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Here’s to 2011… January 5, 2011

Posted by KG in Etc., Family, Running, Travels.
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…  though to be frank, I have few reasons to mourn the passing of 2010.  In the final ledger ’10 comes out in the black: trekking in the Himalayas, roadtripping in the Pacific NW, hiking in Zion National Park.  Returning to DC, a new job that was terrifying on paper that has proven to be rewarding in ways I didn’t expect, a chance to work in NYC.  A nice house in a nice neighborhood, all our belongings out of storage, and holidays with family.  The whole back injury, emergency surgery, ten pounds gained because the doc says no exercise thing put a damper on the end of the year, but overall things turned out just fine.

2011 could be even better.  Yesterday I managed two miles on the treadmill in 16 minutes — a slow pace, but the official benchmark my PT gave me for going ahead and running outdoors.  New work challenges pop up daily, but somehow they seem more predictable than they did months ago, or at least more understandable.  The wife and I are starting to talk travel destinations for the new year, and the whole of North America seems ripe for exploration. 

I’ve come to dislike both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Resolutions because they are setups for disappointment.  Goals were more my thing, but unfortunately I failed spectacularly at all of the goals I set for 2010, with the possible exception of “eat more fish.”   When 2/3 of your goals are physical, a back injury will do that.  So this year I’ll pull back from “resolution” even more — a list of ideas for making 2011 a good year: 

Read more books. 

Approach problems calmly.  

Appease loved ones and anonymous admirers by blogging more.  

And most importantly, avoid debilitating medical conditions.

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Minutes with Powerful People September 24, 2010

Posted by KG in FS Life, State, Travels.
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I’ve spent the last four days in New York, working at the UN General Assembly.  It has been an illuminating and humbling experience, to say the least.

Most of my days were spent in a small room in the Waldorf-Astoria, working on logistics for events involving my principal (Department-speak for the person doing the talking).  I have the fortune of working on the issues in a prominent region, and with a dynamic and dedicated principal; days in the control room were long and hard as we juggled meetings, movements, and papers on some of the toughest issues out there.  A few notable and fascinating times I escaped the room, mostly to work as a notetaker.  Once – easily some of the most fascinating 30 minutes of my career – for a Ministerial bilat.

So remember all that regret about missing out on the unjadedness of the new kids? I take it back.  Four days of diplomatic geek out and I feel pretty cool about this gig.

Trying to Summarize a Cloud March 2, 2010

Posted by KG in Bhutan, Travels.
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Each individual moment we spent in Bhutan was a highlight. Writing about the trip is a struggle; no single moment is good enough to capture the whole vacation, and yet each moment taken in isolation was amazing enough to warrant its own story. We’ve been on a lot of good trips together, but none have been simultaneously so relaxing, so rewarding, and so magical.

Halfway through the first day of our trek from the Punakha to the Wangdue valley, we stopped for a brief trail lunch. We’d been climbing steadily upwards for almost four hours, sometimes on easy, gentle rises and sometimes on narrow, rocky scrambles that still make my ankles ache. Just when I thought I was at my climb limit, we hit the crest — a school, a farmhouse, a soccer field, a chorten, a temple. Connected to the nearest city by a snaking dirt road and our climbing path. The owner of the farmhouse gave us — all the weary trekkers, guides, horsemen, and Americans alike — miniscule, bitter-sweet oranges from her tree. We sat by the chorten to have our oranges, and a Bhutanese meal of dried meats, hot chilis, and vegetables, over red rice. Despite an ongoing forest fire, the air was clear, and our guide pointed out Gankar Punsum, the highest peak in Bhutan. There was a cold breeze, and though moments earlier I had been sweaty and overheated, I started to shiver. According to our guide, the hard part of the day was over, but the next day would be even tougher. My hips throbbed, my feet screamed. I was excited for more.

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It was a moment, and yet…

It was a long day’s drive, from Wangdue to Phobjikha, after our trek was over. Somehow, our guide had forgotten to mention two important details of our trip to the Phobjikha Valley. One, that it was cold, really cold, in Phobjikha. I’d gone from six layers to two during the daylight moments of our trek, and was wholly unprepared for it to be well below freezing, and to be lashed by some serious valley winds. The other fact Tenzing (our guide) forgot to tell us: we were going to visit his ancestral home. There we were, walking through fields of dwarf bamboo, as our guide recalled his childhood for us. “We’d fish here, in summers,” he said. “There, that’s where I went to school.” Every few moments, a black-necked crane would glide over us, graceful and silent. The valley had a “bigness” I’d never encountered before, as if it were its own world, content with being so isolated, but happy you came to visit. We walked into our guide’s mother’s home without knocking; his sister-in-law was there, and she made us tea. A few days earlier we’d been in Thimphu, where we’d seen a replica of a Bhutanese farmhouse. We saw the same things in Phobjikha: where meat was drying, where grain was stored. In Thimphu, it felt like history. Here, the smells and sounds were different, and made it clear that here everything was being used. It took that moment for me to comprehend that we hadn’t been in a museum back in Thimphu, and just how close to the ground many Bhutanese lived.

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The issue is that I have two, three, four stories like that for every day of our trip. Can you imagine writing a recap of a vacation where every moment was a highlight? I can’t, and I won’t be able to. Bhutan’s simply a wonder, a place that makes me want to wax poetically like a teenager. I’m endlessly thankful for having the chance to go there, and if you have the opportunity, take advantage of it.

Thunder Dragon Photos February 25, 2010

Posted by KG in Bhutan, Photos, Travels.
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Sadly, trying to write something insightful about our trip to Bhutan has been delayed; work has been tough and tumultuous this week. Luckily, it’s a three day weekend, so that retrospective blog post is en route. Bhutan deserves more than a photodump.

That said: some of my personal favorite photos from Bhutan below. You can see more by checking out my Best of Bhutan set, or my entire Bhutan 2010 collection.

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Belated Thanks December 9, 2009

Posted by KG in Etc., Family, Food, Friends, FS Life, Travels, Yoga.
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Crazy time — parents and sister in town, then out of town with my parents and sister, then arranging for the parents to travel while staying in town, all the while transitioning to a new position in the office. Deep breath.

In the madness I forgot to give thanks this year, quite literally. Despite hosting two lovely strangers and my family for Thanksgiving, we forgot to go around the table and give thanks. Despite the chance to be with my nuclear and extended family, all at the same time, in our ancestral city for the first time in years, I didn’t think to thank anyone. Despite being able to show my family my workplace, introduce them to my coworkers, and take them to a rather unique local holiday celebration, not once did I think “I need to feel grateful for this.”

Here’s a corrective, banking on the spiritually evergreen nature of thanks.

Thank you Orville and Wilbur Wright, Otto Lilienthal, Samuel Langley, and all the other parents of modern aviation, for making the two week holiday half way across the world possible.

Thank you random farm in Pune, for providing amazing Thanksgiving turkeys two years running.

Thank you Michael Graglia for being the best yoga teacher I’ve had, ever. (we’ll miss you!)

Thank you cell phone deregulation and competitive market, for making it so darn cheap to call home.

Thank you Bandra for your ample bounty of cheap and delicious food, just a phone call away.

And thank you to all the family and friends who have visited us in Mumbai over the last year and a half, for making India feel a little bit like home.

I Have Never Seen So Many Prayer Flags October 21, 2009

Posted by KG in Travels.
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We spent five days total in Nepal, stretching Columbus Day weekend on either end to put together a mini-vacation. The trip was good, but it felt as if we didn’t give Nepal enough time. Time restrictions meant we didn’t get out of the Kathmandu Valley, which was the biggest bummer. It’s difficult to do justice to a country so rich in culture — and so very different from where we call home — in five days

Not that the Valley wasn’t itself amazing. We saw more temples than I’ve seen during all my time in India, representing Hinduism, Buddhism, and everything in between; got to smell clean, fresh mountain air; and combined predictable outings like a day’s hike to a hilltop with things a bit more inexplicable — specifically, going to a performance that was part of the annual Kathmandu Jazz Festival (aka “Jazzmandu”). I’m not even that big of a jazz fan, but the chance to watch live jazz under starlight in Nepal was just one of those things we couldn’t pass up. Our last day was spent on a mountain flight, circling the Himalayas to get a look at Mt. Everest. I can now confirm that Everest is indeed very, very large.

A few photographic highlights: faces, temples, mountains, and prayer flags from The Roof of the World.  For all my pictures from Nepal, click here.

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Mountains! October 10, 2009

Posted by KG in Travels.
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Prayer flags!  Momos!  Stupas!  Backpackers!  Iconoclastic headwear!  A fifteen minute time difference!

We’re in Nepal and in case you were wondering: absolutely, postively, totally nothing like India.

A Vacation Aquatic September 28, 2009

Posted by KG in Photos, Travels.
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m and k on calypso

Our trip to Australia was decidedly marine themed. When we weren’t in the water, we were near the water, or enjoying the bounties of the sea. In Sydney, this meant visiting the aforementioned fish market (where we dined next to a pelican), walking with crabs on the beach, and taking in the lights of the city at night:

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After Sydney we went north to Port Douglas. Our apartment was thirty seconds from a gorgeous beach, a few minutes cruise from crocodile infested waters, thirty minutes from a major fishing town, and an hour from a stretch of Devonian-era mangrove forests and deserted waterfront alcoves:

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But that was all prologue to the undisputed highlight of our trip, snorkeling by — in? around? — the Great Barrier Reef. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am absolutely not a good swimmer. I hold my own, but swimming’s never been a big thing for me. It’s a bit of a sore subject. Those few hours in the clear waters of southern Pacific, surrounded by the technicolor life of the Reef, make me want to change that.

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There was a full moon the first night we were in Port Douglas. It’s reflected light shimmered on the face of the waters, brighter than any moon I’d ever seen before. My mistake, going to bed that night, was to think that was going to be the most beautiful thing I’d see all trip, when it was really the first of many.
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Can’t Sit Still September 20, 2009

Posted by KG in Food, FS Life, Traveling, Travels.
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A long flight back from Australia, a day moving “offices” (even “cubicle” would be an overstatement), a flight to Delhi, a conference, a flight back, and two job interviews.

That was tiring.

But the timing gods have been munificent.  It’s that awesome time in India when every other day seems to be a holiday, and so we’re getting things done.  Miraculously, I’ve uploaded all of my pictures (click), though the task of naming, captioning, geotagging, and all that good stuff remains.  Oh yeah, and the ever popular “vacation wrap up” blog post, which my tens of readers are no doubt anticipating with baited breath.  Sorry!  Not this post.  All that uploading has made me hungry, and we have little in the name of food at home.  Time to go rectify that.  To put you all in the same boat, here’s a photo of some awesome and exotic flavored ice creams we ate on the Daintree Coast — chocolate sapote, wattleseed, jackfruit, and the rare and mysterious apricot.

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Hello from the Reef! September 11, 2009

Posted by KG in Travels.
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Despite the fact we’re leaving  (*sob*) tomorrow….

Opal Reef Snorkeling