Saturday, July 26, 2008

We're getting married August 12 -- Gulp!

We found out when Andre went to the DMV, that he couldn't take the written portion of his driver's test because it was too close to August 22, the date his fiance visa will expire unless we get married. Sure enough, we looked at his California ID card and it expires August 22.

I had planned on waiting until the last minute to get married, but then we had to figure out when to go back east. Since Andre is enjoying his ESL classes at Santa Cruz Adult School, we decided to travel between summer and fall sessions, August 14 - September 3.

We'll fly first to Pittsburgh, PA where my cousin Steffi lives. She and her husband Larry -- affectionately nicknamed by Daniel as "Hercules" due to his size -- invited us to take a canoeing trip on the Allegheny River with them that weekend.

Then we'll ride the train to Washington, DC (6 hours) where Steffi's parents and sister Julie live. We'll just miss Julie's daughter Gannon as she heads off for her first year of college. Andre and I enjoyed hanging out with Gannon in Buenos Aires last fall.

We'll visit with Julie, Gannon's brother Martin who will begin his last year of high in the fall, and my Aunt Joan and Uncle Art. There are numerous sites in DC that I hope we'll have time to see, like the Native American museum, the Holocaust Museum, the war memorials and the monuments, the Smithsonian. I know Andre will love it all.

Next Andre and I will take the train (3 hours) into New York City. We'll have about a week and a half to visit a ton of friends and family there. Most important for Andre will be meeting his Aunt Rosette. She's a sister of the father he never knew. When he called her for the first time from the Dominican Republic several months ago, she cried for 10 minutes before she could speak. She said she'd been wondering about him all these years. Now we try to call her every weekend. Rosette is very friendly and excited to meet us. It sounds like she struggles as a single mother and immigrant in this country, but would never think about going back to Haiti.

I'm hoping we'll get to visit with our friend Hubert in Plainfield, New Jersey, my cousins on my dad's side in Hacketstown and Princeton, NJ, my grandma Leslie's cousin Janet in Fort Lee, NJ, my Pakistani friends in Long Island, Julie's son Jason and his wife Jessica (whose wedding Maya and I attended in Puerto Rico the day before we met Andre in Santo Domingo) in Long Island City, my travel friend Priya in Brooklyn, Robin and her family in upstate NY....well, I guess you could say we'll be on the move the whole time.

Don't forget, we also have to go to the Top of the Rockefeller building, visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ground Zero for Sept. 11, Central Park, Times Square, take the harbor cruise around Manhattan, etc.

....I got so excited about our travel plans, I almost forgot about the wedding. Due to the rush, we'll just go to the courthouse on August 12, so we can apply for his U.S. residency on August 13 and fly back east on August 14. At the moment, I'm busy preparing a prenuptial agreement, which our friend and housemate Gabriel is translating into Spanish, so we can each sign it in a language that we fully understand. We're also looking for rings, probably simple white gold bands, or I might find an antique one I like even better.

As far as parties and wedding receptions, we have no time to even think about that now. Probably when we get back from our "honeymoon" in New York. And then we'll do another one in Haiti after Andre gets his residency/permission to travel outside the U.S. It'd be great if that could happen in December, but not likely to be that soon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

San Francisco, July 11, 2008

PHOTO CAPTIONS: 1-2. World famous Golden Gate Bridge, 3-5. Legion of Honor Art Museum, 4. Lombard Street (click here to check out this UTube video of a guy doing a wheelie on a motorcycle both up and down Lombard), the crookedest street in the world, 5. China Town.

Andre had been in California more than a month without seeing San Francisco, so we finally ran up for a day. We took the car and did the whirlwind tour: Golden Gate Bridge, Legion of Honor Art Museum, Lombard Street (the crookedest street in the world), China Town for a great dinner, and strolling along Fisherman's Wharf. We watched a so-so show at Pier 39 (I like this UTube video, but you might need to fast forward during the guy's commentary), but this woman who's older than I am, wasn't very funny nor talented. The show improved when she brought kids on stage because they're always entertaining. Her grand finale was a tightrope walk between two strong male volunteers, while juggling flames. We also shot baskets, played air hockey and skittle ball in the arcade.

Overall, a very satisfying adventure and the weather wasn't too bad (note, the moisture on the lens on the first few photos). We also got to park the car and do a lot of walking, which is what I enjoy best.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Las Vegas, Nevada, July 4-8

PHOTO CAPTIONS: 1. The welcome sign to Las Vegas, 2. Hard Rock Cafe, 3. Cesar's Palace, 4. Elton, Bette and Cher never age, 5. Paris, France casino, 6. the Obelisk at Luxor, 7. Debbie and the Sphinx, 8. Debbie and me at the Mandalay, 9. Daniel boxing with Joe Lewis, 10. The Excalibur, 11. Andre at Cesar's Palace, 12. The closest we got to a chapel, 13. Las Vegas style, 14. Andre shows off his Real Human Body, 15. Daniel interviewing for a new housecleaner, 16. No, we didn't buy a timeshare, 17. Visiting Lety's brother's family, 18. Andre at Red Rock Canyon.

Originally, we'd planned to go to Kauai for Maya's birthday on June 17. But by the time Andre finally got his visa and arrived in the U.S. on May 25, the price of airline tickets had soared out of reach. That's when we decided to celebrate at Sea World instead. So I traded the timeshare in Kauai for one in Las Vegas.

The last time I was in Las Vegas in the summer I swore never again. Lety's brother and his family live there, so Maya and I had been several times even though I hate the heat. When I called the timeshare exchange company, they had very little available for summer within driving distance, and figuring that Las Vegas is something you have to see once in your life, I took it.

Daniel had time off for 4th of July, and our friend Debbie had never been to Vegas, so the four of us decided to take on the adventure. I was surprised how well Andre handled the 8-1/2 hour drive. He recognized Highway 101 from our trip to San Diego, but we cut off in Paso Robles and headed east, into the dry, hot desert land. Andre had never seen anything like it. He guessed that they film cowboy movies out there.

Our timeshare was surprisingly nice, a large one-bedroom suite with a pool downstairs. It's located on Las Vegas Blvd, but miles south of the big casinos on "The Strip," so it's lucky we had the car. According to the timeshare sellers at Tahiti Village, where we sat through a sales presentation in exchange for a deep discount on Cirque du Soleil tickets, we were told that the Mandalay was all by itself when it was first built, and now it's surrounded by the Excalibur, New York, New York, the MGM, etc. We were quoted $60 million per acre on the Strip, and watched videos of demolition of huge hotels which were later replaced by even bigger ones. Every time I go to Las Vegas I can't recognize it.

Mostly we walked through the casinos -- without gambling -- and looked for free entertainment. The others took advantage of the extravagant buffets, but I didn't feel like stuffing myself, which I always do at buffets. We watched the statues come to life in Cesar's Palace, the water show ( and flower gardens at Belagio's, strolled through air-conditioned Paris and art-deco-era New York.

The temperature got up to 108 degrees and cooled down to 92 at night. But it's dry heat. That's what they always say so you don't go into shock thinking about it. We took advantage of the pool, even late at night. Getting into the car, you had to be careful not to touch anything metal, like your seat belt, otherwise you could get burnt. Mostly we looked for AC.

I treated all of us to the Mama Mia show on Saturday night, which was a huge success. We left the theater humming Abba tunes. Andre and I arrived late to our Cirque du Soleil show, because we spent so long at Red Rock Canyon, looking for the place that Maya played with her cousins and Lety's brother's kids. During spring break 2005, Maya rode out to Vegas with Moy and Lety and the kids a few days ahead of me. So this was my first time at Red Rock. I scattered some of her ashes there. But the loop through the park is 12 miles long and only one-way, so it took us a lot longer to get back to the Strip for our show than I thought. At least we only paid $20 each instead of $80 (due to the timeshare presentation we sat through). It was the first time for both us to see Cirque and we left hungry for more. Daniel and Debbie went to a concert by Beatles impersonators that evening.

The four of us visited with Lety's brother's family. Moises (yes, same name as Lety's husband, Daniel's brother) arrived in Las Vegas in the late 1980s. Now he owns two homes and is trying to buy something else while the prices are so low. He and his wife Candy have four kids. I'd never met their little surprise, Gisel. She sported a cut on her nose from falling on the 4th of July when the family went out to a dry lake to send off fireworks.

The drive back to Santa Cruz was long and uneventful. We got home late at night and I was thrilled to feel the cool night air and wake to fog the next day.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Check out our new videos!

I just made a few little videos in iMovie on my laptop. I hope you enjoy them.

To access them, just open,

then type in "chelseamaya" to access my account. So far, I have only three videos: the one I posted 9 months ago when we flew over the falls of Iguazu in a helicopter, one called "Our Trip to Southern California," and the latest "Our Trip to Sea World, San Diego." They're a little rough, but hey, I'm learning.

Tomorrow we are "Leaving for Las Vegas" with our friends Daniel and Debbie. A childhood friend owns a timeshare in Kauai, Hawaii. We had hoped to go there for Maya's 11th birthday on June 17, but because of the prohibitive price on flights at the last minute (we had to wait for Andre to arrive in the U.S. before purchasing flights), we traded the week for the Grandview in Las Vegas. We're expecting to have a really HOT time.

And NO, we are NOT getting married in Vegas. I don't care how much fun it would be to have an Elvis impersonator marry us, I need a prenuptial agreement first. We still have 7 more weeks to make that decision.

When we get back Andre will start his summer ESL classes at Santa Cruz Adult School and get a job. He still wants to take martial arts, play soccer and racquetball, ride bikes and run on West Cliff, and watch videos in English, so he may have to settle for part-time work. I need him to start working, not so much for the money as for the time to do all my projects and catch up on house/rental repairs and maintenance.