2017 Christmas Letter

Greetings Family and Friends,

I started writing a yearly Christmas Letter some years back. As I have mentioned in the past, it is a “highlights reel” of the year, which of course doesn’t mean that my life is one rosy picture. It is, however, a reminder (to myself) that at the end of the day (and year), it is important to focus on the good with gratitude and thankfulness. When it comes down to it, in the overall scheme of life, I am blessed

When 2017 began, I had one main goal (outside of traveling) for the year. That was to finish the anthology, which is called The Outpouring. It was completed, and we had a book launch party for it in February. I am very proud of it. I learned a lot after Illuminations was published, and I think The Outpouring reflects it. Both are available on Amazon or through me. I am very thankful to those friends and family who took the time to support me and the other writers.

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For my yearly “big” trip, I went to New Zealand (Christchurch and Queenstown, plus some day trips around the areas) and Australia (Perth and some day trips around the area). I was in New Zealand for nine nights and Perth for six nights. The weather was super nice in both places, though warmer in Australia. I loved the beauty of New Zealand. The further south I went, the more enchanting it was. For a small country, there is so much to see. What I saw is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want to read about my trip, it is in my blog. In case you missed it, here is the first entry.

Trip Highlights (in order of appearance – sort of):

  • The best part of any trip is the wonderful people you encounter along the way. And even if I never see them again, they are a vivid speck in my memory bank.
  • I stayed at an Airbnb in Christchurch and enjoyed meeting my host, Miliana, and my housemate, Johannes. Both very good people.
  • I enjoyed reluctantly hiking to Taylor’s Mistake and then purposefully hiking Godley Head.
  • I spent a lovely day driving to Akaroa and back with Johannes. We stopped for many pictures on the way there and back. It was just so beautiful. It was hard to take a bad picture. I enjoyed walking around Akaroa with Johannes complete with a nice picnic lunch.
  • I had a surprisingly lovely time walking around Mona Vale, a garden in Christchurch. I also enjoyed Riccarton Bush because it felt like I was in a forest.
  • Queenstown was absolutely beautiful as well. Despite it being busier, I still felt relaxed while I was there. Water and mountains. How could you go wrong?
  • Milford Sound is one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been, period. The boat ride to the mouth of the Tasman Sea was too perfect for words.
  • It was awesome to visit Gabriela in Perth and have conversations with her about life and relationships. I enjoyed our walks and our dinners. I was also inspired to make some moves when I got back that I normally would not have done.
  • Spending the day in Freemantle with Gabriela, her sister Carla and Carla’s family was awesome. I thought Freemantle had a great heartbeat. I thoroughly enjoyed the home cooked meal Carla prepared for us and meeting her family. I loved the market there and met someone who is selling his art, which inspired me.
  • Seeing a humpback whale on the boat ride to Rottnest Island and seeing the Port of Freemantle up close and personal on the boat ride to and from this island.
  • I loved the central location of where I stayed in the cities I visited. It made it so easy to get around.
  • Each trip has a song that connects to it. This trip the song is a toss-up between “The Misty Mountains Cold” and “Song of the Lonely Mountain.” from the Hobbit. Because, let’s face it, I was in Lord of the Rings and Hobbit country.
  • And of course just walking around each city is always fun. You never know what is around the corner, and it is always fun to chat up other tourists.

I remain grateful for the gift of travel. It is a reminder that regardless of race, politics, religion, etc. the majority of people pretty much want the same thing.

 

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For more pictures, visit my Shutterfly page.

Password is: italia

I did a few smaller trips as well. In March, I took a quick trip to Long Beach for my job. I got to see my buddies from other port cities, so it is a very enjoyable business trip. Long days and exhausting but fun and a great time to catch up with some of the amazing people I have met in the port industry. I also had a chance to hang out with Samarah and Mary for a minute.

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I was able to go to Victoria to see Alice over Memorial Day Weekend and again in August. I am glad to have her back in North America, though I would love to visit her in Hong Kong again. Alas, I discovered Legos while visiting her. I have yet to take the plunge, but they are calling me. Victoria is just a great place to go for a quick weekend getaway.

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I was able to go to Los Angeles during Labor Day weekend and that was super fun. I had not been to Los Angeles in a long time. I was able to stay with Samarah and had a chance to visit with Mary and her family. I saw Mary three times this year. Twice in Southern Cal and once here. I particularly enjoyed visiting Venice Beach and the flea market in Melrose. It was inspiring to see people pursuing their passion. I made the goal of getting out more in Seattle. So far I have done two First Thursdays and a First Wednesday. I also want to hit up some markets when the weather gets better.

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I even did a day trip to Leavenworth.

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The fitness journey I began in January 2014 continues. I am at the point where I am trying to maintain. I was able to get off of blood pressure meds last year and that has been sustained. I did three 5Ks in 2017. In February, I did my first Mardi Gras 5K with Erica. In March, I did my sixth St. Patrick’s Day Dash, which is a 5K, with Kim and Katherine. In April, I did my first Brunch Run 5K, with Kim and Katherine. Let me say that is the best race ever! In June, I walked my fifth half-marathon (the Rock N Roll Seattle), and in November, I walked my sixth (the Seattle Marathon). The route for the Seattle was changed, and I am still complaining loudly about it. Too hilly. I would still love to do the Rock N Roll in Lisbon, Madrid, Dublin or Las Vegas.

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I also went on my first hike at Rattlesnake Ledge.

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It’s hard to believe my church newsletter is entering its 17th year! Where did the time go? As I mentioned before, I am so excited that the second anthology was published. Writing is something I need to do more of. Writing has always helped me focus. It is something I am passionate about, and it is something that I have been gifted in. The time is there, I just need to use it. It just seems like there is always something there to distract me. I need to focus. I have more writing goals for 2018.

I continue to try to fight the power through words. I am not impressed by what I see happening in Washington. I am very troubled by what I consider to be the silence of “friends” on issues.

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/03/29/the-importance-of-international-trade/

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/reflections-from-a-free-lunch-kid/

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/08/25/the-state-of-union/

https://latonjab.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/the-importance-of-international-trade-act-two/

I general, my prayer for 2018 is that I spend less time thinking about/talking about what I am going to do or want to do and spend more time just doing.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas, and I wish you a Happy New Year!

love. hug. xoxo.

ltb

 

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Rottnest Island

Today I got up bright and early to take the 8:30 ferry over to Rottnest Island. It was a place that was recommended by locals as well as travel guides. I was lucky enough to be given a coupon from an Entertainment book that gave me 25% off the fare. I will note that in looking at some of the local brochures, some of them had coupons ranging from 10% to 20% of various excursion, so they could be worth checking out.

 

I caught the ferry in Perth and there was also a stop in Fremantle. I was excited because I was able to get some shots of the port from the water. There was another CMA CGM vessel (I assume it is different than the one I saw on Sunday, otherwise they have very slow productivity) and there was also a China Shipping vessel at berth.

 

On the way there, we saw a humpback whale. I was so excited. There was a period when I dreamed about seeing whales all the time. This is my second time seeing a whale outside of dream land. The first time was a few years back.

 

It was a nice boat ride over. The weather was very nice. On the way there, I sat on the top level in the back. On the way back, I sat on the top level toward the front. The people in the first row on the left, got soaked . Especially the person in the first seat.

 

In terms of wildlife, I saw a two lizards and tons of quokkas, which were not too interested in humans. I read that Rottnest is one of the few places quokkas can be found in the wild. They reminded me of huge rats, and they have a funny gait.

 

I walked to one of the lighthouses and to Oliver Hill. If I had planned better, I would have worn other shoes. Otherwise, I could have walked in the trails and seen more. I would recommend bringing a backpack filled with snacks, plenty of water and sunscreen. I didn’t pack sunscreen this trip, and my skin is paying for it. The sun in this hemisphere is different than at home.

 

I met Gaby at the quay, and we went out for a belated birthday dinner for her. The weather was nice, so we were able to sit outside. We went Isle of Voyage. The food was okay and the service was bad. Luckily the company was good.

 

Excuse any typos. I will edit when I get home.

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Perth

I spent today wandering around Perth with Gaby.

 

We started in Kings Park. The park was original named Perth Park but was changed to King’s Park to celebrate Edward VII becoming king. Then the apostrophe was dropped. The garden is huge, over 1,000 acres, so I got a taste of it. It’s the largest inner-city park in the world. We walked, talked and had a picnic lunch. I have some assignments to do when I return home. Hee hee. There is also a botanical garden. It was a nice park and worth the visit. I may go there again before I leave.

 

Oh. I love the bus ride-free zone that is in the central business district. It reminded me of back in the day when Seattle had a ride-free zone. There are also some CAT buses that are free and go to areas around the downtown area. It’s a huge money saver.

 

After that, we were walking to the Northbridge area, which Gaby describes as being similar to Capitol Hill. When we passed by the Art Gallery, it had signage about a free exhibit about the life and photos of Heath Ledger. We dropped in to see it. I had no idea that Heath Ledger was from Perth. The showcase had video, props, his awards (included the Oscar and Golden Globe) and photos he had taken. He had a really good eye. I never heard he speak with an accent (I guess I have never seen him give an interview), but I was able to see some clips with his “real voice.” It was a good exhibit, and like I said, he had some nice photographs.

 

We did a stroll through Northbridge and then went to the library followed by St. George’s Cathedral, which was built between 1879 and 1888. It was quite lovely. There was some lovely stained-glass windows.

 

We went to Victoria Gardens, which was nice. I liked the neighborhood surrounded the park. Though it was close to the Central Business District, it felt faraway. It is also served by the free yellow CAT bus. It would be a great place to live if you worked in the CBD.

 

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Perth, Fremantle

It is currently early Monday morning, 6:39 a.m. Since I last wrote, I have made my way to Perth, Australia.

 

Saturday morning, I checked out of my hotel in Queenstown. I left my luggage, and I went for a final stroll of the city for this trip. I had not been to the Queenstown Garden, so I walked through that enjoying the nice weather. I sat along the waterfront and reflected on the beauty that is Queenstown.

 

I made me way to the airport, and I settled in waiting for boarding.

 

The flight from Queenstown to Auckland was short. The flight from Auckland to Perth was seven hours. I spent the time watching the first seven episodes of the Handmaiden’s Tale, which is quite good. I will note that the seven-hour flight on Air New Zealand (international) did not include a complimentary meal. You had to pay for it. Air New Zealand, you can do better than that. Come on. It’s a long flight and international.

 

I arrived in Perth, and I was met by Gaby and her sister Carla. We made our way to Gaby’s place, and I settled in and ate a late dinner with Gaby and caught up. Perth is five hours behind Queenstown, so my body was a bit confused. I had a great night’s sleep.

 

Yesterday, I was up early catching up on everything but blogging.

 

Gaby and I went to Queen’s Garden. I loved all of the lily pads in the ponds and the roses were in full-bloom and smelled quite lovely. The park was named for Queen Victoria for her diamond jubilee. It is a great place for a wedding. In fact, when we entered the park, a soon-to-be bride was timing her processional with music.

 

The next stop was Langley Park as we made our way to Elizabeth Quay. The park runs along the Swan River. On a nice Sunday morning, there were plenty of runners, walkers and bikers enjoying the day. The quay opened in 2016 and is a nice open space with a promenade, restaurants and art. There is still plans to do more.

 

We walked along Hay Street and its pedestrian area and along Murray Street, which had market vendors. We also walked up London Court.

 

We took the train to Fremantle. On the train ride, I was able to see the port. There always seems to be a CMA CGM ship whenever I randomly see a port. There were also some autos stored on the yard. Fremantle is definitely a port city with a vibrate working waterfront. There were also fishing vessels moored further down. In fact, the area was teeming. Partly because of the fabulous market and partly because the day we went was the blessing of the fishing fleet.

 

Gaby and I made our way up “Cappuccino Strip” to the market. The market was a live with people and there were vendors selling everything from food to clothes to popcorn to candles to tea. I came across an artist doing what looked like photo transfer. So I asked him, and that is what he was doing. He was transferring photos on to wood. His name is Rupert, and had been a journalist for 15 years before settling over to his passion. We chatted with him for a while. It was awesome.

 

We walked along the water and through the Esplanade park. The fishing vessels that are about to go out were being blessed. The city has an Italian influence and there were a lot of food vendors for Little Italy by the Sea. We walked to the Roundhouse Prison and sat by the water. The prison had two volunteers who were very knowledgeable about the prison and obviously were passionate about the subject.

 

We were then joined by Carla and her awesome family, and we did some more walking around and talking. There was a processional for the blessing of the fleet and there were fireworks.

We went to Carla’s house, and we chatted. The kids gave me a tour of their garden and showed me a Star Wars X-box game. Carla prepared a delicious meal for us complete with lovely homemade dessert. It was a very lovely day with an awesome family. I didn’t want the time to end.

 

After returning to Gaby’s, I headed straight to bed.

 

I have to say I loved Fremantle. It had a very strong heartbeat and vibe. The weather was lovely and there were a lot of families out enjoying the market, blessing of the fleet and the waterfront activities.

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Queenstown

“One stage of your journey is over, another begins,” Gandalf.

 

Today, the second part of my adventure began.

 

I got up bright and early to make my way to the Christchurch Airport. Sometime between my leaving the house and getting to the airport, an email was sent saying my flight had been delayed. My original flight was scheduled to leave at 10:10 and arrive at 11:05. We didn’t start boarding until after 11:00, which means we were leaving when we should have already arrived. Yet and still, I had a chance to sit there and journal while I waited. I call it in my yearly State of the Union where I write out what I am thinking about all the areas of my life. This mind is constantly moving, but when I take my big trip, it is a time to reset and really have honest conversation about work life, relationships, ministry and other areas of my life.

 

When I arrived, it was raining. I took the public bus, and the driver was kind enough to tell me where to get off. I am about a five minute walk from the city center (downhill) and let’s say double that coming back uphill. LOL! Again, all of these hills are prep for the Seattle half.

 

The owners’ son checked me in and gave me some advice of what were the top things to do. Two of three things he mentioned were already on my radar.

 

I got checked in, and I settled in. I was going to stay at an Airbnb, but the original place I booked cancelled me. I decided to research hotels, and I was able to find a place that there wasn’t that much more than some of the Airbnb prices.

 

Between the rain and getting up early, I decided on a short disco nap. It felt really nice!

 

By the time I got up, the rain was gone. That was the first rain I have had all trip, and according to the forecast, I should not see anymore. Actually the weather starts to really warm up.

 

So I did a venture into town to get my bearings. I have to say, this place is breathtaking. The water and the mountains come together in a lovely way. I am glad I came here. I debated here and Auckland, and I think I made the right choice. I have to say it is a little pricey. It is certainly a tourist town. On the way down, it seemed like most of the people on the plane had American accents.

 

When I was checking into the domestic terminal in Auckland, I was chatting with one of their agents (would be the same as TSA in the states). He asked if I was going to Queenstown, and I said yes. He laughed and said a lot of Americans do, and that we could see the same thing in Wyoming for a lot cheaper. It made me laugh. I was like, maybe, but what is the fun in that. I remember vaguely driving through Wyoming as a child, but I have no memory of it. If Wyoming looks like this, I will certainly have to check it out! More later.

 

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Christchurch – Day Three

While yesterday was park day in Christchurch, today was museum day. I don’t always have a chance to visit museums when I travel. I am always glad when I do make an effort to do so. When I was weighing how much time to spend in each place, I was balancing two things. One is time. While I would love to see everything on the island, I am mindful that I don’t want to be going all of the time. One reason I decided on Christchurch and the number of nights here is because I figured I could do some day trips and also have the time to explore the city at my leisure.

 

I went to the Art Center. Part of the block is still under construction. One of the buildings that is opened is the Great Hall. There is a large stained-glass window from 1938 that was in dedication to college students who died in WWI. There was a family there while I was there with American accents. We started chatting, and I learned that they now live in Auckland. Long story short, before they departed, she told me she was a blogger and gave me her card. I was like, “So am I.” I so need to have some business cards done. Devlin, if you are reading this, I will be coming to you for help with the design.

 

Here is her blog. Blog goals!

 

https://www.albomadventures.com/

 

Another blog goal is a person who has liked some of my travel posts from this trip.

 

https://lovetravellingallaroundtheworld.wordpress.com/

 

The next stop was the Canterbury Museum. There was a mummy and artifacts from Egypt. Egypt is still high on my places of where I want to go. There was also some dinosaur bones. There were some exhibits about the first settlers and their primitive ways of life. My favorite exhibit was Hākui: Women of Kāi Tahu. It featured the lives and legacies of women.  The word hākui is a word used as sign of respect to a female elder. It was a well done exhibit, and it was interesting to read some of the stories.

 

Then I went to the Christchurch Art Gallery. I always end up staying way longer than I plan when I go to museums. A few minutes after I arrived, they announced that a free guided tour would be begin in five minutes, so I thought, “What the heck.” There were four of us (including the guide), but one of the ladies had to leave. It was supposed to be a 45-minute tour, but we ended up talking and walking for two hours. As most of you know, I am not a fan of modern art. There were some good oil on canvas pieces that I liked tremendously. There was also sculptures from the artist Len Lye. They had moving parts that would start at intervals. The artist was very interested in movement. The two that stood out for me were Grass and Fire Bush. I loved the red in the latter.

 

Today has been very inspiring. I need to make a habit of staying connected to art.

 

Today’s blooper. I am extremely sensitive to being followed around when shopping. It happens way more than it should. And to the cut to the chase, it’s because of my skin color. This is the reason I stopped shopping at the Trader Joe’s near my house. It’s hard to not “look guilty” or “look suspicious” when the real reason is my skin color. Anyway, out of the corner of my eye, I kept seeing this guard whenever I passed this one area. It was getting annoying as hell. Long story short, the guard was a statue that was on display. I am smiling and laughing writing this. But to quote a former coworker, “Just because I am paranoid doesn’t mean they are not following me.” Or maybe it is “talking about me.”

Photo of me, my hostess, Miliana, and housemate, Johannes.

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Christchurch

Today ended up being a day in the park kind of day. I started off at Hagley Park. Today is a holiday in New Zealand (it’s Monday), so there were a lot of families out and about enjoying the nice weather.

 

After that, I went to Mona Vale, which is a very nice garden. It felt so far away from the city, even though it was quite close. It reminded me of the Arboretum. Because it is spring, the roses weren’t out, but I imagine the rose garden is quite nice. Speaking of spring, I forgot to mention that I saw a lilac tree yesterday in Akaroa. I smelled it before I saw it. I so love the smell of lilacs. It was a special treat. The Avon River flows through the Mona Vale, and I got some good shots there.

 

The highlight of the day for me was Riccarton Bush. I felt like I was in forest when I ventured into the grove area. The area is the remnants of the Canterbury original forest. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went, but it blew my mind. It was so quiet. No city noise. Just the sound of birds and animals moving around. I would recommend this place as a much see, and it is free. According to my guidebook, some of the kahikatea trees are half-millennium-old. I really like tree trunks, and I like to see old roots that seem to pop out of the ground. The roots run deep.

 

I also went to the Botanical Gardens, which is next to Hagley Park. I enjoyed it. I don’t think I saw all of it. I was started to get tired, and I had been walking quite a bit by then.

 

But alas, I did keep walking. I had been eyeing the tram even though I thought it was kind of pricey. So I decided to walk the loop map. It didn’t take me anywhere new, but it was a sure fire way to see all of the main spots in the center. I also walked it out of order as I added in the parks where they fell along the route.

 

So I took the route: Cathedral Junction – New Regent Street – Victoria Square (which is closed) – Casino – Cranmer Square – Hagley Park Corner – I then ventured off course to go Mona Vale and Riccarton Bush and the Botanic Garden – before coming back on line for Worcester Boulevard – Art Gallery – City Punting – Cathedral Square – Mill Island – The Terrace – Ballantynes – Manchester – The Crossing – High Street. So a little out of order. It was a good walk though.

 

No bloopers to report. It’s only 8:30 p.m. right now, but I feel really tired so will go to bed early. I feel like I am getting good rest. I have just been doing a lot of walking.

 

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