Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

Itty Bitty Frogs and Toads

After the smoky and hot season in Chiang Mai comes to an end each year, starts the magic of the rainy season. While those who ride motorbikes might find it slightly inconvenient, we all love how it cools things down. That said, my favourite part is that the frogs and toads begin their nighttime serenade.

This is my backyard:

backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the second floor porch

View of the backyard from the guest room

View of the backyard from the guest room

Right outside the kitchen lies...

Right outside the kitchen lies…

...the fish pond

…the fish pond. I mean, the fish and tadpole pond

This fish pond is actually home to hundreds, possibly thousands, of tadpoles. This time of year they start turning into the tiniest frogs and toads imaginable.

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime or  about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it's small...

Here is a frog next to a one baht coin. This coin is somewhere between the size of a penny and dime, or about the size of a two cent Euro coin. This means it’s small. Very very small.

...so that gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

That gives you an idea how very miniature these little toads are.

When I water the plants in my garden, I fear stepping on them as they are smaller than houseflies. Usually, they let me know they’re there and hop away. I’m pretty sure they are prey for the fish in my pond.

It’s funny to say it, especially after living in Portland, Oregon, but I welcome the rain. Ahh, cooler temperatures (this means going from highs being around 40C {104F} to highs around 34C {93F}. It also means seeing and hearing the baby frogs and toads.

Today, while I was at school, one of my students showed me a frog hanging out in a drain. She knew I would appreciate it. Anyone who grew up with me could tell you that frogs are one of my very favourite animals. I’m so glad I get to see and hear them on a daily basis.

The delights of living in the tropics. The wind is starting to blow and I hear some thunder in the distance right now…singing frogs are not far behind.

A New Version of Sheep Dog

A New Version of Sheep Dog

On my penultimate day in Greece, after the farming was done, I took a long walk around the island of Lipsi with my fellow WWOOFer Laura Rose.

In Greece there are plenty of sheep and goats. Most of the time when you approach them they run away. Much to my surprise, this little guy came running toward me.

The sheep that just wanted a little love

The sheep that just wanted a little love

She seemed to want some attention, so I stuck my hand through the fence and started to pet her. She loved it!

Sheepy love

Sheepy love

She didn’t want to leave, and neither did I. She was so soft and loved the attention. It was my own personal petting zoo. Did this sheep know that by being a vegetarian I supposedly spared another sheep its life?

This is basically how it went down – this sheep seemed to be a dog.

I need to get either a sheep or a dog soon.

WWOOFing in Lovely Lipsi – Working on an Organic Farm in Greece

WWOOFing in Lovely Lipsi – Working on an Organic Farm in Greece

After a few weeks on holiday in Greece, it was time to get down and dirty on the farm. When I told someone I went WWOOFing (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) over my holiday, the response was, “I did that when I was about 20.” I ignored this comment because I love getting my hands in the dirt especially when it doesn’t involve any nasty herbicides or pesticides. It feels good to grow your own food no matter what your age.

This was the little farm where I worked weeding the vineyard.

This was the little farm where I worked weeding the vineyard.

I WWOOFed at Dmitris Farm on Lipsi Island in Greece. The island is home to about 700 inhabitants and in the low season in April, the WWOOFers on this farm are about the only non-residents.

When I arrived it was bright and sunny, but still cold.

When I arrived it was bright and sunny, but still cold.

7/4 – Arriving in Lipsi

The ferry to Lipsi was quite uppy downy. Upon arrival I felt a bit nauseous and woozy when Kostas met me a the pier. “Elizabeth? Kostas,” in a perfect midwestern American accent, “I spent many years in the states.” I boarded the back of the motorbike with my big backpack and we were off the the farm.

The island is full of small vineyards

The island is full of small vineyards

This beach was about 200 meters from the farm

This beach was about 200 meters from the farm

Lipsi is a very tiny island, only 8 kilometers in length. We drove through the little port town, then past goats, sheep, vineyards, and olive trees with an occasional coastal view. We were to the house in about 4 minutes. At the house in the small basic kitchen were two other WWOOFers, both Canadian, named Monica and Laura. They were eating a stir fry lunch and Kostas made pasta for my not-quite-off-the-boat and hungry self.

Preparing dinner with Monica and Laura Rose

Preparing dinner with Monica and Laura Rose

This needed weeding

This needed weeding

Kostas showed us that we’d be using sickles to cut the knee-high grass around the vines. We had to do it by hand because the buds on the 200 year-old vines are very delicate and if we knocked them off, the vine won’t produce grapes. After eating, I joined the women working for about 2 hours in the afternoon. It was sunny and pleasant, but not warm. They wanted to go swimming. Gotta love Canadians. I humoured myself and put on my bathing suit under my clothes anyway. We walked the three minutes it took to get to the gorgeous beach with its pellucid waters. Rocks, not sand made up the shore. Both girls swam, but upon dipping my foot in to the frigid water, I stayed out.

I thought it was cold, and the Canadians went swimming.

I thought it was cold, and the Canadians went swimming.

After the swim we walked about 25 minutes to the town. Not a whole lot was going on there. The bakery is the happening place to be in Lipsi, and its free wifi was useful, as there was none at the house. The sun doesn’t set until about 7:30 in April – a bit discombobulating for my early sunset equatorial lifestyle.

Monica, a 26 year-old nurse who lives in a farmhouse in Nova Scotia, was curious about Buddhism. She asked me questions for me and listened intently to my experiences with Buddhism in Thailand. Her sense of humor and openness was very endearing.

We headed back to the farm where we were instructed to pick some wild dandelion greens called horta to be boiled along with the fish and lentils for dinner. I realise more and more that I am suited to being a vegetarian; I just couldn’t clean the fish guts.

After dinner we drank beers and played cards. Monica’s sense of humor, Kostas’ gruffness and chain smoking, and Laura’s one-liners provided plenty of entertainment for the evening.

Lovely Lipsi

Lovely Lipsi

8/4 – WWOOFing in the Vineyard

The next morning at 7 we made coffee, hot water and fresh from the tree lemon, and ate muesli before going to sickle the weeds in the vineyards. We worked all morning, made lunch and then went back to the field again. We stopped around 3:30. Clouds hung in the sky throughout the day with a slight chill in the air, which made pleasant working temperatures. It began to rain as I went to gather more wild greens. After dinner I was sad to see Monica leave on her 11:55pm ferry. My arms were sore, but I felt as if I’d done a hard day’s work.

One of many vines weeded

One of many vines weeded

9/4 – The Day Greece Supposedly Runs Out of Money and also Holy Thursday.

After a restless sleep, I went to work with Kostas at 8am weeding a garden. It was so full of weeds it was difficult to see where the garden was. After several hours it looked significantly better, but it was testament to how much work a farm is. While weeding, I was accompanied by the soundtrack of goat bells in the distance.

I also helped Kostas decant olive oil from a barrel and washed brined olives of their muck. My hands were delightfully oily afterwards. The wind was picking up and the temperature dropping. I made a delicious pasta lunch with the olives and lemons fresh oregano and tomato sauce. 

Kostas and his Greek friend with an Australian accent had loads of stereotypical questions about Thailand: sex tourism, eating snakes and insects, is it like Chinese? etc. It was disappointing to hear that these are the things some people perceive about Thailand.

We tilled, raked, weeded and sowed a field of potatoes and onions. It was beginning to rain and the wind was blowing like mad. It must have been about 10 degrees, but felt like about 0 to my sensitive tropical living self. I put on all my warm clothes. I read in bed under many blankets in the unheated house while listening to a static-filled radio broadcast of Greek Orthodox chanting for Holy Thursday. Kostas talked about going to the neighboring island Patmos for our day off on Good Friday, but we found out the boats wouldn’t be leaving because of the winds. 

Windy but gorgeous

Windy but gorgeous

10/4 – Still Crazy Winds and Cold on the Good Friday Day Off

I slept late (meaning 8:30) because I just can’t handle these cold winds. Laura and took a long exploration of an amazingly beautiful small island. Let the pictures tell the story:

Nature is amazing

Nature is amazing

Goats and sheep-o-plenty

Goats and sheep-o-plenty

Not exactly sure what this means, except when it's at the end of a sentence.

Not exactly sure what this means, except when it’s at the end of a sentence.

The sheep I supposedly saved by being vegetarian.

The  black-faced sheep that I supposedly saved by being vegetarian. We called him Lucky.

Me too!

Me too!

11/4 – Windy Weeding

We cut grass by hand with a sickle, then weeded a stone garden on this sunny, windy and cold day. After farming I walked to the nearby beach.

At the beach I listened. The question: “What is my life supposed to be?” appeared. An answer followed: “Living without fear.” Outwardly it appears that I already do that for the most part, but do I? That gorgeous water at the beach made me think, as the sun beamed on my face while the chilly winds blew.

I walked home feeling content reflecting upon the fact that my life is in fact quite extraordinary. I have not followed the common path and I’m glad. Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have a partner, but then I see just how wonderful things are in the present moment. At times it appears that I am just a tumbling tumbleweed blowing wherever the wind blows. In retrospect, it’s clear that that isn’t the case.

What is my next chapter? Well goodness me, I sure hope there is a wonderful man involved. Perhaps there is a book in this life. It’s not the life for everyone, but it’s worthy of a ‘wow!’ Sometimes one has to pause and just say, “Wow, life is beautiful.”

After listening to the radio that plays Vangelis’ (a Greek) Chariots of Fire and then Play That Funky Music White Boy (for reasons I can’t quite comprehend), Laura and I walked to church in the freezing wind for Easter service at 11pm. Chaos reigned with dynamite blasting off. Inside everyone lit candles. One (at least one) girl’s hair caught on fire. The high heels, bright lipstick and very short skirts made me feel substantially underdressed, but it was so cold I just couldn’t worry about fashion. Although I didn’t understand it, it was an experience to be in Greek Orthodox church for Easter Sunday.

12/4 – Greek Easter

Laura and I had the day off. After a leisurely breakfast we took a long stroll to a picturesque  beach on the other side of the island. I just couldn’t get over the turquoise and sapphire watersOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMEAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the beach I was thinking that it is really my new year. It’s almost Thai new year (Songkran) and with this break, and a new school year about to start, it seems a good time to think about the future. Plans include getting away on the weekends more to local places.  I’d also like to go to Pun Pun and Panya Project to continue in the farming spirit back in Thailand.

We eventually arrived back in town where I had the best chocolate ice cream ever. After leaving the bakery, a couple asked us to come look at homemade products from their house. I bought some sweet lemon.

It had been a very quiet and peaceful Easter day. Just as my thoughts about Greek Easter being a festive occasion were starting to fade away, we spotted a lamb roast, loud music, and drinking party. They waved us in. Laura was hesitant, but I knew it would be a fun cultural experience. We were immediately handed Alfa beer and some lamb. I declined the lamb, so bottoms up!

Drinking Alfa and raki with the locals while avoiding the lamb carcass on Greek Easter

Drinking Alfa and raki with the locals while avoiding the lamb carcass on Greek Easter

The music was the blaring whiny fiddle type with gypsy vocals. A few people were dancing, but it didn’t last. We kept getting handed beer after beer and I kept drinking to avoid eating lamb. To be polite, I had one little bite of Laura’s lamb, which confirmed my vegetarianism. We watched the lamb carcass get devoured and everyone appeared to be having a good time. I drank about 3 1/2 beers in about the span of an hour. Eventually the raki (local moonshine) came out too. Definitely too much alcohol and not enough food for me, but the whole thing was hilarious.

13/4 – Weed the Vineyard in the Sunshine!

After a dream filled sleep, sunshine filled the sky. It was the first day without high winds, and we continued weeding the garden. For lunch, I did my best to make a Thai dish called pad phak boong using the horta and the giant beans from the garden. Surprisingly, there was fish sauce and even chilies at the house, so it worked okay. I had to include a khai dao (fried egg) on top. Although Greek food is delicious, I am starting to miss Thai food. After lunch, I walked to our local beach and read Jitterbug Perfume and thought about how to conduct my life over the next year, and how not to repeat patterns that no longer serve me. 

14/4 – Feeling Energetic and Overdoing It

I woke up after delightful dreams feeling strong, and began swinging the mattock with gusto for weeding from around the vines. It completely wore me out.

guerrila weeding

guerrila weeding

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Laura and I had delicious lunch in town at Manoli’s Tastes – the best meal I had in Greece, and Manoli is a nice guy. At night, Laura and I ‘laughed and toasted to nothing and smashed our empty glasses down’…only quoting Joni Mitchell. (‘Met a redneck on a Grecian isle who did the goat dance very well…’)

15/4 – Feeling Achy from my Bad Ass Gardening Yesterday

My arms were sore after my vigorous weed whacking. Laura and I sang Joni Mitchell and Aretha Franklin while weeding in the grapevines along with the new WWOOFer. After lunch Laura and I invented ‘cheesefakes’  a digestive biscuit and Greek yogurt.

Laura weeding with the attention seeking cat

Laura weeding with the attention seeking cat

We hiked off to the far beach. On the way there a little lamb came running up to me. He was like a dog and wanted me to pet him. The walk was stunning.

Lipsi...

Lipsi…

Insanely gorgeous!

Insanely gorgeous!

Goats too

Goats

donkeys

donkeys

sensational views in every direction

sensational views in every direction

I definitely considered it

I definitely considered it

Sunset over the town

Sunset over the town

Beautiful

Beautiful

Upon arriving home, we found that Kostas had dipped into the wine and had also prepared a smorgasbord of dinner for us. Kostas said goodbye, but indicated that he’d take me to the port. He didn’t. At 11:20pm, thankfully the new WWOOFer walked the 25 minutes in the dark to the port with me. The boat was pulling up as we got there. Whew! Bye bye beautiful Lipsi. Hope to visit you again in the harvest season.

Lovely Lipsi

Lovely Lipsi

Spectacular Santorini

Spectacular Santorini

Santorini, the picture postcard beauty of the Greek isles. It’s well-known and full of tourists, but with good reason.

From the ferry, when the cliffs of Santorini come into view, the whitewashed buildings appear like snow on a mountain top.

From the ferry, when the cliffs of Santorini come into view, the whitewashed buildings appear like snow on a mountain top.

Approaching Santorini

Approaching Santorini

Being Megan's birthday, they stayed in a posh place. I decided to have a little splurge myself and stay at the place next to theirs. Here's the view from my bathtub.

Being Megan’s birthday, they stayed in a posh place. I decided to have a little splurge myself and stay at the place next to theirs. (The Euro was $1.08 at that time.) Here’s the view from my bathtub.

Too cold to use the pool in early April.

Another bathtub view. Too cold to use the pool in early April

The first sunset from the balcony.

The first sunset from their balcony.

Classic Santorini postcard shot

Classic Santorini postcard shot

...complete with enormous purple sparkly hottub.

…complete with enormous purple sparkly hottub.

Megan's cave room...

Megan’s cave room…

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Julian played a gorgeous duet with the owner at La Ponta. If you're in Santorini, it's well worth a visit.

Julian played a gorgeous duet with the owner at La Ponta. If you’re in Santorini, it’s well worth a visit, as the owner is friendly and full of Greek etymological stories.

Escaping the crowds and hiking near the lighthouse

Escaping the crowds and hiking near the lighthouse

Jeremy contemplating the deep blue sea

Jeremy contemplating the deep blue sea

The caldera of Santorini

The caldera of Santorini

The grapevines are grown in this circular shape. We think it is because of the wind.

The grapevines are grown in this circular shape. We think it is because of the wind.

...or maybe it's to keep away the snails

…or maybe it’s to keep away the snails

Easter is coming

Easter is coming

We were beckoned to this local restaurant

We were beckoned to this restaurant with local spreads, wines, and sweet jams

Santorini is all about amazing views

Santorini is all about amazing views

Walk along the cliffside at sunset

Walk along the cliffside at sunset

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For Megan’s birthday, we took a tour to the volcano. First we headed down the cliffside in a cable car.

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Waiting for the boat Jeremy met this guy

Waiting for the boat Jeremy met this guy with a priceless face

Our boat

Our boat

Julain explores around the volcano

Julian explores around the volcano

At the volcano

At the volcano

Views from the volcano

Views from the volcano

To go back up the cliff

To go back up the cliff these guys…

...we rode donkeys

…set us up on donkeys

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Jeremy having a Fix at the beach

Jeremy having a Fix at the beach

Julian leaving his mark

Julian leaving his mark

To end the day we headed to Santo Winery. I'd heard it had good views. Before going, I pictured scenic views of vineyards...but this was the view.

To end the day we headed to Santo Winery. I’d heard it had good views. Before going, I pictured scenic views of vineyards…but this was the view.

Stunning!

Stunning!

Seeing a triple wedding here didn't surprise me. We found out it was for a Chinese movie. Not surprising either.

Seeing a triple wedding here didn’t surprise me. We found out it was for a Chinese movie. Not surprising either.

Thanks for your views Santorini.

Thanks for your views Santorini.

Brief P.S. – Commentary on technology in 2015:

At the ‘movie wedding’ some of the filming was done by drone.

Movie wedding shot by drone

Movie wedding shot by drone

Low tech Megan has a birthday Skype with her mom from an Ipad.

Low tech Megan has a birthday Skype with her mom from an Ipad.

Sometimes it’s good to stop and take a look at how technology has changed our lives. When Megan and Jeremy were in India in 1997, we corresponded by mail. When I traveled in 2000 – 2001, I e-mailed from internet cafes, and my camera used actual film. For my time in Colombia in 2009-2010, I had a digital camera, had a wifi thumb drive, blogged and used facebook. Now Skyping on tablets, wifi nearly everywhere, and drone filming. What’s next?

Ios – 50 Shades of Blue

Ios – 50 Shades of Blue

We said goodbye to Naxos...

We said goodbye to Naxos…

...and hello to Ios

…and hello to Ios

Main town in Ios

Main town in Ios

We hadn’t planned on going to Ios, but with so much shut in the low season, and it being between Naxos and Santorini, we thought we’d stop by. I’d heard it was a party island…

...it was more like this in the low season.

…it was more like this during the low season.

Once again, being early April, we found ourselves on an island with most places still shut and being some of the only tourists there. Heavenly! We nearly had the island to ourselves.

It was obvious that in the high season the bars would be packed with young'uns. Remember 'Stay Under 17'

It was obvious that in the high season the bars would be packed with young’uns. Remember ‘Stay Under 17’

Rock mosaics everywhere

Rock mosaics everywhere

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Hiking along the coast

Jeremy hiking along the coast

Megan and Julian

Megan and Julian

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Amazing sky

Amazing sky

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Can you spot Julian?

Can you spot Julian?

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Another sign indicating that this could be a a place for crazy parties

Another sign indicating that this could be a a place for crazy parties

Julian found this

Julian found this Urchin…

and put it back...it was still alive

and put it back. It was still alive!

It's all Greek to me

It’s all Greek to me

This cat embodies the amount of activity  on the island

This cat embodies the amount of activity on the island

In the late afternoon, awash with golden light, we hiked amongst ancient stone walls and fields in Skarkos.

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This is Skarkos

This is Skarkos

Hello sheep

Hello sheep

succulents

succulents

lichen

lichen

Jeremy and me

Jeremy and I bundled up as the sun went down

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fig silhouette art

fig silhouette art

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Baby figs! Are they called figlets?

Baby figs! Are they called figlets?

Church and moon tiime

Church and moon time

Julian and the biggest portion of food that I've seen since I left the US

Julian and the biggest portion of food that I’ve seen since I left the US

Odd spacing of words

Odd spacing of words

Megan and I leaving our mark

Megan and I leaving our mark

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Last meal on the island - picnic style

Last meal on the island – picnic style

Bye bye Ios

Bye bye Ios. Glad we saw you in the low season.

Timeless Naxos

Timeless Naxos

If you want to find a traditional Greek island, complete with mountains, beaches, ancient villages, and friendly people, Naxos is an excellent choice. We spent a week on Apollon beach in the end of March and immediately knew it would be fantastic, even by the rental car man who said, “If you have any problem call me, and I am next to you.”

Welcome to Naxos

Yassas! Welcome to Naxos. In the end of March it was cloudy and quite cool, but still stunning. Being this early in the season, some places are still closed, but that also means very few tourists.

This former opera singer, now restaurateur, delighted us with his heavily Greek accented stories.

This former opera singer, now restaurateur clad in track suit, delighted us with his heavily Greek accented stories. Inside the restaurant it smelled of fish and ouzo, just as it should.

The Greek accents are just incredible. They take me back to parts of my youth I forgot all about: flaming saganaki at the Greek Islands in Greek Town in Chicago and some of Dad’s characters in his Binyon’s Restaurant life. It’s very cold here, but right now the sun is trying to break through a cloudy sky.

The beach in Apollon just before the rain.

The beach in Apollon just before the rain. We were the only tourists here with the winds of Africa blowing in the red dust, and waves crashing on the shore.

Old stone walls dividing the land.

Terraced stone walls dividing the land.

We loved meandering through the labyrinthine stone walkways.

We loved meandering through the labyrinthine stone walkways.

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A reeking fish monger blaring Greek music

A reeking fish monger blaring Greek music

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Cheese glorious cheese!

Cheese glorious cheese!

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Halki

Halki

I know these as 'Shiva Eyes', but here they're known as 'The Eye of Naxos'.

In Thailand these are known as ‘Shiva Eyes’, but here they’re known as ‘The Eye of Naxos’.

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Cafe and Ouzeri - Whoo hoo! I can read Greek!...Um...at least those words.

Cafe and Ouzeri – Whoo hoo! I can read Greek!…Um…at least those words.

Exploring the port town of Hora, Naxos

Exploring the port town of Hora, Naxos

Ancient ruins

Ancient ruins

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Fresh octopus hanging outside a restaurant

Fresh octopus hanging outside a restaurant

'Sunburned fish'

‘Sunburnt fish’

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Fun with filters in Hora

Fun with filters in Hora

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The real artisan cheese

Real artisan cheese

Salt cured olives and extra long cinnamon

Salt cured olives and extra long cinnamon sticks

Now that looks like a bag pipe

Now that looks like a bag pipe!

Vineyard

Vineyards scattered throughout the island

We drove through a swamp as we attempted to go to the Dionysus temple, which like many things was closed, but Julian found an adorable brown dog who was thrilled that a visitor stopped by. Our detour gave us another opportunity for a hilarious adventure.

Next we wound our way through a little town with Jeremy fearlessly driving listening to Greek music on full volume. We were funneled down narrower and narrower streets until we reached an amiable standoff of a Greek man on a motorbike and a smiling guy in a car. Jeremy had to back up down the narrow winding road so he could pass. 

This little guy was adorable. For more https://mariposatree.wordpress.com/2015/03/29/the-day-we-tried-to-be-grecian-mountain-goats/

This little guy was adorable. He’s got his own post here

Wind power

Wind power

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The dog on the wall who wouldn't let Megan go

The dog on the wall who wouldn’t let Megan go

Lovely Lionas

Lovely Lionas

We were the only ones on this beach

We were the only ones on Lionas beach, and the sun made an appearance!

A rock skipper's paradise

A rock skipper’s paradise

Or a perfect place for a little mandala

Or a perfect place for a little mandala

Luckily,this restaurant was open. Amazing homemade dishes were served with genuine Greek hospitality.

Luckily, this restaurant in Lionas was open. Amazing homemade dishes were served with genuine Greek hospitality.

Bells back in Apollon

Back in Apollon, Megan and I were invited to a goat roast party.

Wolf, the new, and only other, tourist in town

Wolf, the new arrival and only other tourist in town, and I attempted to go to the goat roast party. We found neither a goat roast, nor party, but just a few Greek people having a drink at their friend’s house.

Fried Winced Balls

Fried Winced Balls

Sheep traffic jam

Sheep traffic jam

“What are you looking at?”

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The castle of the Duke of Naxos

The castle of the Duke of Naxos

A secret pathway in the castle

A secret pathway in the castle

The ceiling was layers of seaweed (which can't burn) and sand.

The ceiling was made of layers of seaweed (which can’t burn) and sand.

What a wonderful place to watch a concert!

What a wonderful place to watch a concert!

The Duke of Naxos and Jeremy. What a story teller!

The Duke of Naxos and Jeremy. Living history.

Paper table cloths were put over the fabric table cloths in most ever restaurant.

Paper table cloths were put over the fabric table cloths in most every restaurant.

My name in Greek

My name in Greek

Hora town

Hora town

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Ladybug or paschalitsa  salad

Ladybug or paschalitsa salad

Stamatis, the kind owner of the Adonis Hotel in Apollon, and enormous lemons...

We were treated like family by Stamatis, the kind owner of the Adonis Hotel in Apollon. Each time he brought us something – a cup of coffee, a basket of bread, or a fresh squeezed lemon juice – in a merry sing song voice he’d say, “Enjoy it.” We always did. And the enormous lemons…

...from these trees right outside. The divine scent of lemon blossoms wafted by our noses each time we went to our rooms

…came from these trees right outside. The divine scent of lemon blossoms wafted by our noses each time we went to our rooms.

Julian was more excited about this dog than the Temple of Dionysus

We returned to the Dionysus Temple, which was now open. Happy dog, happy boy

Cat mid-meow

Cat mid-meow

Exploring the Hora with Wolf

Exploring Hora with Wolf

Back to the port

Back to the port

The enormous ferries with escalators inside

Time to board the huge ferry with escalators inside

Yassas Naxos. Efharisto!

Yassas Naxos. Efharisto! We really did enjoy it!

The Day We Tried to Be Grecian Mountain Goats

The Day We Tried to Be Grecian Mountain Goats

If you picture Greek islands to be sunny with sandy beaches below hillsides of blue and white painted buildings, I’m sure you are correct somewhere. Here on the island of Naxos it is staggeringly mountainous. While we were there in late March, it was unseasonably rainy and cold. Nonetheless, it didn’t stop us from hiking. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe started up the hillside that had no trail.

Megan, Julian, and Jeremy taking a water break

Megan, Julian, and Jeremy taking a ‘vista break’.

It continued to be a steep uphill climb. 10 year old Julian led the way.

It continued to be a steep uphill climb. 10 year old Julian led the way.

We were literally climbing up the steep mountainside like goats, all the while hearing goat bells in the distance.

Julian and Jeremy at a landmark we could see from the beach

Julian and Jeremy at a landmark we could see from the beach

Megan and I on the mountainside while waves break below us.

On the mountainside while waves broke below us

With the wind blowing, and the clouds rolling in, it was sure to rain momentarily.

With the wind blowing and the clouds rolling in, it was sure to rain momentarily.

The clouds descended upon us and we were rained on. Luckily, just then, we found a shepherd (goatherd?) shelter made from stone. We took refuge there until the pouring rain passed.

Jeremy said during the rain storm, “The good news is that it will be nice and slippery on the way down.”

Jeremy said on the way up as it started to rain, “The good news is that it will be nice and slippery on the way down.” We got fairly soaked.

We got fairly soaked. Coming from hot Thailand, I was wearing all the layers I had.

As we hiked it smelled of goat poop and the occasional hint of sage.

Goat poop was everywhere

Goat poop was everywhere

Slippery, rocky, bushy, and thorny outcrops

Slippery, rocky, bushy, and thorny outcrops. While slipping, I got a few of these stuck in my hand.

The great thing about hiking with a 10 year old is discovering things that I wouldn’t notice as an adult – bouncy bushes.

I was surprised to see euphorbia, the alien looking plants I knew from Portland. I wondered about the name, so I looked it up. Euphorbia was named after Euphorbus, a Greek physician who supposedly discovered the plant in the 1st century AD.

I was surprised to see euphorbia – the alien looking plants I knew from Portland. I wondered about the name, so I looked it up and found Euphorbia was named after Euphorbus, a Greek physician who supposedly discovered the plant in the 1st century AD.

Megan when we reached the wall at the top

Megan at the wall on top of the mountain

Our nearly vertical descent

Our nearly vertical descent

although we could hear the sound of goats everywhere, they gamboled away from us and seemed to be very camera shy

Although we could hear the sound of goats everywhere, they gamboled away from us and seemed to be very camera shy

Julian, being the most agile of the four of us, scampered down the mountainside in no time. We lost sight of him for a while, but weren’t worried. We made up stories that he was out fishing on the beach. No, he’d caught two fish and was back drinking ouzo and playing backgammon with the locals while learning the Greek alphabet.

As we were nearly at the bottom of our descent, we had a wonderful surprise…

As we were nearly at the bottom of our descent we had a wonderful surprise - a baby goat, not even a kid yet.

…a baby goat, not even a kid yet.

Aww, he's so little.

Aww, he’s so little.

I was surprised how light he was. He was about the weight of a small cat.

I was surprised how light he was – about the weight of a small cat.

Needless to say, I loved this

Needless to say, I loved this.

So did Megan

So did Megan

He sounded almost like a baby and didn't want to leave our sides.

He sounded almost like a baby and didn’t want to leave our sides.

Although we were trying to leave him, we realized he was scared. We tried to keep walking him down the mountain toward other goats. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEventually, he seemed less afraid and there were other goats nearby. See you later baby goat.

Although we made up stories about what Julian was doing during the time it took us to get down the mountain, when we arrived on the beach we found he really had done something impressive.

Julian and his rock sculpture

Julian and his rock sculpture

Mom is impressed with her son.

Mom is proud of her son.

Bye bye baby goat camouflaged somewhere up there on the mountain. Thanks for making our day.

Bye bye baby goat camouflaged somewhere up there on the mountain. Thanks for making our day.

Don’t Touch the Cobra

Don’t Touch the Cobra

This was the advice I received from the Buddhist nun, Ajarn Sundara, who visited our school. It was in response to my question about how to deal with a recurring thought.

‘Thoughts are like cobras in the mind. If you don’t touch them, they won’t hurt you.’ As odd as this might sound, it actually did make me feel better. Now when the thought comes, I don’t ignore it, but tell it kindly that I know what it is, and that I have no use for the thought anymore. To keep investigating it is like poking at a cobra. If I don’t bother with it, it will go away eventually. I have poked and prodded this serpentine nagging in my mind for too long now. 

I sense that the cobra is in the process of slowly slithering away. Without the cobra plaguing my mind, things are becoming clearer again. It feels like there is more spaciousness and more freedom to just be.

thumbs_IMG_5327Offering rice to Ajarn Sundara on Makha Bucha Day at Panyaden School.

 

The Whole Family Visits Thailand

The Whole Family Visits Thailand

I am a lucky lady indeed because for my Christmas present, my whole family visited me in Thailand! Thankfully, everyone absolutely loved it.

Here are some highlights: After everyone had a day to combat their jet lag with a Thai massage, some delicious Thai food, and the city sites of Chiang Mai, a place we all were happy to visit was Elephant Nature Park.

Hal IV, Dad, Beth, Dory and Wendy at Elephant Nature Park.

Hal IV, Dad, Beth, Dory and Wendy at Elephant Nature Park.

Hal loves the elephants.

Hal loves the elephants.

Dory loves the elephants.

Dory loves the elephants.

I love the elephants.

I love the elephants.

The elephants love each other.

The elephants love each other.

Having fun giving the elephants a bath.

Wendy, Hal and Dory having fun giving the elephants a bath.

Playing Songkran with elephants.

Playing Songkran with elephants

Elephant Nature Park is a fabulous sanctuary for elephants in Chiang Mai Province where they are allowed to roam freely, and are never chained up. There is ‘no show and no ride’ as they told me on the phone, but one can enjoy spending time feeding and bathing the elephants.

After a delightful day with the elephants, we spent the night in Chiang Dao.

Chiang Dao

Chiang Dao

Walking back tot the room at Yang Tone Farmstay.

Walking back to the room at Yang Tone Farm Stay

The wat up on the mountain in Chiang Dao.

The wat up on the mountain in Chiang Dao.

When we returned back to Chiang Mai, we headed to Sunday Walking Street for a little bit of shopping and eating.

Having pizza for a slight change from Thai food at Girasole

Having pizza for a slight change from Thai food at Girasole

We had to visit Panyaden School, where I work. It wasn't quite the same without the students there.

We visited Panyaden School, where I work. It wasn’t quite the same without the students there.

The next day we hopped on a plane to Krabi and took a minibus straight to Klong Nin beach on Ko Lanta. Wendy and Dory were pretty excited to arrive, so Wendy composed a little song. FYI: chang is the Thai word for elephant.

We enjoyed the sign in our hotel...

We enjoyed the sign in our hotel…

...and were glad to have already gotten pedicures in Chiang Mai

…and were glad to have already gotten pedicures in Chiang Mai

Dory sends off her first komloy to ring in the new year

Dory sends off her first komloy to ring in the new year

Then Dory orders a 'bucket' not realizing how big, sickly sweet, and alcoholic they are

Then Dory orders a ‘New Year’s Eve bucket’ not realizing how big, sickly sweet, and alcoholic they are…

...but we had to laugh about it anyway

…but we had to laugh about it anyway

On New Year's Day 2015 we took a boat trip with thousands of other tourists. It was the most touristy thing I've ever done in Thailand. We swam through a cave to an emerald beach with boatloads of other people.

On New Year’s Day 2015, we took a boat trip with thousands of other tourists. We swam through a cave to an emerald beach with literally boatloads of other people. It was the most touristy thing I’ve ever done in Thailand.

Dory and Wendy on an amazing beach off Ko Lanta.

Dory and Wendy on an amazing beach off Ko Lanta.

Selfie fail

Selfie partial fail

Wendy had better luck with her longer arms

Wendy had better luck with her longer arms

Lovely

Lovely lady and beach

Dory and a new four-legged friend

Dory and a new four-legged friend

Piña colada happy hour with Dad at Peace Paradise Beach Resort.

Piña colada happy hour with Dad and Wendy back at Peace Paradise Beach Resort.

Khun Pa was the best. We ate at his restaurant everyday.

Khun Pa was the best! We ate at his restaurant everyday.

Sadly, it was time to say farewell…but not without one last hearty laugh at the airport: Presenting Wendy in ‘Discovering the Blackpuccino’ at Black Canyon Coffee.

“Hmm, what should I order?”

Blackpuccino!

Blackpuccino? Blackpuccino!

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“A Blackpuccino! That’s it!”

“Hooray!”

“I love my Blackpuccino!”

“That Blackpuccino.”

I have never laughed so hard in an airport.

As is obvious from the photos, a great time was had by all.

I am so very grateful that my family came to visit me.

I am so very grateful that my family came to visit me.

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

Rice Farmer in a Past Life?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIs it possible that I was a Thai rice farmer in a past life? There is no way to know for sure. For some reason the sight of rice fields both delight and a remind me of something from long ago. I never tire of the verdant waves in their paddies: from the young pale green stalks, to the darker and taller plants, the whole growing season is gorgeous. Even when the rice is a hay-like colour at harvest time, it’s still absolutely beautiful.

Not only do I like to look at the rice, but planting it is also a joy. Stepping in the muddy water and feeling the squishy soil between my toes is remarkably soothing. It’s slippery, messy and fun.

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About two weeks ago at Panyaden School we planted rice for Mother’s Day (August 12 – the Queen’s birthday). It will be harvested on Father’s Day (December 5 – the King’s birthday).

The process involves taking a few stalks of rice seedlings and plugging them in the mushy mud. After a while with the sun beating down, stooping over, and being covered in mud could get very uncomfortable. As for me, our hour-long planting session wasn’t nearly enough time.

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Surprisingly, way up north in Chiang Mai far away from the sea, the rice paddies make homes for fish, frogs, and even crabs. We noticed fish and tadpoles swimming, and watched a few frogs jump to safety away from our feet.

There must be something about being muddy. I have always adored ceramics, and while in Colombia, the mud volcano topped the list of attractions of the senses.

Ahh, the visually captivating rice fields of Northern Thailand fill me with reverie. Planting rice feels so natural and a perfect way to be connected with the land, the people, and the culture. I’ll stay here with my daily doses of rice field views in the place that feels like home.

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