Parents Visit Bogotá

We were happy to host my parents who flew down to pay us a little visit.  We took them to Andres Carne de Res, Monserrat, Plaza Bolívar, Casa de Nariño, and Usaquen. We made an attempt to visit the town of Guatavita which failed due to road constructions and delays.  We did manage to find a scenic off-road route through the mountains that took us back down to Bogotá.

In addition, my parents got to experience a little bit of our life here as diplomats.  We introduced them to our friends and took them to the U.S. Embassy, Annika's school and swim school, showed them areas near our home, and, more importantly, spent quality time at home.  Annika misses not letting her Abuelo nap in the chair and Abuela's hugs and kisses.

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Christmas and New Years Vacation

We spent the holidays in South Texas, Christmas in McAllen and New Years in Austin.  While "winter" in South Texas can range in temperatures from 30F - 90 F, the change was welcomed.  Once again Annika loved Abu's cooking and once again she loved "mi boat".  Oh and my lovely wife got me a new toy for Christmas!!

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Videos Below

March McAllen Visit

Back in March, Annika and I took a trip to McAllen, Texas to visit the family and to enjoy probably our last trip where Annika can fly on our laps for "almost" free.

I just started my new job at SURGE -- thankfully I have been busy hence the delay in my posts -- so unfortunately my days were spent working.  Annika spent time without "Abu", Abuelo, her Tio's and cousins during the day and our evenings were spent enjoying the South Texas breeze while the grown ups smoked cigars and played dominos -- yet another victory against the parental units.  Over the weekend the Perez family came over for some bbq and family fun.  Looking forward to our next trip!

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Fall 2015 McAllen Visit

Before heading to Bogota, we spent a few weeks in McAllen, Texas where we enjoyed spending time with the family and celebrating Halloween and the birthdays of Julia, Andrea, and Andres.

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Annika helping to pickout a Pumpkin
Annika dressed up for Halloween
Trick or Treating with the cousins
Happy Birthday to Andrea and Andres (Dad)
Martha and Eugenio
Mario and Ina

Dinner At Marcela's

We are blessed to have Marcela in our lives and taking such great care of Annika. We were honored to have been invited to her house for dinner and to meet her parents and aunt. As usual the food was delicious and Melany showed us her muscial talent playing several songs on her guitar which included our wdding's first dance "Tabaco y chanel" by Bacilos.

Leaving Marcela is going to be one of the most difficult part of our upcoming move. 

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View of Quito from Marcela's house

Antisana Ecological Reserve

What should have been a short drive from Papallacta to the Antisana Ecological Reserve was anything but. Unfortunately there is no direct route to Antisana so we had to drive through some very interesting towns, but in the end, it was well worth it. Once inside the park, the road leading to Antisana had some breathtaking views even with Antisana surrounded by clouds. Although Antisana and Cotopaxi are not very far from each other, the paramos looked different. We shall return to hopefully get a clearer view of her soon enough.

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Clouds obscuring our view.  We shall return though
Andean Bluebonnets (Michelle knows their true name).

Cabañas San Isidro

About an hour east of Papallacta, down a windy road on the eastern slopes of the Andes, is Cabañas San Isidro. It was the first time that Julia and I have travelled to the eastern Andes. Cabañas San Isidro is a reserve that lies between two national parks and has well-marked and maintained forest trails where one can see various species of birds and Colibris (Hummingbirds). We started our hike into the humid cloud forest and, as the administrator told us, "In the rainy season it rains all the time but in the dry season it rains every day", it began to rain. For the most part, the thick forest protected us from the downpour. At the end of the trail there was a hummingbird watch station where there was some intense feeding activity as the birds were not bothered by the rain. To view the entire album click here.

Some Videos


Just 40 miles east of Quito, and at an altitude of 10,800 feet, are the Termas de Papallacta, the hot springs of Papallacta. With Vince and Michelle having just arrived to Ecuador, we figured the hot springs would be a great way for them to get aclimated to the altitude. Vince and I did a little bike riding and it turns out he was in no need of aclimating. I, on the other hand, gave up after ascending just 500 feet at roughly 12,000 feet. We did manage to do a little hiking along the entrance to Reserva Ecológica Cayambe Coca and although it was cloudy, we got some good views of the Cascada de Baños. To view the entire album, click here.

San Guiven 2014

We celebrated Thanksgiving with dear friends Graciela, Marco, and Pepe, who kindly invited us into their home and hosted a beautiful dinner. Our new Embassy friends--who happen to be from Brownsville--are a reminder of just how small the world can be. It was Annika's first Thanksgiving, and, while she did not get to try the Turkey and famous green spaghetti, she did get to sit at the grown-ups' table. We have a lot to be thankful for this year--our health, our family, and our friends old and new. We appreciate our relatives who keep us in their thoughts even while we are on another continent, and Embassy friends who form our foreign service family. To view the entire album click here.

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R&R 2014 Part III: New England

After being on the road for nearly two weeks, we found refuge in the warm and welcoming Scanlon home in Killingworth, CT. And thus began a week filled with lobster. And family. And more lobster. And more family. Again we were treated to incredible hospitality, and Annika was in heaven with all the toys! Annika also had the opportunity to meet her Great-great Aunt Sil, Great-great Aunty Jean and Great-great Uncle Hop, lots of Wiltse cousins, Kristen, Matthew, Meghan...the list goes on! Even her Great-Aunt Linda drove down from Maine. Annika met future husband Sebastien (and his parents) at Mystic. We are blessed with great family and would like to thank everyone for making the effort to spend time with us. We are deeply appreciative of all of the hospitality offered to us throughout the trip...from meals to places to stay. We enjoyed your company tremendously and are so happy we could share a little time with you. To view the entire album click here

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R&R 2014 Part II: New York: Little Peanut in the Big Apple

From the Brooklyn Bridge to DUMBO to the High Line and Ground Zero...Annika got a nice taste of New York, and her dad got more than a few photos. Nate, Gigi, Dave, and Seth made cameo appearances. We picked up the Grand-MiMi, who had just flown in from Africa after hanging out with adorable baby elephants. We were fortunate to spend time in the city with "new" New Yorkers Sandy and Dan, and seasoned New Yorker the Gotham Girl herself (now known as Auntie GG). After leaving the city, we made a quick stop in Old Greenwich to catch up with Jordan and meet Harrison and Bennett (so photogenic!). To view the entire album click here.

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R&R 2014 - Part I: Washington, DC/Virginia/West Virginia

We kicked off our 2.5-week R&R in DC with good friends and food. Our hosts, Nate and Gigi, treated us like royalty. Annika visited Virginia vineyards with Uncle Jon and Aunt Nancy, and we enjoyed oysters and steak with Uncle Sergio. We then drove south to Roanoke. Annika loved meeting her Grandma Betty and Auntie Diana, and we were treated to another wonderful home-made meal at the Bright Tower. We had a beautiful taste of fall in West Virginia, where cousins Amos and Daisy kindly shared their birthday with us! We loved seeing Aunt Patty, Uncle Bill, Anne, and Darren, too. We made a quick stop in Thomas, WV to see Johnny and the Purple Fiddle before heading back to DC to catch up with lots of friends--Annika attended her second happy hour at Lyon Hall (luckily bringing a baby to a bar seems to be well-accepted in Arlington). And then we were off to New York...whew! And we're not even half-way there... To view the entire album click here.

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Annika's trip to the Lower Rio Grande Valley

After a wonderful time in Austin, it was time to head to McAllen, Texas to prepare for our trip back to Quito. We needed to wait on Annika's passport and the layette shipment so we could box up some of Annika's heavier items without having to lug them on the airplane. But while we waited, Annika was able to enjoy some quality time with Abuelo and Abuela. Julia and I got to enjoy some fantastic home cooked meals from my mother, who made Paella and Ropa Vieja (of course), from my dad who frequently BBQ'd, from the Arias family, and from the Forina family. I also got to enjoy some quality time with my sister, brother in law, and nieces who for the first time invited us for a home cooked meal! I got to enjoy talking politics with my parents while drinking scotch and smoking cigars (of course). And I got to enjoy family time with the Perez/Martinez family while watching World Cup. All in all it was a great trip and we are looking forward to returning hopefully for Christmas.

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About the only time one could enjoy the outside without the intense heat is in the late afternoon

Annika's Stay in Austin

Following our stay in San Antonio, we traveled to Austin to visit Michelle and Vince, who kindly hosted us for 10 days. We had the pleasure of being some of the first guests in their newly-purchased, gorgeous home. Cousin Tania and her friend Jen also stayed for a couple of nights while passing through Texas, and we had a great time with lots of catching up. Annika got to explore some of the best parts of Austin and even went to visit her Aunt M at work at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center (next time hopefully she'll be awake). We left Austin and began the drive south to McAllen on Father's Day, but not before we were treated to Vince's famous pancake breakfast, Michelle's top-notch homemade creme brulee, and an oyster and lobster-roll lunch fit for New England. To view the entire album click here.

Passing the time...

Seems our little peanut decided to gestate a little longer. To pass the time and to get mama out of the house, we packed our weekend with events. Saturday we met up with my cousin who showed us around his school, The University of the Incarnate Word, where he is studying to be a nurse. On Sunday we met up with Suzan and Tom and Jan from Roanoke, Virginia. It was great to spend our time with family and friends during our stay in San Antonio. To view the entire album of The University of the Incarnate Word, click here. To view the entire album of our Sunday at Bourne, Texas, click here.

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Texas Wildflowers

Soon after leaving McAllen, TX, heading north, we could see a plethora of wildflowers along highway 281. Spring time in Texas brings out all sorts of species, the most iconic of which is the Texas Bluebonnet. This past Saturday we drove to Austin to visit Michelle, Vincent, and Suzan, and they took us to McKinney Falls for an impromptu photo shoot. Enjoy! To view the entire album click here.