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The Wonder of Gaudi

By Romi and Sue

Picture a building that looks like it belongs in a Dr. Suess book, integrates whimsical forms and structures inspired by nature, and reflects a deep spirituality. Chances are you would be looking at a masterpiece by the architect/artist, Antoni Gaudi. As one of the leading contributors of the Modernista movement in Barcelona in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Gaudi’s thumbprint and genius is seen all around this beautiful city.

Couldn't this be part of Whoville in The Grinch?

Entry buildings at Park Guell

During our week-long stay in Barcelona, we visited many of Gaudi’s masterpieces both on our own and as part of a walking tour led by a spunky tour guide named Tia. This included the amazing Park Guell located in the hills above Barcelona; several of his extraordinary houses for the very rich including Casa Batllo, Casa Mila, and Palau Guell; and, of course, the indescribable and yet to be completed, Sagrada Familia.

Exterior of Casa Batllo

Exterior of Casa Batllo

Casa Mira

Casa Mila

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia

 Romi wrote about two of her favorites which she shares below:

My two favorite works by Gaudi are Park Guell and the Sagrada Familia. Park Guell is located on the edge of the city up in the hills. Gaudi started working on the project in 1900 as a garden city for the rich. The plan for the garden city did not work out, but he finished some of it and today it is a public park.

The first area you see is the plaza. This is a beautiful place to sit down and take pictures of the city. He decorated the benches with colorful tiles and built them to look like waves. I imagined people would have used this area for singing, dancing, sitting and talking.

View of the plaza at Park Guell

View of the plaza at Park Guell

Wavy benches

Wavy, colorful  benches

Another thing I really liked was the lizard on the stairways leading up to the market space. I think Gaudi put that there because he liked lizards and wanted a symbol so people could remember Park Guell.

The colorful lizard on the stops leading to the market

The colorful lizard on the stops leading to the market

Ceiling of the market

Park Guell market space

My other favorite work by Gaudi was the Sagrada Familia. This is probably his most famous work of art. He started on the church in 1915 and kept working on it until he died in 1926. He only built three parts of the church before he died: the crypt, the apse, and part of the Nativity facade. They have been working on it ever since he died and hope to finish on the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death. If they work hard enough I think they can finish.

One of the cool parts of the Sagrada Familia was the stained glass windows that brought so many colors into the church. The outside of the church is also very beautiful. They built it very carefully and there is so much to look at. There are three facades and each represents parts of the life of Jesus. Gaudi was inspired by nature and on the inside of the church you can see pillars that look like trees and the ceiling looks like sand dollars and seashells. When the Sagrada Familia is finished it will be even more beautiful than it is now!

Entrance to Sagrada Familia

Entrance to Sagrada Familia (Nativity facade)

Coloring light from the stained glass

Light from the stained glass

View of the ceiling

View of the ceiling


Memories of Ethiopia

Noah has been thinking back on some of the adventures he has had on this trip and decided to dedicate some blog time to writing about these events. Here he recalls a great evening on the town in Addis Ababa with our dear friend from Seattle, Kidane Ayele. Unfortunately, there are no pictures from this evening, but Noah has done a good job of describing his memorable evening.

By Noah

During my time in Ethiopia one big adjustment I had to make was having limited access to meat as we were there during the fasting season. This was challenging and occasionally made me crabby and cranky. One day our friend from Seattle, Kidane, who happened to be in Addis the same time as us, was at our apartment and heard me talk about my frustration with the lack of good meaty meals. Not wanting me to have a bad memory of the food in Ethiopia he insisted that he take Caleb and me out on the town for a memorable night of feasting. That was when the adventure started.

That evening I was very tired and when Kidane told me where we were going it went in one ear and out the other. All I knew was I was  going to have a meal that included meat. Leaving Romi and my parents behind we hopped into Kidane’s jeep and drove off into the heart of busy and chaotic Addis.

Our first stop on the meat adventure was to pick up another passenger at a jewelry store who I later learned was Kidane’s niece. Next we headed down an alley to a restaurant to feast on chicken tibs. As we dug into the incredible, juicy tibs we were joined by a little boy who walked into the restaurant and sat down with us to eat. He and Kidane’s niece did not speak English so at the time Caleb and I were very confused as to what was happening. After a good half hour of eating we hopped back into the jeep and drove off to a little neighborhood where we dropped off this boy (who I still do not know who he is) and continued on our way.

At this point I was confused as to what would happen next, but I knew two things: Kidane was trustworthy, and we were having a great time. Our next stop was down a glitzy street in downtown Addis were we left the Jeep and hopped into another car belonging to Kidane’s friend. At this point Caleb and I gave up on trying to figure out what was happening and just decided to go with the flow.

By this time it was 7:30 and pitch dark outside. The car which now contained, myself, Caleb, Kidane, Kidane’s niece, and the car driver started to drive back towards our apartment building. When we began to get near our home we kept driving past leaving Caleb and I in complete bewilderment and wondering, “where are we going now”?

Next we went to a restaurant a few kilometers from our apartment where we ate the most delicious beef tibs I have ever had and our third Coca-Cola of the night. After another good 30 minutes of solid feasting we all got back into the van and Kidane drove us back to our house with a full tummy and an extra order of tibs to share with Romi and my parents!

I can easily say this was one of my favorite nights in Ethiopia. An adventure through the streets of Addis Ababa where we had no idea where we were going or who we were with – just the kind of adventure Caleb and I were craving. By the end of the night it became less about the meat and more about the journey to reach it. The adventure and unknown destinations are what really made that night memorable. Kidane – if you are reading this, thank you for a great night!

Learning on the Road

Caleb has been working on a piece to submit to a blog on how he is learning during our trip.   Here is a shortened version of his initial submission.  He is working on a revised version that better suits the blog’s requirements.  We are proud of the hard work he is putting into this endeavor.

By Caleb

My "classroom" in Kas, Turkey

My “classroom” in Kas, Turkey

Being away from school for six months means I must find alternative ways to learn on the road. While overseas I am using a number of different approaches to learn. I use Khan Academy to learn math, Duo Lingo for Turkish, I write for our family blog, and I experience the world.

Khan Academy (Khan Academy) is a big factor in helping me learn math. Up till now, I have used Khan Academy to learn quadratic equations and factoring polynomials. I like Khan Academy because it makes learning math easy by combining instructional videos with practice lessons. I also like that this program allows me to learn at my own pace. My parents also like the fact that it is free.

I started out on this trip thinking I would continue learning Chinese (I completed one semester before we left). After a few weeks I realized that I didn’t have the necessary resources available to me to learn Chinese. I looked for other languages to learn and I found a website called Duo Lingo (DuoLIngo). At that time we were in Turkey so I decided to learn Turkish. It was such an interesting language that I kept learning it.

To improve my writing skills I am writing for our family’s travel blog. Writing for our blog is a nice way for me to write about what I am experiencing and it forces me to learn and research a bit more about what I am seeing. Publishing for an audience, even a small one, has helped me get better at revising my work.

The last way I have been learning is through experiencing the world. I have seen and learned about major religions as well as a number of political systems and issues. For example, I observed first hand a lot of development in Ethiopia including roads, buildings, and even a light rail. But while they are doing all of this building, many people are concerned that the quality is not good enough. I also learned that much of this development is done by Chinese contractors who seem to be profiting from lower quality work. While this is happening China is also being accused of importing very poor quality everyday products.

Another contentious issue I observed was the tension between Jews and Muslims over the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount section of the Old City in Jerusalem. After experiencing this first hand I then read an article about this situation in the NY Times and was fully able to envision the whole story. Through my travels in Ethiopia, Jordan, Israel and Turkey, I am learning a lot about Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.

So far it has really been exciting for me to learn in so many ways that are different from how I learn in school. I have been seeing and learning about things rather then just reading about them. This is a much more fun and hands-on way to learn. It has also been cool for me to try out a new language then apply it directly to my surroundings.

At the International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia (ILAE) in Addis

At the International Leadership Academy of Ethiopia (ILAE) in Addis

Sea Kayaking

By Noah

“Is there something you really want to do while we are in Kas?”my parents asked me our first day in the little beach town located in southern Turkey. After hearing from a Dutch couple on the Lycian Way about their experience sea kayaking, I knew it was something that I had to do.

Our very first day in Kas (pronounced “kahsh” in Turkish) we headed over to Dragoman tour company to make a reservation. The woman there wasn’t sure the winds would cooperate so we had to check back with them each day. Luckily, we got the message that we could join a group on Wednesday, our last full day in Kas.

We woke up early on Wednesday to reach the marina by 7:00 am where we met our tour guide and the other people on the tour. They included two women from Germany and England and a family of four from France. The father works for the Laughing Cow company and filled us in on how they make Baby Bell cheese.

From there we hopped in a van and drove for 45 minutes to this little town where we launched the kayaks out into the sea. Kayaking across a bay over clear, blue water, we reached our first stop. It was a small cove on the island of Kekova surrounded by ruins where we went snorkeling and ate snacks on the beach.

Geared up and ready to go!

Geared up and ready to go!

Romi's ready to go

Romi can’t wait to get started

Our first stop, Kelkova Island

Our first stop, Kelkova Island

Snorkeling off of Kelkova

Getting ready to snorkel off of Kelkova

Because the coast guard comes at 11am to kick people off the beach, we had to hop back into the kayak and make our way to the next destination: a sunken Lycian city that slid into the water after a huge earthquake in 146 A.D. The water was crystal clear so as we kayaked over the ruins we could see really far down to former structures and foundations of this ancient city.

Out across the clear, blue water

Out across the clear, blue water

Over the Lycian ruins - not a great picture!

Over the Lycian ruins

From there we proceeded back across the bay to my favorite part of the tour: a seafood lunch in the town of Kaleköy surrounded by an ancient castle, Lycian ruins, and a great beach where we went swimming and snorkleing. After a good 2 hours of eating, swimming, and relaxing we kayaked back to the van for the return trip to Kas. We were so tired afterwards we could barely walk home and it was only 3:00 pm!

Approching Kalekoy

Approaching Kalekoy

A great place for swimming and more snorkeling

A great place for more swimming and snorkeling

Max and Romi paddle back to where we started

Max and Romi – Check out their form!

Pamukkale – White Cliffs and Warm Pools

By Romi

Today was a special day because we went to Pamukkale to see the calcium cliffs and the thermal pools. Pamukkale is a small town in western Turkey.  The town is famous for enormous chalky white cliffs and volcanic spring water. Pamukkale in Turkish means “cotton castle”.

The cliffs look like snow

The cliffs look like snow


First we walked up a steep hill with warm water running down it. At different points on the hill, the water forms into warm pools. Some people were wading in the water. We did too.

Wading in the pools

Wading in the pools


When we got to the top, we sat down on some steps and ate snacks. At the top there are some ruins and a museum, but we did not go see those things. We went straight to the thermal pools. Before we went in the water, we had to give someone our ticket. Then we swam under a bridge and into the big pool where we swam over ancient ruins. We were there for about two hours.

Snack time

Snack time

Swimming in the thermal pool among the ruins

Swimming in the thermal pool among the ruins

With Griffin and Elizabeth

With Griffin and Elizabeth

On our way down the hill to get back to our hotel, the weather got very cold. You must go barefoot up and down the hill so right when we stepped on the ground our feet were freezing. Every few minutes I had to put my feet in the warm water then get back up to walk some more and so on. It was funny! Going down the hill I heard water rushing down the cliff. I felt warm water on my feet. When we were walking down the hill at some points it was smooth and at some points it was rough on my feet. If you have not been to Pamukkale, I would recommend that you visit.

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