Author Archives: Jan

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We’re now back in San Francisco, after a whirlwind Cuban adventure. On our last night, we visited the Tropicana – Havana’s premier cabaret and nightclub which has operated for over 75 years.

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The gigantic cast of this extravaganza was talented and beautiful. They surrounded us on all sides – on the stage, up in the air and on both sides of our seats. Most of the gals (5’10”” and around 110 pounds) wore costumes that were as colorful as they were miniscule!

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Ed was able to get up close and personal with this showgal, as he “researched” the fabric and sewing in her outfit.

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The singers blasted out the Cuban hits, while the live orchestra provided a lively beat. The gymnasts performed expertly and wowed the crowd.

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We arrived at the Tropicana by taxi – this time it was a ’57 Cadillac, complete with tail fins.

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On the way home, we actually rode in a yellow cab – a new model fiat that had A/C! When we told this driver we were from SF, he said, “oh, there is so much opportunity there.”

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So, adios Cuba! Thanks for the fabulous experience. We loved the art, architecture and the famous graffiti.

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When we play our CDs at home, we remember the music resonating from every corner.

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Ed expertly drove the rental car without any hiccups.

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And Jan negotiated lodging and dining in Español, and managed our CUCs.

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Traveling independently was fabulous. A NY Times article published on 12/16, included this question, “Can any American citizen visit Cuba now?” Here’s the response:

“As long as the trip falls within one of 12 purposes, Americans can go to Cuba without having to apply for permission, in the form of a license, from the government. The 12 categories of legal travel include visits to close relatives, academic programs for which students receive credits, professional research, journalistic or religious activities and participation in public performances or sports competitions. As Robert Muse, a Washington-based lawyer who specializes in U.S.-Cuba related law, put it: If somebody wishes to travel to Cuba and they “can’t think up a way to fit into those categories, they are not trying."

So, if a trip to Cuba is in your future, we’re happy to share more details to anyone interested in conducting a research or journalistic expedition.P1110759

This is our final post about Cuba.  We wish all our readers Happy Holidays and we'll see you when we're on our next adventure in 2016.

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In Cuba, we were able to rent a car -- a 2010 Renault (not a 48 Chevy!) to drive around the country and visit villages, colonial cities, and historical landmarks.  We were glad that we had booked in advance, since we heard that all rentals were sold out until the end of January.  This gave us ultimate flexiblity, as we were able to plan our days on the fly. We visited  many interesting places, including this fort from the 1500s!

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The original AirB&B lives in Cuba! But, when you think of a B&B, please don’t visualize a charming Vermont inn with four-poster beds and thick down comforters. Instead, the “casa particular” is a spare room (with private bath) in someone’s home.  Renting a room for one night can bring in as much income as the typical salary for an entire month! We did not have any reservations for the “casas”, but some are now listed on AirB&B and accept reservations by email. Since there are no credit cards in Cuba, we heard that landlords sometimes give away a reserved room if someone else shows up with cash in hand.

The landlady network is robust! In Cienfuegos when the first casa was full, the gracious landlady called around to her network of friends to find us a room. When these were all “occupado”, she jumped in our car and drove around with us, asking the locals whose room might be free. After ten minutes of driving through a scenic part of the city, we landed at Casa de Nancy, where Nancy welcomed us with open arms. (This was one of our more basic accommodations.)

The typical room costs 25 CUC ($30). Breakfast is an additional five CUC per person. We think that the breakfast revenue is taxed differently, since no official receipts were needed for this transaction. For the room, we had to register in a logbook, complete with our passport number and Cuban visa.

The rooms and bathrooms ranged from very basic to quite spacious. Some mattresses were from 1940. Others were a bit more plush. We definitely had to bring our own pillow, soap and toiletries. At the end of our stay, we gave our hostess a bag of toiletries and health supplies (q-tips, lotion, shampoo, floss, etc.) that we had purchased at Walgreens in SF. All the hostesses appreciated this, as it is impossible to purchase niceties in Cuba.

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Many casa particulars are listed on a “Cuba Junky” app, which we purchased for our phone for $2.99 on iTunes. It’s managed by a Dutch entrepreneur and lists many casas alphabetically by city, even though it’s impossible to bookmark ones that look good and/or correlate their locations on an integrated map. We had to manually put marks on the map in the guidebook or else just look around as we drove. Very quickly we learned that a mobile travel app is somewhat useless without Internet access.

We also stayed in four different hotels, booked in advance with a credit card through the Cuba Travel Network website. Our favorite in Havana was the Hotel Raquel, a 1910 lovely, with original details and a glorious atrium. We appreciated the Jewish heritage of this hotel. Our room was even named “David”! Each room had a mezuzah on the door frame and there was a working menorah in the lobby to recognize Hanukkah.

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We enjoyed many delicious meals at Paladars, which are private homes turned into restaurants. This is a fairly new phenomenon, as in the past all restaurants were run by the state. Ropa Vieja – shredded meat (lamb or beef) that has simmered for hours became one of our favorite dishes. Grilled shrimp and lobster tail was also yummy, as were the black beans and rice. The restaurant economy is in CUC and is targeted at tourists. A typical Cuban cannot afford any of these prices – instead, locals seem to rely on very basic pizza from corner stalls and fruit from local vendors. They purchase their staples (when available) from government run shops, which often are not well stocked. Also, some locales indicate that they charge for meals in “mondea nacional”, the local peso, which is worth far less that the CUC (convertible peso).

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Sometimes the "pickin's" were pretty sparse in the stores.

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Standing in line is a way of life for most Cubans.  People have to wait to buy groceries, pharmaceuticals, and ice cream!

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In fact, there are lines all over Cuba.  Lines of bicycle taxis:

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Vintage cars:

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And school kids!

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On the Autopista (National Highway), we were often the only car as locals cannot afford either cars or gasoline.  Once in a while, we encountered other vehicles:

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In many towns, the horse cart is still the preferred means of transportation.

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And in the lush tobacco growing regions, horses and oxen perform the major farm duties.

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It was definitely a "blast from the past".  The horse transportation reminded Ed of rural Brazil in 1970.  With our car, the driving was easy although road signs were sparse. As Cuba opens up to the world, this will probably be changing rapidly.

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Devotes of Ernest Hemingway can walk in his footsteps on a trail that runs through Havana, into the suburbs, and through the northern islands.

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His home – Finca Vigia – in a Havana suburb, looks just as he left it, complete with the original Life magazines, eyeglasses on the nightstand by his bed, and a Picasso bas-relief that he purchased in 1969 for 150 French Francs. Many of the conquests from his African safaris adorn the walls.

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Although tourists cannot go inside the home, knowledgeable guides informed us about the details of each room, as we looked through the open doors and windows. We can see why this site is closed during a rainstorm, as the open windows leave the interior very exposed to the elements. (One guest bemoaned that the heat and humidity will wreck this history … but the guide noted that there were no funds to install A/C or heaters.)

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We sampled the “wares” at his favorite watering holes – for example, daiquiris (double rum, no sugar) at El Floradita.

As described in Islands in the Stream, (which Jan read on this trip), his likeness is positioned at the bar “in a corner with his back to the bar so he could see who was entering”. (Note the pic of Fidel over his shoulder.)

As part of our "research" into his Havana habits, we enjoyed the mojitos at La Bodegita del Medio, another favorite haunt. (Leslie noted that this was part of the "cocktail beat".) We met these CPAs from Guadalajara who invited us to visit them in Mexico next time we’re in town!  If you’re wondering where Jan’s hat is … she left it at the hotel!

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In his own words, Papa describes his "fav " beverages:

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Since Hemingway also lived in Ketchum, Idaho, we feel somewhat of a bond with “Papa”. Prior to this trip, we paid respects to his grave, which is just down the street our vacation house. So, Papa thanks for letting us peer into your life. You left quite a legacy!

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Imagine a place where tourists still use printed guide books; citizens stand in line to use pay phones, and there is no traffic on the AutoPista since no one can afford a car or gasoline. Internet connectivity is very limited (only in upscale hotels), and very slow. It’s a time warp back into the 1950’s.

 

With no Trip Advisor, Yelp, or Google Maps at the ready, we had to rely on our two excellent guidebooks the detailed National Geographic map that we purchased prior to departing the USA. This map even included the dirt roads throughout the country. GPS was available on our cell phones, but with no Internet to access maps it was useless.

 

Getting around in Cuba is quaint, reminiscent of the way we got around several decades ago in the rest of the world. We had to use street signs (when available) to figure out where we were and paper maps to get to our destinations.

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Havana bursts with a kaleidoscope of color, sound and texture. Whether it be outside the Café de Paris, where freeloader fans rock to the Latin rhythms from the band inside the cafe, or in La Bodeguita del Medio, a haunt of Hemingway, which drips mojitos and pulsates with Caribbean beats …. the city is alive with music and laughter.

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The reporting staff of PartnersInAdventure.com were sent by the publishers of PartnersInAdventure.com to report on the state of the culture, architecture and cuisine of Havana and her surrounds. Traveling on our own as your trusty journalists--eager to report the truth in all things--we’ve learned a lot. The people are friendly; the music is magical; the rum drinks are divine; and the food--especially the ropa vieja and pescado fresco--is excellent.

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Four days in Havana made us converts. We enjoyed our hotel, Hotel Marques de Prado Ameno, even though the taxi driver had to ask two different bystanders for directions to get us there, and our “suite” had no windows. But, hey, the shower worked and the bed was comfy! We tolerated the cold scrambled eggs on the buffet for the first two days, but on the third day, we opted to pay for breakfast at a café nearby where the cappuccino is hot--but even though there were eggs on the menu, there were none available--neither hot nor cold. (Not a great decision.)

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Live music is everywhere. Each band is eager to sell their CD and/or accept contributions from delighted fans. We purchased two different CDs and donated to countless other groups.

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Vintage cars abound, and they run with expert care from local mechanics. This two-tone Oldsmobile was directly out of Jan's childhood.

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At the beginning of the trip, we wanted to snap photos of each ’48 Plymouth, ’52 Studebaker or ’56 Cadillac, but they soon became commonplace. We even saw a ’57 Rambler, which we figured was the last remaining Rambler on earth! When we told the driver this, he laughed and said that it was verdad (true!)

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When we get online again, we’ll post more. Stay tuned.

 

Speeches. Handshakes. Hugs. Kisses. Banquets. Wine. Cultural shows …. Repeat!

Visiting Chile as part of a Sister City delegation has opened my eyes to a new mode of travel, for at every turn we were welcomed, greeted, kissed, and hugged. The reception has been very warm indeed!   The women in the AGEP group are very organized and fun-loving. And, there’s always another opportunity for a group photo!

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Viña del Mar and Sausalito have been sister cities for 50 years, but the relationship has blossomed over the past five years due to the focused and dedicated efforts of many volunteers who are with me on this trip. Everyone is not only committed to helping the city-to-city relationship thrive, but has focused on the people-to-people aspect as well. As a result, we have been welcomed as true celebrities in Viña Del Mar and Valparaiso, the city next door.  Monica, the gal on the left in the photo above, has been instrumental in organizing this trip and making it a success.

There are several men with this sister city delegation. Two are ex-mayors of Sausalito;  so they are experts at schmoozing and handshakes that seem to be universal to politicians worldwide! Ray introduced our delegation to the Governor of the Valparaiso state.

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While Herb described the significance of the sister city relationship. (As a confirmed bachelor, he loved being around all of the women!)

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The Mayor of Valparaiso loved being part of our delegation! In fact, we saw him 4 times in 3 days.  Below, he invited us to the opening day of a Picasso exhibit at the Museum of Bellas Artes.  Nice!

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I'm honored to have new "sisters" (including the male sisters above!)

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We’ve enjoyed many musical performances as well as interpretations of the “cueca”, the traditional Chilean dance.

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At the second show, Ray even joined the cast!

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The main goal of the trip has been to support the women entrepreneurs. They organized their first “trade show” to highlight their wares. They’ve coined the term “Hecho in Valpairso” and  branded this fair with a new logo. Impressive!

The necklaces flew off the shelves for these gals.

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And, the handmade dolls also made a splash.

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Sausalito and the Marin Marine Mammal Center each had booths to educate the locals about the sister city relationship and the potential of rehabilitating sea lions and other injured sea life along the Chilean coast.

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And as part of the fair, I invited a current “Startup Chile” entrepreneur to talk about his business. Chris Naveen, from Bangalore India, wowed the audience with his work on a low cost intelligent cane for the Blind. It has built in sensors that detect obstacles that may be in front of the blind person. Lizzie, a Chilean American gal who is traveling with our delegation, provided expert translation.  Chris plans his first test market in Valparaiso, and may work with some of the AGEP women to make it a reality.

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At the end the week, the AGEP ladies threw us an elaborate party, complete with masks!

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These gals (in purple) were the original members who founded the group 15 years ago.

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These business women have come along way since their group's founding in 2000.  They have had five exchanges with Sausalito (three in Chile, and two in California). As a result, the women are more confident and their businesses are more sophisticated and successful.  Hats off to them!

As if we had not had enough wine during our "official visit", we visited the Veramonte winery in the Casablanca valley en route to the Santiago airport.  During this delicious tasting (paired with French cheeses), we toasted our successful week and the accomplishments of the past year.  Salute!

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For the past few days I have had the privilege of being part of the Sausalito Sister City delegation to Viña Del Mar, Chile. Although I do not live in Sausalito, I am honored to be an adopted sister of this group.

The Sausalito team is committed to supporting and mentoring a group of women entrepreneurs, who are part of AGEP – a women's business association sponsored by the Chilean government.

On Wednesday, I led a Design Thinking workshop, which was expertly translated into Spanish Jan and Paulaby Paula Tejada, the founder of Chile Lindo in SF. We walked the ladies through the process of Design Thinking, and they loved it! In this workshop, the ladies get into groups of two and interview each other about their needs (in this case, for a wallet). Then they design a wallet for the other person; show them sketches; get feedback, and create a prototype. At first, there seemed to be a lot of questions about the terminology. For example, how do you translate, “what does your wallet mean to you?”

But, the ladies rallied and cheerfully interviewed each other about their needs and usage patterns for their wallets. Then, they developed concepts; discussed them with each other; and were ready to make their prototypes. This got the creative juices flowing!

Everyone was hard at work for 12 minutes as they created prototypes using paper and stickers and pens that I had brought from San Francisco:

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When they were done, they shared their concepts:

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Marisa created a wallet with buttons that activated GPS connectivity so her user could know where her children were at any moment.

Wallet w multiple covers for fashionJimena designed a wallet with several covers, to color-coordinate with her user’s fashion of the day.

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Patricia's wallet had multiple parts that easily came apart for various usages.

 

 

 

The lesson was a hit! The designs were very creative and offered a lot of variety.

Proud of finished prototypes

At the end, many gals commented that they looked forward to using this Design Thinking methodology to enhance their businesses

A lovely day! Charming women. Great cross-cultural communication. And, lots of business potential! It was truly an honor to be able to participate. I’m looking forward to continued mentoring opportunities with this group.

In late January and early February of 2015, we traveled in Myanmar for three weeks.

We traveled with two other couples, Barbara & Todd and Inge & Scott. Cathy & Phil (Barbara's brother) joined us for part of the trip. We've known Barbara and Todd since 1985 when our oldest children were one-year olds. They moved to Florida in 1988, so we hadn't spent much time with them in the recent past. Inge and Scott are friends of theirs from Florida. This was our first time traveling in a group, especially with people we'd never met, and the results were incredible. The group bonded instantly, and got along famously.

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The trip was planned by Todd and a local agency in Myanmar—Ayuda Travel. We were shepherded through Myanmar by a charming 34-year old guide, Ko Myo Thant Win, known as "Myo". He was terrific.

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This day-by-day journal is based on a diary written by Todd and the itinerary from Ayuda Travel.

Myanmar is a visual feast—photographic opportunities abound at every juncture. As Ed is a fan of "crumbling man-made structures", he was in heaven. Crumbling buildings were everywhere!

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And we were rarely out of sight of one or more pagodas. You can see Ed's favorite pics from Myanmar at his Memories of Myanmar 2015 gallery and pics of our traveling party at his Myanmar Companions gallery.

Since it became a democracy in 2012, the people in Myanmar have a new sense of optimism and pride in their country. We feel very blessed to have had this opportunity to experience this emerging democracy and meet many wonderful citizens. Everyone was incredibly friendly and warm.  We give them all a shout out: "Mingalaba!" (which means, "hi, how are you?")

A note on "Myanmar" and "Burma":  This distinction is confusing and political. "Myanmar" is the formal name of the country as mandated by the unelected generals twenty years ago. Previously the country had been known as "Burma". US and British policy has been to call the country "Burma" so as not to provide legitimacy for the generals. "Burma" is the name of the largest ethnic group of the country -- he Burmese. Some of the citizens including our guide Myo who passionately supports the move to democracy, call the nation "Myanmar" so as to be inclusive of the other ethnic groups. In a break with recent policy, President Obama called the company Myanmar on his recent visit; however, the State Department officially calls the country Burma.

1/23 Fri & 1/24 Sat: Flights to Myanmar: Departed SFO 9:00 am. SFO – Vancouver – Seoul – Yangon. We were able to use Frequent Flyer miles for free tickets. 25 hours in transit. Arrived Yangon at 11:00 pm and went straight to the Sule Shangrila hotel and crashed.

1/25 Sun: Yangon Day 1: We met Inge & Scott at the hotel, as we awaited the arrival of Barbara and Todd. We drove to lunch at the lively Burmese restaurant Feel Myanmar (pork, beef & prawn curries, $7/person). There was a huge amount of variety and in the Burmese tradition, many side dishes were offered at our table.

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Afterwards, we walked through the colonial downtown and saw many buildings in semi decay: the Post Office (1908) and the Strand Hotel (1901). We walked on to a park with locals enjoying the lawn on Sunday afternoon & walked by the Sule Pagoda which we see from our hotel.

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Then we drove to the magnificent Shwedagon pagoda complex (built in Buddha's lifetime 2600 years ago). We toured the pagoda and poured water (for blessings) on the altars representing the day of our birth. (All the girls are Friday babes!)

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We had 6:30pm dinner at the Mandalay Restaurant at Governor's Residence Hotel. It was a wonderful Burmese buffet on the veranda.

1/26 Mon: Yangon Day 2: After breakfast buffet with many French tour groups (noodle soup, cappuccino, dim sum, papaya, dragon fruit), we drove to see the gate of the home of Aung San Suu Kyi, where she was held for years under house arrest. Many Burmese make a pilgrimage here, as she and her father, Aung San, the father of Burmese independence, are very highly regarded.

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Myanmar-Companions-13We then drove through the Golden Valley neighborhood with expensive homes, to the Chaukhtetgyi 70 meter Reclining Buddha (a spectacular colorful Koons-like statue, from 1907). We especially liked the Buddha’s feet, as the art told the story of Buddha's life.

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Myo took us to an outdoor tea shop for strong local tea with condensed milk. The 'barista' cleaned the tea cups with steaming water, then expertly poured the tea and condensed milk to meet everyone's order. Interestingly, green tea is always free at these tea shops, and many folks linger there for hours.

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Later in the day, Ed and I left the group and took a taxi to meet Jim Taylor at Proximity Designs. Jim runs a very successful social enterprise and is a colleague of Jim Patell. The Stanford Course, “Designing for Extreme Affordability” has done work with Proximity Designs, helping to design a pump for rural farmers. Recently Proximity has expanded into rural farm micro-loans and their results are impressive.

1/27 Tue: Mandalay Day 1: We rose at 4:45 am for a 6:00 am flight north to Mandalay. Mandalay -- from the word "beauty"-- was the capital of the last Myanmar dynasty (the same king who expelled the Portuguese in 1755). It is a city of 6 million, Myanmar's second largest. After landing, we drove on a cloudless 65 degree morning to walk the 1.4km U Bein Bridge (the world's longest wooden bridge) over Taung Thaman Lake with views of fish farming, ducks, peanut farms, & small brightly painted boats.

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The local sales girls noticed that Jan, Barb, and Inge were not adorned with local jewelry, so they made a pitch to rectify this situation! We all purchased jade jewelry, and were charmed by the three sales girls' requests to individually sell items to each of us: "You buy me ... she buy she!"

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We had fresh fried fish in a cafe by the lake and visited the Mahagandhayon monastery in Amarapura (1200 monks), where a newlywed couple & bridal party was serving lunch to the 1200 monks as a wedding gift. The entire wedding party participated, including the bridesmaids in their pink dresses.

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Myanmar has 6-7 million monks among its total popular of 51 million people. We drove through the dusty town to the Mahamuni monastery to see the 4-meter Buddha stupa believed to be 2600 yrs old covered with millions of gold sheets placed by believers & watched the monks reciting Sanskrit texts of Buddha's teachings.

We checked in at the Mandalay Hill Resort Hotel, took a needed nap, and at 4pm drove to the 18th Century Golden Palace Monastery, an elaborate gilded teak building. One block away we walked through the Kuthodaw Pagoda with 729 white shrines 25' tall each housing a carved stone Buddhist texts & together these shrines are "the largest book in the World". We then traveled up to the Su Taung Pyai Pagoda at top of the hill for a grand view over Mandalay at sunset. Jan made friends with this 26 year old monk. (As we perused the golf course below, she asked him if he played golf.  "Not now", was his reply.)

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1/28: Wed: Mandalay Day 2: At 9:00 am we drove to Kywe Sun Jetty on the River Ayeyawaddy & took a private launch up river 30 minutes to the village of Mingun.

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We visited a lovely, cool, white pagoda; bought hats & clothes (Todd is a collector of bottle caps, and he found several new bottle caps, one of which he dug from the ground near the Mingun Pagoda).

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We walked the steep outdoor stairs to the top of Migun Pagoda -- on a tall hill built by the king 1790 to 1808, but never completed due to an ill omen, & it was severely cracked in the 1838 earthquake. (Note that we all ignored the "do not climb" sign.)

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At the top, there were great views of the landscape below.

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We walked a block up the street to the Mingun Bell (1808, weighing >90 tons), the world's heaviest hanging bell, and in the Burmese tradition, we each rang it three times to represent three good deeds.

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We returned to our boat for an enchanting ride back to Mandalay for lunch at Golden Shan Buffet (stews of fish, chicken, tripe, many different vegetable dishes, Winter Melon soup-- the Shan region borders on China; the people look Chinese & the food less greasy & less spicy--Mandalay Beer).

Then we drove 30 minutes to Ava, which was Burma's capital in the 13th - 17th C. Ava is reached by a 5 min launch across the river followed by a 20 min horse cart ride along the ancient walls. We visited the wooden Bagayar Monastery (1834) with its teak Leaning Tower & our last horse cart stop in Ava was the Mahar Aung Mye Bon San Brick Monastery (1822).

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We drove back to Mandalay arriving at the hotel at 5:30. At 6:00, we taxied to the Unique Myanmar Restaurant for Burmese dinner that included a performance on the xylophone & bent harp plus a one hour terrific traditional puppet show, all this for $15/ person including Myanmar beers.

1/29 Thurs: Monywa: After a breakfast of Burmese noodles in soup & omelets, we took a 3-hour drive to Monywa. We saw busy downtown Mandalay, visited a small factory of traditional hand weavers in Amarapura & bought a scarf & hand woven skirt; crossed over the newly-opened bridge across the Ayeyawaddy River with dozens of gold pointed pagodas seen dotting the forested hills on either side of the river. We walked up the hill to visit the Pon Nya Shin Pagoda with a large Buddha with attractive LED lights (!) and a great view of dozens of surrounding golden pagodas.

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Later,  we drove to Monywa in central Myanmar. Monywa feels like like a small town but is a major agricultural trade center & metropolitan area of 2 million people. We had a nice Burmese lunch ($5.50 pp.) & we visited the amazing Thanbude Temple (1949-1952) with a stunning red & gold interior but most stunning is that it has more than a half million Buddha statues covering the walls floor to ceiling. (Jan and Ed bought one for Fulton, at a cost of 20 cents.) We next drove 1 hour through dry farmland & copper mining hills to reach at sunset the Pho Win Taung Cave Pagodas: sandstone caves carved from 16th to 19th century, lovely 15th century paintings of the life of Buddha in more than 500 caves filled with statues of Buddha; we fed cute monkeys.

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There were no tourists here, only a local salesgirl who said she’d never even been in some of the caves.

1/30 Fri: Monywa to Bagan: After breakfast, on a clear warm day, we checked out at 8:30 for a 30 min drive to Bodhi Tahtaung Buddhas (1960), an outdoor park with one-thousand gold-robed Sitting Buddhas under a thousand Bo Trees (the type of tree under which Buddha was born).

Five minutes away & designed by the same monk is the second largest Reclining Buddha and the colossal tallest standing Buddha (1993, 413'). We drove on stopping at 10:30am to taste at the world's largest melon stand, then to Ma U village with dozens of small pagodas, 16-20th C, highly photogenic in states of semi-ruin, visited a school with cute kids, & had tea, fresh melon and salted "big beans" in a village hut.

We drove one hour more to the town of Pakkokku (a tobacco center) for lunch at "Ho Pin Restaurant" ($5pp, great mutton meatballs, fish, squash, french fries), & at 2pm boarded our private boat on the Ayeyawaddy River (past long sandy low islands, barges piled with giant teak logs, every 5 minutes a new cluster of spired pagodas gold, brown or gray on the shoreline) to Bagan.

We checked-in at the spectacular Bagan Lodge with elegant modern luxury bungalows, pool & orchids. We took a swim & then headed to meet Cathy & Phil and have outdoor dinner & puppet show at their hotel, Bagan Thande-- with Gilbey's G&T's with a wonderful sunset overlooking the river. The restaurant was located under a magnificent banyan tree. Lovely!

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1/31 Sat: Bagan Day 1: Bagan became Myanmar's first Bhuddist capital in the 10th C AD. Bagan now has more than 3000 pagodas with about as many more lost to earthquakes in centuries past. Most of the pagodas were repaired after the 1975 earthquake. In the 16th C, Mongolian invaders burned many cities but not Bagan. We had breakfast by the pool (coconut soup with noodles , boiled egg, cilantro & chili) then picked up Cathy & Phil at 8:20am, spent an hour at the Nyaung U colorful covered produce & craft market. Drove to the Shwe Zi Gon Pagoda (meaning "Old City Pagoda", 11th C), a huge gold dome with tiers, built by the 1st Buddhist King, Anawrahta (1st Empire). Then, we visited the Gu Byauk Gyi Temple (12th C) with nice murals, then saw the large red-colored Htilominlo Temple with a large gold Buddha (1218 AD). Next we visited the the Golden Cuckoo lacquer shop. At 3:30, we visited the Ananda Temple (late 11th C), the most beautiful temple in Myanmar with 4 standing Buddhas. Finally, we climbed the steep steps of the Shwe San Daw Pagoda (12th C) to enjoy the sunset, then down to share a Clearview Hawkes Bay Chardonay 2013 brought by Phil and Cathy! Dinner at the elegant "Eden" (spicy prawn curry, $12 pp.).

2/1 Sun: Bagan Day 2: After breakfast, Inge & Scott headed for massages while Jan, Ed & Todd went cycling with Myo around in the monument zone photographing & climbing 6 pagodas.

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These included Manuha Phata (late 11th C pagoda built by the Mon king when he was in captivity, with many small gold towers & 3 giant gold seated Buddhas in captivity in rooms barely large enough); Nanpaya Temple (a flat-roofed small pagoda in which was the Mon king was imprisoned, with fine stone carvings of women); Dhammayangyi Pagoda (a massive, pleasant 13th C. stone building with 50' ceilings & multiple long corridors); & lovely Dhamma Ya Zi Ka Pagoda (gold dome, 11th C with Sanskrit tablets). Biking among the pagodas was really fun. We traveled on lightly-trafficked roads and dirt paths.

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We all returned to the Bagan Logde by Noon for a wonderful swim, lunch & reading by the pool. At 3:30, Myo rejoined us to drive to the Old Town to ascend onto horse-carts to tour the village of Taung Phi to see its traditional thatch homes & old teak-wood monastery, and then through dry fields of soybeans past more than 50 brick pagodas, We watched the sunset from atop Pya Tha Da Pagoda (late 12th C).

2/2 Mon: Kalaw in Shan State: We took the 7am Asian Wings Airways flight to Mandalay & then on Heho in Shan State. Shan is Myanmar's largest state, located on the eastern border with China. It has 60 ethnic groups. We drove East one hour to the town of Kalaw (1 hr), seeing on the way Red Silk Cotton trees in bloom, stopped to walk through the market at Aung Ban (4 bottlecaps), had in a cafe great Shan wide rice noodles with chicken & chicken baos. Price was 80 cents. Delicious!

Checked in at the simple Pine Hill Resort (great heated pool) in Kalaw, a British hill station with ethnic minorities living in neighboring villages. We took a 4 hour, 10 mile trek through fields of cabbages & ginger, and into the hills with steep fields of oranges, bananas, tea & coffee. We walked through the Palaung culture village of Pain Hgne Pin where cement block homes are being built all around; we sat with a family & had green tea. Saw Ba-O people with red headscarves. The locals dressed Jan in their traditional dress.

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Back at the hotel, the staff was mixing a big wok of a rice dish --tamineg--for tomorrow's town celebration of the full moon. We took a rest before 7pm dinner at Thirigayha Restaurant (poor, wierd fish balls in banana leaf, bland curries, nice sour soup; $6pp.). Cold night—snuggled under the blankets.

2/3 Tue: Inle Lake Day 1: We awoke to a cool, sunny morning in low 60s. After breakfast of omelets and noodle-vegetable soup (Moke Hin Ka) we drove 1 hour to the bustling canal town of Nyaung Shwe on Inle Lake. On the way, we passed broad irrigated fields & visited the lovely small teak monastery Shwe Yan Pyay (1882) with colorful mosaics decorating the inside walls, cute young smiling monks, & in front of the Buddha were dozens of offering of flowers & cake for today's full moon festival.

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At Nyaung Shwe, we climbed into 50'-long narrow boats, which were our taxis for two days. We passed quickly through the village and out onto the glistening, still lake with fishermen in narrow boats & the mountains reflecting onto the water.

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At Aureum Palace we checked into our rooms on the lake—each was a gorgeous, elegant room with porches & a bamboo tub. There were even rose petals on the bed!

Unpacked & then headed 50 minutes south across the lake to lunch on the porch of the Green Chili Restaurant (nice Thai & Myanmar curries, roasted eggplant salad, Myanmar Sauv. Blanc, $15 pp.), looking out at the village on stilts, then motored to a weaving workshop making fabrics from lotus stem fiber & colors from from red plum, Inle & mango trees. Bought souvenir shirt for Ed and tote bags. From there we taxied through another stilt village to see a silver workshop (very simple designs) & bought earrings and finally we rode back to the hotel gazing at the red mountains reflecting red & purple on the lake as sunset approached.

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After an hour nap we put on our longyis for a group photo in traditional Burmese attire & went in for an elegant Myanmar meal, local Red Mountain Estate Shiraz- Temperanillo 2013 that Cathy & Phil brought from the winery, & a local port (both quite respectful) & chocolate brought by Barbara.

2/4 Wed: Inle Lake Day 2: A lovely cool morning beginning with a clear sky & mist obscuring the mountains. Nice breakfast of Shan noodles in spicy soup, fried eggs, papaya & coffee, then at 8:30am we all launched from the Aureum Palace (minus Phil due to GI issues) to motor 45 minutes south to the large "5-day" traditional market. (The vendors move daily from village to village on a 5-day cycle). We bought a parade of monks (5 wooden statues). Inge and Cathy bought Jan a new colorful hat, which matches her shoes!

At the shore were hundreds of boats, stalls with piles of dried shrimp & fish, restaurants, colorful produce & crafts for tourists. We saw bright ethnic headscarves worn by Pa-O people, and Jan was draped in one by a young local merchant. Quite a hit!

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We continued by boat to a narrow river lined with wooden & corrugated metal homes on stilts, then upriver through farmland for 30 minutes, and further through a bamboo forest to reach the Indein Ruined Pagoda complex (17th C), with dozens of brick pagodas in various stages of ruin. We walked among these, & then through a long covered arcade (30 minutes) of tourist shops. At 1:30 & quite hot we headed downstream to lunch on the deck of the Green Moon Restaurant on the river in Heya Ywama village (hot & sour fish soup, fried cashew nuts, spring rolls, Myanmar beers). We returned to the hotel at 3:30 for a rest with reading by the pool. At sunset we boat taxied to dinner at the Inle Princess Resort (nice food, odd ornate dining room,$30 pp.). We said goodbye to the rest of our group, as they fly out tomorrow.

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2/5 Thursday Inle Lake Day 3: We spent a lovely day, lounging around the beautiful hotel, complete with massages (Myanmar style for Jan; Swedish for Ed; plus Korean foot massage for Jan.) We read books by the pool, and I enjoyed reading “The Art of Hearing Heartbeats”, a novel set in Burma. We stayed at the hotel for dinner. It was a very relaxing day, and nice break from our on-the-go schedule!

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2/6 Friday: Inle Lake – Nyaung Shwe - Taung Gyi – Kakku – Nyaung Shwe - Inle Lake: In the morning, we left the hotel and took a boat back to Nyaung Shwe where we went by car to Kakku, a lesser known but impressive site comprised of 2500 small stupas in the Pa O region. This was another visual feast of carvings, statues, and gold.  The tinkling of the bells above the pagodas created a magical effect.

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We changed into our Spandex bike outfits and lunched on two bowls of delicious Shan noodles (50 cents per bowl) under the shady Banyan trees. We adjusted the new Bianchi mountain bikes and began riding back to Taung Gyi.

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We enjoyed the wonderful views of the fertile lands of the Pa O people. But it was hot, hilly and had high elevation! So, the riding was harder than expected. After several miles, Ed decided to take the SAG wagon, and Jan and Myo continued riding. We stopped to give a group of local school kids the pens we had brought from home. They were delighted.

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Then, Jan and Myo joined Ed in the van, and decided we were done riding for the day. The tasting room at the Red Mountain winery beckoned. We drove back to Inle lake, and enjoyed the tasting with the views. When we returned to the hotel, we had delicious Swedish massages.

2/7 Saturday: Inle Lake – Nyaung Shwe – Heho – Yangon: After breakfast, we transfered by boat from our hotel to Nyaung Shwe and then by car to Heho Airport for the flight back to Yangon. After check-in at the Shule ShangiLa hotel, we visited the National Museum. We saw the last Royal Lion Throne which was sent back by Lord Mt. Batten after Myanmar got her independence from British Imperialist in 1948. We also visited the Scott Market which sells many Myanmar traditional handicrafts.

2/8 Sunday: Yangon – Twente – Yangon: Dressed in our Spandex, we had breakfast in the lobby, and then adjusted our new bikes. At 7:30 we met ToTo, our biking guide and Myo outside. We biked through Yangon to Pansodan Jetty, going through cars, buses, and hustle and bustle. (Luckily it wasn't as crowded as usual, as it was Sunday morning.) We joined a mass of Burmese residents on the ferry to Dala, the fishing and farming village located on the other side of Yangon river. The views from the ferry to Yangon, or Old Rangoon, were beautiful, and they took us back to the colonial times, as we saw many colonial buildings dotting the skyline.

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On the other side of the river, Dala was a different world. Few cars … mostly pedestrians, motorbikes and bikes. We biked for about one hour passing green rice-fields, local villages, and beautiful scenery. We enjoyed a cup of tea at the Junction where the road from Hlaing Thar Yar Satellite Town of Yangon joins the Dala-Twante Road.

Then, we headed onwards along the Dala-Twante Road up to Snake Temple where we visited the mid-water temple with dwelling pythons. (Out of respect, Jan donned her longyi over the spandex shorts.) Then, we passed more villages through the rice fields, bamboo forests arriving at a Ancient Glaze Pottery Site in the middle of nowhere. We loved riding on the single-track trail through the bamboo groves. Very nice! These villages have no roads … just narrow trails. Naturally there were no tourists here and folks were glad to yell “Mingalaba!” when we rode past. It was incredible that we were so near Yangon, yet a world away. We rode to Twente and had lunch at a local restaurant. Our ride was about 25 miles. Drove back to Yangon and ate dinner at 999 Shan Noodle shop, a hole-in-the wall shop down an alley near out hotel. Yum.

2/9 Monday: Yangon – Bago – Kyaik Hto – Kyaik Htee Saung – Kimpun Base camp: After breakfast at our hotel, we drove to Kyaik Hto via Bago. We had lunch at local “bus stop” restaurant and donned our biking outfits. We started riding to the Kyaik Htee Saung pagodas at around 2 pm. The clouds covered the sun and the breeze started to pick up. Nice! We started on our 35 mile bike ride on a local road through lovely rice fields en route to the Kyaik Htee Saung Village. The scenery was beautiful. We passed by the Mon Villages, and arrived at the foot of Kaylartha Hil. We left our bikes at the bottom, and drove up the Kaylartha Hill for the awesome views of the Mataban Sea and Bay. Then we continued biking to Kyaik Htee Saung Village and had fresh sugar cane juice at an outdoor cafe.

Kyaik Htee Saung village is very famous for its monk who is believed to have attained the last stage of Nirvana. Many pilgrims visit him daily. Myo is a devote of this monk, and he was very moved to be here. The monk had been ill and had been in Yangon, but he was coming back to his home this evening. All the nuns were getting ready for his arrival. We toured the area, seeing many animals that the monk had rescued (including a black bear, many snakes, and two crocodiles). We saw the ancient Granite Kingdom Wall and the monk’s many cars (which had been donated to him by believers!) In the dark, we drove to the Golden Sunrise hotel in Kyaik Hto.

2/10 Tuesday: Kimpun Base Camp – Golden Rock – Kimpun Base Camp: After breakfast, we joined 45 other pilgrims in a huge open truck to ride up to the summit of Golden Rock, on Paung Laung mountain measuring 1000 meters above sea-level. Jan was a bit nervous had sweaty fingers and hands … but Ed noticed that the $2.50 ticket included “life insurance”!

The truck was very powerful and it motored successfully up the hairpin turns and steep climbs! We held on for dear life, but we made it successfully. (Later Myo informed us that there had been no accidents since the trucks started this journey in 2003. Phew.) At the top, there were many pilgrims who were admiring the golden rock – a precariously perched rock at the top.

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Stories say that this rock was placed here by a miracle. It’s a Burmese Buddhist tradition to visit once every year. We wandered through the shops that were nestled along the cliffs and took the truck back to the base of the mountain.

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In the afternoon, we read at our hotel, and then enjoyed the delicious food at the hotel.

2/11 Wednesday: Kimpun Base Camp – Kyaik Hto - Bago – Yangon: After breakfast, we drove to Kyaik Hto. We visited the Kyaik Hto Morning market where we purchased spices for home cooked Burmese cuisine -- dried shrimp, chiles, fried dried onions and fried dried garlic. Then, we proceeded to Bago, where we visited the Shwe Maw Daw pagoda, the biggest and tallest Pagoda in Southern Myanmar. Also, we visited the Bago Central Market, and Shwe Thar Lyaung (Reclining Buddha) from the 11th Century. We also visited the Kyaik Pun pagoda with four Giant Buddhas sitting in back-to-back position. Then dove on to Yangon. We checked into the lovely Savoy hotel and enjoyed sitting by the pool. Dinner (steak frites with salad) at the French restaurant by the pool.

2/12 Thursday: Yangon Departure: After breakfast, Myo picked us up and took us to the Yangon International Airport. We checked in and started our 25 hour journey home. Yangon – Bangkok (for a neck and foot massage, plus pad Thai lunch) – Tokyo (for sashimi) – SFO. Leslie greeted us at Fulton. What a great trip!

We're happy to share more details with anyone interested in experiencing this type of journey. It's good to visit sooner, rather than later, as Myanmar is modernizing rapidly.

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We are now back in San Francisco, after a six month stay in Santiago.  The time went by quickly, but we are glad to be back in the USA.  We hope to continue to work on RahRah4Good and get the website off and running! We now have inventory for several major universities  ... the next steps will be marketing and sales!

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We'll always think fondly of our time as "SUPPERs"  (the affectionate name for Start Up Chile folks).  Even though we were twice the age of most of the participants, the "kids" treated us well and we made some new friends from all around the world.

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We loved our apartment in Las Condes, and were very impressed with our 25-year old landlord.

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What were the highlights of our stay? Did we effectively spend our $40,000 grant from the Chilean government?  Well, we:

*Traveled to Ghana, Uganda and Rwanda to develop our supply chain.  Along the way, we were fascinated by visits to gorilla families in Uganda and Rwanda.gorillas 308 - version 2

*Enjoyed traveling on the Nile by boat and sampling the local brews.P1070931

*Reconnected with friends in Accra. And, were constantly amazed by African ingenuity.P1070939

*Traveled to the US to investigate retail opportunities for RR4G. Along the way, we visited GG in California, and Nancy and family in Boston.

*Explored new regions of Chile, including Concepcion and Toquihua, Vina del Mar and Valpariso.  Enjoyed skiing at Valle de Navarro in July.IMG_6877

*Connected with AGEP, the group of women entrepreneurs in Vina who are supported by a group of women in their sister city Sausalito.photo 3 (6)IMG_7085

*Cycled through Santiago on its numerous bike paths.IMG_7011

*Made friends with our 8 doormen who informed our Chilean guests, "those people in 507 don't speak Spanish very well!"

*Navigated through the Chilean banking system. We were sad when we had to cut up our Chilean ATM cards! IMG_7094

*Made friends with entrepreneurs from Austria, Germany, Argentina, Canada, Russia and more.  Enjoyed learning about their businesses and maybe gave them a bit of counsel.IMG_6792

*Became experts at navigating the awesome Santiago subway system.

*Enjoyed tasting Chilean wine at various wineries , including Kingston Family Vineyards, founded by Courtney and Andy Kingston, Stanford MBAs.IMG_7020

*Learned Spanish using the online program "Start Spanish" and the in-person classes at SUP

*Got to know Marcelo and his family. Enjoyed the rodeo!

*Enjoyed seeing Chile through Leslie's eyes.  Amazed at her flexibility and versatility in Spanish! Enjoyed meeting some of her friends. IMG_6855

*Cheered for Chile during their numerous World Cup matches! (When we weren't cheering for Chile, we also cheered for the US, Ghana, and Brazil!) photo 2 (7)

Did the Chilean government benefit from our stay in Santiago? (We got asked this question frequently.)  We hope so! We:

*"Gave back" to the local entrepreneurial community by networking. Ed delivered a "Crossing the Chasm" presentation in Concepcion to entrepreneurs at a co-working space.IMG_6739

*Presented in Leslie's entrepreneurship classes. Helped the students learn about US perspectives and social businesses. They were especially interested in the ZBoard!

*Provided a bit of "grey hair" to add diversity to the SUP community.

*Met with the AGEP entrepreneurs in Vina del Mar and gave a brief presentation on Marketing tips.photo 2 (10)

*Delivered the SUP presentation in both Accra and Kampala ... thereby spreading the SUP "love"  in both West and East Africa. We taped a testimonial from our friend, Kojo from Ghana, and showed it at both events.P1080085

*Hopefully added a bit of "wisdom" and "business experience" to the SUP crowd. One 30-year old kid was asked by his mother, "Are you the oldest person in the program?" He replied, "No mom ... there's a couple who is even older than you!  You could do this too!

While in Chile, our "Tripit" app considered our six-month experience to be one trip, since it was bookended by SFO - SCL - SFO flights.  We loved the graphic that showed the journey:

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So, Gracias Startup Chile!  Thanks for the great six-month adventure.  We are grateful for this experience and will evangelize the opportunity to other entrepreneurs.  Who knows, we may even recruit another pair of "grey hairs"!

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Chile is rich in natural resources and natural beauty. We’ve enjoyed getting out of Santiago to visit the countryside.

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One of the most exciting weekends in the tiny hamlet of Toquihua is when the rodeo comes to town!  Toquihua is Marcelo's home town, so he was our host.

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Chilean cowboys, named "huasos",   came to the rodeo in droves to represent their teams in a bull riding competition. Jan made a new friend since she liked his chaps.

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The bull riding was super challenging. We were glad that no one we know depends on this sport to make money!  But, these huasos do – and they gave it their all.

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To win maximum points, each cowboy tried to make three moves on the bull. First, he had to ride the bull out of the shoot. The bulls were not excited about this prospect and they tried to buck the rider off.

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Then each rider crossed his hands on the saddle, and performed a 180-degree turn, flipping around so they faced the rear of the bull. Not everyone was successful with this maneuver and instead ended up on the dirt.

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The final stage is to take the bull down to the dirt and remove the saddle. Even fewer huasos completed this task.

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We watched the “preliminary” round. The top scorers advanced to the semi finals the next day, and then the finals were on the third day. Also, in the center of the bull ring during an intermission, these two young local dancers performed the “cueca”, the national dance of Chile. Not sure this was designed to do in the mud!

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It was a warm and sunny day – perfect for the rodeo!  We were lucky to get an up-close-and-personal tour. Since it was Easter, we enjoyed visiting with Marcelo's family and even hosting an egg hunt for the kids.

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In the nearby Maipo valley, we spent the night at a “new age” resort, where we enjoyed staying in a Yurt and hiking to the falls. The legend of the falls states that the initial explorers of this area saw water nymphs in these falls, and this legend gave the falls their name.

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The resort was warm and cozy – and the restaurant did not disappoint!

Santa Rita Winery

At this winery in Buin ,which you can reach via the Santiago Metro and a short bus ride, we enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and the yummy wine.

A highlight of this winery is their (free) museum, which dramatically displayed an enormous collection of Chilean artifacts. We especially liked the wood stirrups.

As we recall, we've previously purchased the wine from Santa RIta at Trader Joe’s! Neither the wine nor the visitor experience is low-end!

Empanadas From Roadside Stands

Many locals along the main road in the Maipo Valley sell empanadas (and other local treats) to travelers. This woman had just baked these empanadas de “pino” -- onion-based, but always with an olive so watch for the pit -- in her wood-fired outdoor oven. Warm and delicious.

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Concepcion

The second-largest city in Chile is the home to Independence Plaza – where Bernardo O'Higgins signed the Chilean Declaration of Independence. We traveled here last weekend by sleeper bus (a 6-hour ride) for a business engagement and enjoyed visiting the main square.

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Lota, a town 45 kilometers from Concepcion hosts an old coal mine that is open to tourists. We joined a tour of 15 other visitors and discovered that the mine is actually under the ocean. An ex-miner led us down into the mine in an old German elevator and then we walked in the mine to end up 850 meters under the Pacific Ocean.

Never before had a hard hat been more valuable!  In other underground visits to mines or caves, we’ve felt that the hard hats were just for show – or to protect one’s head from dripping water or falling debris. But here, they were worth their weight in gold, as we kept bumping our head on the ceiling of the mine!

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We had to crouch very low to maneuver along the trails in the mine. I guess the guide may have mentioned this (in Chilean Spanish), but we were surprised!

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The life of a miner in the 1800’s was pretty bleak.

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The bathroom facilities would not meet US code!

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And, Ed was glad to be able to stand up straight upon exiting the mine!

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We were once again glad that no one we know has to make money as a coal miner in this type of mine!  This view of Chilean history was very interesting. The mine was the setting of a 2002 movie, Sub Terra, based on a book about the history of this mine. We look forward to watching it (with English subtitles) when we return to the US.

For the movie, an authentic turn-of-the-century mining village was reconstructed. Also, Ed was captivated by the rusting equipment near the mine entry and took lots of photos.

The amount of variety in the Chilean countryside is amazing. Since the country is 2700 miles long (and never more than 150 miles wide), almost every type of ecosystem is represented. This results in endless opportunities for exploration.