Much to celebrate…!

The twists and turns of our Green Global Trek can sometimes feel a bit bewildering to the uninitiated.  We left Luang Prabang’s  tranquil oasis for a few days in Bangkok, en route to the U.S.

Our self imposed mission, which we accept gladly, is to combine a visit to Los Angeles to see the French contingent of our family, with Chicago to see the South African contingent, while simultaneously taking steps to firm up a professional opportunity that Ben wants to pursue.
As our flight for the U.S. leaves from Bangkok, we head back via train for a few more days in Thailand. ~ Having “used up” our available home exchanges in Bangkok (past 2 visits) we opt for an older neighborhood full of cafes, restaurants and small guesthouses close to the river.
At the border ~ Laos to Thailand ~ overnight train.
After a few hours, the train porter comes around to convert the seats into beds ~ we had very comfy beds with privacy curtains. There were also bunk beds opened above for a full compartment of sleeping travelers partioned off by curtains from each other.
The King and Queen of Thailand on a huge oversize bill board on the side of the road next to a canal.
Offerings for the gods and for the neighborhood cats!
My “go to” place for organic juices and wheatgrass shots in our Bangkok neighborhood.
Organic wheatgrass followed by water followed by fresh pineapple juice.
An hour long hair raising motorbike taxi ride ~ While Ben is working, I opt to try to find the “Artist House” in the oldest of Bangkok’s canal neighborhoods. Hard to find, but worth the search for a daily puppet theater for a handful of people that actually find the spot. Am finally around the corner here. My motor taxi spoke not a word of English, but luckily I had the directions to the place written for me in Thai, which he used to get me there.
The large marionette style puppets manipulated by classically trained Thai dancers. After the ride across Bangkok, on freeways and in small back alleys, I find out that the puppet show is cancelled for today due to a private showing! We leave in a day, so it is not to be.

Re entry into the U.S.  after a year in Asia, is quite a culture shock! The high prices for food, high prices for everything in fact, the mass of large cars and absence of motorcycles requires some adjustment. So many white people everywhere! Such huge portions of food… As well, we are conscious of the lack of daily interactions with people on the street ~ which we both really enjoy,  both in Asia and Latin America.

 In L.A.,  our first stop, Ben’s mom, Jacqueline, and her house provide us with a haven of comfort and a central place for the family to congregate, eat good food and talk.
Jacqueline (aka JB, Madame Bell, M’man, grandma) at home.
“Mon fils!” ( My son)
Am ever grateful for my amazing mother-in-law!
Adam is also en route to Chicago via LA, from Asia, and we manage to have dinner together.
Ben and Sophie
Chantal and Jacqueline ~ family plate painting activity.

The Chicago trip has been timed to celebrate Bluma’s 80th birthday, and a belated celebration of Peta’s parents’ 60thwedding anniversary.  The family first converges in South Haven, Michigan, where friends have generously offered their holiday home to be a base for this reunion for a few days. We enjoy reconnecting and relaxing in the house and at the beach and in the small harbour town of South Haven.

 Adam, who had been on a 4 month long Asia trip times his return to be back for the family reunion. A few days later Oren flies in from Nicaragua and Josh from San Francisco. Peta is basking in a glow from having her 3 sons together with her in one place – the first time in almost ten years.
Hammock to relax in, colorful chairs around a fire pit and a beach a few minutes away in South Haven, Michigan, makes for a prefect place to reunite with family.
Adam, our personal family chef.
Shani, tries out her scarf from Myanmar (from Adam.)
Fresh fish tacos, corn, salsa verde cooked up by Adam for a great family celebratory meal
Mike and Dina. (Mike was our gracious host in Highland Park, after Michigan.)
Celebrating 60 years of love and marriage. (Peta hopes she has the same genes as her mom and can look as good at 80 as her mom does!)
The beach is the perfect place for Kaplans and Pollacks to reunite.

Shani about to be ice bucketed by a very willing aunt Peta.
Blueberry pies fresh out of the oven. (Great farmers market in South Haven.)
Shani and Adam gorging on blueberry pie at the beach.

Sunday afternoon tea at Stan and Bluma ~ fresh scones and family togetherness. It has been quite a while since we have all been together.
After lunch in the Botanic Gardens. (Always a good Kaplan outing…)
Showing off wheel.
“Sure I can give you a piggyback ride…”
Dinner at Mike and Dina… with Sharon and Emma.
The blended Kaplan, Pollack, Kline-Pollack and Sandzer-Bell family.

Added treat: reconnecting with Amanda (the boys’ first cousin from S.A.) after many years! 
Oren and Lisa ~ bonus mom.

Ben’s professional trajectory now looks like it will veer, in a few months time, towards the U.S., being based in Chicago. An opportunity has surfaced for Ben to enter an exciting new industry – renewable energy from waste.  The premise is simple enough: because of the extreme politicization of climate change in the U.S., the country has failed to keep up with technology developed in more environmentally-focused countries, in the field of renewable energy.

Waste constitutes an enormous repository of energy, which can be recovered.  But the U.S. has matched its propensity to consume, and therefore generate waste, with an oblivious attitude toward energy recovery from waste….  So while environmentally aware Americans increasingly organize their communities to recycle and set up composting sites, some 70% of America’s waste still goes to landfills. There are many proven technology solutions to significantly reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills and simultaneously to  produce renewable energy.  
In the meantime however, while this new opportunity solidifies, we are using the return portion of our ticket back to Bangkok, (as planned)…. and so are on a plane on our way back to Asia.
Ben will continue to work as a consultant in Asia, departing from environmental themes, to focus this time on international security and defense industry, as a way to sustain our globetrotting nomadic lifestyle.
For how long?
Good question, but hard to answer. It could be a month or two, or it could be six months. Much will depend on when the renewable energy adventure starts up in Chicago.
We enjoy shaping our lives to achieve goals or set ourselves up to have life experiences that we find enriching.  But of course, there can be a time gap between the formulation of a desirable “next life adventure” and the concrete manifestation of it. 
This “in between” time could be very unsettling for many.  Just to illustrate, we found ourselves within the span of 48 hours, last week, bouncing between the “probability of return to Ubud”, the “near certaintyof returning to Chicago” (complete with the down-selection of the Chicago neighborhood we resonate with, a good yoga studio and finding a loft space to live in), and finally the decision to return to Asia, to squeeze in one more delicious adventure before re-immersing ourselves (for a while) in Chicago.

Finding the perfect loft in Wicker Park. One block from a park, (with a weekly Farmer’s Market,) right in the middle of  lots of restaurants and street activity. We even had the application forms ready to go… but it was not to be, this time. We will no doubt find something equally perfect upon our return to Chicago.
The Flat Iron building which has subsidized artist studios/lofts for rent.


Where are we heading now?
It was a toss up between going back to Bali, Indonesia which we both love, or taking advantage of heading somewhere new.  A trip we took many years ago to Northern India had a huge impact on both of us, and we have for many years wanted to return. So we decide to take the opportunity this time to explore and live in the Southern part of India.
Why India?
We want to attend and experience two big Indian events ~ The ten day long “Oman” Harvest Festival in Kerala in Southern India, and the week long Pushkar Camel Trading Fair (end of October) in N. India.  We visited (and fell in love with) Pushkar on our first trip to India and promised ourselves that we would one day try to attend this famed gathering of desert tribes in full regalia, who converge from all corners of the desert to the small town of Pushkar in order to sell and trade their camels, prized stallion horses and cattle. 
Indian blog entries coming up – stay tuned…

You can see where we have been this past year: Indonesia, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos… and now, where we are going ~ Southern India to the left of the map.

8 thoughts on “Much to celebrate…!

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