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May 27, 2004 - Guatemala

(Written May 27th)

My last days in India were as conflicted as the rest of my six-month visit. It was hard, as usual, to leave some very good friends; but I was ready.

During the month and a half that I spent in the US, I visited Jan and her fiancée, Bill in Seattle and Mitch and Melissa in Atlanta. I also saw my brother, Dick, and sister-in-law, Margaret, and Uncle Bob and Elaine in Connecticut including one week of house-sitting in Bob and Elaine’s home……luxuriating in the rare chance to be alone.)

I loved seeing them all and there was a lot of warm family togetherness and some good talks. Everyone is doing well. Jan and Melissa are both back in school, Jan in psychology at LEOS in Seattle, and Melissa, catching up on pre-med courses in Atlanta so she will be prepared to apply to veterinary school. Jan is getting married in Mexico in December; and Mitch and Melissa are, as I write this, adopting a gorgeous baby boy in Guatemala. It’s all very exciting and there’s a general high in the family. I am writing this while in Guatemala with Melissa; they are foster-parenting the baby during the months prior to the finalization of the adoption. No one can tell us exactly when the paper work will be finished, but Melissa and I will probably be here into the beginning of August, and Mitch will be coming down every couple of weeks.

The part of my U.S. stay that did not involve family was a visit….for ten days….to the bayou country of Louisiana. I had never visited that part of the state and for a long time I had been interested in knowing about the Cajun culture. I wanted to hang out with alligators and learn about the ecological problems of the area. So when I got an invitation from Deborah Schultz of the Barrataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program to join a four-day paddle trip in November, I was disappointed that I was going to be in India. I wrote declining and asked if there was another time I could visit. We worked it out.

Deborah hosted me (in Thibodoux) and planned my bayou adventures. She did a great job. I got to canoe and camp with a great group of people during Easter weekend. I also managed to get poison ivy all over my legs and slip on a wet slope and maybe break a rib (I didn’t do anything about it. Still hurts a little.); I saw, but managed to avoid, fire ants, snakes, and lots of alligators! We visited an amazing bird rookery (a natural area, not something created by humans) where thousands of wading birds were mating, nesting, and feeding their young in a huge swampy area. (I am down here in Guatemala writing this and I can’t think of the name of the area.)There were alligators in the swamp under the trees, protecting the birds and lurking, in hope that a fledgling might fall out of a nest and become lunch. It was pretty amazing.

Deborah also introduced me to a number of her friends, including a Cajun couple, Frank & Joyce Naquin ( ), who fed me crawfish in an etoufee (great dish!) and alligator meat, just so I would experience it (a slightly tough beefy taste). Joyce took me on a bayou boat tour and they both took me and some guests down to their “camp” where we were surrounded by shrimp boats. Joyce and Frank have a B&B in Thibodoux. If any of you are interested in exploring the Cajun world, they’d be a great family to stay with. They’re delightful people, speak French as well as English, and frequently have French and Canadian guests in their home.

Deborah and I went to see migratory birds on Grande Isle….but most of them had gone north by the time we arrived. During my stay I received a fantastic and troubling education about the ecological disaster that is lurking like the alligators in this part of the U.S. Probably the most dramatic statistic is that the state of Louisiana is losing 25 square miles of wetlands (an area around the size of NYC) every year. It’s a national disaster in the process of happening. The problem began when the Army Corps of Engineers built levees along the Mississippi River to stop the flooding and natural rerouting of the river. But, of course, the flooding had a purpose, and the ecological results of the levees are destroying habitats, trees, fertile land, shrimping, and much much more. Oil pipelines are also causing problems. For those of you who are interested in knowing more, click here for some articles that Deborah agreed to let us link to.

And finally…………Guatemala. And my pal and first grandchild, Cristofer. He was born on March 3rd. The most beautiful baby in the world…………and the smartest…..even though he wakes up too frequently in the middle of the night. Mitch and Melissa’s experience of the adoption process has been smooth and caring through World Child. I came in at the end of it, when all the home visits and thousands of pages of paperwork were finished. I get to make him laugh, give him bottles, and push him in a stroller around the house whenever he wants to go for a ride. I also get to give him back to Melissa when he has a dirty diaper or decides he feels like crying.

I am writing this on May 27th. It will be at least another five weeks before the adoption is completed and we can take him out of the country. Probably longer. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the cool weather, the renewal of my tired Spanish, and beautiful Antigua.

That’s it for now. Ciao.

Hooray, I’m done!



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