2004 Journal Archive

January, 2004: Davis, California, USA

On December 31st, the last day of 2003, we drove to visit Point Año Nuevo, on the coast of California just north of Monterrey Bay. The first European to visit this area was a Spanish explorer named Sebastian Vizcaino. He arrived here on January 3, 1603 (17 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock!) and named the peninsula La Punta de Año Nuevo, in honor of the new year. Today Año Nuevo is a State Reserve that was created to protect the elephant seals that breed and give birth here.

During this trip, Jim was using our new video camera , so Jamie took all of the pictures. Along the way, we passed Pigeon Point lighthouse, a place we had previously seen from the sea when sailing up and down the coast between San Francisco and Monterrey. There was once a lighthouse on Point Año Nuevo as well, but it was closed half a century ago.

During the Christmas holidays, many people decorate their homes with lights, evergreen trees, and other decorations. Our local newspaper, the Davis Enterprise, holds an annual contest for the best home decorations, in several catagories. Our favorite this year is a home that is just half a block away from Lois' house. It combines lights and painted figures to create a "Candy Cane Lane".

About the middle of January, we drove our PT Cruiser to Oregon to visit with Jim's parents, Eunice and Elmer. As you can see, there was snow in the passes as we traveled through the Siskyou mountains. Along the way, we passed Mount Shasta, a beautiful composite volcano in Northern California. A storm had just passed through, and the surrounding mountains were obscured by fog. It was a beautiful day.

We stopped several times along the way so that Jim could take pictures of the scenery, and of Jamie. We had a good visit with Jim's parents, and then returned to Davis to get ready for our return to Razzle Dazzle in the Philippines. We will leave California on the 28th of January, and should arrive at Port Bonbonon by the 1st or 2nd of February. We have a great deal yet to do before we will be ready to leave !!

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February, 2004: Port Bonbonon, Negros Oriental, Philippines (9°03'N, 123°07'E)

We arrived back in Bonbonon on the 1st of February and have been getting back into the rhythm of life here. Our daily schedule is to rise each morning before dawn to go walking. We take the dinghy ashore and try to begin our walk before 6:00 a.m. This means we finish walking before the sun gets above the trees. It is much cooler walking in the early morning. On Wednesday evenings, we eat pizza at Ne-Ar-Ne, Thursdays we go into Dumaguette to buy groceries and check e-mail, Friday night is bar-b-que night at Ne-Ar-Ne, Sunday evenings there is a bar-b-que at Bruce's, and Monday we visit Kookoo's Nest Resort for lunch. If it sounds as though our social life revolves around meals, it does. We meet all the other resident ex-patriots at these events, and arrange for other activities at the same time.

The sights and sounds of the anchorage have not changed much. The winds are not as strong this year and we have many periods with no wind at all. We recently meet a couple who have been coming to Bonbonon for many years, Dave & Sandy aboard Force 8. Here is Dave motoring through the anchorage in his yellow dinghy. Dave is leaving at the end of the month to deliver Magic Carpet to Brisbane, Australia. Although we could have gone with him, we decided to stay in Bonbonon and get some work done on our boat. Before leaving, Dave had Magic Carpet careened on the beach to do some work on the hull and prop.

The big event this month was the Junior-Senior Prom at the local high school. Held each year near Valentines Day, the Prom is a big local event. Everyone comes to watch the ceremonies, and there is a public disco after the Prom is finished. We went to take pictures of Nicky and Arlene's daughter, Nemerlyn, who is a Junior this year. (Niña Jane helped with Nemerlyn's make-up.) The Prom included speeches by local dignitaries, a candle lighting ceremony, various presentations and awards, and some dances that the students had practiced in advance. All in all, this Prom was very different from the proms we attended when we were in high school, during the last century.

During our most recent trip to Dumaguette, we watched the students from one of the elementary schools marching down the main street of the city. We aren't sure what the march was all about, but we see them fairly often. The kids always seem to enjoy themselves. Jim has to be careful with his picture taking. If the kids see the camera, they will all break formation and try to get into the picture. This time, he was on the balcony of our hotel, so he got several photos before he was spotted.

Our sailboat, Razzle Dazzle, was in fine shape when we returned, as Nicky Dominisac had taken good care of things during our absence. Nicky and his wife, Arlene, operate the Ne-Ar-Ne Restaurant and provide a number of other services for the yachties who anchor here in Bonbonon. They have become our good friends over the months that we have lived here.

We expect to stay here at Port Bonbonon for a few months. We will keep you informed of our plans as soon as we know what they will be.

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March, 2004: Port Bonbonon, Negros Oriental, Philippines (9°03'N, 123°07'E)

The weather this month continues to be unseasonable, with erratic winds and frequent light rains. Normally we would have steady NE winds with clear blue skies and no rain at all. Although the rain does interfere with some of our activities, this unusual weather does provide us with some beautiful sunrises and truly awesome sunsets. So I guess we can't complain.

Diane and Jamie have adopted Abu, one of the local dogs. Here they are bathing Abu to get rid of his fleas. We are also feeding him and applying medicine to his back to fight his mange. Unfortunately, Abu's Filipino owner is too poor to take proper care of him.

Dave left earlier this month to deliver Magic Carpet to its owner in Australia. He took two young English women as crew. The crew only made it to Palau Island where they decided they had had enough of sailing and would go diving instead. Here they are leaving Port Bonbonon early in March.

Much of the economy of this area centers around fishing of one sort or another. From very large, ocean-going fishing trawlers to a single man trolling a hook and line behind his outrigger canoe, everyone seems to be fishing. One morning, we saw a small banca loaded with bamboo fish traps passing right by our boat. It was being towed out to the ocean where the traps are used.

Within the bay, we see boats carrying large nets that are used to catch fish along the shore. (The nets are too heavy to be pulled back into these little boats directly.) The boats, loaded down with net and crew, are paddled to the selected location, the net is deployed in a large circle and is then pulled up onto the beach, along with any fish that were present and unable to escape. (I saw many fish jumping over the net.)

The article this month is about the cock fights which are so much a part of many Filipino's lives. The fights are not appealing to us, but Jim didn't find them to be as bad as he expected. Only Jim went to the cockfight. Jamie decided to stay away.

We are currently planning to leave the Philippines at the end of May. We will spend about 5 months visiting Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, and Singapore. Then back to the Philippines at the end of October.

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April, 2004: Port Bonbonon, Negros Oriental, Philippines (9°03'N, 123°07'E)

The NE monsoon returned in full force about the middle of April. Still, there is no way to know what the weather will be like from one day to the next. This is quite different from the normal fixed winds and clear skies for this time of year. We have no idea if the SW monsoon will begin at its usual time at the end of May.

Our friends, Diane and Bill returned to the US for a few weeks, and we took over some of the classes in Diane's after-school school while she was gone. Jamie taught the kids about the heart and Jim led some English classes one week. The next week Jim showed them how to take photographs with a digital camera, letting them see the results immediately on the computer. We then passed out disposable film cameras for each student to take photos on their own. We had the pictures developed and returned them to the kids the following week. They took many very nice photos, and had a great time doing it. Here are a few of their pictures.

March is the end of the school year here in the Philippines. The students are on vacation during April and May. We attended the graduation ceremonies in Bonbonon on March 29th. Jim took video and Jamie took still photos. The day started with a special mass, followed by the graduation. The community was very much involved and the large church was filled to overflowing. Both the high school seniors and the 6th graders took part in the ceremonies. Parents and students were both called up to be honored for their achievements. The final event of the morning was a joint chorus sung by all the graduating students.

In the afternoon, the elementary school students put on a dance recital. Students from each grade did a dance, and the honor students were presented with awards. That evening, we were invited to a graduation party for James, the son of Bernard, our habal-habal driver and Emma, who does our washing. Bernard and Emma are in the church choir, and most of the choir attended the party. They played guitar and sang religious songs late into the night. We were well fed, including the obligatory lechon.

Our friends Torgard and Min Young came to see us this month. Torgard had just launched his new Tiki 38 (virtually identical to Razzle Dazzle) and Min Young was here for a short vacation from her work in San Francisco. They sailed here from Panglao Island, and could only stay for a day as Min Young had to catch her plane back to the US. Here they are on Pumpkin as they sail away.

Many of the local kids enjoy swimming and playing in the water, often at the end of the dinghy dock at Ne-Ar-Ne. Here are a few of them enjoying a swim during the school break.

Jim has started working on a new website for the Kookoo's Nest Resort, one of our favorite places. The owners are Nikki and Jamie, a couple from England who have been here for about 3 years. Their website is located at www.kookoosnest.com.ph.

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May, 2004: Port Bonbonon, Negros Oriental, Philippines (9°03'N, 123°07'E)

We continue to enjoy our experiences with the Filipino people who live around us. Their approach to life is different from our American ideas, which can sometimes cause misunderstandings, but we have found them to be caring and delightful people. It is likely that we surprise and shock them from time to time.

Jamie has had an irritating cough for about a month. It is often mild but can be quite bad at times. We have tried everything we can to treat it, but nothing so far has worked. We may have to admit defeat and see a doctor soon. Jim is well. We are still walking an hour a day, as often as possible. Jim also gets a fair amount of exercise rowing the dinghy around the bay. Trips to Kookoo's Nest are a mile each way, often against both tide and wind on the return trip. While Jim was working on the Kookoo's Nest website, we made the trip several times.

May 7th was Arlene's birthday. She invited a large number of friends, including us, for a picnic on the beach at Kookoo's Nest (another rowing workout for Jim). Because of the large number of guests, they brought two lechon (roast pigs) to the party. Many of the Filipinos we know here are very talented musically. Parties often involve guitar playing and singing. For this party, there was a home-made set of drums. The longer we live here, the more we learn the relationships among the many extended families, especially the children from Diane's school (see below). Here is Arlene's niece, Bernalyn.

Dave and Sandy (Force 8) frequently take their boat out of the bay for an afternoon sail on the Bohol Sea. Here they are returning to their mooring, beating to windward against the steady winds of the NE monsoon.

During our weekly trips to the city of Dumaguete, we often see caribao pulling sleds or wagons. This one is hauling a cart of coconut husks. Jim asked our habal-habal driver, Bernard, to stop so that Jim could take the picture. We also see quite beautiful sunsets from our deck on a regular basis. Here is a view of the eastern sky during a recent sunset. (We have no idea what causes this.) Of course, the view of the western sky that evening was also quite beautiful.

National elections were held on May 10th. Election day is a holiday, so few people work. Jim went to Siit (our local Barangay) to see the voting. The polling stations were set up at the Elementary School. It looked very much like elections in the United States. (The one difference was the presence of two policemen, armed with M-16 assault rifles.) The voting officials prepared the polling stations and instructed the voters on procedures. As each voter arrived, they checked the registration lists to find out where their precinct was located. The polls opened at 0700 and there were already people waiting well before then.

After visiting the election, Jim walked home along our usual walking route. He took the opportunity to take pictures along the way. Here is a photo of the construction work on our main road. This hill washes out each year during the rainy season, and it is being paved to prevent future erosion. The work is done entirely by hand. While Jim was taking this picture, two young girls came by to watch, so he took their picture too.

This month, we report on the “One Candle Schoolhouse” that Diane Pool has created here in Port Bonbonon. She is doing great things.

And, Jim has added a small family album of pictures from our youth. They were scanned from some of the prints in our family album.

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June, 2004: Chiang Mai, Thailand

We had many things to do before we left the Philippines for our trip to Thailand. Jim bought some fishing net to keep the birds from roosting on the boat during our absence. They can make a real mess of the decks. Here is what Razzle Dazzle looked like covered with netting. Opinions are mixed as to the likely value of the nets. Most people think the birds will work out a way to make a mess of the boat no matter what we do. Time will tell.

We arrived in Bangkok on May 26th, and stayed at the Ambassador Hotel for three days as part of a package deal. We then moved to the New Siam II Guest House to save money and be closer to the area of town that we wanted to see. The guest house is clean and new, and turned out to be a wonderful choice. We stayed in Bangkok until the 10th of June and then took the train to Chiang Mai.

Our train trip was uneventful. We wanted to travel in a regular (non-airconditioned) second class sleeper car, but none was available on the train we were taking. So, we ended up in an air-conditioned sleeper car. It was quite nice. The seats convert into bunk beds. The top bunk is a bit narrow and awkward to climb into. The bottom berth is spacious and comfortable. Jamie took the bottom bunk. The food on the train, as expected, was too expensive and not too good. We left Bangkok at 6:00 p.m. and arrived just before 7:00 a.m. the next day. We had made a reservation at the Red Hibiscus guest house, and stayed there for two nights. We then moved to the Safe House Court where we got a large, air-conditioned room with private bath for 300 baht ($7.50) per day. We are very pleased with this guest house and its restaurant, and plan to remain here for our entire time in Chiang Mai.

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July, 2004: Chiang Mai, Thailand

During the last week of June, and the first few days of July, we traveled to the country of Myanmar. You probably know it as Burma. We had an interesting 10 days. Some of our experiences were truly wonderful; others were really quite bad. We began our visit by flying from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Mandalay. From there we took a river ferry on the Irrawaddy River downstream to the archaeological site of Bagan. Then we took the same ferry back to Mandalay, traveling upstream. We were the only passengers on the upriver ferry, and it was one of the high points of our Myanmar experience.

Next, we made the terrible mistake of taking the train from Mandalay to Yangon. It was a nightmare trip which left us frightened and exhausted. We chose to take the train because air fares in Myanmar are unreasonably high. Had we known, we would have paid the extra money to fly. Once in Yangon, we rested for a day and then visited the local sights. Our favorite was the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda, the most stunning Buddhist shrine in Myanmar. We also took a car trip into the countryside west of the Yangon River to see the people of rural Burma. This was the best part of our trip. The people we met restored our faith in humanity, which had been badly strained during our visit to the tourist sites.

We returned to Chiang Mai on the 4th of July, and attended an Independence Day picnic at the American Consulate. Security was fairly tight, and no cameras were allowed. We had a lovely afternoon. Several local restaurants had booths selling very good food inexpensively, there was a variety of music performed by local college music students, and we met a number of American residents of Chiang Mai. Jim then spent the next week preparing our Burma reports. We hope you enjoy them.

Once we had recovered from our Burma trip, we got back into our tourism duties. First, we went to the Chiang Mai Zoo. We hadn't really expected a great deal, but the zoo turned out to be a lot of fun. We went on two days so that we could see as much as possible and get some great pictures in the aviary. Jim wrote an article about our experiences at the zoo and was able to sell it to a local magazine. After that success, he wrote up two more articles and sold them as well. The pay isn't much, but it does help to defray some of our expenses.

Next, we went to the Elephant Conservation Center, a government facility that has developed a number of programs to aid Thailand's many out-of-work elephants. As a result of a ban on logging in most of Thailand, the elephants that were once employed in the logging industry are no longer economical for their owners. Elephants require a great deal of expensive care, and the Center has been developing new means of support for them.

We have continued to meet with Somkid, the novice monk we first met at "novice chat" in the Phra Singh temple. After we had talked with him a few times, he invited us to visit his family. Nahong Village is located about 70 km west of Chiang Mai (although the road miles are easily 140 km), and the trip there took us about 5 hours. We had an absolutely wonderful time meeting Somkid's parents, Aopun and Net. They were very pleased to have us as guests and treated us wonderfully. The village has only about 300 inhabitants, and foreign visitors are very rare. Many of the children had never seen a falang (which is us), and we were an object of curiosity wherever we went.

Our trip to the village took us through the Doi Inthanon National Park. It seemed a lovely place, so we signed up for a day tour to the Park. Doi Inthanon is the highest mountain in Thailand. The peak attracts clouds for most of the year, and the weather is generally wet and cool. The plant and animal life is very different from the tropical lowlands and river valleys we are used to. It was a very enjoyable and interesting trip.

One day at "novice chat" we were approached by two students from Chiang Mai University. They had an assignment for their English class to interview a foreigner (in English). They had prepared questions, and tape recorded Jim's answers. We exchanged e-mail addresses and sent them a letter, which they answered. Other things we have seen around Chiang Mai include a construction site where they use a winch to haul buckets of concrete to the third floor. The bridge over the Ping river offers a great view of that part of the city. And, finally, a photo of the library at the Nantaram temple, where Somkid lives and studies.

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August, 2004: Vientiane, Laos

It was with great trepidation that we decided to visit Laos. The US government advises against it, with stern warnings about the dangers. We never know what to make of these advisories, however. They are never precise enough to tell you what exactly to avoid. Usually, they say things like, " ... avoid places where people congregate, such as markets, restaurants, and buses ... " This includes most of the places we visit when we are traveling. The government of Laos, the Pathet Lao, is communist, and this may have something to do with the US trying to keep tourists away.

There are special hazards in Laos. There are remnants of a secret army of Hmong tribesmen that the United States created during the Viet Nam war. They are still attacking the current communist government and killing innocent civilians, and a few tourists, along the way. One stretch of Highway 13 has been particularly dangerous. There are also huge numbers of unexploded bombs and mines that were dropped in Laos by the US Air Force, or left behind by the Vietnamese and American-sponsored armies that fought here. These UXOs continue to kill innocent children and poor farmers each year. The area around Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars is particularly dangerous.

In the end, we decided to come to Laos, in spite of the warnings. We began our trip by traveling to Chiang Khong, Thailand. From there we crossed the Mae Khong (Mekong) River into Laos. Here is Jamie getting comfortable in the small ferry that took us across the river. After a two-day trip down the Mekong River, we spent nearly a week in the small town of Luang Prabang, a World Heritage City. Next, we spent about two weeks at a wonderful organic farm just outside the town of Vang Vieng. While we were there, Jim created a website for the farm, and Jamie helped build a community center and taught English to dozens of children in the village of Phoudindaeng. We ate mulberry leaves and drank mulberry shakes until they ran out of mulberrys.

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September, 2004: Angkor Wat, Cambodia

At the end of our month in Laos, we spent a few days in Vientiane, the capital. We had a surprisingly good time in Laos, and hope to return there soon. We never got to see the southern part of the country, which we have heard is quite beautiful. But, we were anxious to get back to the modernity of Bangkok, and took a night bus rather than wait a day for a seat on the train.

We returned to Bangkok and our old haunts, the New Siam II Guest House and Ricky's Coffee Shop. The Guest House still uses our favorite toilet paper, Sit & Smile brand. The neighborhood had, surprisingly, changed while we were away. The sidewalks had been a total mess during our previous visit, but they are now newly paved and very nice. It is now a pleasure to walk along the sidewalk without being forced out onto the roadway by obstructions. While in Bangkok, we took a day trip to visit the Floating Market at Damnoen Saduak. And we walked the short distance to Khao San Road in search of a bookstore. Khao San is infamous as the center of backpacker tourism in Bangkok. The place is like a continuous carnival with loud noise; thousands of young, mostly European tourists; hawkers selling everything, and bars that are full day and night. And, they have several decent book stores.

After a few days in Bangkok, we set off to see the ancient Thai capitol at Ayutthaya. The city is very spread out, with low-rise buildings and large undeveloped areas due to the frequent ancient ruins. Most of the city is located on a large island formed by the intersection of three rivers connected by a canal. During our visit to Ayutthaya, we stayed at Tony's Place Guest House, and hired Panya to drive us around in an old VW bus. He always seemed to know what was going on around town, and just where to go to get the best views.

After a few days in Ayutthaya, we returned to Bangkok and then went on to Kanchanaburi, an important POW camp during the building of a WWII railroad to Burma. The Japanese Army forced Allied POWs and asian laborers to build the railroad under horrific conditions. Over 100,000 of the asian workers and about 12,000 POWs died during the construction period, most from malnutrition and disease. We visited different sites along the railroad, and rode on the portion that is still in use.

We had planned to return, once again, to Bangkok after our time in Kanchanaburi. But then we read in the paper about the International Swan Boat Races that were being held that weekend in Bang Sai, near Ayutthaya. So we returned to Ayutthaya and again hired Panya to take us to the boat races. It was very interesting and worth the extra effort we made to get there.

We are nearing the end of our travels here in Thailand and its neighboring countries. We plan to spend the next 2 weeks in Cambodia, and will post our Cambodia photos and stories in the October update. Then, we will return to the island of Negros in the central Philippines. The SW monsoon is nearly over and the rains should be ending soon. We miss our friends in Port Bonbonon, and there are many things to do aboard Razzle Dazzle.

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October, 2004: Port Bonbonon, Negros Oriental, Philippines (9°03'N, 123°07'E)

At the end of September, we traveled to Cambodia to visit the temples of the ancient Angkor Kingdom, near the modern town of Siam Reap. Our journey through Cambodia was something of a trial — with terrible roads, long hours of waiting at the border, and dishonest bus drivers. Siam Reap itself is a small, but rapidly growing, town that looks very much like a boom town that hasn't quite got its act together. Parts of the town look old and decayed, while new hotels and restaurants are being built at a terrific rate. We were told that the number of hotel and guest house rooms had doubled in the last three years, and would double again this year. From all the construction sites we saw around town, this seems likely.

Our reason for going to Cambodia was to see Angkor, and we were thrilled by the experience. It is impossible to describe the beauty and grandeur of the temples, even in their current ruined state. They are truly amazing, even when viewed for the second or third time. (We went back to the Bayon 3 times, and to Angkor Wat twice.) We have prepared a fairly extensive summary of our visit to the Angkor Temples, complete with a glossary, photos, and tables. We hope you enjoy the temples as much as we did.

During our stay in Siam Reap, we took time out from the temples to visit the Tonlé Sap Lake. It has to be one of the most surprising natural wonders in the world. It fills with water during the rainy season each year as the Mekong River overflows into the lake, then drains again during the dry season. We were there at the end of the rainy season, when the lake was at its fullest. We took a boat ride on the lake, and had a great time.

After another miserable bus ride back to the Thai border, we returned to Bangkok and our favorite guest house, the New Siam II. The staff had come to know us after all our stays there, and went out of their way to help us get things done. The guest house itself is new & clean, and very inviting. We ran some errands, and did some final shopping before our return to rural Philippines. During our time in Bangkok, we saw many western fast food restaurants, and Jim finally took a photo of a McDonald's with Ronald doing a wai, a Thai gesture of respect, to welcome customers.

And then we flew back to the Philippines. We arrived on the island of Negros just as a heavy period of rains was ending. The dirt road to our anchorage was badly damaged by the runoff, and parts were completely under water. There were literally rivers flowing over the road in some places. We had hired a small truck to carry us and our baggage back to Port Bonbonon, as we had heard that the road was too bad for a car. In fact, it was too much for the truck. We were stopped several times when the engine got wet and stalled, and had to be pushed to dry ground to wait for the spark plugs to dry. Then on again, until we ran into a hole in the road (invisibile under the water) which nearly swallowed us up. The water was a foot deep in the cab of the truck. Again we were pulled out by local Filipinos who came to help. We had made it almost to our destination when the truck finally died and would no longer start. We sent for our friends at Bonbonon, and carried our baggage the final 1/4 mile or so. We had traveled for allmost 5 months with no mishaps and had our only real problem in our own back yard.

But we are home; the rains have stopped; the NE monsoon seems to be starting, and all is well. We expect to stay here for the next few months. We have no firm plans yet for what we will do after that.

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November, 2004: Antulang, Negros Oriental, Philippines

Almost ten years ago, we decided that we would retire in our mid-fifties and see the world. It seemed that this would be impossible with the small pensions that we would receive at that age, so we bought a sail boat to provide us with a cheap, moveable home. This allowed us to live at very little expense in the places we wanted to visit.

Sailing was, however, Jim's dream and Jamie went along with mixed feelings. She was particularly concerned about making long passages at sea, and we only sailed short distances that could be covered in daylight. We reached Port Bonbonon and never left. During this past summer, we spent 5 months traveling around SE asia. We found that we could travel, living in guest houses and inexpensive hotels, and stay within our income. This removed the major reason for living on the boat, and opened up the possibility that we could continue with our vagabond retirement while living on land.

So, we sold Razzle Dazzle in mid-November and have moved into a cottage at Kookoo's Nest Resort. It took exactly one day to sell the boat, and we moved out within the week. (We had obviously asked too low a price for it.) We held several impromptu auctions of most of our personal things, trying to get down to what would fit into checked luggage on the airplane. The harbor is abuzz with all the great bargains everyone got.

Meanwhile, life goes on as usual. We have added snorkeling off the beach to our daily walks. The food at Kookoo's Nest is great, and we are putting on weight. We were invited to a birthday party for our English friend Arthur. This was a special birthday, as he has just turned 65 and can now begin drawing his pension. We also attended a Thanksgiving dinner at Tongo Resort, just outside the entrance to the bay. And Jim was invited to make a presentation to the Rotary Club in Dumaguete City. They are donating playgrounds to local schools, and wanted some advice on playground safety. We will have more information in our December journal, along with an update on our plans for the future.

During our travels through Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand, we visited several farms and workshops where people were producing silk or silk products. Jim took pictures of the whole process, and has prepared an article about silk production. We hope you enjoy it.

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December, 2004: Davis, California, USA

<< Merry Christmas >>

As we reported last month, we have sold Razzle Dazzle and are now homeless. We returned to the United States in December and are currently staying with Jim's sister in Davis, California. We have ordered a small travel trailer (caravan to the Brits) and purchased a pickup truck to tow it, and plan to see the United States over the next months and years. As usual, our plans are uncertain and subject to frequent change. We're never entirely sure what we will be doing until we are actually doing it.

During our last weeks in the Philippines, we met some American ex-pats who are members of one of the Rotary Clubs in Dumaguete. They arranged for Jim to make a presentation to the club members on playground safety. The club is providing playground equipment to local schools, and were very interested in improving the safety of their playgrounds. We were also invited to attend one of their regular medical missions, which was scheduled for the following weekend. The club obtains medicine and volunteer doctors and dentists to provide medical care to poor Filipino families who could not otherwise obtain treatment.

As we were preparing to leave the Philippines, we visited old friends to say goodbye. We attended our last Friday night barbeque at Ne-Ar-Ne, visited with the yachties who have become our great friends, and said goodbye to Arlene and Irene. We made one last trip to the Malatapay market to see the livestock auction, expecially our favorites, the caribao. The yachties made up a book of memories for us, including photos and sappy sentiments. And, last but not least, Diane and the kids at the One Candle School threw a going-away party for us. The kids made lunch (it was much better than we expected), played games and had a beauty contest (we were two of the judges), and ate ice cream for dessert. We had a great time, and will have many wonderful, and sad, memories. And then we left, departing in the dark early hours of the morning to a day and a half of trucks and vans, ferries and planes and arrived in the dark of the following night in California.

We left the sunny beaches and warm waters of the Philippines and flew back to cold, rainy, foggy Northern California. Although we are glad to be back with old friends, the weather was certainly much nicer in the tropics. We hope to leave here soon for warmer places, perhaps Death Valley and the Mojave Desert in southern California.

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