a city girl, so I am not so good at sorting it all out.

Milton is a farrier and we got to see him shoe a horse on Friday. That was pretty cool. Milton is usually a pretty quiet guy too, so it was fun to see him open up while he was talking to the customer, explaining what he was doing and telling stories. It looks like shoeing horses is a lot of hard work and hard on your back. Pictures of horse shoeing are tk.

We headed up to Indy Friday night after a dinner of buffalo burgers. Cale's mom is lending us her Jeep for the remainder of our time here. We will take it back down to her before we fly out.

— Sara

Philly pictures

You may have already seen these on the Flickr, but here are some pics from the stop in Philly.

The boys played with computers and video games, that is expected.

And Josh taught Cale to longboard, which wasn't too hard since it is like snowboarding.

In general, we just hung out and had a good time.

See all the Philly pictures here.

— Sara

Back in Indy

The goal is to not go anywhere for two weeks.

— Sara

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Catching up

Side Trip: Cale's grandama
Sixth Stop: Hometown
Side Trip: Sara's sister

Monday, September 10, 2007

Philly stinks

Josh and Charlotte are renting a house in Fishtown. It is a wonderful three-story row house with this great terraced sort of deck in the back yard. It seems really spacious, but they immediately point out that four people, a cat, a dog and a bunny are sharing this space and it starts to seem a little cozy. Add two more visitors (us) and our giant, all-the-clothes-we-own-in-the-world bag and it might have even been cramped.

The other roommates are Jesse, who we knew from Evansville and is currently the assistant art director at Philadelphia Style magazine, and Alida, she was an undergrad at VCU when Josh was getting his masters and got into the same grad school as Charlotte.

The first night we went to this great little restaurant and sat outside on the roof and had kick-ass burgers. I ordered a berry crisp for dessert that was something significantly less than crisp. A more apt description would be warm blueberries with mushy graham cracker clumps.

We tramped all over Philly on Tuesday with Josh while Charlotte was at school. The first stop was a beeline to South St. to have Philly cheese steaks at Jim's Steaks. To be honest, I didn’t have the full experience since I didn’t order mine with whiz. I had provolone; I just cannot get behind cheese whiz as a food item. We also had what the kids in Philly are calling water ice (pronounced wooter ice apparently), but what the rest of the world calls Italian ice as far as I know. Whatever it was, we had a gelato from Rita’s and it was pretty good.

We attempted to see the big, dumb bell after that, but the sign outside says absolutely no weapons, including pocketknives. Cale and I are all armed to the hilt with Swiss army knives and Leathermans. Instead we wandered over to a gallery with a show of George Nakashima and David Roth pieces. Some more wandering lead us to a record store and then finally back to the train to head home.

Speaking of trains, can I take a moment to tell you how much I love public transportation? Well, effective, maintained and timely public transportation that is. Whenever we wanted to go anywhere, we would just walk a couple of blocks over to the train station, buy some tokens ($6 for round trip for both Cale and I. There is probably a more cost effective method if you live there, like a metro card or something), walk up the stairs and wait for the train. We never waited more than five or six minutes. The trains in Philly are part of a larger system that includes a subway and buses and trolleys. All sorts of public transportation fun.

The next day Cale and Josh had Philly cheese steak for breakfast (well, it was close to 11 am, we can call it lunch) and we went over to see the big, dumb bell. We were half right, the bell was dumb, but it wasn’t nearly as big as I anticipated. The entire bell experience was pretty anticlimactic. We also went to Penn’s Landing to see the river. Not really what I was expecting either. I know it was Wednesday, but the place was entirely abandoned. There was this large area of terraced pools and little fountains. Don’t get too excited, it sounds a lot prettier than it was. Most of the pools were filled with trash.

Speaking of trash, I think I mentioned that Philly stinks. It does. The first day we walked around downtown must have been trash day, so we could almost forgive the smell. But as it turns out, it doesn’t need to trash day for random stinks to pop up as you were walking and the city is pretty much filled with trash. The smell was something that kept taking us by surprise. We would spend some time at the house (where is smelled nice) or inside somewhere and it would give us a chance to forget about the smell. Then we would walk back outside again, and oh my, Philly still stinks.

On a less stinky note, we went to this great bowling alley Wednesday night. It was upscale and modern with a bar, great food and a DJ. We ate while we waited for a lane. I had a Greek salad and chicken satay. Cale had another burger, of course, and hummus and pita. Thursday night Cale cooked salmon and we went to see a gallery opening. Well, we tried to see a gallery opening. There was much anger and muttering when we arrived at the gallery at 8:30 and they were turning people away saying they were closed. There was much insisting that the flyer for the opening said it was from 6 pm to 9 pm. When we got back to the house, Josh sat down to compose an angry letter and pulled out the flyer, which said 6 pm to 8 pm. So there’s that.

Cale has pointed out that this entry is starting to rival Casi’s weekly updates in length and detail, so I will just mention on more thing.

Aside from the smell, the thing I most noticed about Philly was the character of the town and the people. I constantly felt like I was on the set of some movie. That this isn’t how things work in the real world. Old men gathered in corner bars to escape the heat of the day. Knots of people sat out on front stoops of row houses during the day and gangs of wild children ran by on foot or bikes. I started to wonder if anyone had jobs and why aren’t these kids in school? Where did this old man Italian-looking man in an undershirt, shorts and black socks come from. Why is he riding a bike and smoking a cigarette? How long ago do you suppose he got that tattoo? What does the large women sitting in the lawn chair in front of the decrepit auto-detailing garage under the train tracks do all day? She was there every day we walked by. It was great; there were old buildings with character everywhere you looked and inevitably a quirky person hanging out around.

Pictures tk. We are in the land of dialup again.

— Sara

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Dice/Hoffman Family Reunion

We left for the family reunion in Pennsylvania on Saturday. Things didn't get off on the best foot. Mom and Dad wanted to leave at 7:30 am with Teresa and Mike in tow. Dad called Teresa at 8 am to wake her up. They finally hit the road around 9:30.

We took off with Marian closer to 11 and then drove around Indianapolis lost for an hour. There is a lot of construction on I-70 right now and most of the on ramps are closed. Dad called to let us know that the Shadeland ramp was closed, so Cale headed to the one at Keystone and it was closed too. We got to see quite a bit of the lovely east 10th street. Saturday is garage sale day in the ghetto in case you were curious.

Marian slept through all of Indiana and Ohio practically.

We got to Grandma and PepPep's in time for dinner and got to see Mom's cousin Melissa and her kids for the first time in 10 years.

Sunday morning was math morning. Fun for the entire family.
Marian had an algebra assignment due before the end of day on Monday. Marian had to pull the problems off the internets and then we all puzzled over them. What sucks is that when she logs back into the site, the problems all stay the same, but all the numbers change. Which is poop. So after we thought we had all the answers, Cale and I went with Marian to Panera to use the internets and to get the new numbers. We had one of nine problems right. Two hours at Panera and we got it up to seven.

Then it was back, just in time for the reunion.

Mom organized the games and usual. This year they included bird seed, shower caps, whipped cream and bed sheets. And of course, the water balloon toss. It isn't a Dice/Hoffman family reunion without a water balloon toss.

I ended the night with Mom and Melissa kicking ass and taking names in Trivial Pursuit.

— Sara

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Bye Smack

Smack got his first taste of his new home with Rob and Jason in Indy on Wednesday. We stuck around until Friday to make him feel more at home, but he had no problem moving right in. Within the first 10 minute in the house he had located, in some hidden spot under the stereo, a toy mouse left behind by Jason's parent's cat and had batted it all over the living room.

We introduced him to the backyard and of course he jumped the fence. If there is a closed door, Smack wants to be on the other side and if there is a fence (or third floor balcony railing in one case), Smack wants over. However, when he jumped the fence, he made a beeline for the front door to be let back in the house. So we didn't have to chase him all over the neighborhood (like we did when he sneaked out the front door at Cale's dad's house).

I feel most guilty about leaving Smack. Sure, we won't see our friends and families for two years, but at least we can explain why to them. Smack doesn't know what is going on. First we constantly move him from one house to another (which involves trips in the car, which he hates) and then we just abandon him in a strange place. Hopefully he forgives us when we get back.

— Sara

Monday, September 3, 2007

Picky eater

Cale's dad has always been a little weird about food. He has never eaten chicken or other poultry. But in more recent years he has also given up on pork, ham, fish, etc. He mainly sticks to ground beef. Shirl has to get pretty creative, coming up with new meals to make with ground beef.

While we visited, Cale decided to test his father's love to the limits: Asiago-encrusted tilapia oreganata with baby bella mushroom caps, asparagus and fresh bruschetta.

To his credit, Cale's dad ate half his fish, tried the asparagus and ate all the mushroom caps.

— Sara

Fourth Stop: Josh and Charlotte's