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In August, we were working hard on finishing school up before our trip to the states. When you are cruising, you are also traveling a bunch, so the school schedule is a bit different than land based school. We take more long vacations than normal school, but, we also do school whenever we can on board. This means that we usually work six days a week. In general, we take Sundays off, have family time, a big breakfast, some morals discussions, prayers and meditations, games and movies. We love Sundays! We finished school off with a few days to spare and the kids ripped up their workbooks o, much to their delight! We had a celebration day on a local beach and even took Hopper with us o. The beach is a couple of bus rides and a ferry ride away. We usually get there in less than an hour. While the kids finished school, Mike and Nancy worked hard at compiling lists of everything that they might need over the next year, that they needed to get while in the states. The boat and pets also had to get ready for the family to be gone. It was lots of work, but everything got done, packed and prepped. Our trip started with a ride into town in the back of a truck with all of our bags (many were not very full in anticipation of being filled up on the way back down). We grabbed a bite in town as it was going to be a very long night. After dinner, we took a couple of Pedi-cabs to the bus station o. It is usually about a six hour ride to the town with the international airport, but we had an interesting layover a couple of hours out... our bus got pulled over and surrounded by police. The driver locked the doors and would not let them on board. There was lots of yelling in Spanish and we could not tell what was going on. There were only about ten passengers on the bus, and even though they spoke Spanish, they were just as confused as we were. After about an hour of this, we got underway with a police escort. They took us to the National Police Headquarters where we were locked into the yard, and the driver and conductor were taken away. We still were not told anything, and remained with the impounded bus. After about an hour of this, we were ushered outside the grounds and left standing there on the side of the road. By now it is about 11:00pm. We still did not know what was going on. A new bus was eventually sent and the new driver drove like a madman to get everyone to the destination city. Luckily, we had lots of time before our check in at the airport, so even with all of the delays, we got there in plenty of time to check in at 4:00am! The first leg of our flight took us to Bogota, Columbia, where we were to have a six hour layover. Not too bad, we thought, we would just find somewhere out of the way to snooze. In Bogota, you get searched everywhere you go. Every single gate had a search station that was set up about an hour before a flight was going to leave from that gate. About every hour we would get kicked out of one room and wearily find our way to another. Then, just as we were settling in, they would kick us out of that one. Oh well, sleep is over rated! Just before it was time to board the next leg of our flight, our names were announced on the loud speaker and we were called up front and told to sit and wait. We were not clear as to what we were waiting for. About an half hour later, they finally came for us and took us down a hall where we saw one of our bags, so now, we at least knew what they called us for, they just wanted to ask us some questions about something in the bag. We opened it up, no problem. What was in this bag was a case of jams from the property that we are living off of in Ecuador. All sorts of yummy tropical flavors. Also in the bag were two small bottles of delicious rum from Nicaragua that we were bringing back to share with Mike's mom. The customs agents were completely baffled by four Americans with Ecuadoran jam and Nicaraguan rum! They insisted on opening some of the jam and after they were opened, they tipped the jars to read the labels. (I think that someone must have done something similar to their heads and some of their brains ran out.) As the jam was running down the sides of the jars, they grabbed some of our clothes that were in the bag padding the glass jars, and wiped it all up with that! Thank you very much! We were very happy that they did not confiscate the rum that we had been hoarding for all of these months. The rest of the trip went without a hitch, we were well fed on the flight and even got free drinks, wow, what a change from the US based airlines! After 33 hours of travel with very little sleep, we pulled into Mike's sisters home where we were to be based for the next week. It was great to be there.
The first day back was spent at the beach with family o. Fletcher had a fantastic time surfing with his cousin Jenna o. It was a great day. We applied lots of sunscreen as we were pretty pale. Contrary to popular belief, we actually do not spend that much time in the sun in our normal day to day life. We had a fun day catching up with everyone. That night, more of Mike's family got to town, including Mike's sister from Hawaii who surprised everyone by showing up. All of Mike's siblings were there. It meant so much to his mom to have all of her kids together o. We enjoyed wonderful food at every meal prepared by Mike's sister and brother-in-law. Every detail had been well thought out and even our time at the beach was accompanied by great food and plenty of it! We went for a nice hike to a beautiful lookout one day o, and just had a great time chilling with everyone. All of the cousins had so much fun hanging out o, rolling around on the beach and just being together. This is one close family. Mike and Nancy started on the procuring process for boat parts while in Southern California. One afternoon was spent in Newport at a great boat salvage store. Another day, we drove down to San Diego to have some parts fabricated while the kids were at Disneyland with their cousins and Aunt and Uncle. It was go, go, go.
Then, it was time to hot foot it up to Lake Tahoe to retrieve two boxes of mail that had been collected for us over the past year. We had a beautiful drive up and as soon as we saw the lake, it felt like we were home. We were all surprised at the depth of our attachment to the place. We had been thinking that if we did move back to the states, that we would settle in the San Diego area to be close to the beach and Mike's mom. After being at Tahoe for a few days and seeing all of our great friends and family up there, we are now thinking that we would go back to Tahoe. We really surprised ourselves with this! Anyway, our time at Tahoe was wonderful. We had such a nice time staying with Nancy's brother and also with a dear friend. The kids had so much fun being with their friends and hanging out o. They just fit right back in as though they had never left. It was very cute. We went to several community events and the kids were just having a blast seeing their friends and running around. There were concerts on the beach o, concerts in the park, and movies on the beach. Breakfasts, lunches and dinners with friends were so much fun. Mike and Nancy were busy with mail and trying to dig out all of the paperwork and figures to get the taxes done. A whole lot of work for a few short days. There were also normal things like doctors appointments and some of our other "normal" activities that we used to do. We went for swims in the lake, to church, a tai chi class and meditation too. Mike also got three mountain bike rides in o. It sure was great to see all of our friends and acquaintances and have some quality time at the lake. After a week in Tahoe, it was time to move along to see friends and family in other parts of the state.
Please click to enlarge!
Last day of sixth grade! Hopper on his way to the beach. Getting to the bus on time on our way to the states.
Surf session for the cousins, beach play, McConnell family group hike to lookout point, morning with the cousins, Fletcher and Jenna finishing a surf session.
Some of the girl cousins on the beach, family pyramid, mom and the five siblings, some McConnell women, the whole Club Mac gang, Mike and Nancy on "Team Patriot", marshmallow roast.
Tahoe: Dana and Fletcher reunited with their best friends, friends gather on the beach, Mike and Fletcher love mountain bike riding at Tahoe.