US Open ’15

Olivia flew to New York on Friday to meet John for a weekend getaway. They were lucky to have tickets to the women’s final at US Open and while it was a bit of a bummer that Serene Williams didn’t qualify, it was very exciting to be at the event and venue.

The weekend started with an exclusive evening reception together with Stan Smith – him himself a former US Open champion. After the reception Olivia and John walked around the 9/11 memorial – close the Battery Park hotel. Friday marked the 14th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and other landmarks and the memorial was packed with people. Most were somber while other visitors took smiling selfies. The iconic blue lights were on all weekend as a great reminder of where the twin towers stood and what once was.

Saturday Olivia and John were transported to the Arthur Ashe stadium early morning. Reports of upcoming rain had everybody looking towards the sky, but as it turned out the rain would only being after the final ceremonies of the day.

An early arrival brought an almost empty stadium which was quite a unique experience. The men’s double soon was underway and over, so there was time to have Stan Smith show them around the facilities. They bumped into Rodger Federer on the practice courts but overall most of the celebrities were in the stands. The women’s final was exciting and well-played and it was special to be there with Flavia Pennetta announcing her retirement.

The evening brought Olivia and John to Gotham Bar & Grill. Lovely atmosphere and food followed by drinks with one of John’s colleagues and his girlfriend at the Flatiron Lounge. Good times!

Sunday morning the weekend was finished off with a (re)visit to the 9/11 Museum. It is very well done and one could spend hours upon hours there. Some of the exhibits are quite emotional but it’s a good reminder of just how significant an event it was for all and how it could happen in the first place.

August 2015

Isabella came back from summer camp on August 15 and very much enjoyed a couple of weeks in Portola, CA together with new friends as well as the ones she made last year. 2015 was the last year she could participate so small traces of sadness but some of them are also off to boarding school, so we’re sure they will stay in contact and compare notes.

Once back Libby had organized an little party for Isabella and quite a few of her Saint Catherine’s friends showed up for some pizza and to catch up with what had happened over summer. All but Isabella were back in school and the little group of 36 students that followed each other for years are now spread all over the peninsula including San Francisco.

Olivia and John took Adriana to Las Vegas early August for her to experience all the craziness. She (obviously) loved every minute of it. Olivia and Adriana went to see Le Rêve at Wynn and fully enjoyed the show while John was busy taking a light painting class in Nelson 40 miles outside Las Vegas. Of other highlights that week was the High Roller observation wheel. It stands 550 feet (168 meter) tall and it’s 30 later by the time you get back down to the platform.

Pia is having a good time at Burlingame High School and on the cheer team. They performed this past Friday during the football game – as did Bella’s team – and Pia is enjoying it. Bella is currently delivering the news broadcast at the school. We uploaded the inaugurate newscast to our Vimeo account.

John and Ella spent the past weekend in Hong Kong getting a little time together before school starts. It’s a such a great place and although compact it still offers lots of diversity. They spent a couple of days in and around the city and made it Lantau to see Big Buddha – one of the largest outdoor buddhas in the world as well of Temple of 10,000 buddhas. What was meant to be a hike turned into a bus ride when heavy rain got in the way. They purchased a couple of umbrellas and continued semi-dry while the monks making their way up to the buddha got absolutely soaked.

The weekend prior to Hong Kong Olivia, Adriana and John spent a couple of days in Carmel Valley. It remains one of their favorite places on the planet. A Sunday morning hike brought sightings of 20+ whales feeding very close to the shore and the short hike ended up taking almost three hours with all the stops.

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Summer camp ’15

John and Isabella drove to Lake Tahoe on July 1 to drop of Isabella at Walton’s Grizzly Camp in Portola, CA. They left early in the morning and stopped at Emerald Lake and hiked four hours before making it all the way to the hotel in Truckee.

They were lucky to have a Ferrari California to their disposal and the roof was down most of the way. As “luck” would have it, last year’s incident repeated itself: a fast-flying rock cracked the wind shield. No big deal – it was covered by insurance but the chances of that happening with exactly one year apart can’t be that high.

Lake Tahoe was blue and beautiful – it’s such a beautiful part of the world. It is very crowded though and John and Isabella stayed around the hotel the rest of the day. The people at the ski resort all spoke about the small amount of snow they have had the last two years, and they were worried about this coming seaon as well.

Camp was reached Sunday mid-morning and John turned the nose towards Burlingame. It took little more than five hours to make it back. Isabella is flying back via Reno airport.

Return to Oahu

Isabella invited a couple of friends – Katie and Hannah – to Carmel this weekend. After spending Saturday morning at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and eating shrimp at Bubba Gump they spent the afternoon at Del Monte Mall buying little things for the closets at home. Nothing like resting in the hot tub after a day of shopping. It all got topped off with s’mores at Carmel Valley Ranch.

John and Olivia took off for Hawaii Friday February 20 and enjoyed five nights at the condominium there before they (sadly) had to return. Not too many activities planned – pure relaxation but they did madk it around the island. Lunch at Seven Brothers Burgers – definitely worth a stop if you’re heading that way. Olivia got a massage at the Kalaha Hotel while John made it to the top of Koko Head Crater – only 1,000 steps but still a hard climb.

John got stuck in New York only a few days later. Heavy snow fall made it impossible for planes to take off and he had to spend a vey short night in Times Square before finally making it out Monday morning.

Tough weeks for the school teams in Basketball. Both Burlingame High School and Saint Catherine’s are out after making it to the quarterfinals. So no more cheer this season except for Adriana who’s still going strong with her Premier team.

Happy birthday(s)

Bella turned 17 on January 6 and was celebrated by classmates and family. Isabella’s birthday is February 9 and the extended family had her birthday dinner at Benihana last night – a little early, but conflicting schedules moved the festivities up a bit. Adriana is next.

John spent a bit of time in Las Vegas from January 3rd. The Consumer Electronics Show seems to get bigger and bigger even though the announcements weren’t that significant this year. Through Akamai he hosted 120 people on January 5th and oversaw all of Akamai’s activities there.

Last Friday Pia and Isabella went to the Junior high dance at their school and danced from start to finish together with the sixth and seventh graders. The Drama activities are in full swing and the production of “Shrek” is already taking up some of the afternoons. Isabella will once again be active off stage.

With the exception of Santa Catalina (Monterey) All the high school applications as done and so are the entrance tests. Now it’s a waiting gaming until early March.

Adriana, Pia and Bella are all active with cheerleading – Bella and Pia are cheering for the boy’s basketball teams for their respective schools.

Two days plus change in Copenhagen

John arrived in Copenhagen Friday December 12 via Reykjavik. The weather was almost identical to both Burlingame and Boston – wet, windy and with storm warnings. The flights from Boston to Copenhagen were fairly uneventful and IcelandAir proved to be quite a nice airline where the economy plus seats had plenty of space.

John met his mom at a Hans Christian Andersen themed restaurant for lunch shortly after landing and enjoyed a couple of hours of catching up while munching on open faced Danish sandwiches. After that it was off to see Hanne and Johannes’ new house in Holte – a very nice, open and modern house but the real treat was to catch up with good friends in person (and the seafood lasagne – most yummy!).

Saturday brought a long standing tradition seeing good friends in Copenhagen for Christmas lunch. But this year the seven guys jumped on a hired bus early in the morning and drove around the northern part of Sealand and within Copenhagen to visit the families of the boys. They’ll have to think of something for next year, so Olivia and the girls can be part of it. It was great to meet everyone and say Merry Christmas. Maybe a new tradition in the making? They had the actual Christmas lunch at Schønnemann in the center of Copenhagen – highly recommended if you ever find yourself looking for a traditional Danish smorgasbord.

John finished off the quick Denmark visit having dinner with Mogens and Birgit. Equally good to catch up with a delicious dinner and in nice surroundings.

Schonnemann

Five days in October

John and Olivia left the San Francisco Giants in good hands and left for Hawaii on October 24. Hardly out of the plane the spotted an Akamai taxi proving that the company name of Akamai really is Hawaiian (intelligence, wit).

Café Kaila was open for breakfast the next morning. Surprisingly empty without the usual Japanese crowd, but it turned out that the busses were just late, and once John and Olivia left, the place was buzzing like it’s usual self. The drive back included a stop at the Pali lookout although the morning mist made the sights a little less visible than usual. Still, it’s a great place to stop as it gives a good feel for just how compact the island is.

The walking shoes got a good workout throughout the time there. The “Pill Boxes” in Lanikai turned out to be a great little trip up to a couple of fantastic lookouts. Very steep in the beginning but once the vegetation opened a bit, the hills were easier to conquer. Good conversations with other families on top, and some got help with a family photo for this year’s Christmas card.

The lunch was famous coconut shrimp at the Crouching Lion Inn on the North Shore. Very yummy and the fresh + chilled coconut milk was perfect for pairing. Final stop was that the Japanese temple at the Valley of the Temples. Stunning location and building that it’s a bit of a mystery we’ve driven by so many times without visiting.

The following morning a hike around Diamond Head keep the food/exercise balance in check and it was great to head the shore just as the sun made its first appearance.

During the time there John and Olivia also found time to visit the original tiki bar in Honolulu and Mitch’s – a wonderful sushi bar/fish market. We are so lucky to have access to the condo in Diamond Head and given that it’s a fairly short plane ride there, it’s easy to spend a weekend there. There was something to celebrate though: It was 24 month ago the wedding took place in Carmel Valley…

The plane ride back coincided with game seven in the world series, and as it happened the game ended just as the shores of California showed up. Well done Giants!

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Link to Uganda pictures

John has finished looking through the photos from Uganda and posted them to an online gallery. He shot almost precisely 1,000 photos this time around – the least of any safari ever, but dragging the equipment up and down hillsides, monkeys hiding from plain sight and a rather dull national park put a limit to it all.

Nonetheless, great photos captured – we hope you will enjoy them!

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Cake walk (compared to yesterday)

Just back from the second of the two gorilla treks. It was pure heaven compared to yesterday. Almost flat the entire time, and other than crossing a couple of streams, it felt like the gorillas were in our backyard.

We arrived while the family of ten gorillas were still sleeping. Eventually they were bothered enough by the ranger and his machete, that they got up and almost immediately started eating.

The silverback was the last to get up. Despite him being only 17 years old, his size is massive and under different circumstances I’m not sure how I would feel being that close. I sat within five feet from him while he was having breakfast, and he acted like he couldn’t care less.

We were lucky to see a ten-weeks “old” baby. He poked his head out a couple of times – enough for us to capture his cute face. He’s the only other male in the group, so he is likely to run the show once the current “president” stands down.

Good times all around and the one hour viewing slot went by very fast. We made it back to the briefing center before lunch and got our certificates for having successfully completed another hike.

I’m writing this from the Gorilla Forest Camp. Just had a monkey trying to steal the banana included in my box lunch. Such manners! Pretty sneaky that one – didn’t even see him coming but I still have the banana and the box.

What remains – other than to clean gear and clothes – is to jump on a small plane tomorrow morning. We fly from Chihihi airstrip to Entebbe, where we get to hang out at some day-hotel, before I’m off to Addis Ababa and Hong Kong early evening. If we’re on time I should be able to make it to the hotel just as the World Cup final starts.

It’s been a trip of a lifetime for sure. I feel very privileged to have seen some of the ~800 remaining wild mountain gorillas in the world, and it’s been fantastic to look into their eyes and watch their moves. I highly recommend visiting them – here or in Rwanda.

Signing off in Uganda,
John

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Looking for gorillas in all the right places

Visiting the chimpanzees was great but I came here to see the gorillas and it was very exciting to finally leave camp for the briefing center. I had slept quite well in the cooler temperatures and felt rested. Still, I was a little anxious as the group of gorillas I wanted to see was far away from camp and the longer hike – as pointed out to me on several occasions – would be no picnic.

After a 20 min. briefing we got divided into three groups. I got my wish and ended up in “H” group. You can visit only three families but there are actually more than 30 of them. They keep the rest away from humans to minimize the risk of diseases being introduced – both ways.

We drove for 45 min. before we got to our starting point. I got a walking stick and found a porter that carried my camera back and my backpack all the way.

More than two hours of pretty serious hiking followed – uphill and downhill at rather extreme angles. Sometimes with footing, sometimes not. Luckily it wasn’t too slippery but because of the dense vegetation, you had to look for where to put your feet at all times. Hardly any of the hike was flat and the walking stick was very helpful more than once. Same with the gloves as you need to grab what’s closest, if you start slipping.

We had an 82-year old Texan in the group that probably no-one thought would finish after the harsh trail revealed itself. We waited for him on several occasions; which in the end worked out in our favor since the one-hour allowance for watching the gorillas didn’t start until he made it there. And he did make it there and back – respect!

We stopped just short of the gorillas and left as much as we could behind. After that we slowly made our way down to a little opening in the forest where we could see leaves and branches move. The ranger who had been there since early morning started clearing the forest floor using his machete, and soon we could see one, two, three and four gorillas incl. a smaller one-year old.

As they consume between 10 and 25 kilos of plants every day, they spend a significant part of their day eating and as such they obviously prefer to be where the food is. So as much as we wanted for them to stay in the clear, they naturally congregated towards the green stuff. I did get great photos though and I have to say that all the trekkers and rangers I have met, have been very helpful and accommodating while at the same time respecting the gorilla’s boundaries.

We ended up spending 90 min. with the family before we had to leave. Time flew by and it was no fun packing up. At the very last minute we ended up sitting close to the silverback, but he did a really good job camouflaging himself and I don’t believe I got a single picture of him. Good to see all the youngsters hang around him. He seemed fairly relaxed but there’s no doubt that if any of us had come too close to the young ones, he would have let us know to back off in whatever tone level he would have deemed appropriate.

We ate our lunch a few hundred feet back. After that it was another two hours hike before we got to the cars. We arrived back at the briefing center just after five – absolutely exhausted, dirty and undoubtedly very smelly. We got a certificate for successful completion and was back at the lodge just before six o’clock. Needless to say this was a day very well spent and one I won’t soon forget.

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