Thursday, October 30, 2008

Castaway Cay

We woke up already docked in Castaway Cay, Bahamas (Disney’s private island) and got ready for a day at the beach! We were off the ship right after breakfast to a short walk to the family beach. We had some great views of the Flying Dutchman, the ship in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Wow, was it crowded at the beach! We went all the way down to the end to a quieter part where we could get an umbrella.

It was definitely a “Disney” place – it was themed, clean, and beautiful. If only Disney could make the other port stops as clean! The beach was very nice, with fine white sand, lots of umbrellas and chairs, floats to rent. We rented a float because Brandon enjoyed it so much in Aruba. Lunch was at “Cookie’s BBQ.”

We spent the day in the water, floating around with Brandon kicking us on the water taxi. Playing in the sand, I made a Mickey head shape and Brandon made a lake by digging in the sand. He made the shape of a Mickey head too, very cute. Brandon played in the sand and I sat in one of the short “water” chairs and looked at shells, discovering that there were tiny hermit crabs in some of the shells. At that point, Brandon’s lake became a “crab aquarium” with playground, wave pool and rain shelter. Some folks we had met on the cruise found us and we sat in the water and talked while Brandon played with their kids.

Too long apparently, because I noticed at line of sunburn on my legs late in the day, as it was time to go back. Yikes. Very bad sunburn! Last day of the cruise, lots of days in the sun, and we get a sunburn. A little reminder of our sunny beaches as we headed back home the next day...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Here it is, almost two months after the cruise, and I haven't even finished the port stops yet! I don't know if anyone is still reading, but this is helping me to get journaling down for the trip book I'm making. I hope to finish the book before the holidays, so I keep plugging away...

Ahhh, Aruba. Back in the Caribbean again. So far, this was our favorite port stop. We haven’t been to the Caribbean since we went to Barbados in 1993 shortly after we were married! It was an early rising day for our excursion, we needed to meet at 8:15am. This excursion was the “Sea & See,” only our second official excursion on the cruise. We started out with the Seaworld Explorer – a submersible boat where we sat under water and went out to a shipwreck. The wreck was of the Antilla, a German merchant trader, that was sunk by her crew in 1942 when Germany attacked Holland and Aruba (a Dutch colony) then wanted to seize the boat. It is almost entirely on the sea floor, and close enough to the surface that it has become a reef with lots of coral and fishes. We all really enjoyed the trip! It looks like a popular place for snorkelers and scuba divers, as we came up we saw the first load of snorkelers around (we were glad we were the first boat of the day).

From there, we drove around the island to several different sights. The California lighthouse on the Northern tip of the island, named for the shipwrecked California ship of the northern coast. Unfortunately, we couldn’t climb up it. Then on to the Casibari rock formations in the center of the island and the Natural Bridge on the east coast. It was interesting to see the island. Aruba is very arid, it only gets 15-18 inches per year, so there is much cactus, few trees (only divi divi trees and the palms along the hotels), and lots of lizards. We enjoyed seeing the scenery and the houses, very colorful. Only 140,000 people live on the island, and it is 19 miles long and 6.6 miles at it’s widest – so tiny!! From our last stop, the Natural Bridge (which actually collapsed in 2005), we drove back to the ship.

A quick stop on the ship to drop off my good camera, grab some towels, have a quick lunch, then off to the beach. We caught a taxi to Palm Beach, the same beach we had boarded the SeaWorld Explorer at, because it had nice cabanas and food/drink if we wanted it. We played at the beach for several hours. Brandon got braver and went it deeper, because there were essentially no waves (just the wakes from boats that came in occasionally). He finally rode the “sea turtle” (Daddy) with bribery and went out deeper. We stayed in the water or laid on a sunbed once in a while. Later a lady gave us a floating mat (they were leaving for the day) and we enjoyed floating around. Brandon was a water taxi and kicked me around a lot, and then he laid on it and I kicked him out deeper.

About 5pm we got out of the water and walked along the beach to get dried off before catching a taxi back to the ship. Brandon was falling asleep on the short drive back. Something about being in the sun and water all day does make you tired! It was an enjoyable day in a new port stop. Aruba is definitely worth a look for a future visit.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Calling all book lovers...

I love to read! I usually have a book in progress, often fantasy, but I love all kinds of fiction. I frequent our fabulous library and rarely buy books because I read them so fast.

I was trying to figure out what I was going to do while in Italy. An e-book reader? Kind of expensive and logistical issues with purchasing and downloading in Europe. Purchase from an American bookstore? There are several in Milan, but purchasing English books, in Euros no less, is another expensive option. Purchase a bunch to take with me? Maybe, just have to decide what, and that is hard!

Right now, I am starting a collection of books to box up and take with us, so that we have a variety of books on hand. SO... for all of you book lovers and readers out there... if you have books that you don't mind parting with, we will take them with us! (Please no books that you would like back, that will be too hard to keep track of.) All genres are welcome, we won't be picky, Patrick will enjoy them too!

I've already started a collection from my Mom and Lillian, we brought back a bag from Arizona. If you have any to ship let us know and I can pay for postage or we'll figure out how to get them if there are any visits coming up.

Help keep the Sloma family reading! Donate a book to the collection TODAY!

(This is an approved advertisement from the "Sloma Italy Reading Materials" Committee.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Beautiful Season

Every day this week, I've driven by this beautiful tree on the way home, and wished I had my camera! Today I came home early from work to meet Brandon after school, then he and I we went downtown so that I could take some tree pictures. I love this tree with the sunlight behind it! We've had a very colorful fall, since we haven't had much rain. As soon as the rain starts, all of these pretty leaves will be on the ground. But until then, it's a beautiful season...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Things are moving again...

This week it's starting to feel like we might actually get to Italy someday! I received word at work that the upper management approval for the transfer has been granted, so that is good news. We figured it would be approved but you never know sometimes!

Patrick is going up Friday to pick up the document translations and to meet with the consulate to get them legalized. So by Monday we should have our documents off for the work visa application and that will be officially in progress. At this point, we are planning for January at the earliest for the move.

I will be traveling to Italy for two weeks in November, leaving Nov 8 and returning Nov 21. It's mostly work but I do plan to visit some schools for Brandon and see what they are like, and I hope to explore some more neighborhoods. It should be interesting!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to my friends Rainie, Cassandra and Barbara today! And happy birthday to me yesterday!

We're in Arizona for the weekend, visiting my Mom. We had a fun day yesterday visiting lots of relatives. First we stopped by my Great Aunt Edna's house for a little visit, she lives in a neighborhood near my Mom. Aunt Edna is 89 years old and living on her own! Pretty amazing lady.

From there we drove down to Tucson for lunch at my Mom's cousin Ellen's house. My Great Aunt Mernie (Edna's sister), Uncle Dan (Mom's brother) and Aunt Cynthia, Ellen's son Andrew and husband Richard were all there. And of course, us and Mom. I haven't seen Andrew since our wedding, which was 15 years ago, and had never met Richard. We had a nice lunch! Ellen has lots of kid-friendly foods, Brandon chowed down. Ellen's a first grade teacher so she must have known what would be popular. There was even a birthday cake and some singing for my birthday!

We had a very nice visit, and stayed longer than planned. It was great to see Aunt Mernie, but she was very self-conscious of her nose. She had just had some cancer removed the day before. She is doing fabulous at 86!

On our way back north out of Tucson, we first had to stop for me to take some pictures in the beautiful sunset light. The light was almost gone when we finally found a Saguaro cactus for the foreground in front of the Catalina mountains. Thanks to Mom for driving on the shoulder of the road trying to find me a cactus for the photograph!

We stopped quickly in Oro Valley to see Uncle Dan and Aunt Cyn's house, and then were hustled out by Mom because we were late for dinner. Lillian (Mom's roommate) had cooked us a wonderful dinner and Aunt Edna came over. We chatted for a while before calling it a day. Brandon had an exciting dinner, he lost another tooth! This one on the bottom. I'll have to get a picture of that sometime today.

There was a lot of visiting, and Brandon did really well. We stopped at Target in Tucson to get him some Legos, because he just needed some kid stuff with all of the adults around.

A fun birthday overall. It was nice to be on a little break from work and to be in some warm weather again. Sandals and cropped pants - woohoo!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


The Columbians welcomed us to their country in fine style, with a long music and dance presentation on the dock that we watched from Deck 4 before we were allowed off the ship. It was a little after 9:30 before we were able to get off of the ship. We walked out to gifts of pinwheels for the kids, fruit, and candy. Quite the welcome to the port!

Since we didn’t have an excursion we walked to the terminal, a short little walk with a great view of the Disney Magic. At the terminal – more gifts! They gave us each a maraca as a souvenir and then we walked through the shop on the way out of the port. Then came the big question – what to do – a white shirted tour guide? Or a taxi driver? From my research, I knew we were supposed to go all the way out of the port entrance, but we couldn’t tell where we were and ended up with a taxi just to go to the old town. Fernando was his name, and he kept correcting my pronunciation of anything Spanish.

On the way he talked us into 3 hours for $50. That seemed fine, compared to the prices we saw posted at the port, so we thought it would be handy to have a taxi available. We first stopped at Fort San Philippe. We wanted to go in but they would not take our US Dollars – the lady didn’t speak any English and told the guys translating for us that she didn’t have change. We didn’t want to get any Columbian Pesos – since we were only here for a day! So we just walked up the ramp to the entrance and back to look around.

From there we wanted to go to the old city. I wanted to start at the Clock Tower, but our taxi driver first took us to Las Bovedas – the old dungeons – converted into shops. Of course he took us to one shop and insisted that we go in. We should have left him right there! It became obvious over the course of the next couple of hours that he was trying to get us into certain shops and was going to get some sort of kickback, even from the street vendors he seemed to invite up to us. We said “No Gracias” in this town a thousand times!!

We did have a nice walk around the old city after we pretty much insisted on what we wanted to see, and I enjoyed taking pictures of the architecture. The old city is very beautiful – with the narrow streets, colorful buildings and balconies with all of their flowers. It is hard to get some good pictures since it’s so tight – even with my 24mm lens. Except for the annoyance of our taxi driver wanting us to go a certain way, and all of the street peddlers trying to sell us sunglasses, hats and maracas, and the ladies with fruit on their hats wanting us to take a picture with them, it was a nice visit. Partway through the walk around the city, Patrick gave Brandon the camera to take pictures and he enjoyed being the “photographer” like me. So now the taxi driver was annoyed with having to wait for two of us, but hey, we were paying him.

After walking through the parts of the old city I wanted to see, we went up to La Popa Monastery, on the hill above the city (again, our taxi driver seemed annoyed, probably less shopping up there!). The monastery was supposed to have the best views of the whole area. It was an interesting drive through other parts of the city. There is a definite difference between the rich houses (block size beautiful homes) and the small shanties that we saw on the hill on the drive up to La Popa. The houses were all tiny, with no real windows or doors, corrugated metal roofs, laundry hanging out. There were lots of cabs picking up and dropping people off, it looked like no one had cars.

Up at La Popa, again there were the peddlers with their wares, as soon as we got out of the car. This time there was even someone wanting us to pay for a picture with a sloth, no thank you (although it was interesting to see a sloth in real life!). By this time we were hot and Patrick was hungry and La Popa was a nice respite. Once we were inside, it was quiet and peaceful with a gorgeous view all around the city. The new city, old city, all of the water, the Disney Magic – gorgeous view. We paused for an ice cream in the little refreshment stand, sat in the shade with a breeze and looked out at the city. That was nice.

We walked around the inside of the convent for a little while, enjoyed and photographed the courtyard, and then figured our 3 hours with our “tour guide” were up and went back to the ship. We were hot and hungry by this time, and felt we had seen what we wanted to of the city. We wished that we had gotten a tour guide, but by this time we were done. When we got back to the terminal I paid the taxi driver and he tried to tell us no, it was $50 for the car and $20 for him and we said we only agreed to $50 and got out of the cab. Trying to rip us off! We were probably the most disappointing American tourists ever – we didn’t want to shop, we wouldn’t go where he wanted us to, and we didn’t fall for the extra $20.

Later, Brandon and I watched us sail out of Cartagena as the sun set. We heard the horn from the very front of the ship (that is LOUD) and Brandon the photographer took some pictures of the sunset behind the new city. A pretty exit from a pretty city.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

October, October, October

Last night, Brandon sat down at "his" computer (Patrick's old laptop, we just got a new one) and typed out this poem:

October, October, October
Leaves, leaves, leaves
Red, orange, brown
Pumpkins, colder, Halloween
October, October, October

We've never seen him do this before! The poem along with the picture I took yesterday of him without his two front teeth inspired me to create a scrapbook page tonight, the first one I've made in a long while, maybe since April. Fun!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Milestone

The second front tooth is finally out! And just in time for picture day too, woohoo! We had tried and tried to get this tooth to come out. It's been wiggly for MONTHS and just wouldn't come out. We tried on the cruise, first to make it a "Panama Canal Tooth" (since his first tooth came out in Grand Teton National Park, we thought that would be appropriate). No such luck. Then a Cartagena, Aruba, Castaway Cay or just a plain cruise tooth. No more luck. Since coming home Brandon has been wiggling and wiggling. We've bribed him a couple of times to let us try to pull it out... with dental floss, our fingers and - get this - needlenose pliers. Nothing.

So how did it finally come out? An Oreo! Munching on a cookie Friday night it finally came out. So it's a "cookie tooth" and he looks awfully cute! His speech immediately changed and Patrick got a kick out of listening to him talk. He said "CBS Sports" this weekend which came out as "Thee-bee-eth Thporth" and gave us a good laugh. He seems to have compensated and the lisp is going away, but we'll be singing "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!" in December for sure.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Panama Canal Part 3: Gatun Locks

It has been a busy week this week, we have a major problem on the project at work and we've had 7am teleconferences with our Italian counterparts every day. Today I got a nice email from Rainie with comments on my blog which inspired me to get going sorting through the pictures and telling the story here again! Thanks Rainie!

The rain continued through the last part of Gatun Lake and our approach into Gatun Locks. We went to Deck 4 (which is covered) to watch the approach. We waited and waited to approach the lock first. While we were waiting we were able to watch another ship come in beside us. From the row boats rowing out to catch the lines, to seeing the ship pull tight up to the inner barrier, it was very cool to see. These captains and pilots are very good at what they do to be able to manuever these great ships so carefully!

One we had approached and were up against the barrier, we waited and waited again for a long time. It appeared we were waiting for the locomotives to come back from the other end of the canal, because once they raced back to the lake side of the locks we were hooked up things moved pretty quickly into the first lock.

We went back to our Deck 7 aft viewpoint once we were in the locks, getting the umbrella from the room to ward off the rain. It was getting dark, both from the rain and the time of day, it was cool to see the lights reflecting off of the water. It was an interesting look, but made for more challenging photography. Right before sunset the sun came below the clouds and we had some beautiful light on the buildings and the jungle nearby! One of my favorite photos from the canal is this one of the lighthouse and the locomotive as we moved through the lock. To me it just captures the canal - there is no where else in the world you could get a shot like that!

Patrick and Brandon went back inside during the second lock, but I stayed into the third until I could no longer get good pictures and hold the umbrella by myself. By the time we finally exited the locks, it was around 8:30pm and it had taken us approximately 12 hours to travel through. We were able to see one of the man-made wonders of the world, on a beautiful ship, the three of us together. The experience of a lifetime, that is for sure.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


This weekend was a chance to get caught up on Italian lessons a bit, and lesson 5 was numbers. I learned to count to twenty and then had Patrick and Brandon learn too. We've been practicing.. uno, due, tre...

Every morning this week I've been in a teleconference with folks in Italy because we are working on a big problem right now. Yesterday we were discussing a date something would be done, and they were talking in Italian a bit after the discussion. I heard "tredici" and recognized it as "13" and thought - woohoo! I'm learning Italian!

Off to another teleconference this morning... maybe I'll recognize something else!

Saturday, October 4, 2008


It's Saturday morning, and time for my Hot Cinnamon Spice tea! One of my favorite little rituals of the weekend. I've missed it for the last month or so because I've been out of Hot Cinnamon Spice tea, and others just don't compare. Yesterday I got my tea shipment from Harney & Sons so this morning I can enjoy my pot of tea. Mmmmm...

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Our documents are to the translator, Patrick drove them up to Portland this morning. The translator will get them done "when she can" - hopefully by the end of next week. Then we have to get them legalized by the consulate and THEN we have to send all of this documentation plus originals to Italy for the actual work visa application.

We aren't sure we're comfortable with sending all of our originals for things, so we'll have to figure out if we really need to. There is some question after talking to the embassy in the US. No one here seems to understand why our contact in Italy is asking us to do things this way, typically the visa applications are done through the embassy in the US.

But, through all of this, we are learning patience... and maybe getting just a little taste of the cultural differences and what paperwork we have to come. I'm starting to take a "we'll get there when we get there" mentality, and just living life as normal in the meantime!