The Road to Madrid – Part 2

The news was not good. Without the credit card used to purchase my airline ticket online, I would not be able to get on the plane.

But there was a workaround. I could buy a new ticket for $1000+. This was not really good news but I tried to stay calm. It didn’t work. There seemed to be a choice between two bad alternatives. If I didn’t get on the plane, the value of my original ticket was lost. That’s $900+ out the window. If I got on the plane, it would cost me $1000 on top of my original $900. Hmmm.

The agent offered a glimmer of hope. He would accept the $1000 as a deposit. If I could somehow get my credit card to the Qatar Airways office in Bali, there might be away to get my money back for the second flight. I looked at my watch which now indicated 15 minutes to takeoff and decided to buy a new ticket.

The agents sprang into action to run my credit card, get me the seats I wanted, pay my departure tax, and check my hiking poles. I asked if they were holding the plane for me and they said it wasn’t even boarding yet. Hmmm.

I grabbed my boarding pass, said a few half-hearted thank you’s (why??) and bolted through the terminal. To my surprise, the boarding area was full and no one had boarded. I looked at my watch. 15 minutes after takeoff time. Then I looked at the airport clock. 45 minutes until takeoff. It was then I realized my second bone-headed move. My watch was set on Bali time, which is one hour later than Jakarta time. I had an hour more than I thought. I don’t think it made any difference in the outcome, it only cost me a few more anxious moments. I got on the plane and we took off a little after midnight. The day was already eighteen hours long.

Since then things have gone pretty smoothly. I arrived in beautiful downtown Doha at 4 am local time. About 90 degrees and HUMID. Isn’t this supposed to be a desert? World’s longest bus ride between the plane and the terminal. I swear it was at least 30 minutes long. It was like a tour of all the wonderful airport facilities. And on your left is the toilet servicing area. Right next to the catering kitchens. Here’s the cargo area and here’s where my cousin works in airport security. I think I’ll stop and say hello. Finally we reach the transfer terminal and get blasted by the a/c.

Did you you can buy a Bentley GT at the duty free shop in Doha? I wonder if they still have the guy hand it to you as you get on the plane. Mr. Schlesinger, here’s your carton of cigarettes, fifth of Seagram’s and Bentley GT. Wait till the guys in economy see this!

But I digress. Oh, one more thing. I know airport food is expensive but should a double latte really cost $6+? I should have priced the Bentley.

So now it’s 6:30 am local time and back to the tour bus. Since it was dark when we landed, let’s drive by all the wonderful airport facilities in the daylight to appreciate all their magnificence. My cousin has finished his shift but I think my brother-in-law just punched in at baggage handling. Actually, it was cool to see downtown Doha which looks exactly like you would expect a UAE capital to look like. LOTS of high-rises in white undulating shapes.


The flight left about an hour late because we were waiting for a few late transfers. Or maybe they had trouble loading the Bentley in the overhead.


Retreat – Part 2

On the quiet, less developed north coast of Bali there’s a retreat center called Gaia Oasis. Kathryn and I first “discovered” this place during our first trip to Bali in 2008. Since then, we’ve made it a regular rest stop during all of our trips to support the Bali Children’s Project. This is my third visit and Kathryn has been here five times so she knows the staff and greets them warmly when we arrive.

We found the Gaia Oasis when we booked a 3-day excursion out of Ubud, Bali’s primary cultural center. The tour included a visit to the volcano and two nights at the retreat center. You reach the center by taking a path through the jungle. The path ends at the reception center where you receive a coconut to drink. As soon as we arrived, we recognized how much this place reminds us of our annual family retreat. (see previous post). The center was founded by Germans and still draws most of its clientele from the continent. In fact, we met another American family a few nights ago, and they are the first ones we have ever met. I should note that the family is currently living in Marrakech, which is a little different that bumping into a family from the midwestern US in Myrtle Beach, SC.

Here’s a typical day at Gaia:

1. wake up at 6 am to watch the sunrise over the Bali Sea
2. yoga at 7 am (ride on back of motor bike to mountainside annex)
3. breakfast at 9 am
4. chill until lunch (swim, read, whatever)
5. lunch
6. chill until dinner (same as before, perhaps add a massage if you’re ambitious)
7. dinner
8. chill until bedtime
9. bedtime around 9 pm (maybe 10 pm on a big night)
10. repeat next day

Whenever we’re here in August, there are seminar groups led by Lex van Sumeren, who is a big New Age musician from Germany. Remember New Age? I thought it had passed into the great mini-storage unit in the sky but I guess it’s still around. Good ideas just never die. Gaia is a logical place to hang out with New-Agers, as you can probably tell.

It’s also a great place to charge my batteries before my long trip to Madrid tomorrow. I figured out that I’ll be 25 -1/2 hours in transit, which is even longer than my LAX-Bali flights. I’ve got two long layovers in Jakarta and Doha, so perhaps I’ll have time to write another post. In the meantime, I’m savoring the last few days in Bali.

A few pictures below from Gaia Oasis, including a shot of some young local dancers.





The Backpack Club – June 23, 2013

Yesterday was my second day of training for the Camino in August. Our goal was to complete 10+ miles around Upper Newport Bay near our house. My wife Kathryn and I left the house around 9 am and started walking under typical June overcast skies. Here’s a photo of me at the start.


A few blocks into our walk, we said hello to a man walking his dog and he asked if we were in training for something. When we answered yes, he immediately guessed “that Camino thing.” His name was Jack and he said his wife Joy was talking about it and encouraging him to go. He suggested that we poke our heads into their house a few doors down and introduce ourselves. Joy was very surprised to see us but was excited to hear about our trip. She said she was planning to walk the Camino someday whether Jack went along or not.

A few blocks later we were stopped once again by a jogger named Mike who asked about our gear. He had heard about the Camino but he was talking to his family earlier that day about their trip hiking in the Pyrenees next summer. They’re not planning to hike the Camino, but it sounds like a great trip nonetheless.

So now we’ve been on our hike less than 30 minutes and we’ve already spent half the time talking to interested people who are excited to hear about our adventures. Wearing backpacks must send out a secret message of fraternity. I know that works on the Camino but I didn’t know it worked in Orange County, California.

Thinking back to my first training hike, I recall meeting another couple who were wearing backpacks. Of course I had to ask them what they were training for. Turns out they were heading up to Mt. Whitney in July. For those who are not familiar with it, Mt. Whitney is the tallest mountain in the continental US, roughly 14,500 feet tall (4,420 meters). It’s a bucket list adventure and worth every minute suffering in the thin air.

Back to sea level, which you’ll notice in the pictures below, Kathryn and I cruised around the upper bay in about 3-1/2 hours and we didn’t see any more people wearing backpacks.

In the next blog, I’ll share my effort to learn “real” Spanish.

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Our son finished his second year of high school last week. He works hard but school isn’t his favorite thing to do. He would much rather go the beach with his friends.

On the day after final exams ended, he slept later than usual and offered to drive me to work so he could use my car to go surfing. While I was having some breakfast, I heard him whistling in the back of the house. As I was listening to the random notes, I realized the stillness in the house that allowed his teenage song to fill the void. It was a moment to recognize and remember.

Whistling is what you do when you haven’t a care in the world. Have you heard much whistling lately? Neither have I, but I think I’ll listen more carefully and add some music of my own.

Here’s my son Collin with his grandfather Frank. I think Frank whistles too.