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Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

We made it to Key West on Friday evening and immediately had a game plan. We had spent a day in Key West this past summer and knew we had to go back to DJ’s Clam Shack for a lobster roll and fried clams and to Blue Heaven for the perfect piece of Key Lime Pie. Night 1 = success.

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The next morning we hit the beach for the sunrise wedding of our two friends. Everything was beautiful. Loved the bride’s JCrew dress 🙂

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Georgeous!

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We spent the rest of the day enjoying a wonderful brunch and conch tour with the bride and groom. Took a nap. Watched a little Texas Tech football, and went to the wedding dinner where the bride and groom served wine from the California winery where they got engaged. Amazing! It was an honor to celebrate with them. Oh, and my Aggies beat #1 Alabama while we were at dinner. I may or may not have been monitoring the game on my phone while chatting with the bride’s grandfather whom I’m going to adopt 😉

All the best to you, Andy and Bayley! Thanks for giving us a great excuse to take a little mini-vacay and for letting us join you in celebrating the beginning of your new life together!

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It’s the Journey that Counts

Miami behind. Key West ahead.

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A Few Hours in Miami

So, it turns out flying to Key West is not cheap, but we had to get there as 2 friends of ours chose this as the perfect spot to exchange vows. How to get to Key West without breaking the bank? Hmmmmm. Flying to Miami looks cheaper. My sister lives in Miami. Bet the drive from Miami to Key West is beautiful. Perfect! We’re going to Miami.

And, so we did.

For 22 hours.

Neither Stephen or I had been before, but now we’re looking for reasons to go back. Barney fit right in on South Beach. No surprise there if you know our “no, I don’t eat milk bones – only fine cheeses and homemade dog treats” shih tzu. Don’t know how it happened, but the dog has developed quite the palette. Not even sure if it’s fair to call him a dog at this point, but I digress. Here are some shots of our 22 hour stay in Miami.

The pool and view from our beautiful hotel:

Barney and I enjoying a drink in the abnormally cold Miami weather:

Stephen testing out the hot chocolate with Bailey’s:

My beautiful sister:

Gorgeous Miami Beach:

Can I have some stone crabs, Dad?

Already missing this hotel.

Hope to see you soon, Miami! Thanks for the (super fast) fun!

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The Thankful Traveler

Thankful for a little November getaway compliments of 2 friends who decided to get married in Key West. Thankful for them, their decision to get married in a great location that mandates a vacation, my sister for being generally awesome and agreeing to hang out with us in Miami on our way to the Keys, and for the fall edition of my travel faves.

Also thankful for my jet setting shih tzu

And my Tom’s

And 3 years of life with my best bud

He’s thankful for duty free Harrod’s hot chocolate compliments of my last adventure.

Next stop: Miami

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Sitting in a living room watching a family talk to each other. Talk over each other. Laugh with each other. We are the same. This could be Thanksgiving at my house, but it’s not. This is India.

I go to my company’s event. The main reason I came. The students want to take pictures of me. I’m teaching a workshop. The power goes out while everyone’s code is compiling. I’m nervous about getting off schedule. They’re calm. This is India.

Driving through the city to teach a class on embedded programming to professors and graduate students at a university. The cab I’m in has a trunk full of some of the world’s most cutting edge technology that I’ll use in my class. My taxi is dodging cows and dogs in the middle of the street while simultaneously trying to occupy the same space as 3 other cars. I’m watching people pump water into clay jugs through the window. This is India.

I walk into the room where my class will take place. The lab equipment predates my birth. The buildings look like things I’ve only seen on CNN. The class stands when I enter the room. The college gives me a gift and thanks me profusely for coming. The students are sharp. They ask good questions. They know their stuff. This is India.

That night a student emails me apologizing that his project that he showed me didn’t work. He promises to fix it. He’ll send me a video of it when he’s done. He’s thankful that I encouraged him. Did I encourage him? I hope so. This is India.

The next day I travel to a different university in a small town. We drive on a dirt road to get there. They give me a bouquet of flowers when I arrive and a gift when I leave. The professor wants to do robotics. They appreciate the technology I’m showing them. They are smart. They are innovative. This is India.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put into words this experience. It’s extremes all the time. The well off and the desperately poor. The highly educated and the beggar on the street. The developed and the rural.  I’ve only experienced a small piece of this huge country. I’m certainly no expert. These are just my observations so far. Even though I’m not able to fully describe it or explain it, I’m thankful for it. I need India. We all need India.

India is described as a “developing country.” That means they’re making progress in terms of jobs, technology, and infrastructure. One day they will struggle less and be more comfortable. They will have more opportunities. I hope so. At the same time, though, there is so much to appreciate about India here and now. They have beautiful smiles. Beautiful children. Beautiful nature. They have a deep respect for anyone that is going to share information with them, for anyone that could help them.  For me, going to college was an expectation and I complained about the work I had to do. In India, they know it’s a gift. It is a gift for all of us who are blessed to go, but where I came from, I felt like it was just the next step. Perspective. Thank you, India.

I hate to admit it, but from time to time in my college career, I asked “why am I doing this?” Me going to college…that’s not changing the world.  I sometimes thought of college as getting in the way of my ambition.  I need to get on a plane. I need to go see people. I need to help them. My 20 year old brain found these thoughts to be noble, and the spirit of them is. I wanted to help people. That’s why I chose engineering. It’s a tangible way to help people, but up until this week, I had sat in an air-conditioned cube from 9-5, in a city people plan vacations to, making good money. I like my job. I like my life. But, I had always felt like I was missing the biggest piece. Helping people. How could I help people?

This week , as I was driving to give one of the 4 sessions I gave on embedded programming and we were dodging cows and watching people pump water, my first thought was “who the hell needs embedded programming? There are bigger problems here. Stop the cab. I need to get out and feed these people!”  I couldn’t say that. So, I didn’t, and I went on to teach embedded programming. At that point it all started coming together. Feeding the poor right now will help today, but teaching these skills will change the future. These engineers can contribute to their economy with these skills. They can change the world.

When you talk to an Indian about an accomplishment they have had or benefit they have received, they will say it is “god’s grace.”  While I might not be talking about the same god or gods, I agree. It is by “God’s grace” that I got to come to India. It was a privilege. Or, as they would say, a pleasure. Thank you God for anything You let me contribute to India. I can’t be the same after India. This isn’t an expression of pity, but of revelation. Beautiful clothes. Wonderful food. Developing . Stagnant. Beautiful. Dirty. It all comes together in India. And somehow, it works.

Thank you, India. Thank you for welcoming me. For teaching me. For not letting me be the same. For challenging me. For humbling me. Thank you for the tears. Thank you for laughter. Thank you for letting me go home ever more grateful. Thank you for letting me go home excited for you. For your potential. For your culture and talent. You are amazing, India. And if by God’s grace I get to help you along, the pleasure is mine.  I hope I see you again.

“I am on a plane

Across a distant sea,

But I carry you in me

And in the dust on my feet.

Now that I have seen,

I am responsible.

Faith without deeds is dead.”

-Brooke Fraser

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Still making my way through Emma. Hope to see you again soon, London.

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Alright, Jane. Here we are again in London Town. This time, I’m ready to meet Emma.

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People are Just People

Sometime today when I can find water (which is more difficult that one might think here in sunny Portugal), I’ll take, for the first time, a particular pill. Also, sometime today I’ll get on a plane which will take me to London where I’ll get on another plane which will take me to a place I never knew if I would have the chance to visit. A place where the pill will matter. A place that I’d only read about. A place that, to be honest, I wasn’t sure how I should feel about. Somewhere between the Jungle Book and The Secret Garden, I was intrigued by it. The Jungle Book and The Secret Garden….my window into India. Animals that talk and a fictional girl that lived there 100+ years ago who’s parents died of cholera. Definitely reliable sources, especially in modern times. Even though I make light of it, I really don’t know yet what I can relate to there. I like Indian food. I think their clothes are pretty. I have some Indian friends, but they live in same American world I do, so for the most part, they seem like everyone else I know. I haven’t yet been stretched to have the same experience they have had…to be taken out of my world and placed into theirs. It’s time.

It took 22 years for me to do some serious traveling outside of the US. Up until that point, I had wondered what it would be like to experience different parts of the globe. Some places in my mind seemed beautiful, some seemed rugged, some seemed reverent, some seemed rich, some seemed poor, some seemed scary, some seemed like paradise. This is what my head told me about traveling, but the truth was, I didn’t really know. What was it like to immerse yourself into something that is totally unlike what you know? I wasn’t sure, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure whether that was an experience I needed to have or to avoid.

A good friend of mine, who had traveled much more than me at the time, casually mentioned one day while she was preparing to go to Qatar that no matter where she had gone, she had found that “people are just people.”

Interesting.

People are just people.

I think that’s pretty true.

Sure, we represent different ideas, different cultures, different languages. All of that is to be cherished, but at the end of the day, maybe there’s a little bit less to be scared of when traveling to far off places when you remember that people are just people. People. Wanting. Achieving. Failing. Hoping. Living. People.

I can relate to that.

Years ago, I read a book that attempted to explain why people do bad things. It suggested that all people have desires that are innately good and God-given, but, when those desires become misdirected, everything falls apart. The desire to achieve can result in walking on others if not properly acted upon. The desire for worth can result in attempts to find it in just anyone or anything which may not be the someone or something that can really satisfy. You get the point.
When I think about the statement “people are just people,” I’m reminded of this book. Inherently, we all want some of the same things. These things are sort of built into us. Naturally these desires play out differently in the US versus China versus India, but we’re all looking for something. All grasping at some of the same somethings. It’s kind of the tie that binds. A common longing. A common drive.

So, tomorrow, when I first set foot in India, and I’m overwhelmed by new sights and smells and sounds, I’m praying that I can remember that these are just people. I don’t want to just observe. I want to connect. I want to be changed by my fellow people.

People. Sometimes leaping and sometimes stumbling through life. Looking for love. Looking for meaning, and by God’s grace finding it. People, just like me.

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Green Wine is Not Green

During my time here in Portugal, there have been some recurring culinary themes. Sangria. Sardines. Green Wine. Sounds great, I’ll have…..wait, what? Did you say “green wine?”

I’m the kind of person that has to try everything. I operate under the philosophy that I might not be in [insert location name] again, so why shouldn’t I give whatever it is a shot? I might not like it, but good news! I don’t live here, so I don’t have to do it or eat it again. This applies to just about everything in life except for skydiving. There is no amount (and I mean no amount) of money in the world that will ever convince me to skydive.

So, green wine. I need to try green wine, but what is it?

While sitting in the bar one evening in my hotel, I asked this very question of the Portuguese bartender and he revealed to me that green wine is not only un-green but a dry white wine with a slight sparkle. I’m sorry, what? I think you just combined several of my favorite words. I don’t simply need to try this while I’m here, I need to try it tomorrow.

So, I did. And, I’m a fan . I love green wine.

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A Few Hours in London

An embarrassing amount of time ago, I decided I would read Sense and Sensibility. It’s a great book. I’m just not a dedicated reader, BUT I did bring Marianne and Elinor with me and am concluding their story in the UK. Appropriate, I think.

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