Where in the World?

I am in Oslo, Norway, right now and I’ve been doing a little work on the blog. (I just got my Christmas 2018 post up and I’m working on Christmas 2017!) It made me wonder where all I’ve been and where I have yet to go. Just for fun, here are my global and U.S. travel maps. (To “count” I had to do more than drive through or transit in an airport.)

My global travel map (May 2019)
My U.S. travel map (May 2019)

I’ve traveled far and wide (41 of the 50 U.S. states–plus D.C.–and 20) countries–plus Vatican City). There are, of course, lots of gaps (Africa, the Middle East, the Caucuses).

The girls have traveled their own share of miles. Here are our family maps, as best I can remember them. To be included on this map, at least one of the girls had to be on the trip (e.g. Willa wasn’t born yet when we went to Germany). You can see the line of states that take us from NE to MI and CT!

Family global travel map (May 2019)
Family U.S. travel map (May 2019)

VT – CT – NYC

This year we headed east for Christmas with stops in VT, CT and NYC!  First up: Stratton Mountain, VT.

We were sooo looking forward to a few days of skiing, but sadly, the weather did not cooperate.  Torrential downpours followed by wicked winds and low temps made the first two days a bit of a bust, but hearty New Englanders that we are, we managed to get the girls on skis and down the bunny slope by the second afternoon. (Thank goodness for a covered magic carpet that provided a little break from the wind!)  We then made the most of clear skies and manmade snow on day 3.

Nola took off–cautiously–right away and really improved over the course of a day and a half.  She even made it top-to-bottom on Stratton’s long beginner trail.  Willa was a bit more skeptical, but once turning clicked, she was off carving some pretty amazing (nearly parallel!) turns.  She was a speed fiend but never quite picked up stopping, so she was a bit of a wild card out there!

After our time skiing, we headed back to CT for Christmas and family time.  We did some crafts with Mama, went skating at Papa’s rink and enjoyed every last minute of Sonny’s Christmas festivities.

Before heading back to Nebraska, we took a day to enjoy NYC.  We joined all of our closest friends from the tri-state area and everywhere else around the globe.  (I love being in the city but it felt like a zoo even to me.)  The girls’ favorite part of the day was wandering around Central Park and “bouldering” on all rocks and crags.  Both girls want to go back to explore the city more, but the next time we go, we’ll have to make sure it’s not holiday break.

All told, it was a fun week back East and a great way to wrap up 2018!

Sommartid in Sweden

 

Last summer I had the chance to go to a conference in Uppsala, Sweden, and decided to make my work trip a girls trip.  Our youngest, W, had a very sweet obsession with all things Swedish, so it only seemed right that she get to see Sweden for herself.  Her big sister and my mom also came along, and we enjoyed spending time together exploring a little piece of Scandinavia.  I’m also happy to report that Sweden lived up to W’s (high) expectations!

We began our trip in Stockholm.  We spent the first couple days wandering the Gamla Stan and exploring the Stockholm Cathedral and the Royal Palace, where we even had a (brief!) princess sighting!

 

We lucked out with great weather and spent two fun days out in the sun at Gröna Lund, Stockholm’s throw-back amusement park, and Skansen, an open air museum that chronicles Sweden’s agrarian past.  The girls really enjoyed the pony rides and traditional games at Skansen and rode ALL the kid rides at Gröna Lund!  All four of us enjoyed the Vasa Museum, which houses a 17th century warship that sailed for only a few minutes before it sunk into the Stockholm harbor, where it stayed for 333 years before it was salvaged in 1961.

 

After our time in Stockholm, we took the train up to Uppsala, where my mom and the girls explored every playground in the city and I went off to a really stimulating conference on ending atrocities at Uppsala University.

 

It was a great trip and, as always, the best part of traveling with the girls is watching them learn, explore and enjoy their time with each other.

A Carolina Wedding and Birthday

It’s the end of May 2018 and I’m well behind on updating the blog.  One of my 2018 resolutions is to get caught up, and needless to say, I haven’t been faring well… That doesn’t mean we haven’t been traveling, through.  As a family over the past year, we traveled to Connecticut (a few times), Breckenridge, C.O., upstate New York and even Hawaii for Christmas in 2017.  I’ve also hit the road for work, making my way to Baltimore, Colombo, New York, Ojai, San Francisco (twice),  Seoul and Vancouver, plus a couple places I’m likely forgetting.  Phew.

One of the trip that I’ve been wanting to write about was our family trip to Charlotte, North Carolina laaast April (2017).  We celebrated W’s fourth birthday and my cousin’s wedding.  Plus, we got to enjoy a lovely spring weekend in Charlotte!

Charlotte is a tidy but spunky city and we really enjoyed all of the parks and public spaces and playgrounds.  The girls obviously enjoyed splashing in the many little fountains and W even–accidentally–took a little dip in one of them.  🙂

We also really enjoyed Discovery Place Science, Charlotte’s top-notch science and children’s museum.  It was a really engaging and interactive museum and we all had fun learning and experimenting.  We would highly recommend it for kids and adults alike!

Of course, the highlight of the trip was the wedding and spending time with our family and celebrating C&J’s marriage!

Winter Park, CO

A full 15 months and a handful of incredible trips have passed by since my last post, but I’m committed to getting back on track in 2018, and this past weekend provided just the chance.  C and I recently celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary and decided to commemorate the occasion with a long weekend in Winter Park, CO.  As kids and college students, we logged 50+ on-snow days a year (C was a ski racer and I was a ski instructor).  And now, well, now we live in the middle of the prairie.  So, we left the girls with my parents and off we went!

We got to Denver late Thursday morning and took our time enjoying a leisurely brunch at The Moonlight Diner.  After brunch, we started making our way through Denver and up to Winter Park.

Since we couldn’t get into our condo until later in the day, we spent our first afternoon cross-country skiing at the lovely Devil’s Thumb Ranch and Spa.

 

Neither of us have much experience with cross-country skiing and it is WORK, but it is satisfying work.  We started with an hour-long trail on classic skis, winding our way through the ranch in the stillness of fresh snow.  After a light lunch, we decided to try our luck with skate skis.  We thought we would do a shorter trail this time, but we got a bit off course and spent another hour and half on the trail. We got back into the lodge just as the wind was whipping up. We were wiped but happy.

Friday was a bright and sunny day, what the locals call “a bluebird day.” We took advantage of every minute of it. We skied across Winter Park’s diverse terrain, from rolling groomers to natural moguls up in the Parsenn Bowl. After lunch and a mid-afternoon coffee/Olympics break, I switched from skis to a snowboard and slowly got back into the rhythm of riding. We capped the day off with a hearty dinner and more Olympics-watching. Who knew curling could be so riveting – and I say this now with the utmost sincerity!

Windy, frigid temps and weekend crowds greeted us Saturday morning, but once we got past the base area, we found our groove. Our groove happened to be a classic double chairlift and powdery bumps in the glades. As Northeasterners, we know from skiing on ice, but skiing glades in the powder was a new—and pretty amazing—experience.

 

Navigating the moguls and the trees also kept us warm, even when the temps dipped well below zero. We ducked back into the condo to thaw and enjoy a long lunch (and more curling!) before heading back out. I was on my board again and we found some nice groomers over on Vasquez Ridge, but the wind was fierce. After a handful of runs, it was time to head back in, warm up, return our skis, do a little shopping, and pack up for the trip home the next morning.

Although it was just a quick little getaway, we had a fantastic time. We skied hard, took advantage of some much-needed downtime and simply enjoyed being together. The past ten years have brought so much joy into our lives; it was nice to take a moment to reflect on all that we are grateful for.

Pro-tip: Winter Park is great for confident intermediate or advanced skiers/riders and C and I would go there again if it were just the two of us, but we wouldn’t recommend it for kids or novices or even intermediates who prefer gentle, groomed terrain.

 

 

Mato Grosso do Sul – The Nebraska of Brazil

The last stop on our trip across Asia and Brazil was Campo Grande, a smallish city in the western Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Mato Grosso do Sul borders both Bolivia and Paraguay and is one of Brazil’s agricultural hubs. Much like Nebraska, Mato Grosso do Sul’s main economic drivers are corn, soy and cattle. While most tourists make their way to Mato Grosso do Sul to enjoy the natural beauty of the Patanal, and particularly the city of Bonito, our trip took us to the state capital and university town of Campo Grande.

We found ourselves in Campo Grande because C was invited to a conference on computer vision at the Universidade Católica Dom Bosco (UCDB). UNL has a growing partnership with UCDB and other universities in and around Campo Grande, and we were excited to continue to develop that relationship. After a productive week and the overwhelming generosity of our new colleagues and friends, we are even more enthusiastic.

One of the highlights of our stay was the Museu das Culturas Dom Bosco and the nearby Parque das Nações Indigenas. The museum is modest in scope but deep in meaning and nuance. Our hosts had arranged a special tour with two of the curators, and we learned so much from them and from the exhibits about the many indigenous groups in the Patanal and surrounding regions. The museum took tremendous care in creating the exhibits in such a way that the lighting and presentation of the materials reflect their role in indigenous life. In addition to the cultural history exhibitions, the museum also houses a natural history exhibit of fossils and insects and a collection of taxidermy animals from the Patanal. This included an anaconda, whose sheer enormity haunts me still. And I’m not even afraid of snakes. (Just hummingbirds, for the record. They’re too big for insects, too small for birds.)

The museum sits adjacent to the Parque das Nações Indigenas, which is a sprawling park with running and biking trails, playgrounds and a small lake. Oh, and capybaras. So many capybaras. For those of you who might not know who/what a capybara is, let me introduce you. The capybara is the world’s largest rodent, weighing in at about 110 lbs. They’re basically enormous hamsters that happen to be very social and very docile. When your city park is home to hundreds of them, this is a good thing!

It wasn’t all giant hamsters and taxidermy anacondas in Campo Grande. We did some serious work, too. I had the honor of visiting the Mato Grosso do Sul Public Prosecutor’s Office and meeting some of the team there. I was so inspired by their work fighting for the rights of women,

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This is a poster denouncing domestic violence/violence against women and reflects some of the work being done by the public prosecutor’s office.  Not-so-coincidentally, the story of Brazil’s law about violence against women is the opening anecdote to my 2014 book. 

children, indigenous communities and many other minority groups. They shared best practices from their public outreach campaigns, as well as some insights into how they use and integrate domestic and international human rights law. For those interested in human rights ombudspersons and public law, Brazil’s experience is worth noting. The Public Prosecutors play at least three roles: public defenders; human rights ombuds/NHRIs; and outreach/education coordinators. Needless to say, they are doing important work in difficult conditions.

I visited the Public Prosecutor’s Office the day after the election in U.S. It was perfect timing, as the people that I met there reminded me that the fight for justice and equality is never, ever easy but that it is always a fight worth fighting.

Heading Home

As our days in Campo Grande passed, we started to grapple with the fact that we were going home soon. C and the girls were ready. I was ready, too, in a way. Ready to be in our home with our beloved dog, ready to be around friends and family. But, if someone had offered us another week or month on the road, I probably would have taken it. It’s quite nice to live in a suspended reality, to be constantly moving around and learning new things and seeing new places, all while spending time with the people who matter most to you.

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São Paulo: Arte por arte, arte por política

We now have arrived safely at home and last week’s election has fundamentally changed the nature of both domestic and international politics. If I’m being honest, it has also cast a shadow on how I see the world. Yet, I still want to write about our time in São Paulo and, in another post, Campo Grande. I want to write about our old friends and our new colleagues; about the people we met that are trying to keep the ship afloat amidst real political and economic challenges in Brazil; and about the general warmth and generosity that makes Brazil such a wonderful place.

Getting Settled in São Paulo

São Paulo is a sprawling mega-city, throttled by traffic jams and throbbing with art and music and politics. Despite keeping company with Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong in terms of population, São Paulo is distinctly Latin American. But São Paulo also has its own feel, too. It’s more buttoned up and perhaps more political than its neighbor to the north, Rio, and more diverse than Latin America’s other mega-cities like Buenos Aires or Mexico City. (All that said, tell me why I’m wrong, cariocas, porteñas and DF-denizens!)

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This is a map from MAM.  Anyone who has been in my office knows I have a spot in my heart for distorted maps.

In such a big city, it can be hard to find a corner to call home, but our Airbnb was a great townhouse in the Pinherios neighborhood, right by the Praça Benedito Calixto Feira. It was cozy and charming and had every Disney movie ever filmed, as well as a playroom in the basement. The girls were over the moon!

We arrived at the apartment midday on Thursday, and after just enough time to shower and grab a bite to eat, I headed off to give a talk at the International Relations Institute at the University of São Paulo (USP), where I reconnected with old friends and colleagues and met young human rights scholars. After the talk, I got back to the apartment just in time to kiss the girls goodnight and get to work: I had a workshop to plan for the next morning.

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Late night workshop prep

After a short night of sleep, I headed back to USP and Carrick and the girls went off to explore. The workshop I was running focused on qualitative data analysis, particularly data management, indicator development and content analysis. The students were all MA and Ph.D. students in political science or international relations, but their areas of emphasis ranged from human rights to bilateral investments. I learned a great deal from all of their research projects, and I hope they learned a bit about data management and analysis from me, too.

Art in São Paulo

img_0976With my work done for the week, we were able to spend the weekend enjoying São Paulo’s museums and parks. On Saturday, we spent the morning at the artisanal fair in our neighborhood, wandering among the stalls and enjoying fresh pão de queijo and other fried deliciousness from the food stands.

In the afternoon, we made our way over to Parque do Ibirapuera. We started at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM), which brought together a range of modern art and multi-media exhibits. The building itself is open and airy, with a central ramp that ties together the “earthier” exhibits on the ground floor, with the “tech-ier” exhibits on the second floor. (Clearly I am not an art historian.  Maybe in my next life.) The famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, who is chiefly known for his work in Brasília, designed all of the buildings in the park. I haven’t made it to Brasília to see his work yet, but one day I will!

After taking in the art at the museum, we went to play in the nearby playground for a bit, but if was obvious that everyone needed a rest. C and N went to relax and play Pokemon near the park’s planetarium, while W tucked herself into her stroller for a snooze as I strolled through the Museu Afro Brazil. And wow, what a museum! The exhibits were rich and nuanced. Taken together, they showed the centrality of Africans and Afro-Brazilians to the country’s social, economic and political fabric. I only spent the better part of an hour there, but I could have easily spent three times a long.

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I didn’t get too many pictures inside the Afro-Brazilian Museum, but I did snap this one of sculptures that invoke the stocks central to the slave trade and slavery.

We spent the evening at a friend’s house, chatting over delicious food about politics, parenting and art.

The next day we headed over to Avenida Paulista to meet up again with our friend for playtime at Parque Siquera Campos, which is a lovely park filled with native plants and trees right in the city center. The playground was packed with kids, and C and N made new friends easily. One of the girls’ new playmates could not believe that they didn’t speak Portuguese–not even a little–but decided it didn’t matter much and that they should play together anyhow!

After some time on the playground, we crossed Avenida Paulista to the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) for lunch and more art. Lunch was a tremendous buffet, with traditional Brazilian food like feijoada, fresh fruit, salad and lots and lots of desserts. Brazilian buffets, by the way, are just the best. If you travel throughout Brazil, you will undoubtedly encounter buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Unlike in the States, though, where buffets have a reputation for being not-so-hot, in Brazil you can find buffets at any price-point or type of food.

Once our bellies were full, we wound our way through the museum. The MASP collection, which includes Brazilian, Latin American and European masterpieces, is limited by its space, but the curators make the most of the area they do have by taking the art off of the walls and into contact with the visitors. The pieces are displayed on glass stands that form aisles in a big open room. There are no velvet ropes to separate the viewer from the Van Gogh. In that sense, it’s all very democratic. The art comes to the people; not vice versa. Art, after all, is politics.

Ihla Bela – Muita Bela

Getting There

If you’ve ever said, “Gee, I don’t much like flying” or “Four hours is a really long time to be in an airplane,” or “Wow, that three hour time change is really getting to me,” I would not recommend traveling from Hong Kong to São Paolo, Brazil.

There were no direct Hong Kong-São Paolo flights when I made our travel arrangements, and at the time of booking, we had our choice of connections in Munich, Chicago, or Johannesburg. The Munich connection was the longest and most expensive, so that was out. With Chicago, I was afraid that if we got to O’Hare, we wouldn’t have the willpower to jump on another 12-hour flight and would instead end up in the F terminal, en route to Lincoln. So, Johannesburg it was! We had a 13-hour flight on South African Airways between Hong Kong and Johannesburg that was generally smooth and quiet. The girls mostly slept and watched movies, and the time passed by quickly enough.

Once in Johannesburg, we cleared customs and immigration relatively quickly and spent a few hours in the Star Alliance lounge. To the people who put both showers and a kid’s play area in the J-burgh lounge: thank you, thank you, thank you. It made all the difference.

We were feeling refreshed and relaxed when we boarded our 10-hour flight to São Paolo. In case you didn’t do the math, that’s 23 hours in the air. We were feeling decidedly less refreshed and relaxed by the time we got to Brazil, but everyone did well until we reached immigration at Garulhos. The girls just couldn’t keep it together any more, which I suppose is fair enough. Not only had we been traveling for more than a day, but the 10 hour time difference meant that we had to manage immigration and luggage and the like in what felt like the middle of the night. Luckily it was just a quick jaunt to the hotel we were staying for the night before heading to Ihla Bela the following day.

Ihla Bela is Bela Indeed

After a good night’s rest, my friend R picked us up at our hotel to drive out to Ihla Bela. Because it was Halloween, and she knew that the girls had missed the holiday, she came prepared with two big bags of Brazilian candy, which helped pass the time as we wound our way through the mountains and toward the coast. After a quick ferry ride, we arrived at R’s family hotel: Hotel Pousada Ilhasol. After a little rest, we went for a walk on the beach and had a quick dinner. Then, bed. We had been up since 2:30 in the morning with jet lag, so a good night’s rest was needed all around.

Our first full day at Ihla Bela was spent at a beach on the continental side of the island. The water was clear and calm and the beach was gorgeous. We spent the day swimming, climbing rocks, eating ice cream and drinking mojitos. Not too shabby.

Our second day at Ihla Bela was a bit more adventurous. Much of the island is a protected nature reserve, which makes getting to Praia de Castelhanos on Atlantic side of the island difficult, and intentionally so. And by difficult, I really mean nearly impossible. Most people get rides in large jeeps with wheels the size of an average adult male. Not us. R had four-wheel drive and was a steady at hand at the wheel, so she was confident that her Suzuki crossover could make it over the mountains that stand between the island’s continental beaches and Praia de Castelhanos on the Atlantic side. The dirt road that goes up and over the mountains often gets washed away with the rain, so it was uneven terrain at best. C had to get out to push us out of a ditch a few times, and the driver of one of the aforementioned jeeps and some of his passengers kindly helped us get out of a few holes and navigate the worst of the road. They also gave us a ride across a river that stood between the road and the beach.

And what a beach! I’ve really only been to crowded East Coast beaches or urban beaches in my travels and I could generally take ‘em or leave ‘em. But this. This beach was spectacular.

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Secluded and almost untouched aside from a couple of very low-key restaurants, it was pretty much perfect. The water was just the right temperature, the sand was excellent for both building sandcastles and going for a little run, and the waves made for some extra excitement.

It was worth every bump along the road.