Thanksgiving in Miniature

So while the majority of you are still gearing up for the big day this Thursday, I’m reveling in the happiness of having our little Thanksgiving already completed! My side of the family gathered this past Monday, as things happened to work out, and we had a miniature gathering. I say miniature, because, in several areas it was indeed miniature.

Such as, the size of the birds we ate:

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Mom decided to try something different this year and we had Cornish Hens as the main meat. It was *such* fun!

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I had fun in the game department setting up very easy place settings. But, that’s another thing that was miniature. The grand total of “guests” was 6. Daddy is an only child, and since his parents have passed away, it’s just us. So name cards were really only a formality, since we all knew where to sit: in our usual places. :)

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The other thing that was miniature, was the timing of the meal. We squeezed it in between the {somewhat} daily normality of a Monday, which included Daddy helping a friend harvest corn, a memorial service, and a hair appointment.

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But it was a very happy little, miniature Thanksgiving. And for that, I’m thankful.

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An Afternoon in Stuttgart

{September 12th}

When we invited Maria to come with us on this little European adventure, our main countries to visit were France and Germany. (France consisting only of Paris… we still want to see southern France and more of the countryside, but it will have to be another trip.) But anyway, at the time I didn’t realize that France and Germany are the two countries that Maria’s family have had exchange students from! Micha is from Germany, and Pierre is from France. We didn’t get to meet up with Pierre while in France, but we DID get to see Micha and his family! Turns out Eibelstadt, where we’re staying for the month, is only about an hour and a half drive from Stuttgart. They generously invited us to spend the afternoon with them, and we happily accepted.

Before we drove to their home, I had expressed my desire and hopes that Micha’s family would fix us a nice German meal. I was not disappointed! We had Maultaschen and potato salad made with a more vinegar base versus mayonnaise. For dessert we had apple cake with sliced almonds on top. I loved it all.

For the afternoon, they planned a great sight seeing adventure for us: The Mercedes Benz Museum of Stuttgart!
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Of all the museums I’ve been to in my life, this one trumps all for the best laid out touring plans! You ride a very special elevator (Micha’s Dad works for the company who designed it) to the top floor, then walk down in a circle, stopping at each floor below to see various models and categories of cars. No where to get lost or waylaid…just walk in a circle and you’ll see it all. When you reach the bottom, you know that’s the end! It was so simple and easy. Museums at their finest, folks!

Naturally, the top level started off with the oldest models and they got newer (basically by the decade) as you went down.

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Maria and Miriam, Micha’s sister:

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There were two displays that you were allowed to get in, and Natasha loved driving the bus:

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Here’s the one I would have taken home:

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After finishing up, we had snacks and headed to Königstrasse for some shopping. One particular department store entertained these youngsters while I picked out a few gifts for family back home.

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A delightful supper was laid out for us when we got back to Micha’s home, and there we met his Dad. We all enjoyed sitting around the table, laughing, sharing stories and eating homemade bread, sliced meat, fruit and cheese. For dessert? More cake, with ice cream and an added treat of various chocolate bars from the nearby factory, Ritter Sport. Do you know how to properly open a Ritter Sport square of chocolate? We do! A fun, fun day indeed. :)

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Catching up on Summer

Folks, it’s almost September. Not that I mind…I love fall and if it was an extremely hot summer I’m more than happy to say goodbye to summer’s heat and humidity. Thankfully this summer has been practically perfect in every way for me. Not many miserable days and cool evenings. Anyhow…fall is coming.

These are a few fun times we spent on July 4th with the family, while waiting for fireworks. :)

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The pyramid didn’t last too long…

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And these crazy fellows are always trying to do human flags off of anything. Including fellow humans.

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Next we tried dips:

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Daniel said, “You guys are as steady as jello!”

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Returning

Our adventure in Panama had come to a close. We spent a little over 5 months there, and loved it all. It will always have a special place in our hearts.

Pause.

Okay, before I start sniffling, I’ll move on.

We caught the bus right outside our apartment, and ride 2 1/2 hours back down the mountain from El Valle de Anton, to Panama City for our flight to Miami. I loved the views on the way down:

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Partway there, we realized that we had forgotten to leave our apartment key with the landlords! So we fiddled around a wee bit, and managed to wrap it up in an old laundry detergent box, and tried to communicate with the bus attendant that we needed this “parcel” to return to El Valle when he returned. (In our limited Spanish…all the while praying he wouldn’t take advantage of the situation and…peak.) Daniel told him this needed to go to the house where we were picked up and the naturally, he wanted paid, and of course, asked what was inside the little box. Daniel cautiously replied, “It’s for her house.” We did followup on that transaction, and were relieved to find out our hostess did receive her key. Whew!

Here’s a view from my seat, with our little American, blue-eyed passenger, crossing the Panama Canal:

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We took a taxi from the Panama City bus station across town to the airport and…flew home. First stop: Miami.

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We spent the night there, before catching our flight out of Ft. Lauderdale the next morning.

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While waiting for our flight, I watched the sunrise, and we had the most expensive banana ever purchased, along with a breakfast scramble for our morning nutrition. Natasha then followed it up by her morning workout by dancing to the classical music from the intercom.

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You can catch up with the rest of our adventure, back in the States here. And…I think that officially concludes our Panamanian updates, more than a year after the adventure. :-/ Now I can hopefully stay more updated with current events and pictures. The main difference? Natasha has more hair.

Riding the {Full} Bus

After hiking for about three hours, with nothing more to eat but a few cashews, we 5 decided we were hungry. It was high time to find a bathroom and some sustenance. Since we were not interested in walking any further than we absolutely had to, a bus seemed to be just the ticket back to town, ie: food. It seems lots of others have had this same thought, since there was a little building built especially for folks who are waiting on buses, right down from the hiking trial.

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We gladly took refuge on the roomy seats provided, and waited.

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The smallest of the group got a diaper change, and the Momma of the smallest one hoped the bus wouldn’t come at the exact moment between wet and dry diapers. It didn’t. So we waited some more.

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We listened for vehicles, in hopes they might be public transportation…

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And filled our memory cards.

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After a while, this exact bus came along:

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We all hurried to gather our bags, cameras, child, and selves and piled in. Daniel, Natasha and I sat in the first seat right behind the driver, with Lynette and Melody taking the seat directly behind us. So we settled in for the 15 min drive down the mountain, back to town. You might notice on this road sign that the arrow to town, points left. We didn’t go that direction. We went the opposite direction, and for a bit, I wondered if we’d have to pay extra for the detour. But all we were doing was delivering a fellow to a lane, where his little brother was waiting with the bus fare.

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Once we were turned around and headed in the “correct” direction, we ended up back at the little red tiled-roof bus stop. Where we came to a stop and the driver, bus boy and front seat passenger abandoned us. They gathered round back for a smoke break, while we 5 Americans, another foreigner and a couple locals waited in the still running van. After a suitable amount of time, they rejoined us and away we went down the mountain.

Not every bus passenger waits under a nice roofed shelter like we did. If you need a ride, it’s quite common to simply stand near the road and wave or nod to acknowledge your need of transportation to the driver or bus boy, when the bus comes by. We had several folks join us in this manner.

The bus boy is the one in charge of opening and shutting the sliding door, taking payment and dispersing change. He sits right inside the sliding door behind the passenger seat and hangs his hand out the window, inquiring to possible passengers as we fly by, to “speak up quick” if they need a ride, and so on. As the bus fills up, he also has the honor of doing the seating arrangements. It is this last job description that amused us greatly on this particular bus ride.

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After the “false start”, we passengers were comprised of an Indian lady with a baby in the back seat and the before mentioned gringo, a somewhat shifty looking guy with a diamond earring, and a random fellow in the front seat. We gradually picked up more along the way, which is the fun part. I don’t really remember who all came in what order, but we accumulated a lady with a 7 or 8 year old boy, a well cologned young Indian guy, a couple coffee pickers, and a tidy dressed coffee farmer. Soon however, all the “normal” seats were occupied, and we were close approaching the issue of  infringing upon the ‘personal space’ of proper bus seating passengers.

At the next stop there were at least 3 men in line to get on.  This might have also been when I realized that there just really were not enough seats for everyone, but obviously, they still wanted to pile more in. Since I was married to the guy sitting on my left, I asked him if I could sit on his lap. That opened up one more seat. Melody soon followed suit and perched herself on Lynette’s lap, creating about 13 more inches on the seat and enough space for one more person. By this time, Natasha was standing between Daniel’s leg and the side of the bus, *right* behind the driver’s seat.

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This is when the bus boy got creative. When we stopped the next time, it was for at least 3 more men who needed a ride and the bus boy asked the lady with the young boy to move over. He wanted to seat 4 people on the seat she was in. (The boy was already sitting on her lap.) She declared this was outrageous, the seat was only meant for 3! So she climbed out and stood at the side of the road with her arms crossed, huffing slightly. She simply stated, “He wants someone to sit on my legs!”

All the while, several coffee pickers were laying on their backs, relaxing at the edge of a coffee field, arms akimbo behind their heads, watching the whole plot. They were certainly amused outside the bus as we were inside! Somehow the seating got arranged, things were smoothed over with the disgruntled bus passenger, and she joined us in the bus again.

We Americans started snickering (politely, of course) at the situation, and rode along quite merrily, carefully watching our heads (not to hit the ceiling, you know) and counting people as inconspicuously as possible. I hope we represented the happier side of things for the Panamanian riders.

Melody counted up a grand total of 25 people in the bus. Now, we know there are amazing records for this type of thing, and we certainly didn’t break any, but it was all rather eventful and memorable to us.

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Natasha was keeping herself occupied this whole time by singing quietly to herself, peering out the window, (as much as she could see by standing on tip-toes,) and twisting round and round. She did keep mentioning to us that she was “tuck”…and we kept responding, “Yes dear, we’re all stuck.”

At one stop, (this might have been when one fellow got OUT to walk because there were too many inside) the little boy’s fingers got caught in the seal of the sliding door. He never cried out, but a fellow passenger did, and the bus boy calmly opened the door to release the fingers, and closed it again, never saying a word. The little boy just flexed his fingers and sat quietly.

When we finally arrived in town, we all climbed out, gathering parcels and backpacks accordingly. I crawled out as quickly as possible, but forgot that Daniel still needed to pay, and we had a toddler in there somewhere. So I went back for the toddler to ease Daniel’s responsibility and he handed Natasha out with one hand and her pants in the other. Yep, in all her twisting and being stuck, her pants (and one sandal) had come clean off!

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So we dressed our diaper clad girlie right there on the street, with the locals looking on.

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And then directly went in search of food, on wobbly legs that come after walking and walking for hours and then sitting for a few minutes, laughing the whole way.