Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Grand Kids

My brother Jon came down from Salt Lake City with his two daughters today. Rachel, the little one, had to see the dentist because she knocked a tooth out on her daddy's chest. I can see why Grandma is so in love with these cute kids. I tried to take one of them home with me, but they would have none of it!

I guess I'm going to have to pin all my hopes on someday getting grandchildren of my own. Brittany and John (Nuttall) seem to be my best prospects now. John took me for a ride on his cute motor scooter tonight. I can see why Brittany fell in love with him. She has a whole lifetime of scooting around town with John to look forward to.

Catering to Please

Brittany and I spent yesterday morning at Sundance consulting with the catering manager. We had lunch at J-Dawgs (a much more reasonably priced catering option!).

While I waited for Crystal to get out of class I took the guitar over to Pioneer Park where I had plenty of time to work on my barre chords.

After accompanying Crystal on a foray to get school supplies, I went back to Salem, where Grandma and Ed treated me to a BLT with fresh garden tomatoes! To finish it off we even had fresh cantaloupe. I'm going to miss Utah!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Annette's New Kitchen

Annette and Kent remodeled their kitchen. It turned out so beautiful! It has cherry raised panel cabinets, granite counter-tops, a gas stove and all new appliances. They took out the side bar and put in a center bar. They always do such a good job when they remodel!

After church we all met at Annette's house for dinner. It was also Nikki's birthday, and she brought along the pictures she took of Brittany and John for the wedding announcement. There are so many great ones it will be hard to choose! I played the guitar while Crystal sang Blue Skies. The crowed begged for more, but, sadly, I only know one song! Hopefully, Bye Bye Blackbird will be ready for prime time by the time we return for the wedding!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

She Said Yes!

We went up to Sundance today to check out the venue for Brittany and John's wedding reception. You can see the Rehearsal hall in the back left. There is a pretty stream and waterfall directly behind the group shot. Mom and Ed went with us, and we had a lovely drive in the mountains. We were very happy with the room. It will be plenty big for a contra dance, and has a warm mountain lodge feel to it.

Afterwards we drove to the top of Squaw Peak to the place where John proposed to Brittany. They were good sports and re-enacted that special moment for us!

She said yes! We're looking forward to welcoming John Nuttall into our family on October 14th!

Over the River and Through the Woods...

We've been over a lot of rivers and through many woods, and ended up at Grandma's house last night. It felt so great to have a warm and loving house at the end of our three day drivaganza. We even had a hot-home cooked meal with fresh garden vegetables!

We dropped off Crystal's wordly possessions at her new apartment and got rid of the U-Haul (hooray!). Brittany and John brought Crystal the piano, which has become more like a hot potato over the years.Crystal gets stuck with it this semester.

Ed Melzer has lost 40 pounds on the get-sick-and-loose-weight diet. It's a terrible way to loose weight, but he looks pretty good. Good enough that we let him do all the dinner dishes. It was nice to be pampered!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Only 457 More to Go!

We traveled 1010 miles today! It was unbelievable! It helps that the further west we got, the higher the speed limit was. Sadly, however, at 80 mph, the car (with the trailer in tow) only gets about 13.8 miles per gallon. This means we have to stop for gas ever 2 1/2 hours!

We entertained ourselves by listening to the Peach Cobbler Murders and Someone to Love. Lots of murder and a little bit of love sprinkled in. I'd like to say they made driving a pleasure, but 16 hours in a car is quite a bit. Crystal said the second day was easier than the first day. She learned to accept her fate.

Our poor old car is straining to drag the U-haul across country. The bubble mirror is loose, so I put a band-aid on it to keep it from falling off. The air conditioner has been less than stellar, so we actually had to travel with the windows open for about 45 minutes during the hottest part of the day. We're hoping to get to Provo around 2:30 p.m. tomorrow. We can't wait!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hello and Goodbye

We got home safely yesterday, and left today. It was just enough time to say hello to Coda. Then we had to leave her again, but thankfully, Ed is with her!

We picked up a U-Haul trailer and packed it with Crystal's worldly possessions. They hardly filled it, but we had too much for the car. Our goal is to make it to Provo by Friday afternoon. We made it to Danville, Illinois, tonight, despite not leaving MD till 11:40 a.m.! It wasn't easy! We had some heavy rain and lightning the last 100 miles, and a detour around the on-ramp to I-74. We're exhausted! The good news was that when we crossed the state line we gained an extra hour. We'll get another one of those when we get to Mountain time! We can't wait!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Surfin' Safari

It’s so sad (and such a relief) to be finishing our vacation tomorrow. We’ve had a wonderful time, but we’re exhausted! Tomorrow we have to leave at 4:15 a.m. for the airport. It never ends. Today, however, we had a relaxing day. We didn’t leave the house till 10 a.m. We started out at Deininger National Park, which was about 25 minutes from our Villa. The ranger pointed out the flora and fauna, the flora consisting of old growth forest with a huge variety of trees. The fauna was butterflies, worms, frogs and fire ants, the last of which left a lasting impression on us!

We even saw a bat cave that harbored chupacabras (bats that suck the blood of small animals). Fortunately, the bats were asleep and we got out of there alive.

We climbed to a lookout point where we had a beautiful view all the way to the ocean!

We then stopped by La Libertad town. It has some nice restaurants along the water front, and a pretty walkway. One of the best things to visit is the fish market, which has all kinds of fish, shrimp and mollusks. We even saw manta rays being cut into steaks. This was a bucket of boca roja (red mouth) fish. The whole fish was red! It was way more than the mouth that was red!

We stopped for pupusas, before we went home. Eli needs to eat a lot of them to make up for the last 5 years in the states. He’s been missing them! We were fortunate to have a great group of musicians serenade us at lunch. I chose Sombrero Azul and Guantanamera, two of my favorite songs! The former of those is fun, as the audience is expected to sing the “dale” echoes, in the chorus.

When we got back to our ocean front home we changed and walked down to the beach for the kids’ surfing lessons. The owner of the surf shop was surprised that the kids were so big (old). I think it might have been easier to teach real kids. Surfing is a sport easier picked up by kids too young to know how hard it is. They started out looking like pros, posing for the shot. It was a good thing they posed before, because after about 45 minutes in the water they looked pretty flushed. Brittany was so red we thought she got a bad sunburn. It took her about an hour before her  face went back to normal! Maybe that was because she was the only one that briefly hung 10.

 I didn’t get a shot of that, but I did get one with Crystal on her knees!

Our surfing instructor, Tiola, was so nice, and hand painted a little surfboard for us while we cooled down. He doesn’t have a lot of gringo clients, and probably even fewer groups of gringos where 3 of them are fluent in Spanish!
We all cooled off in our pool, where we talked about the difference between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Apparently, our children’s generation is in no hurry to move on with their lives. They’re patient to let them happen. I’m sure it must be because we’re in no hurry to let them go. We love them! Eli made dinner for us, so we’ll have to humor him and play Mormon Bridge tonight until he wins!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

El Salvador Temple Dedication

We picked up Kent and Eli at 7 a.m. and drove to Chalchuapa for the temple dedication broadcast.  We enjoyed it tremendously. The chapel was full and reverent. The talks were mostly in Spanish, except for President Eyring’s.  Ed was able to understand at least one of them!  It was nice having translators for him, but I have to admit sometimes I was focusing so much on how things were translated that I forgot to listen to the talk! It was great, because the translators were native, and were very adept at expressing difficult constructions into Spanish. Elder Christofferson spoke in Spanish, and was quite fluent! We felt the spirit and gratitude to be able to celebrate with the Salvadoran people, that they finally have a temple in their own country. It was nice to feel that we, especially through Crystal and Eli, have actually been a part of it all.

After the dedication we stayed and visited with the members for a very long time. Crystal was swamped with people that wanted to talk with her. Once again, she enjoyed her popularity.  It was like being queen for a day! Eli was excited to see the woman that cooked for him every day for 9 months. He was also excited to know he’s still her favorite missionary ever!

We drove by the homes Crystal and Eli lived in in Chalchuapa, and stopped in at Pan Rey for some sweet bread.  Crystal got to live right across the street from the bakery, and smell their bread cooking every day!

Jorge chose a great restaurant for us this afternoon. It was a beautiful location on the beach in La Libertad. We all had sea food, which was delicious! We enjoyed the view of the ocean just as much as the dinner.

We got to our private villa in a gated community by 4 p.m., and took a dip in the private pool to cool off. It has eco-air conditioning, which is open doors and the ocean breeze.   It is a beautiful home, with a great view of the ocean. We’re visiting with Eli, and now that we’ve talked ourselves out on the topic of family dynamics, we might start looking around for a deck of cards. Nothing like a few hands of Mormon Bridge to make you feel like you’re on vacation! We’ve decided to rest a little here. We’re going to sleep in till 10 a.m. before we go out with Jorge for our trip tomorrow!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Crystal Has Friends!

We stayed at the Hotel Alicante in Apaneca last night. While the accommodations were somewhat rudimentary, they made up for it by having a small zoo adjacent to the hotel. It is also surrounded by lovely gardens and a pretty pool.

The town of Ataco had the prettiest murals on the walls of many of the homes and businesses. We have been so impressed by the quality and quantity of art in El Salvador. Some of the handicrafts we found here were the prettiest yet. Even Brittany couldn't resist a little momento from Ataco. Up till today nothing had even tempted her! It was nice that they had the old mixed with the new. It wasn't just reproductions of Mayan art, but imagination gone wild!

We stopped to see Tazumal, the biggest archeological site in El Salvador. It turns out the city of Chalchuapa is built over much of the site, but it is still pretty impressive. The story of 7 different civilizations building on it was so interesting. They had Olmecs, Toltecs, Maya, and Pipil. It was like a who's who of Mesoamerican Indian tribes. And to think Crystal passed it every day in her missionary work for 4 1/2 months!

We then spent several hours visiting Crystal's friends from her mission. They all loved her and were very happy to see her. It made her so happy. Having only her mother to hang out with for 3 months has made her forget she once had a life! Hermana Ena posed for a picture here with her dog Bebe.

Andre was happy to have his picture taken, but had to fix his hair first for the photo! Crystal (Hermana Bush to them) looks on in the mirror.

We had printed pictures of the temple on fabric and stretched them in embroidery hoop before we left Maryland. Here the family Barrios poses with their temple picture. Elmer and his son, Pablo were baptized on Crystal's last day in the mission. It was so wonderful hearing Elmer tell about his conversion, and how it helped him stop smoking, which he had never been able to do before. They were so grateful for Crystal's influence in their lives. 

It was appropriate to stop in Santa Ana, the new headquarters for Crystal's mission. They changed the name from San Salvador West/Belize to San Salvador Santa Ana/Belize mission. They also re-aligned the boundaries, so some of the areas that Crystal served in in the capital are no longer in her mission. We had a little rain, but nothing to dampen our enthusiasm. We noticed Belize was hit with a tropical storm today. We're glad it didn't ruin our holiday!

We met Uncle Kent and cousin Eli tonight for the cultural event. We had been unable to get tickets for it, but ended going late and finding out we didn't really need a ticket. We missed a lot of the program, which was sad, because I love singing and dancing. But, it was great, because we got their in time for several numbers before the grand finale. The costumes were great, the dancing was terrific, and the spirit in the stadium was so strong. It was really carried by the youth on the floor cheering. You felt their strength, and it made you feel proud to have been a small part of the growth of the church in El Salvador.

At the cultural event Crystal ran into many more people she knew. I guess she (and we) stand out in the crowd. She was feeling the love tonight! She even met up with a former missionary companion, Herman Sing, from Honduras!

Special kudos go out to Jorge, our tour guide, who picked up Kent and Eli, and came to pick us up when we called him on short notice to take us to the stadium. He has been so generous with his time. I hope he gets to see his wife and family a little after we leave next week!

Friday, August 19, 2011

La Ruta de las Flores

We enjoyed our stay at Los Almendros de San Lorenzo immensely. We met the owners, who gave us a private tour and showed us how much care had gone into the restoration of the 200 year old building. It was an amazing feet that took 17 months with 30 workers every day! That beats the Bush kitchen extravanganza! We took their picture in front of their painting, along with their Boston terrier Lorenzo. 

We would have like to have spent a few more days in Suchitoto. We took a picture of the Church of Santa Lucia before we left. It had somehow escaped the ravages of the civil war that raged around it.

Our first stop of the day was at Joya de Cerén, the Pompei of the Americas. It was discovered in 1976, and has been carefully excavated. It was a town completely covered in volcanic ash in about 600 A.D. They have a very nice park, and coverings to protect the ruins.  It is unique because it is not a bunch of pyramids, but homes that common people lived in during the heyday of the Maya civilization. 

Next we drove to Cerro Verde national park. On the way up we stopped to enjoy the view of Lake Coatepeque. It is surrounded by private homes, often with boat docks--maybe a nice retirement home for the Bushes! 

When we got to the national park we were barely able to take a picture of Izalco volcano between different sets of clouds rolling by. We all wanted to climb it, but Crystal said she did it once and would never do that again!

Our tour guide, Jorge Martinez, is back with us again (after surviving his tax audit yeasterday), and we enjoyed his showing us the ballerina flower. He picked a bud and a blossom and put them together to look like a dancer in a tutu!

Our last stop for the day was outside Juayua,  at the Chorros de la Calera. This is where having a guide came in very handy. We would never have found the falls without one. He took us to a family near the falls. They showed us the way and lent us a towel (to share). It was about a half hour walk to the water, over some pretty steep terrain. When we got there we had it all to ourselves. José scared us to death by showing how high he could climb up the rocks and jump in. It turned out to be about 20 feet! His madre must be  loca to let him do that! I ewas scared when Crystal ventured out into the deep water, thinking she might get sucked ove the edge. When we saw that didn' t happen, we all followed her. It was cool water, but not ice cold. We're in the mountains, but it's not glacier melt!
José's older sister, Yessinia,also  accompanied us, and was very helpful. What a couple of nice kids!. They both got us safely back to their home, where we found grandma making tortillas over an open fire. It reminded me of the place I lived in Guatemala in 1979.

We made it to our hotel in Apaneca in time for three hands of Mormon Bridge before dinner. I came in last on all three hands. I'm thinking we might need to change the rules!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Suchitoto and Ilobasco

Our guide for the day, Ceasar, picked us up at 7:30 a.m. Since our complimentary room at the Marriott didn't include breakfast, we let Caesar pick for us. We stopped about an hour outside of town at a place the locals know and love. It was served cafeteria style, except the cafeteria was really a kitchen, and you met the cook as you went through. We had beans, eggs and potatoes, sausage and fried bananas. This was a hearty breakfast, fortunately for us, as we didn't eat again till 7:30 p.m. We had a few tortillas and some peanuts, but that was it for the day!

Our next stop was Ilobasco, the town that makes pottery and clay objects. We hadn't really been shopping on the trip yet, so we enjoyed indulging ourselves and buying a few pretty things to bring home with us!

When we arrived in Suchitoto we stopped at an indigo shop, where we saw a demonstration of how they make the dye and apply it to the clothes. It was a lot like tie die. The girl wrapped two marbles in the fabric with a rubber band, and this was the result. Indigo was the main crop here for centuries, but eventually lost it's importance to the economy. We stimulated the economy a little with some indigo purchases.

Our hotel, Los Almendros de San Lorenzo is a beautiful colonial building with a bedroom upstairs, as well as one downstairs. We like it a lot! The owner is an artist, and it shows in the decor!

After we freshened up a little, we were off for our horseback ride up Guazapa volcano. We visited with the owner of the business before starting the climb. He was an ex-FMLN guerrilla. Things are going better for him these days. He's no longer fighting, and we caught him enjoying a little siesta in his hammock!

Watching us mount these scrawny little horses was pretty funny. We were on them for about 3 hours as we toured sites where the Salvadoran Civil war took place. We saw bombing craters, bunkers and foundations for a school, a house and a church, that were all destroyed during the war. Our guide was in his 30's, and his mother had been killed early on in the war when he was only 4 years old. It is a sad tale, in which 85,000 people were killed. But, things are better now, and people have hope for a  better future.

We finished the tour with a nice view at a lookout where snipers used to hang out. We took this picture before we started down. We were pretty saddle sore at this time, but we didn't know the meaning of pain yet.  By the time we got down Ed was practically crippled. The saddles were too small, and the stirrups only had one length! But, as sore as we were afterwards, I wonder if those poor horses had it worse. It looks like we should have been the ones carrying them!

We were able to relax in the next part of our adventure, a boat ride on Lake Suchitlan. The lake was loaded with water lilies, which made getting out into open water a bit of a challenge! The skipper had to cut the motor often to make sure the propeller didn't get entangled in plants.

Once we got through the lilies, it was smooth sailing! A light rain made it even more refreshing! We love traveling in the off-season. We had the boat all to ourselves. (We're not really sure if El Salvador has an on season!)

The Bird Island was a real surprise. A lot of different species nest there. There were more birds than we've ever seen at one place. We were glad the boat had a canopy! The island was packed with trees, and every tree was full of birds. This one was full of big black ones!

We got back to our hotel in time for a quick dip in the pool before dinner. We can't wait till tomorrow as the adventure continues!