Pictures, videos and panoramics – oh my!

Mike was kind enough to ship me DVDs of the pictures I had downloaded onto his computer during the trip. Now that I have them together, the totals are as follows:

Pictures: 2,065 (5gb)
Videos: 242 (2.34gb)
Panoramics: 17 (32mb)

Obviously the panoramics were the easiest to sort! They don’t come across very well in the slideshow above, so go ahead and click on it to get to the full-res pics. Be sure to zoom in and pan around – lots to see! In the mean time – I have lots of data to sort through, wish me luck!

Saigon Nights

First night in Saigon went from calm to crazy very quickly. I ended up walking to a restaurant that the hotel had suggested, and it was PACKED. They ended up seating me with a family of three. It was a bit odd eating at the same table with a family I couldn’t communicate with, but the food was fantastic! They left fairly quickly, and others arrived. I think the amount of booze I drank that night has erased my name memory! Hopefully they come to the blog and remind me! But the husband and wife were from Malaysia and Northern Vietnam – his uncle from Malaysia, but living in the UK, and a Southern Vietnamese friend. We had a blast hanging out and talking about Vietnam! Then a few of us went out to a couple of clubs – it was nuts! They headed home and I took a cab and ended up at a local “tourist” bar – where I befriended and Austrian and an American expat. When I ran out of money (I didn’t bring all of it with me, thank god!) I headed to the other local tourist bar and met a few French and brits! I have no idea when I got back, but I had to ring the buzzer and wake up the staff. Oops! Suffice it to stay, LATE start yesterday. But I saw Paul, an expat from North Carolina, and he asked if I would like to hit the cafe. I hopped on his motorcycle and off we went! It was called “Cafe Windows” – and was the place to people watch. I stuck out like a sore thumb with shorts and hiking shoes! We then took a tour of a few districts in Saigon – the income disparity is quite obvious once you get out of District 1 (the city center). One of the districts reminded me of Miami, FL! We ended up getting Indian food for dinner (I was in need of something completely different) and I hit the sack early as I was exhausted. Woke up early this morning and took a boat ride up to the Cu Chi tunnels. Fascinating! Now I’m back and in need of USD for my trip to Cambodia! Apparently the local currency is worthless and everything is done in USD. I leave early tomorrow morning for a tour of the Mekgon Delta, a family stay, then a boat ride up to Camboia! Internet access might be sparse, so it might be a while until I post again. Thanks for all the great comments! Glad that you guys are enjoying following along!

Chiang Mai photo captions

Click above for the photo album from Chiang Mai and the region – now complete with captions! (better Greg!?)

Oh, and I finally was able to check voicemail messages using Skype – thanks for all the New Years messages! And whoever Vinny is – you are going down! Also had a chance to catch up with Greg and Mila and welcome them back from their trip to Uruguay! What happened to updating the blog while you were there!?

Time to wash up and get some food!

Getting into the holiday spirit

I meant to post last night, but I got home pretty late (thankfully found a spot for the GTI in all the snow!) and I had forgotten my camera at the ‘rents. Had a packed weekend! Started it off with a killer Margarita with Jos followed by another showing of Super Bad at the Brew and View (I had to see it with TK!). We then had a late night dinner with Greg and Mila to celebrate his b-day!

Saturday I wasn’t feeling up to going anywhere with the weather being so bad, but I called up my reserves of energy to go to a party. When I met up with Kelly, she realized that I was not aware that it was an ugly sweater party. I had the brilliant idea of swapping sweaters with her – though it was totally uncomfortable, everybody got a big kick out of it!

Sunday I went to TK and Jos’ new condo for brunch (thanks again guys!) and made a few stops afterwards to catch up with some friends. I then headed to the folk’s place for Greg’s b-day party and send off prior to their trip to Uruguay. Along with Greg’s b-day gift, I gave them both their Christmas presents as well! Its hard to believe its just around the corner!

Congratulations Master Mila!

My sister in law Milagros graduated from the University of Chicago with her Masters of Arts in Social Sciences yesterday! The ceremony was at the Rockefeller Chapel in Hyde Park, followed by a reception by her program for the graduates! As Mom pointed out, she had never seen students so happy to be graduating! We, of course, were thrilled for Mila – what a huge step! Congrats to the graduate!!! We took her to Reza’s in Andersonville to continue the celebration!

Thanksgiving

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving! My Aunt and cousins came down from MN, we made a TON of food and stayed up late into the night playing Rummy Royal! I had actually come up to my parents on Wednesday to make my Grandmother’s German turkey stuffing. I also decided to treat myself to a massage at Egea – it was very much needed! On Thursday we headed up in the early afternoon to help with the cooking and preparations. Teresa picked out a wonderful new recipe – Butternut Squash-Pecan Gratin with Goat Cheese. Wasn’t too hard to make and the results were spectacular! HIGHLY recommended holiday dish! (especially for the vegetarians out there!)

Storm front

As I was driving to my parent’s house last night, I noticed that Lake Michigan was unusually calm. This seemed a bit odd as there was a major storm on its way. I felt an impulse to find a spot to watch the lake and view the impending storm. As I was almost in Evanston, I decided to pay “the rocks” a visit. It had been a while. To my surprise, the campus has changed a great deal since my last visit. It seemed as though my quest had been thwarted by some fencing that was put up, but I managed to find a way around. I couldn’t tell if the rocks themselves had actually changed, but something seemed different. Perhaps it was the bushes that had slowly encroached upon them – or more likely, time encroaching on my memory. I finally found my rock. Though it no longer holds the meaning it once did, the faded paint always seems to have a message for me. 9/96 – it has now been over eleven years. How time has passed. I sat down and took in the scene. The lake was smooth as glass – yet the winds were blasting the air bringing the storm closer. It seemed such a strange juxtaposition; tranquility surrounded by chaos. But the lake didn’t seem to mind. As the clouds approached, the setting sun illuminated them with the most incredible colors. My digital camera was not at hand – cell phone to the rescue. I knew it couldn’t possibly capture the colors, but at least it gives an idea. At one point part of a rainbow emerged – I couldn’t help but to smile. The storm front seemed to miss Evanston by about half a mile, for everything south of where I was covered in dark clouds. At one point the city vanished as the storm engulfed it, lightning illuminating the clouds in the distance. I had not intended on staying as long as I did – but it was quite the spectacle. As I watched the clouds thunder by, it brought me back to my childhood; watching the storms roll by from the top of the hill in Dixon, with nothing more on my mind but the shapes of the clouds and the distance of the thunder. After some time, I walked back to the car feeling refreshed and invigorated. It seems as though I need to follow those impulses more often!