Dave Sohigian

10Oct/060

Sohigian Family Hits the Road!

As you may already know we going to be heading out for a trip around the World for the next 9-10 months. We will travel from California to Hawaii on to Australia, then Thailand and eventually into Europe for 4-5 months. We leave Thursday October 12th for California and our flight to Hawaii goes out of SFO on Tuesday October 17th. We are not sure how long we will stay in Hawaii - we were planning on staying on the Big Island but since the Iron Man is going on it has been difficult to find accommodations that are reasonably priced. We may stay on Oahu for a couple weeks instead.

During our travels we will probably stop at Waldorf Schools in various countries and enroll the kids for short periods. We will also be working on farms in trade for accommodations (there is a group called Willing Workers on Organic Farms or WWOOF that we have joined that helps find suitable places). We will also be doing some street performing while on the road (a clowning/juggling show to include the entire family - thanks to Paul Battram for his help in putting together a show with us). It should be a fun adventure that is sure to provide several challenges.

If you are going to be traveling near us at any point in the next 9 months, please let us know so that we can connect. I will be sending out a mass emails so if you would like to receive periodic updates of our travels, please let me know(Drop me an email) . You can also keep up with our travels through this blog ( http://blog.sohigian.com) and we will post picture to flickr on a regular basis ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/dsohigian ).

Our plans will likely change during the year, but our general itinerary right now is:

October: Hawaii
November: Hawaii/Australia
December: Australia
January: Australia/Thailand
February: Thailand
March: Thailand/Europe (maybe India or Egypt in between)
April: Europe - Italy
March: Italy/France
April: France
May: Germany
June: France/UK
July: UK
August: New York and return to Portland (we are renting out our home while we are away)

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14Oct/061

Are we really traveling yet?

Our first stop is California – to see family before we head out on the open road. We stopped in to see my Grandmother Evie in the Oakland Hills yesterday. There were lots of other relatives there to send us off – cousin Rachel and her wife Jenny, their son Oren, cousin Alexis, cousin Jacob and his fiancée Lea. Every one of them are seasoned travelers – they grew up in a family (my Uncle David and Aunt Patty) that spent an ex-pat year in Sri Lanka and another in Calcutta. Each has traveled extensively since (including several stints writing for “Let’s Go” travel guides).

We got lots of tips on places to go and I expect that we will meet up with Rachel, Jenny and Oren in Europe (they are going to be on the Croatian coast). The fact that everyone there had been bitten so hard by the travelers bug was no coincidence. Grandma Evie started the tradition many years before – she is the best traveled person I have ever met. Evie went to Russia when it was Communist and traveled overland by car (when that was near impossible) with my grandfather, Buck. They toured Red China, India, Europe (including the Communist Eastern Bloc). Even once Buck died Evie continued to travel –sometimes with her brother Ishi and sometimes on her own. She even went to China in her late 80’s. Some of my earliest memories are Buck and Evie telling stories of their travels and looking through the stamps in their many passports (they had to get special add-on pages in many of them to accommodate all the stamps).

I remember Evie telling me a story of her having a hard time at the German border crossing in the 70’s and she ended up saluting the border guard and saying “Heil Hiltler!”. He responded by saluting and saying “Heil, Vietnam!”. She certainly had Chutzpah!

Sitting amongst all those well traveled people I realize that Evie was really the reason why we all did it – that is the legacy she has given us. My family spent an ex-pat year in Scotland when I was 6 years old – and I know that Evie’s example was one of the big reasons why we did it (and she came and visited while we were there). Evie and Buck did not have a ton of money, but they saved for their travels and were not afraid to leave their jobs to see the world. I told Grandma that she really did start it all and she looked pleased.

The next few days will be seeing more family here in the Bay before we head to Hawaii. We will be staying on O’ahu (on the west shore for most of the time) for three weeks and then headed to Sydney. We already have places to stay lined up in Australia, including with an old work friend who has a couple extra rooms and on some farms a few hours north of Sydney. More about all of that in another post.

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16Oct/061

Still in CA

We are still in California - our flight for Hawaii was scheduled on Tuesday morning on Hawaiian Airlines. We will know more today about the earthquake and whether it will affect our travel plans. Hopefully all of our friends on the island are safe and not suffering too much property damage. I guess the Goddess Pele heard that we were headed to the islands and she was not pleased.

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27Oct/060

The Magic Isles…

They call the trip along the Waikiki beach “The Magic Mile” (although locals sometimes refer to it as “The Tragic Mile”) because of the beauty fo the beach and the excitement of the strip. But Caleb was looking for a different kind of excitement while in Honolulu – the kind that can make an audience ooh and aahh.

We were headed into Honolulu to get a new filing for Caleb had recently lost. And for Caleb a trip to the a big city means one thing – the chance to head to the local magic store.

We started the day with a walk down the Magic Mile on Kalukaua Ave that fronts the beach. We stopped into one of the ubiquitous ABC Stores (there is one on virtually every corner of Wakiki) to buy some post cards. We also asked to use their Yellow Pages to look for magic stores in the area. We figured we could walk to one on the Magic Mile, but it turned out there were only two in the entire city. One was clearly just a distributor from someone’s home, but the other looked more promising and it was only a short drive from Honolulu’s Chinatown where we planned to have lunch. So after lunch we attempted to find “Zuki’s Magic” in a somewhat rundown residential district of Honolulu.

There were lots of one way streets and dead ends in the area =- it did not seem possible that there could be a magic store in this neighborhood. But just when we were about to give up we spotted a small storefront with the “C Zukemura Store – General Merchadise” There was a smaller handwritten sign on the door that said “Magic Store Open – Sat 9-5 only” We were in luck – it was 1 PM on Saturday.

We went into the store and it was crowded with both customers and staff. There were shelves on all sides of the 10’ x 12’ room. A magician was demonstrating tricks in the middle of the room (not sure if he worked there or not) and a Japanese couple was behind the glass counter with many magic apparatus on display. One friendly customer, there with his son, showed us several tricks – including one with a dollar bill that Caleb has started using regularly. Caleb showed several of his tricks (to gauge his skill level for any tricks he might purchase) and he also did some juggling.

We spent an hour in the store and the owners (Carol and Jimmy Zukimora) talked with us about our trip. It was definitely the most fun the family ever had in a magic store: This place had a real down-to-earth feel in contrast to the somewhat cheesy aura we often experience at magic stores. If you are in Honolulu on a Saturday, it is worth a look.

Caleb ended up getting a magic light trick and Anna got her first trick – a magic coloring book.

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27Oct/060

The Key to the future is PLASTICS….

10/26/06 - Today we made a long trip across the island – from the far West Shore where we are staying to the North Shore famous for its huge surf. We were not going to the North Shore to see the surfers (the sea was flat on the North Shore today) but rather to do some work with Greenpeace on one of the North Shore Beaches.

Meta had pored through the O’ahu events calendar earlier in the week and found an event that Greenpeace was holding to clean up a beach with the help of Greenpeace ship crew and volunteers.

We stayed up late the night before and the family was not particularly motivated to leave in the morning. But meta persisted and we eventually got on the road by 10 AM and made the hour plus drive to the other side of the island). We arrived at the secluded beach where the work was to be done and were stunned by the amount of debris on the small beach. We quickly learned that the trash (mainly plastic) had come from all over the Pacific – it was drawn by ocean currents and deposited on this beach. There was plastic of all types – ropes, buoys, toothbrushes, plastic containers, car bumpers, boat parts and many other unidentifiable items. We all start in – loading the trash into plastic bags and hauling stuff up the beach for collection.

The Greenpeace coordinators let us know that this garbage came from as far off as Asia (we found some with Korean writing on it) and was released from a huge “trash vortex” (http://oceans.greenpeace.org/en/our-oceans/pollution/trash-vortex) out in the Pacific. Every once in a while some of the trash from the vortex peels off and ends up on the windward side of O’ahu (and other Islands). The Greenpeace vessel was touring several of the locations and also headed to the vortex. They were cleaning up the beach and documenting what they found there.

We spent a few hours on the beach cleaning up. By early afternoon we had a massive pile of trash along with a bunch of golf balls that w3ere collected from the surf (the beach had a golf driving range right behind it). Caleb and Anna helped out by creating a big sign in the sand with the golf balls that spelled out “Trash”. They took pictures and video and they interviewed each family member (even Anna). The Greenpeace crew members were from all over the world – Holland, Fiji, Germany, Armenia, New Zealand and many other places. WE even met the Deputy Director for the US – Bill Richardson, (http://members.greenpeace.org/blog/billy_rich/) who had been on a project at sea for 5 weeks. They were all clearly very committed and motivated people with a genuine care for the future of our planet.

Everyone we met was very friendly and they were somewhat surprised were not locals to Hawaii (what would tourist be doing out cleaning up the beaches?). I think that they (and many others we have encountered) were intrigued by a family traveling the World together.

It felt good to give back a little rather than just sitting on the beach getting a tan (although we are doing plenty of that as well).

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5Nov/061

Juggling Shows

The Juggling shows got going with two shows this week--one at the local library and another at a youth rally at a local church. Both shows were lots of fun and quite different. We have been frequenting the local library for books, music, books on tape and movies (and sometimes internet access). It was a few days before Halloween and they were having a free party that night at the library. We offered to do a show at the party and the librarian gratefully accepted.

The show started at 6pm and there were probably 25 people in the audience. They were pretty much all locals and I think most were library regulars. Caleb did some magic as the crowd was gathering. We started our show with a new bit that includes Caleb and Anna running around and causing trouble.
Caleb also did 4 balls and I did 5 clubs. The old standby of apple eating went well

. Because it was a Halloween party, Meta and Anna even managed to dress up a bit.

The show went well although the crowd could have been more lively and we could have been smoother in our transitions. Note from Meta who's playing secretary right now: It was a very good show except for the fact that Dave inadvertently made a little girl cry doing the machete bit where he goes to show how sharp the blades are by attempting to test it out on an audience member's arm! Poor thing! She recovered OK and after the show we gave her one of the princess crowns in hopes it would make her feel better. Ugh! We decided after that mishap only to use that bit for the older members of the crowd. Live and learn. Back to the letter...

The next show was on Friday night in a small room for the local church that our neighbor attends in Waianae (town just south of Makaha where we are staying). We are a little nervous about this crown when we arrived; they were mostly older kids and teenagers--not always our best target audience. Most of them were running around outside shouting before the show and we weren't sure if it was because they were excited about the upcoming performance or if they were just riled up in general (not a good thing for us). Once we got inside we saw that the room was a decent size and there were probably 30 adults and young adults in the room--some sitting on the floor. Our neighbor, Charity, and two of her children (Dustin and Jocelyn) were there along with Pastor Michael, the young and charismatic leader of the congregation.

Once again, Caleb started out with some magic to warm up the crowd. He did the coloring book trick which Anna was a bit too shy to perform. The reaction was incredible--several of the teens threw their hands up in amazement--"did you see that?!?." It was going to be a good crowd after all. We did our opening routine (which I will record soon so everyone can see it) and then went through 3, 4, 5 and even 6 balls. The 6 ball routine is a new one--with Caleb up on my shoulders juggling while I juggle below. I did the apple eating trick which got a great reaction--particularly from the Samoan kid that I spit apples up on--you can see Caleb cracking up in the video and Pastor Michael pointing and laughing at the end as well. This group ended up being one of the best crowds I have ever played to--with the notable exception of the crowd at the Cedarwood School's Winter Faire (which we will unfortunately miss this year). We ended up doing a few extra bits at the end because they were so appreciative and we have been invited to do another show on Monday, November 5th, for some other members of the congregation who were unable to attend the first show.

The name we have been using so far has been the "Sohigian Family Jugglers" but we're thinking we need to get a better name for the show. Some ideas we have:
*Crusaders of Silliness
*The Jugglers Journey
*SoHuge Family Circus (Meta's 2nd favorite)
*The Jugglers Journey
*The Circus Caravan
*Stewards of Silliness and Purveyors of Goodwill
*Team Micha-el (with accompanying theme song)
*Way of the Peaceful Jugglers (Meta's favorite)
*Dave and the Little People
*Circus Peace and
*A Peace of Circus (Meta also likes this one)

We welcome your vote and/or further suggestions.

And for those of you wondering where Meta fits into the show--currently she manages logistics, photo/video taking, and cheers us on from the wings. But this role has led to the development of a new character for the show that will debut soon. Meta will play the overzealous cheerleader (complete with pom-poms and semi high-kicks). She will probably have several cheers that she will lead the audience in and will be a wonderful clown against my straight-man juggling routines.

We have managed to have some vacation style fun as well--including our fair share of island treats, fattening breakfasts , sitting on the beach or under it! And making sand castles .

We are also quite looking forward to our travels in Australia. Our first stop will be in Syndey--we will spend 7-10 days there seeing the sights and finding a car to use while in Australia. We have an incredibly generous offer from an Aussie friend (Brad Colwell--thanks, Brad!) to stay at his 3 bed apartment during that time. Brad has even generously offered to pick us up at the airport! Aussie hospitality in action! You rock, Brad!

We will head North from Sydney up to the Thora Valley (about 4 hrs. north) to spend a month working on area farms while the kids finish up the school year attending the local Waldorf school (if all goes well with admissions, etc...) Meta also hopes to have the family spend some time at the Warrah School helping out in some capacity. The Warrah School is the equivalent of the Camphill School in New York and elsewhere that house, school, and put to work developmentally disabled folks. They also run a biodynamic farm and store as well. Will keep you posted on developments there.

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5Nov/060

Zamboni in Paradise

The last two days in Hawaii have been wet. The islands have been hit with what is known as a "Kona" front that brings rain from the Southwest across the "leeward" or dry sides of the islands. The result is tons of rain--even in areas like Makaha that get less than 20" of rain per year.

There have been mudslides on other parts of O'ahu though it is over 80 degrees out during the day. After the first day of sitting around our condo we quickly caught cabin fever and on the second day we decided it was time for an outing of some sort.

When we first arrived on O'ahu we headed west form the airport and spotted a big building near the freeway called the "Ice Palace". It turns out that it is an ice rink which is one of Anna's favorite things. She had gone skating with Meta in Portland and really enjoyed it. I was not so sure about ice skating--after nearly breaking my wrist learning to unicycle last year, I have been reluctant to take on new "frictionless" sports. Ice skating sounded like an accident waiting to happen. Not to mention the obvious absurdity of ice skating in a tropical island paradise. But we were really bored and Anna had enough motivation for everyone so we hit the road.

The Ice Palace is a bit run down but definitely gets a lot of use by local skaters. One of the things I have noticed about people raised on the islands is that they really look forward to some cold weather and the snow and ice that go with it. Sure, 75-80 degrees and sunny everyday is pretty great, but its nice to have a break from it, even if only for a few hours.

The Ice Palace was very reasonably priced--$7.50 per person including skate rentals. We all put on our additional layers (that we had not used since the start of our trip) and got out on the ice. Meta is a very capable skater but the rest of us were rank beginners. (Caleb and I had never been on the ice before). We started by using metal support bars that look like elderly walkers without the rubber feet. Pretty soon we were all able to get around reasonably well. Anna with a little help from Mom , Caleb skated as if he was wearing his Heely's and I looked like a newborn foal on Rollerblades . The Zamboni came out after a bit and cleaned up the ice while we took a break.

It was a fun outing and a break from the lousy weather. The sun returned today so we are off for the beach once again!

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13Nov/060

Spam, Spam, Spam, Sushi and Spam

Spam, Spam, Spam, Sushi and Spam
It’s hard to believe, but they really do make sushi from spam here in Hawaii. Caleb had never tasted spam and was very curious so we got one for him.
Caleb considers the Spam Sushi
He really seemed to enjoy the thing (which we found at a local sushi joint, but can be purchased pre-packaged at 7/11). He was able to eat about half of the thing but unfortunately ended up with the runs later that day. Needless to say, no requests for spam sushi for the rest of the trip would be had.

We are pretty well done with Hawaii – three weeks on the island of Oahu has satisfied our need for a break from the rat race. This side of the island has lovely weather, but there is not much to do with the family. The beaches are wonderful – we particularly like the lagoons at Ko Olina and have visited there several times this week. We have also been stopping in at the local Internet Café to check messages and also the local Shave Ice stand for treats. The library has continued to be a mainstay as well as daily visits to the pool in our complex.
Anna, Caleb, Kathryn and Jean-Paul
We also enjoyed several days with our cousins (actually first cousins once removed) Kathryn and Jean-Paul. They took us on a train ride on the West side of the island (sponsored by the local train society) and hosted us for lunch at their lovely place in Honolulu and managed to fit in a swim in their gorgeous dark-blue tiled community pool. It was wonderful to have some time with family, and the kids really loved spending time with Kathryn and Jean-Paul. We may end up seeing them again on our travels if they end up in France next summer (Jean-Paul is originally from France and Kathryn speaks fluently).

We have gotten to know our upstairs neighbors pretty well – Jocelyn is 11 years old and has gone with us on several day trips. Her family belongs to the church where we have done performances. We did one final show the night before we left – notable mainly for the introduction of Meta’s cheerleader character Meta Cheers (those pom-poms are made out of plastic shopping bags) and a new finale Show finale

Mosquitos have been a bit of a problem – we have gotten to be expert at killing them at night although it can often result in a mess Bugged!.

We have enjoyed our time on the west coast of Oahu, but it definitely has a different feel from the rest of the places in Hawaii that we have visited. There is a lot of homelessness and poverty on this side of the island and it is where you can see how Hawaii can be like a third world country with a thin veneer. Many of the locals are what I would call “rough necks” – big tough guys that are a little grumpy about life. We did not run into any trouble – quite the opposite – but you definitely get the sense that if you were looking for a fight here, you could have one.

On our last day here while enjoying a shave ice at the corner mall, a local guy named Brandon approached us about seeing him do some fishing. We eagerly agreed to accompany him a couple hundred yards to his fishing hole to see him in action.
Fishing
He was obviously down on his luck and knew that entertaining some tourists might result in a friendly gesture on our part (he was right). After just a few moments he managed to bring in one small fish (a goat fish) Goat Fish and another larger fish ended up breaking his line. He told us about some of the local history and we gave the fish back to the sea as an offering to the gods. Caleb enjoyed the experience Brandon and Caleb Shaka and we felt it was a nice finish to the trip.

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13Nov/060

Flight to another world (or other side of the world)

Departure to Sydney
This photo of us before our flight to Sydney proves a point about how careful we have been about packing – that is everything that we are taking on this flight in the photo. It includes one large roller duffel (under 50 lbs) and a small backpack for each family member. There is also the car seat (which we will probably get rid of after Australia) and one extra shoulder bag. The amazing thing is that this includes a small unicycle, 7 juggling clubs, 3 machetes, 11 juggling balls, a water filter and lots of vitamins. In addition, the kid’s bags are mainly filled with small toys and games.

We were all a little anxious about the flight to Sydney from Honolulu – it was a 9+ hour flight – the longest the family had ever been on. Meta realized on the bumpy trip to Honolulu that she does not do well on long flights with turbulence. We managed to get four seats together and the flight we were on had televisions in the back of every seat. This is one of the side benefits of a Waldorf education – since the kids get so little time with a television they are totally absorbed during their brief interactions with it. They were glued to the things for most of the flight, which made it go by quite quickly. A couple glasses of wine and some fun neighbors and everyone seemed to fair quite well.

In fact, one of our airplane neighbors were a nice Australian couple – they offered for us to stay at their place for a night on our way up to the Thora Valley – typical of Australian hospitality. We most likely will take them up on it.

One of the oddities of traveling to Australia is that you cross the equator as well as the International Date Line. This means that over the course of the trip you change to a different season (Spring here vs. late Fall in the states) and lose a day as well (we left on Tuesday morning and arrived on Wednesday evening). The actual jet lag involved is not huge (only 4 hours time difference between Sydney and Hawaii) but it is strange to lose a day. According to the onboard navigation system Almost there! (my favorite channel on the plane) we crossed right over the intersection of the date line and the equator.

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13Nov/060

Sydney, it’s not just a nice first name

We are in Sydney now – staying with my friend Brad in the western suburbs. Brad is truly a citizen of the world. He has an American accent and lived in the US for many years, but is also an Australian citizen and has lived in Sydney for many years as well. Currently he and his family live in Singapore but he is on contract here in Sydney for a few months and has a nice 3 bed apartment. He is definitely the guy with all the connections in Sydney. His family will arrive here in a week or so and he has generously offered to let us stay at his place until then.

A trip to the mall to find sleeping bags resulted in Caleb’s "best Heely ride of all time".

We went to the Sydney harbour to check out the library and enjoy the views. We took several typical tourist photos and talked with some buskers (the English term for street performers) about how to get a permit to busk. I have always known that one of the best ways to get money in your hat when busking is to make a bit of an ass out of yourself, but perhaps this busker has taken things too far.
Busker making an ass out of himself (but getting paid anyway)
We will have to apply for a license to busk here – a big change since my last trip 15 years ago when the streets were open to anyone. I will even have to do an audition if I want to do dangerous things like juggling the machetes. I suppose it will be worth it just to have an official busker’s card from Sydney – will make a nice souvenir.

We went to the main library at Circular Quay (pronounce "key").
Customs House Library in Sydney
It is a marvel – with a modern café downstairs (with current and archived newspapers from around the globe), amazing architecture Staircase at the library in Sydney, Internet access and a huge model of the harbor under the floor in the lobby [2350] which the kids really got into [2351]. When I went to the ultra-modern information counter to ask about whether a non-resident could get a library card Information desk at the Sydney Library I had what I consider a typical Aussie conversation. I asked the woman "We are visiting here for about 3 months – can we get a library card?" and she answered "Well, as long as you have proof of your address and you are staying for more than 6 months, then you will be right. So just make sure to say you are staying for at least 6 months." Same sort of thing another day when we were told by one of the train station guards, "No need to bother with tickets for the buses when the rail lines are down, no one ever does". I think they just like breaking the rules a bit around here.

We went to a Waldorf School here in Sydney today for a market on the school grounds. The school, Lorien Novalis, is 34 years old and located in the hills NW of Sydney. It has lovely grounds covering several acres. We did one show for the group and made $A24 (about $20 US) which the kids were very pleased about. It was fun doing a show for a Waldorf crowd and everyone was very friendly and welcoming (including giving us free meals and offering us places to stay). Anna went for a pony ride Anna on the pony ride at Lorien Novalis and we toured the entire grounds Akael shows us the sundial at Lorien Novalis which included the lovely kindergarten rooms Kindergarten at Lorien Novalis in Sydney. Akael (a 6th grader) was our tour-guide and did a wonderful job of describing life at the school. He spun Anna on a funny contraption something like a merry go round.
Going for a spinGoing for a spin

The next week should see a great deal of activity – we plan to buy a car at auction on Monday and then later in the week we will drive up to the Thora Valley, 5+ hours of Sydney where we will work on some farms and the kids may attend the Chrysalis north Steiner School. We will probably stop in the Hunter Valley (where I used to work in wineries) and one or two other places on the way up.

I have started "geotagging" the photos that we take on our trip. You can now look at this map to see a geographical view of our trip.

We love receiving emails from home, even if they’re brief. Word from home erases the distance and provides a comfort to all of us. Until next week

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