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Published: December 24th 2017
Brunch in Chinatown with Dad and Claire - always a must when I visit LA!
I've been back in Ecuador over two weeks and I finally find time to write about my visit to the US. As I type this I'm in Quito at my dear friend Lupe's apartment. There won't be much sleep for me tonight as I'm required to down 4 liters of laxative in preparation for a colonoscopy tomorrow morning....but enough about that! Oops....gotta go!
OK - I'm back! Many thanks to new friend Nate for driving me to the airport at the butt crack of dawn (we had to leave his house before 5 am!) My flights to LA were uneventful - COPA airlines is my best option and a good one at that. Connections in Panama City are generally less than 2 hours, enough leeway even if the first flight is delayed for some reason but not too long to wait between flights...just enough time to take advantage of Tocumen's free 45 minutes of internet access! I've never had a problem with my luggage following me all the way to LA. Rental car pick-up was a breeze but hopping on the freeway at rush hour when it's already dark is a bit of a
Most days Dad and I could be found playing cards on this table in the living room, or at the table out on the patio.
challenge. I always have to re-adjust to driving an automatic car in the US and dial down my driving style...more patient, more polite, less insistent than in Ecuador!
Great to see my sister again. She's redone her bathrooms and they look gorgeous! I sleep SO well in the cozy guest room. As often happens, I came down with a cold in the days before travelling, so the first week there I went to sleep early and most days slept until after 7 am (late for me). The first day I met Claire at her work on her lunch break and we went together to my Dad's new place so I could see where it is. It's a bit further from where she lives but much closer to where she works.
The last several places my Dad has lived have been large, corporate-run senior facilities. Now he's in a private house; a family-run bed and board. There six residents with two caregivers on duty at all times. Very loving and personalized care in a welcoming home on a quiet street with a large outside terrace
Scrabble on the Patio
Another male resident moved in. Art has joined us for games on the patio.
and beautiful gardens. When it was warm enough, Dad and I would play cards or Scrabble at the table outside and watch the squirrels chase one another up and around the big tree draped with bougainvillea vines.
Most days I'd arrive at Dad's in the late morning (after traffic died down) and either have lunch with him at The Nest (the name of the home where he lives) or take him out for lunch (he loves to get out!) Dad's a big fan of Chinese food, so we often went to Happy Panda or California Wok. One day we lunched at IHOP (Int'l House of Pancakes) and I felt like I was back in Latin America! Every time I go to LA (10 times in the past 5 years!) I'm surprised and fascinated by the ethnic diversity - so many languages spoken wherever you go. In this part of LA mostly Spanish and Hebrew, but I got to practice my Portugese with a Brazilian cashier and I helped some French tourists find their way.
Every other Wednesday there's exercise class for the
Every other Wednesday the residents of The Nest2 are invited over to The Nest1 (10 minutes away) for exercise class and lunch. Nice for the residents to mingle!
seniors, so I got to join in! The Nest has two houses, so the residents get to socialize on exercise day. The Nest1 has six female residents. My Dad was the only man at The Nest2 but while I was visiting Arthur moved in (an Armenian who lived many years in Cuba). I spoke Spanish with him, but sometimes he'd get confused and speak Armenian with me! Most of the caregivers are also Spanish speaking so I enjoyed chatting with them; they could fill me in on how my Dad was doing without him knowing we were talking about him.
My Dad is definitely slowing down...at almost 92 years old it's quite normal! He naps a lot more and can't really focus on a TV show anymore. He doesn't follow conversations as well - his eyes sort of glaze over and his mind goes to another place. But when we play cards together, he's just as sharp as ever -- even catching Cribbage points that I forgot to score! We went out into his neighborhood for a walk one day and I asked if he felt like doing the short block
I took a wrong turn, drove up an unfamiliar street and was treated to this surprising find!
or the long block around the elementary school. He opted for the longer walk but on the last leg we stopped several times for him to rest on the seat of his walker.
One day I took my Dad for a long drive - out Sunset Blvd to Pacific Coast Hwy, all the way past Malibu. Dad marvelled at the houses built up on stilts and pondered how they got their groceries up there. Claire said that he usually nods off in the car but that day he was alert and chatty the whole way! We had lunch at Gladstone's right on the water while the seagulls posed on the wooden posts just beside our table. I decided to try a different route back home and drove down to Santa Monica before heading east. I ended up on residential streets, enjoying looking at houses and then, there it was....right on the corner. A most amazing mosaic covered home! I pulled over and started snapping photos -there are several more at the end of this entry!
Every Thursday afternoon at Valley Beth Shalom
Claire's Cooking Club
Helping the kids prep to make green smoothies. Fun to work with 3 and 4 year olds!
Early Childhood Center the 3 and 4 year olds eagerly await Claire's Cooking Club! I love going to help out with that week's recipe - measuring, chopping, mixing, reading to the kids. It's fun to see my sister in the role of teacher and I love revisiting my teacher self as well. One Thursday we made veggies and pearls (Israeli Pearl Couscous - yum!) and the next week it was Smoothie Olympics! Claire has such a sense of fun with the kids. I've never worked with ones this young but she really knows how to meet them where they're at!
One night Claire hosted an Italian Dinner at her home. I made the salad, did the flower arranging and helped lay a beautiful table setting. Claire made homemade ravioli (oh yeah!) and everyone else brought a dish. Any of my foodie friends reading this, check out the website for Tuscan Women Cook - https://www.tuscanwomencook.com. It's a travel/learning opportunity that my sister has been involved with for several years. This dinner was a gathering of folks who have been, or are planning to go on the week-long cooking course inTuscany. It was
Disney Music Hall
Another amazing Frank Gehry creation!
a stellar evening - delicious food and fabulous women!
My old friend Michelle took the train up from San Diego and we spent a day bopping around downtown LA. Michelle and I first met in 1992 when I was teaching in Malaysia. I took a group of students to the Vietnamese Refugee Camp where she was volunteering...and the rest is history! On our tourist day in LA, Michelle and I walked our tootsies off! Within a few miles of the train station we visited kitschy Mexican Olvera Street (I hadn't been there since I was a kid!), Grand Central Market (amazing food from all over the world!), we took Angel's Flight tramway up the hill to Disney Music Hall (fabulous architecture), wandered around Chinatown, ate French Dip sandwich at Philippe's (yummy!!!) and en route we saw a wedding, a quincenera party, lots of homeless folks, an outdoor craft market and so much more! What a wonderful day (whew!)
My brother Bob and his wife Kate came out from Baltimore to help celebrate my sister's birthday and to bring some of my stuff
Welcome to Disneyland!
Five big kids ready to play at the happiest place on earth.
I still had stored in their attic. My nephew Sam pulled some strings and got us all free passes to Disneyland! While Bob and Sam finagled shorter waits using FastPass apps, we gals followed their lead and went along for the ride(s). Claire & Bob & I relived many childhood memories. Back in the 60's we were lucky enough to visit Disneyland quite often! It was a glorious day and evening at the park. Great people-watching too! Be sure to scroll to the very end to see even more photos of our fun fun fun day!
On one of my last days in LA I awoke to discover that Claire had not gone to work. Her big screen TV was projecting terrifying footage of raging wildfires. We decided to go visit Dad and on the freeway driving west it felt like we were in a bad Hollywood film...lines of traffic disappearing into a wall of smoke. People everywhere wearing masks. After lunch with Dad we decided that the best place to pass the afternoon would be in a movie theatre! Fancy cinema with reclining seats and huge barrels of popcorn! A bit disconcerting
Roving photographers offer to take photos for visitors.
that after the movie trailers in addition to reminding viewers to turn off their cell phones, there was also a clip about reporting any suspicious behaviour.
The fires continued to blaze and had crept closer to the city to the point that the 405 freeway was closed the morning of the day I was due to fly out. Fortunately, it reopened by noon but I still left extra time, not knowing how long it would take me to make the drive. Since I had extra time I stopped in Marina del Rey for sunset before returning my rental car. The sky was blazing orange and red, no doubt due to all the ash in the atmosphere.
Security at LAX airport seemed even more intense than usual. I was glad to have arrived 4 hours before my flight since it took over an hour to get through the security checkpoint. I had to show my passport and boarding pass no fewer than 4 times and the last guy before the xray machines told me I was pre-check so I didn't have to take my shoes off. I guess the
Sunset at Marina del Rey
En route to the airport I had extra time so I stopped in the neighborhood where my folks, and then my sister used to live. Hazy sky due to fire and ash made for a dramatic sunset!
airline has your flying history with them (I've flown COPA at least a dozen times in the last 7 years) so they put a special mark on your boarding pass. Well, following this guy's directions I didn't take off my shoes, but the next set of TSA employees jumped all over me because I hadn't taken off my shoes. They have to get their act together! They were riffling through every third or fourth carry-on bag and it really slowed the process.
The plane hit a lot of turbulence, but the upside was an amazing lightning storm above the clouds. I've never seen such a beautiful weather display from a plane window! One reason I enjoy flying COPA is the seatback movie screen. I'm a sucker for tearjerkers and I watched three films back to back on my six hour flight from LA to Panama City. Somehow, it seems ok to to bawl on a darkened plane, especially if your seatmates are sleeping! Since I was in the window seat, I think the flowing tears helped to keep me from needing to pee! Arriving in Panama City I made a beeline for the ladies' room
Always a treat flying into Quito when the skies are clear!
- right across from the gate where I landed which conveniently was also the gate my next flight was to leave from (same plane, I assumed). While in the restroom I realized that I'd left my brand new button-up sweater on the seat (same blue as the upholstery). I went to the gate agent and asked if he could contact the cleaning crew. He told me that they were required to turn in all items to Lost and Found. That they'd be cleaning several other planes before delivering it there and that I'd miss my flight if I tried to go find it there. I pleaded with him...I JUST got off that plan and I'm getting back on the same plane, one row up. PLEASE.. .but no dice. They have their procedures, I suppose but it was tough to swallow the reality that I will never see that brand new sweater again!
Arriving in Quito I enjoyed sharing the stunning views with a seatmate who was visiting Ecuador for the first time. After I snapped a few pics we traded seats so he could marvel at the mountains as we dropped down into
With my new friend Darwin, 2 yrs old. Many thanks to his parents Nate & Ang for hosting me the night before I flew out and the night after I got back. For storing my truck and for taking me to and from the airport!
an InterAndean Valley. My friend Ang came to pick me up (her first time driving to the airport alone...you go girl!) Her family is relatively new to Ecuador and they've been just wonderful, helping me with donations and lodging at their home and airport transfers!! I was glad that they were able to stay at my house in Banos over Thanksgiving while I wasn't there. So, next blog entry will recount my eventful return to Ecuador...alas it's not all wine and roses! Thanks for reading this far! I try to space the paragraphs so that the accompanying photo goes along with the text. That being said, I posted MANY more photos so if you are so inclined, scroll down to see more and click next to see even more!
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