2020 Holiday Letter - A Year in Review

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October 6th 2020
Published: December 7th 2020
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For whatever you choose to celebrate . . . For whatever you choose to celebrate . . . For whatever you choose to celebrate . . .

Blessings to one and all this holiday season

2020 In Review - USA/Indonesia/Qatar


I think we can all agree 2020 was a weird, interesting, but pretty horrible year. I’m sure our year was much the same as most of yours in that we only left the house for necessary chores and exercise, wore our masks, obsessively washed our hands and kept our social distance when out and about. It stood us in good stead as we remain healthy and (relatively) happy.

December 2019: The end of 2019 and the beginning of 2020 started out quite well. We had Larry & Mara Cohn (El Paso), their daughter Alicia and
Cohn FamilyCohn FamilyCohn Family

Over Christmas 2019 this lovely family came to visit. Here we are at the AZ-Sonora Desert Museum: Larry, Josh, Ben, Mara, Alicia & Kathy w/burrowing owl, Athena, on her first. Bernie taking photo
boyfriend Ben (Seattle), and their son Josh (Austin) in town for Christmas 2019. They rented an Airbnb in midtown Tucson and we spent a lovely four days with this fun family. We met in the Netherlands in 2001, so we’ve watched Alicia and Josh grow into amazing young people while maintaining a wonderful friendship with Mara and Larry. We manage to see them at least once a year - either we there or they here.

Right on the heels of the Cohn family Mark Hansen (Deb & Martin’s younger son) and girlfriend Chloë arrived and were with us through New Years. Mark is in law school in Oregon and was still on Christmas break, having spent the lion’s share of that in Alaska. What a delightful couple - love that they were jazzed to watch the ‘Taco Drop’ in downtown Tucson on New Year’s Eve.

January: Within days of Mark and Chloë’s departure, Mark’s parents, Deb & Martin, arrived. These are some of our oldest friends from Alaska so always have a super time with them - this was no exception. The weather was, as usual for January, wonderful and we enjoyed many outdoor
Mark Hansen & ChloëMark Hansen & ChloëMark Hansen & Chloë

The son of a good friend in Alaska and his girlfriend were with us through New Year's Eve

At the end of January we had the Saltillo tile in Bernard's office, the kitchen and entryway removed and replaced. It wasn’t as onerous as we’d expected in that the old tile didn't have to be jack-hammered off - that makes a horrible mess and we avoided that. The work was done by one man, David, who is also a neighbor and we felt safe having him in and out of the house. David has a health-compromised daughter and was extra vigilant re: COVID. David also did our bathroom remodel (see June).

During the tile removal part of the job Bernie was in Colorado for his annual trek to lecture at the Air Force Academy in CO Springs. Fear not, he got back in time to be inconvenienced by the tile replacement as it took about ten days.

February. As is our wont, we participated in the Jean-Pictet International Humanitarian Law Competition, this year in Bali, Indonesia. As is also our wont, we routed ourselves through a country we wanted to visit, in this case Doha, Qatar. This was a double session of Pictet, so one week of competition in
Kathy, Deb & AliceKathy, Deb & AliceKathy, Deb & Alice

When Deb & Martin (Alaska) visited us in January we all went for a hike with good friends Alice & John (Vermont); the boys hiked in a different direction from we ladies who were more hardcore
the capital of Denpasar, then one week R & R in the northeast of the island at a beautiful seaside resort (Taman Sari near the village of Pemutaran), then back to Denpasar for another week of competition before flying home. I work in the administration of the competition and Bernard is a judge/juror and also on the governing board. As is always the case, we had a most enjoyable time with a group of delightful young people, (competitors) and reuniting with old friends (staff).

March. As you know, COVID-19 reared its ugly head at the end of 2019 and by February 2020 countries were closing down and airlines were cancelling flights. Many of our Pictet colleagues were having to change their airline tickets and routes. It was getting a bit panicky as some countries were refusing to let their own citizens return. That changed, of course, but for a while it was chaos. Christophe, our Pictet coordinator (my boss), was dealing with all the participants’ issues. There were 144 participants/competitors (plus 30 support staff) and not all of them had a problem, but many did.

We flew to Indonesia and back through Qatar, which didn’t have any cases yet; Bali only had a few cases at the time, so our flight plans didn’t change. I was a bit worried about arrival in Dallas - whether we’d still have our connecting flight to Tucson. All went smoothly.

Since we had been traveling internationally on packed flights and in packed airports, we were planning to do a 14-day quarantine upon our return. The day after we returned, on March 16, Tucson closed down - we didn’t have to quarantine on our own.

On March 19th daughter **JJ arrived from Alaska. She said if she was going to have to quarantine, she wanted it to be with us in Arizona. March is a lovely month in Tucson (not so much in Alaska) and we were able to be at the pool, bike, hike, etc. Truly, except for not being able to go to the gym, eat in restaurants or see many friends, the early part of the shut-down was totally bearable.

**Another reason JJ came to Tucson was because originally we had a reunion in Cozumel, Mexico with our exchange student ***daughters planned for March. Obviously we had
Old Pearl Diving Boat w/Doha in BackgroundOld Pearl Diving Boat w/Doha in BackgroundOld Pearl Diving Boat w/Doha in Background

On our way to 3 weeks in Bali we stopped in Doha, Qatar for three days - wonderful country; great visit.
to cancel because of COVID, but JJ had a plane ticket to Tucson already in hand.

***Jaqueline from Guatemala; still in Guatemala doing well. Marcela from Argentina, married to Tim and living in California with son Calvin - doing great. Victoria, Marcela's twin, living in Spain, but working in Mexico seasonally - super. Camila from Brazil living in Rio with her 4 kids - working and busy as you might imagine, but well. Marysia from Poland wasn't going to be able to join us in MX. She is still making music in Poland. In fact, during the recent demonstrations in Poland against the draconian reproductive laws put into place, one of Marysia's songs was used as the marchers' anthem. She couldn't have been prouder; we too.

April & May. Tucson was an easy city vis-à-vis the shut-down. While hair salons and gyms were closed, many stores were open, as were our recreation areas. Some restaurants were open, but with reduced capacity; we chose to do the occasional take-out rather than dine in a restaurant. The weather remained nice so we spent a lot of time on **The Loop with friend Susan and hiking
Bali, Indonesia Hindu TempleBali, Indonesia Hindu TempleBali, Indonesia Hindu Temple

Pictet IHL competition held in Denpasar, Bali this year. Just outside the capital city of Denpasar is a huge, sprawling temple complex - breathtaking views around every corner.
with various friends - masked and socially distanced.

**With 131 miles (211 km) of paved bike lanes and trails, The Loop is an urban trail system that connects parks, trailheads, bus and bike routes, hotels, restaurants, and retail and entertainment areas.

June: Our big project in June was having the guest bathroom redone. We had the tub taken out and a walk-in shower installed. We love it. Photos at end of blog. As I mentioned, our contractor David works alone, so it took about 2 weeks, but he is meticulous and truly an artist; we are so pleased with our new guest bath.

June is the hottest, driest month in Tucson, so before we started the bathroom remodel we took a quick camping trip to Whitehorse Lake near the south rim of the Grand Canyon. At 6,600 feet/2,012 meters the lake was much cooler than Tucson and the sleeping divine.

July: It was getting hotter and hotter in Tucson so time once again to find some cool places to camp. Our next trip out was through New Mexico (one night in Santa Fe) to Colorado, near Pagosa Springs
JJ in ArizonaJJ in ArizonaJJ in Arizona

JJ was with us for the first part of the pandemic shutdown, about 3 weeks. When she returned to Alaska she had to go into a two-week quarantine because of traveling.
where we camped for three days. Originally we’d planned to meet my sister and her husband, MaryJean & Buzz, but a work issue came up for MJ. From there to Crested Butte, CO (just north of Gunnison) where we stayed in a lovely hotel in this picturesque ski town. Back to camping, heading north and east into Dinosaur National Monument; then into Utah - all camping was in national forests; overnight in Page, AZ and home.

August. It was getting REALLY hot in **Tucson by now, so we headed into northern Arizona and southern Utah again, specifically the north rim of the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon National park. It was just breathtaking in addition to being cool (we were at over 8,000 feet/2,500 meters in both places).

**We had the hottest summer in recorded history; the second worst monsoon season; the most days in a year over 100˚ F./38˚ C. - we kept breaking records into October!!

Again, we were supposed to be meeting MaryJean and Buzz in Bryce Canyon to camp together. This time our Aunt Betty passed away and MaryJean had to stay and deal with her estate.
Susan and Suellen Social DistancingSusan and Suellen Social DistancingSusan and Suellen Social Distancing

On our frequent walks in the spring we wore masks around others, but these lovely ladies are in our COVID-pod - we shared meals, exercised together, etc., knowing we were all being careful when not with each other.
Betty’s passing wasn’t unexpected as she was 92 and in hospice care. She was, however, the last of a generation for both sides of our family. A sad occasion.

September. Still too hot in Tucson to get out biking and our gyms were still closed, so we took another camping trip to Northern Arizona, this time north of Payson in the Mogollon Rim area. We were once again at elevation where the temperatures were delightful. We traded over 100˚ F./38 C. temps in Tucson for temps around 80˚ F./27 C. during the days and almost to freezing at night - yes!!

The highlight of September, however, was a very quick visit, almost a drive-by, from our Argentine daughter and her family, Marcela, Tim, Calvin and Allie (rescue dog). Tim’s job with the FAA transferred him to San Diego from Florida and we got a quick visit in on their way through Arizona. We are excited that they’ll be closer to us and are just waiting from them to get settled before we go for a visit. Oh, yeah, and now we're waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine.

In October things improved a
North Rim, Grand Canyon National ParkNorth Rim, Grand Canyon National ParkNorth Rim, Grand Canyon National Park

The North Rim is over 8,000 feet/2,500 meters high with beautiful views, cool temperatures and FAR fewer visitors than at the South Rim
bit in that my **gym reopened and also my hair salon. We took another one of our mini-camping trips, this one to the Chiricahua Mountains about 2 hours east of Tucson. It is much higher than Tucson, so the nights were quite cold - below freezing and snow!! We actually left before the snow arrived; we knew it was on the way so headed down the mountain and back to Tucson where it was 80˚ (27˚ C.).

**Not doing weights as I don't trust people to clean them; only doing classes with 10 or fewer people. For the indoor classes (2) we wear masks and are more than 6 feet/2 meters apart. For the outdoor class (1) we don't have to wear masks, but do socially distance. Many of us wear the **plastic face shields - not as good as a mask, but for exercising the BEST.

**Friend Susan bought a box of face shields and gifted us all with them. Most generous and they are wonderful.

November was unsettling in that JJ wanted to come for Thanksgiving, but we asked her not to. COVID was surging here, and as it
Bryce Canyon, UtahBryce Canyon, UtahBryce Canyon, Utah

We were in Bryce twice over the summer - the high elevation makes it a delightful spot to escape the record breaking heat of Tucson.
turned out, everywhere, and we didn't feel safe. Pandemic fatigue was rampant around the country, but we felt that we'd been doing the safe things for so long it would be a shame to just throw caution to the wind. Of course things got MUCH worse leading up to and following Thanksgiving, so we were happy that we'd just had a small Thanksgiving with friend Susan - she cooked half the meal; B got at 20 lbs turkey, so LOTS of leftovers!

We took another of our 'sanity' camping trips, this time to a lake about 2 hours from Tucson, Roper Lake. It is a delightful state park and there were lots of water fowl to keep our bird identification skills honed.

December. Since we were stuck at home anyway, I decided to have a small procedure done on my big toe (fix the hallux rigidus). Knowing I had at least 3 weeks of staying off my foot, I scheduled the surgery for December. 4. I knew we wouldn't be traveling or having visitors over Christmas; we follow the science and the health professionals were predicting an even bigger COVID surge over Christmas because
Marcela, Tim & Cal Jensen w/Allie on Mt. LemmonMarcela, Tim & Cal Jensen w/Allie on Mt. LemmonMarcela, Tim & Cal Jensen w/Allie on Mt. Lemmon

When the Jensens came through town on their way to San Diego we drove up to Mt. Lemmon - it is 20˚ cooler at 8,000 feet/2,500 meters and is only a 20- minute scenic drive from our place
so many people had NOT followed their advice over Thanksgiving . . . don't get me started. Anyway, all is well and I'm getting around the house with my knee scooter.

As you know, I'm a docent (educational guide) at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The Desert Museum is open (limited capacity/outdoor venues only, which is 85%!)(MISSING), but docents are not working. As one of my friends said, "ASDM runs on gray power" in that we docents are mostly over 65 and at higher risk for COVID-19. Having said that, even the younger docents are not working because of the crowds we gather when doing a tour, displaying an animal or a bird on our fist or even just being at a station talking about everything desert related. It is our goal to 'hook' people into our little lectures, but that sort of gathering is frowned upon by health experts and ASDM administration is very keen on keeping us and the public safe.

My Wednesday docent group has been meeting on Zoom every Wednesday morning to review desert natural history and catch-up with one another. The continuing education that the Desert Museum typically provides on
Betty (Mary) Reid 2018Betty (Mary) Reid 2018Betty (Mary) Reid 2018

Kathy and her Aunt Betty in 2018. Betty passed away in August 2020 - the last of that generation on both sides of Kathy's family.
a monthly basis is on-going via Zoom. During normal times we'd have these lectures in our auditorium. These are lectures by various experts on various subjects, i.e., Rebirth of the Santa Cruz River in Downtown Tucson, Mexican Wolf Conservation, Tohono O'odham History & Culture. We are also given an update on what is happening with the Desert Museum, recently COVID updates are a highlight, also attendance numbers and what is happening on grounds and with our animals. My take-way from these sessions is what an amazing job the staff has done moving things on-line - webinars, children's activities, etc. They are a dedicated and talented group!

I need to give a special shout out to friends Susan and Suellen.

Susan is a neighbor, in addition to a good friend, which made it easy for her to be in our COVID pod this past year. Susan picked us up from the airport in March and we've pretty much been joined at the hip since. We knew Susan, a widow, was being ultra-safe, as were we, so it was natural to become a 'pod.' On Wednesdays I cook a meal, Susan comes over for dinner and
Susan, Kathy & Suellen in Saguaro National ParkSusan, Kathy & Suellen in Saguaro National ParkSusan, Kathy & Suellen in Saguaro National Park

Spring in Tucson is delightful so the beginning of the pandemic shut-down wasn't very onerous for us as we could get outside every day. And yes, the sky is really that blue in Tucson, almost daily.
then we watch Netflix/Hulu/Amazon. On Sunday, Susan cooks, we go to her house, eat, watch programs. You get the idea. It has been super nice enjoying Susan's home cooking, not to mention her company and friendship.

Susan, Suellen and I also do the gym classes together. Susan, B & I are biking buddies - we go out a couple of times a week on The Loop, for about an hour. We did that in the spring, but the summer was too hot, so just got back into it recently. It is just pure delight - out in the sunshine exercising on a beautifully maintained bike trail.

When our gym was closed, Suellen and I went to Susan's house twice a week to do an exercise program we could get On-Demand (Les Miles Body Flow). We'd move Susan's dining room table and chairs out of the way, throw out our mats and get a super workout of an hour. It was a life-saver for all of us.

Suellen lives a little farther away and we'd meet her for walks/hikes. Suellen has shown us parts of town we didn't know existed. If there
JJ's Work Place: Chilkoot Charles aka KootsJJ's Work Place: Chilkoot Charles aka KootsJJ's Work Place: Chilkoot Charles aka Koots

3 stage, 3 dance floors and 10 bars. JJ has been working here for years.
has been an upside to this pandemic it is getting to know Suellen and Susan better. It is much easier to chat when walking/hiking; in our gym classes socializing while doing pilates, yoga or Tai Chi is discouraged.

UPDATES: Christina and Evan are still in Seattle. Evan is 15 and doing his high school virtually. He made the Dean's List this first semester - VERY proud of him. He had told us he liked virtual learning - I guess so!!

JJ is still in Alaska, working at Chilkoot Charles (see photo at end of blog); they've been lucky to be able to stay open. The club has three stages, three dance floors and 10 bars!! It is a huge club with numerous liquor licenses and outdoor space - hence has been able to stay open (with COVID protocols) during the pandemic. That is until recently. JJ called yesterday and said Chilkoots was closed because it had gotten too cold to do outdoor seating, even with heat lamps - go figure, too cold in December in Alaska to be outside, shocking - NOT.

As this very weird and terrible year comes to
Roper LakeRoper LakeRoper Lake

Delightful stocked (trout, bluebill) lake near Safford, Arizona
a close, we want to wish our friends and family all the best for 2021 - it HAS to be better than 2020!! We've been doing Zoom happy hours with friends, but that is a far cry from being able to spend quality time with them. May 2021 bring us back to some semblance of normalcy so we can enjoy restaurants, go to concerts and plays, enjoy sporting events - but mostly so we can hug and enjoy the company of our loved ones.

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. We love you all, Kathy & Bernie


Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


Chiricahua Mountain National MonumentChiricahua Mountain National Monument
Chiricahua Mountain National Monument

The primary feature of the Chiricahuas are hoodoo formations - hiking among them is magical.
Mogollon Rim, Arizona.Mogollon Rim, Arizona.
Mogollon Rim, Arizona.

Northern AZ near town of Payson
Pagosa Springs, ColoradoPagosa Springs, Colorado
Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Lovely hike out of Williams Campground just outside Pagosa Springs
Union Congregational Church, Crested-Butte, ColoradoUnion Congregational Church, Crested-Butte, Colorado
Union Congregational Church, Crested-Butte, Colorado

Crested Butte is a small but lovely old town off the beaten track in central Colorado. Many well-maintained older buildings like this church.
White Horse Lake, AZ Near South Rim Grand Canyon White Horse Lake, AZ Near South Rim Grand Canyon
White Horse Lake, AZ Near South Rim Grand Canyon

As the summer progressed and the heat became unbearable, every 3-4 weeks we trekked off to camp somewhere (CO, UT, NM & AZ) for 3-4 days. It was a welcome relief from being cooped up in the condo and a respite from the record-breaking heat.
Guest Bath - Before Guest Bath - Before
Guest Bath - Before

We had the guest bath turned into a walk-in shower
Guest Bath - AfterGuest Bath - After
Guest Bath - After

Took the tub out, redid the plumbing, tiled, added a granite seat and shelf, and put a new door on - voilà a wonderful new shower. Also put in a low-flow toilet with dual flush options.

8th December 2020

As always enjoyed your travel blog. Despite Covid you had a full and fun-sounding year. Merry Christmas to you both.
8th December 2020

super blog
very nice blog. its very helpful for everyone. you can also view more on travel related content form travellercolic.com
8th December 2020

thanks for the great 2020 update...the Tucson Loop sounds awesome! Thanks for remodeling my bathroom...I'll have to come visit again soon. Once travel re-opens I would LOVE to see you guys again here in Ecuador! sending big virtual hugs! jill
22nd December 2020

Merry Christmas 2020!
So fun reading about your year! Your rig looks like a good way to camp, so much better than the RV types out there. Will be looking forward to your next escapades if we get out of Covid with the vaccinations. A friend told me about zdoggmd.com. He explains so much about the virus in easy to understand videos and podcasts. Take care of each other!

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