4,208 Kilometers from Lima

As Diplomonkey prepares for his next Ecuador trip, he has a flashback to the fun filled afternoon spent earlier this year with the little dudes (AKA as Zos and Bo, which together make up the dynamic duo of the BoZos) at Florida’s Gold Coast Railroad Museum. Although nearly half a year and 4,208 kilometers separate us from that sunny January afternoon, the memories are as fresh today as though the visit occurred only yesterday.

Florida Gold Coast Railroad Museum 1

Florida Gold Coast Railroad Museum – Ghost Train 1594

Foreign Service life with kids is about getting the most fun with the little guys in new settings, collecting memories along the way that hopefully last a lifetime. Despite the hardships we often confront, and occasional (real) dangers, we are incredibly fortunate to get the chance to live and work in different places around the world in the service of our country.

Sam being Sam

Sam being Sam

Fortunately since most of our assignments are accompanied, we get to experience new places with our kids.  Sometimes these places, as incredibly as it might seem, are back home in faraway and exotic Florida.

Gold Coast Railroad Museum - Ghost Train

Florida Gold Coast Railroad Museum – Ghost Train 4033

Our kids growing up overseas are blessed with being able to experience unique life experiences. Our hopes and desires, as parents, are all to often tied to giving our children every material thing that they might possibly need to succeed. I guess that the Foreign Service life style, with its shipment weight allowances limitations and the ever present possibility of an evacuation, forces many of us to focus on what truly is important for the kids – experiences, memories, and the ability years later to say “I did this” or “saw that when I was a kid in the land of Erehwon (i.e., Nowhere spelled backwards, taken from an old foreign service exam).”

Zos and Bo, The Dynamic  Duo of the BoZos

Zos and Bo, The Dynamic Duo of the BoZos

Nasa Railroad Switch

Nasa Railroad SW 1500 Switcher Locomotive #2 – Because We Are Future Astronauts!

Enjoy the pictures!

Sign Post - Need One for US Embassy Lima 4208 KM

Sign Post – Missing a Sign for U.S. Embassy Lima 4,208 KM

Cheers from Lima, the land 4,208 kilometers away!

Okay, I Have Been a Bit of a Slacker #1

April has been a busy month.  I guess that two back-to-back trips stateside will take it out of you.  First trip was all about cattle in Texas and Florida, while the follow-up trip was just about meetings in Washington, DC.

Texas Cattle 1

Selecting Texas Brahman Cattle 

Texas Brahman

George the Texas Brahman Bull

Texas Brahman 2

Texas Brahman Bull

Texas and Florida are always great.  Saw some impressive animals and was able to get some decent photos with the Nikon D70.  It’s always fun to play cowboy; grandpa would be proud.

Florida Black Angus 3

Florida Black Angus Up Close #1

Florida Black Angus 2

Florida Black Angus and Stormy Clouds

Florida Black Angus

Florida Black Angus Up Close #2

Anyhow, I hope folks enjoy the southern cowboy-style pictures.  The Washington DC will go up separately, hopefully with some witty commentary.

Hatuey Beer at Versailles Cafe

Hatuey Beer from Miami’s Little Havana’s Cafe Versailles.

In the meantime, go out and enjoy a cold Miami Cuban Hatuey!

Cheers!

The Adventure Has Only Begun

A couple of months ago while contemplating our Florida R&R travel, I came upon the brilliant idea of working with the dudes on a father and son project.  A rocket project nonetheless.

Rocket

Designing a Rocket

The months went by, but true to my word I ordered a scale model V-2 rocket from Estes and had it shipped to my in-laws.  Despite the threat of another government shutdown just prior to our travel date, (the last one for us occurred while we were on evacuation status from Embassy Cairo) we make it home for Christmas, the first time in four years.

Channeling the spirit of Wernher von Braun, one of the “fathers of rocket science,” the Diplomonkey crew dives into the construction of its mighty rocket.  Even Jack Jack Smack Attack helps with the build, accompanying the senior Diplo to the model shop and Home Depot for primer, glue, paints and the ever so sharp Exacto knife.  Boy, that knife sure is sharp.

V2 Rocket

V-2 Rocket Ready to Go

With the build, the black and yellow test pattern paint job, and final detailing complete, the Diplomonkey rocket scientists head to the model shop to purchase a set of powerful “D” engines, a launch pad, and controller.  With all the accouterments demanded of modern American rocketry in tow, and with a narrowing launch window since we have to return to Peru, we schedule the launch for a crisp but spectacular south Florida winter afternoon.

Launch Controller

Launch Controller

Dream Big

Dream Big, Greatness Lies Ahead

Five, four, three, two, one, oops a misfire.  With the problem assessed, yep Captain Jack had inverted the blasted connectors to the engine igniter – let’s try it again with a fresh igniter.  Five, four, three, two, one, blast-off in the best NASA style!

 

Rocket 8a

Thanks to Captain Ivan and aunt Jillian, the Diplomonkeys have great memories to share.  With two successful launches under their belts, the Diplomonkeys are now part of the space age.  Which, I guess makes us Diplonauts.

Always dream big and reach for the unreachable!

The Adventure Has Begun

The Adventure Has Only Begun (Michael Mitchell, Space Shuttle Engineer).

Cheers from Lima!

Home for Christmas

JackJack this year asked Santa for a trip home for Christmas.  With the request in hand, the senior simian drafts his official decision memo, attaching a notional schedule of course, and moves forward the packet of documents in bureaucratically efficient and expeditious manner.

With the R&R travel request approved, Captain Jack and the rest of the intrepid diplomatic simian crew hop onboard LAN Peru’s (Boeing 767) Lima-Miami flight (American Airlines code-share) for a stateside break – U.S. Embassy Lima’s Santa delivered, we are so grateful.

Santa at U.S. Embassy Lima

Waiting for Santa at U.S. Embassy Lima.

Beach outings along with seaside discussions about shadows and the wonders of Portuguese man o’ wars follow spectacular breakfasts not just at Starbucks, but also at Another Broken Egg Cafe – great Bloody Mary’s and crab cake stacks, if I dare to say so myself.

Bare Foot Diplomat

The Barefoot Diplomat and Son.

Portuguese man o'war: looks like an empanada, stings like a million bees.

Portuguese man o’war: looks like an empanada, but stings like a million bees.

Nothing says Florida like a shared sunrise with its true natives, even if in suburban Palm Beach County.

Sunrise in Wakodahatchee

Sunrise in the Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Wally Gator

Wakodahatchee Wetland’s “Wally the Gator”

For the record, for me home is Florida despite the years spent in Virginia and my ties to the Commonwealth.  Life is good in Florida, go Gators.

Cheers!

Of Bulls, Heifers and Cold Beer

With negotiations and consultations now behind him, Diplomonkey hits the road to Florida by dawn’s early light.  Thanks to United Airline’s really nice counter person at Reagan (DCA), who went out of her way to help, Diplomonkey catches his Orlando via Newark flight.  The logistics of going north to go south are just astounding.

Dry Aged Beef

USDA Prime Beef Slab

In Newark, Diplomonkey gets to double dip; he gets both his Starbucks fix and salivates over Gallaghers’ meaty, 21-day old dry aged USDA prime beef slabs on display.  Although torturous, this is nothing less than a favorable omen for such a nomadic, unrepentant carnivore.

Cheerfully boarding his southbound flight, Diplomonkey catches up on Top Gear episodes, orders a Tapas box and red wine; ah life is good.  But Diplomonkey knows all to well that the respite at 35,000 feet is short-lived, for it marks the start of ten straight days of twelve-hour plus workdays.

Reaching Mickey Mouse country, Orlando for the uninitiated in all things Disney, Diplomonkey heads off to one of Florida’s largest cattle ranches.  Here he meets astoundingly gentle giants which act more like pampered farm dogs than thousand pound plus medium-frame young bulls.  They also crap prolifically, much like their extinct Aurochs forebears, so mind your step, and theirs when around them.

Little Big Bulls

Little Big Bulls – Florida Brahmans

Avoiding being crushed by these beasties, as well as not stepping in their poop, is no small matter.  It builds up a hearty appetite for, do I dare say…beef.  But lo and behold, there is no beef for Diplomonkey that night since he dillydallies at the ranch immersed in the talk of cattle.

 

Florida Cattle at Sunset

Florida Cattle at Sunset

Red Brangus at Sunset

Red Brangus at Sunset

So poor Diplomonkey eases his hunger that evening with something other than beef.  He ambles à la John Wayne into the first late night open eatery available and orders the special – all you can eat pork ribs, as well as quench his thirst with well-chilled Yuengling beer (from America’s oldest brewery, of course).

 

Diplomonkey volunteers to his traveling companions that he is courageously taking one for the team; to prove that there is no trichinae in the U.S. pork.  The sacrifices we make. Thank you, please I will have some more Porky Pig.

 

Service Animal/ Pet Relief Area

Service Animal/ Pet Relief Area

Travel to Madison, Wisconsin via Detroit (DTW), the latter of which has a great, animal friendly airport, follow visits to Orlando and Gainesville.  For those that have served in the Middle East and traveled with four-legged hairy buddies, this sort of attention is always a big deal.  But old Diplomonkey, who misses family and dog, digresses.

 

Holsteins

Holstein Cows

Early morning meetings follow a midnight arrival in Madison, as well a visit to the Wisconsin World Dairy Expo.  Again Diplomonkey sees spectacular animals and meets wonderful people.  But the hunger for beef grows by the minute; bananas are just not quite doing it for him any longer.

 

So with his erstwhile companions in tow, Diplomonkey heads out that evening in search of animal protein matter, preferably bovine.  Across from the state capitol, at Madison’s Old Fashion restaurant, Diplomonkey comes across one of the best burgers and fries that he has ever had and to top it off great local IPA.

 

Capitol Building - Madison, Wisconsin

Capitol Building – Madison, Wisconsin

In the course of the evening not only does Diplomonkey convert his South American pilsner drinking traveling companions to the wonders of American IPA, but also exposes them to that great American spirit known as bourbon – yes, culinary diplomacy at its finest.

 

Departing Madison for Texas fortified by beef, excellent IPA, and outfitted in a new green John Deere cap, as well as with some great hometown Landjäger sausage in his pack, Diplomonkey is oh so happy.

 

Houston's Moonwalker

Houston’s Moonwalker

Greeted in the late evening by Houston’s Moonwaker, Diplomonkey’s travel through the great state of Texas is a blur; one day in Houston followed by another in Madisonville and then two nights in College Station before returning once again to Houston.

But the hunger for beef remains, one that cannot be satiated by salmon or pork chops no matter how delicious.  Where is my sirloin, my rib-eye steak, how about my Texas brisket?

Diplomonkey discovers that just outside of College Station, stands the town of Snook, home of Sodolak’s Original Country Inn and its Texas size steaks and burgers.  One of the companions, Andy, in all honestly went to Texas A&M and recommended that we stop here to partake of excellent, bountiful, and affordable steaks.  Coming off the farm from late evening meetings, we barely beat the closing time clock and place our orders.

 

19 Ounces Texas Lucy

From Andy’s build up, Diplomonkey realized that this would not be a ramen noodle sort of night, but rather an orgy of beef.  The small sirloin steak (let’s call her Texas Lucy, heifer flesh always taste better if it has a name) weighs in alone at nineteen ounces.  And for good measure, a can of ice-cold Lone Star beer makes Lucy’s taste all that better.

Steak, two sides, Texas toast and local beer plus tip, came out to less than twenty-five bucks.  Proof positive that life on per diem is possible if you know how to look. They advertise orders to go; dreamily Diplomonkey wonders if the delivery area could include Peru.

Brahman Bull Wash

At the Brahman Bull Wash

Texas A&M Summer Sausage

Texas A&M Summer Sausage

Texas A&M, like the state of Texas, is a huge but friendly place.  Diplomonkey sees state of the art teaching and processing facilities, meets wonderful, capable professionals and academics. The Rosenthal Meat Center’s beef, pork, and lamb offerings, especially the summer football sausage sorely tempts Diplomonkey with its fleshy bounty.  Unfortunately Diplomonkey has no way to transport any frozen or chilled meat back to Lima – next time he will come better prepared.

So pleased is Diplomonkey with his Texas A&M visit, that despite being a Hoya, he caves in and buys Aggies memorabilia for the little dudes.  Sorry wifie and other fellow Hoyas, just in case the kiddies one day decide to go study agricultural economics and eat beef out there.

In any, case, that evening Texas brisket Bambi follows her rib-eye steak little sister (that’s Ms. Betsy) devoured earlier by Diplomonkey at lunchtime.  A truly memorable occasion scouting out animals for export.

 

Cheers.