Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Lodging on the Island of Lamu

When packing our bags to ship off to Lamu, Phil & I had several ideas on what the island would actually be like. Culturally, the island has been influenced by Indian, Turkish, Portuguese and Arab settlers due to its position as the first stop off on the eastern coast of Africa along the trade routes. It is one of the original East African settlements and nowadays is dominated by significant Swahili and Muslim practices. The old city is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "the oldest and best preserved Swahili settlement in East Africa" **

In typical "Carolena & Phil" fashion, we had not scouted out lodging prior and figured that we would sort it out once we get there. No big deal, right? Several weeks ago Maria had mentioned that we might have the use of her friend's house, but that all depended on whether or not they would be in town when we arrived. So, off we set on a 72-hour trip to Lamu with stopovers in Istanbul, an overnight stay at the Nairobi airport and a short flight to Lamu. Upon arrival we were exhausted. We found ourselves hoping, desperately, that the house would be available. Well, lucky for us, it was. When we landed in Lamu airport, we headed along with Maria and the kids on a short boat ride to the other side of the island. We exited the boat and found ourselves walking through narrow, windy dirt streets with broken cobblestone and donkey remnants making the walk ever so delightful. After about 15 minutes we arrived at a staircase. At the top of the staircase were two grand wooden doors with elaborate carvings marking the doorframe; finished with a beautiful brass lock. This house, owned by Maria's friend Antonio, was quite spectacular.

The house featured three bedroom suites complete with bathroom and terrace, an indoor/outdoor dining room situated next to an indoor cold plunge pool and a nice kitchen close to the entrance of the home.
An open-air courtyard graced both sides of the pool allowing a cool breeze in to keep the house at comfortable temps. A large fruit tree kept the afternoon sun hidden, enabling us to stay in the shade all day long. The third floor featured a viewing deck that was ideal for the double hammock we purchased just days before leaving. We really could not believe how awesome the house was and we certainly were grateful to have use of it.What we quickly learned after spending a few days on the island is how expensive and rare nice accommodations are. Through Maria we befriended Frank and Miriam, a Belgium couple that manages the Lamu House property, just a 7 minute walk from our home. We shared many delicious meals at the hotel restaurant. They told us how expensive it is to import all the goods that are required to run both a successful hotel and restaurant on the island (more on that later). We had the opportunity to visit the Peponi Hotel for a sunset cocktail with Frank, Miriam, Maria and Co. While the accommodations were beautiful, the prices far exceeded our budget. Same went for the Majlis Hotel on the island of Manda. Phil, Maria and I went there one afternoon for a lunch of thin crust pizzas and beer and quickly realized how lavish the location was. The more time we spent in Lamu the more we realized it was only built to house the lavish or frugal traveler but not much in between. While I am the last person to sneer at a good hostel, finding ones on the island were rare and some accommodations would leave even the most tolerant backpacker uneasy.

Thanks to Maria and Antonio we were able to spend our time in Lamu in lovely accommodations.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Children of Anidan

Almost four years have passed since my good friend, Maria Parga, shared her dreams of helping children on the small island of Lamu, Kenya. She spoke of a fledgling non-profit, Anidan, whose mission was to remove children from poverty-stricken streets of Lamu and provide them with food, shelter and education. Since 2008 she has been living here on the island. Four years later, here we are, visiting her, spending time with her children and getting to know and appreciate the extent to which Anidan has grown.

When I thought of rekindling The Malarky, I thought of trouncing down the streets of a new city while taking note of the best lodging, food stalls, shopping and sights to see on our extended pre-honeymoon. Now that I sit down to write I realize that I would be doing myself a disservice if I wrote about anything but the children and the people that I've met here at the wonderful non-profit Anidan first. Not to worry, tidbits about the island and surrounding areas in Kenya are to come in future posts!
Phil and I were greeted at the Lamu airport by smiling faces and happy children, Maria in tow. The kids immediately ran up to us, gave us kisses on either cheek, relieved us of our luggage, grabbed our hands & led the way. We were struck by how outgoing, friendly, unafraid and unabashed they were - a reflection of the culture engrained in them at Anidan.

We've spent the first week here in Lamu in and out of the orphanage. On our first day we plunged right in, distributing gifts of coloring books, rubber toys, horseshoe games and little bites of chocolate we brought to share with the children. Anidan provides shelter, clothing, three square meals a day and nursery care to 200+ children. As we get to know the children by name & learn more about their histories fraught with pain, suffering and loss, we realize the significance of the work being done here. The children are cared for, nourished and most importantly, loved.

In the past few years Anidan has extended its services by building a fully functioning pediatric center on site. The hospital is the only one to provide free health care for children in the entire Lamu district. I am proud to say that Phil was given the task of setting up a temporary pediatric ENT clinic, having seen 15 patients to date. Everyone here is grateful for his expertise and I'm glowing with pride as I watch him help those in need. Its been a fulfilling and gut wrenching experience for us, one that with stay with us for always.Aside from spending time on campus with the kids, we've had the opportunity to head out in Lamu with them. We've spent a day sailing on the Anidan Dhow (wooden sail boats that dot the Lamu coastline) and hosted 30 of the younger children at our home in Lamu for an afternoon pool party. The kids are so much fun and we feel so lucky to have spent this quality time with them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

If only Jon Stewart were here.

One of my favorite pastimes while traveling is taking in a good cultural performance significant to the country I am in. My reactions to these varied cultural performances, well, vary. While I walk in with an open mind there are times when the performance just does not jive with my personal taste. Sometimes I doze off, sometimes I let out a quiet chuckle and at other times I’ve gone so far as to sneak out a bit early. That being said, no show to date rivals that of the highly anticipated Dagar Brothers at Delhi’s Summer Music Festival.
The Dagar Brothers musical group consists of three very talented, gifted musicians and one dedicated vocalist and by dedicated I mean takes himself way too seriously. The performance itself can only be described as “voice throwing” or the crafting of one’s voice to sound like a musical instrument. I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, that sounds pretty neat.” And you’d be right - in theory it does.
Dana and I arrived at the performance space about 45 minutes early to snag ourselves a great seat. At 6:30pm, as promised, the illustrious Dagar Brothers came on stage to warm up and tune their instruments.  Two brothers were on the electric sitar, another was on the drums and the eldest, the lead "vocalist", was situated center stage in a cross legged position. After adjusting his legs for about 30 minutes, he greeted us with a welcoming, “Well, lets see how it goes today, right? Maybe it comes out, maybe it doesn’t. I’m not really in the mood. Let’s see if the mood gets better, these things don’t always work.”

I was shocked.  His tone was so indifferent! What kind of "get us psyched" attitude is that? Talk about setting expectations low. He certainly knew how to kill the mood. Part of me was appalled and another part intuitively prepared to experience what could be a funny performance.  

And by funny I mean freaking hilarious. The performance kicked off with the electric guitars hitting a consistent note while the lead vocalist started throwing. As if the "voice throwing" itself was not funny enough, the vocalist's gestures, facial expressions and body movements were enough to throw Dana and I both into internal fits of laughter. His eyebrows furrowed, hands and arms moved with reprimanding force and at times lightened up to what could only be described as the gesture of an innocent question. If one could hit mute and watch the video of the performance several times on one's computer one would be very tempted to fill in the blanks with dialogue.  

What made matters worse is that most of the audience was quite taken by this performance, as was Avnish, the owner of the guesthouse who brought us to the show. Avnish was to my right and Dana was to my left. I felt caught between the little Angel/Devil on my shoulders. Every time I glanced at Avnish, who was watching and embracing and appreciating the show I tried to calm down and see the beauty in this art form. Just when my internal hysteria would temporarily quell, a small squeak of laughter would escape Dana to my left and I followed suit.  Eventually it all came out, 10th grade style.  We both keeled over, laughter and tears escaping from our eyes. I acted like I had to sneeze. I pretended I needed to cough. The jig was up.  We were caught.

I took out my video camera. Maybe this would distract me. I needed footage of this. I couldn't help but think that some comedic genius needs to witness this show. Jon Stewart. Tina Fey. The comedy G-ds must know! 

Thankfully we grabbed some great footage of both the performance and our reactions to the performance.  We will have to wait until we return to the states to share the video since the Turkish gov blocks YouTube. More on that later!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chasing Cambodia

In an effort to have the most fulfilling experience possible, Michael and I came to Southeast Asia armed with guidebooks, articles and suggested itineraries from former traveling/expat friends. All of our resources had served us well but no recommended reading brought us quite what we were searching for as did a recent NY Times article entitled, “Banishing the Ghosts in Cambodia” This article, published on Sunday, March 15th, would lure us to small towns on the southern coast of Cambodia – Kampot and Kep.

Cambodia is a country currently going through a slow rebirth. Its recent tragic history of the notorious Khmer Rouge cleansing has left the country in a dire state. In an effort to turn
Cambodia into a communist state focused on agriculture rather than industry, Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge movement, set up cleansing camps and labor camps to rid Cambodia of its intellectual leaders and wealthy citizens resulting in a nation of peasants. He decided to empty the cities of their inhabitants, claiming that the cities are breeding grounds for any resistance to his cause. In Phnom Penh he went so far as to turn a children's high school into a prison, famously known as S-21. He converted classrooms into torture chambers and built brick walls to create barracks. His reign lasted from 1975-1979 and during that time Cambodia saw the death of approximately 2 million of its citizens. **Wikipedia.

There is optimism in the air. Recognizing Cambodia’s need for support from the global non-profit community, many NGO’s, such as Epic Arts, have set up camp here in order to help the locals get back on their feet. While everyone realizes that this is a long-tern recovery process, there is reason to believe the current conditions will improve.

After spending a few days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital, we hopped on a bus to head
south to Kampot and Kep. We arrived in Kampot rather late and checked into the modest Blissful Guesthouse in the center of the deserted town. At the hotel bar we befriended a group of European/Israeli travelers and headed out for beers at Honey Bar. Reconfirming my theory that Milton Bradley’s Connect Four has a monopoly on Southeast Asian board game imports, we sat down to a few games before heading home.

The next morning, after waking up in an overheated haze due to no air-con we decided to wander around town. One of the unfortunate side effects of traveling through SEA is the inevitable development of a tough exterior when dealing with transport vendors. As a tourist, when walking down the street in just about any SEA city or town, taxi drivers, tuk-tuk drivers, moto drivers, bike drivers and rickshaw pullers are constantly soliciting their services. Just as we finally found some 
peace and quiet a tuk-tuk driver approached us and offered to drive us around. Michael, noting my impatient expression, took the reigns and responded with his patient phrase of choice, “Not today my friend, today we walk.” Disappointed, the tuk-tuk driver simply sat down next to us and handed us his card with a number on the back..
"You call me I give you good price”, he said with a friendly and genuine smile, clearly eager to work. We thanked him, got up and walked around, taking in Kampot on the way to breakfast at the 
Epic Arts café. A young boy stopped right in his tracks and shot us a glance. He seemed curious, frustrated and a bit spent, an expression I was learning to accept in Cambodia. 

After eating a delicious meal of a salty egg omelette, toasted bagel, baked beans and banana shakes we exited the café. There he was, Van-Din, our relentless tuk-tuk driver, parked right outside our door. “You need transport? I give you good price!” he shouted flashing an irresistibly enthusiastic smile. We decided to accept. Tenacity like this certainly deserved to be rewarded. 

After negotiating a good price we hopped in the tuk-tuk and headed off to Kep. Nothing could have prepared us for the scenic route on our way there. We opened up the conversation with Van-Din and quickly learned that he recently graduated from high school. This is quite an 
achievement for a boy from the Cambodian countryside. Van-Din's parents firmly believe in education and are determined to send all of their children to school. He completed four years of study in three because he excelled academically. He told us that we would be passing his high school on the way to Kep so we asked to stop in and take a look around. A few moments later we pulled up to the unkept and rusty gate of Van-
Din’s school with a sign that read, “Anaridoh High School”. Kids ran around and played on their bikes. Since graduation Van-Din has taken out a loan for approx $350 USD to buy both his motorbike and tuk-tuk. His goal is to save enough money to put himself through University which in Cambodia costs about $270USD a year. As we drove along we made various stops to take in the scenery. Perhaps the most unlikely of friends, you could clearly see that Van-Din appreciated our curiosity and that a bond was forming between all of us. 

Shortly thereafter we arrived in Kep. We passed the famous crab market and Kep’s Lady of the Water statue. Cambodian lore states that her husband left to head out to sea, as he was a fisherman, and never returned so she is there waiting for him to come back one day. Oh women.

Pretty tired out, we all decided to rent hammocks by the beach, grab a few cold drinks and sit back and take in the Kep shoreline. I set out to wander around Kep’s rocky beaches and took a moment to breathe it all in. The air was charged with an electricity that was impossible to deny. A free standing tree stood just meters away having grown out of the rocky and infertile soil. It stood there, defiant, symbolic of the Cambodian people who despite all odds will once again thrive as they had before political and social ruination. In that moment I felt relieved, lighthearted and happy. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Market shopping, Thai Cooking class and Shimmering Sunset Runs.

When planning for our trip through Southeast Asia we set out to spend between two and four days in each city, town or beach outpost. Undoubtedly during this type of trip there will be certain places that you connect with more than others along the way.  After breezing through Bangkok, Phuket and Koh Phi Phi we arrived at the quaint mid-sized city of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. As it turned out, Chiang Mai was my type of city.

Chiang Mai has two definable portions of the city, the Old City and the New City. A moat and a fading brick wall with four entryways, on the South, West, East, and North walls, surround the Old City. The vibe of the Old City can be most easily compared to the Alphabet city portion of the East Village – streets and alleyways lined by quirky shops, local markets selling fresh produce, small parks, low-level apartment buildings and guesthouses for travelers like ourselves.

Soon after settling in at our hotel, The Raming Lodge, I signed up 

for a Thai cooking class that would begin that very morning. Asia Scenic designed a workshop that would not only teach us a selection of varied Thai dishes but would guide us through local market shopping to pick the produce we would use that very day. After spending more than a week in Thailand I needed to learn the secrets to some of its classic dishes in the hopes of recreating them once I return back home.

Upon arrival at Asia Scenic in the Old City I met the other two members of my cooking class, Cynthia and Julia, good friends from Taipei, Taiwan who were spending a week in Chiang Mai on vacation. We were introduced to our quirky, hyper, self-conscious and over-zealous

cooking instructor, Lanee. Lanee greeted us with a zany enthusiasm that was at first a bit disturbing. She was certainly not the wise, kind and gentle Thai cooking instructor that I had in mind who would impart bits of wisdom on us as we sprinkled chives into our fried rice, but such is life. Luckily as time passed I found her disposition to be more entertaining than irritating so I went along with it!!

After ingesting cups of the Thai coffee equivalent of rocket fuel and selecting our dishes - Papaya Salad, Glass Noodles Salad and Chicken Pad Thai - we headed out to the local market. As soon as we arrived Julia, Cynthia and I got a glimpse of how much of a celebrity chef Lanee actually is in Chiang Mai!

We went around the market learning about various Thai ingredients, such as dried lemongrass and hot chili pepper, varieties of fresh rice and noodles, and exotic produce.

Some vendors greeted Lanee with nods of happiness and appreciation (no doubt they enjoyed her business) as others shook their heads in disapproval, undoubtedly fed up with her boisterous ways.  Once we loaded up on produce we headed back to begin cooking.

The beauty of Thai dishes is that the shopping and preparation take much longer than the actual 

cooking process.  Once everything is purchased and chopped up, all that 

is really left to do is fire up the wok, throw the ingredients in and sear them for 3-5 minutes.  Lanee guided us through all of the dishes mentioned above and we took breaks to sit and sample each dish. The flavors were heavenly and I was relieved to realize how easy they would be to recreate at home. Julia, Cynthia and I gladly sat down and enjoyed our freshly self-prepared Thai dishes.

After a few hours of cooking and eating I returned to the hotel, satisfied 

with the knowledge I gained in just one day.  I grabbed my iPod and decided to top off the evening with a sunset run around the moat and wall of the Old City. The city lit up in beautiful shades of hazy pinks and greys as the sun set behind the mountains of northern Thailand.  Lanterns swinging from rooftop bar posts began lighting up all around town, welcoming the evening crowd in. Having spent the day in Chiang Mai getting to know some locals, learning all about their food and topping it off with one of my favorite activities, a good run, I felt right in tune with the quaint mid-sized city.

***Recipe for Papaya Salad


1 tsp palm sugar, 2 tsp fish sauce, 1 tbsp lime juice


1-3 small chilies, Long beans - cut in 1 inch length, 4-5 pieces of fresh garlic, 1/4 tomato sliced, 1 papaya thinly sliced, 1 tsp roasted peanuts


1. Pound chili, long beans and garlic together until they start to break down. 2. Add tomato, palm sugar fish sauce and lim juice and mix thoroughly. 3. Add shredded papaya then mix. 4. Sprinkle peanuts on top and serve.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Paradise Found on Koh Phi Phi Island

As we make our way through Southeast Asia I am quickly learning the difference between actual nooks of privacy and overdeveloped backpacking enclaves. While I can enjoy a stroll down Kao San Road (road featured in the movie The Beach in Bangkok) just as much as the next person, I have come to realize that I really appreciate finding quieter areas off the beaten path. That being said, my heart dropped a bit when we arrived at Koh Phi Phi Island.  How is that possible you ask?

What originally seemed like every travelers paradise surrounded by impressive stalks of island growth speckling the surrounding Andaman Sea wound up being just another backpacker haven

As soon as we disembarked from the ferry we were greeted by flyer distributors advertising free Thai booze buckets all around town. The reality fairy whispered in my ear and I agreed - I was a bit out of my element.

I was unwilling to relinquish my dream of a peaceful island paradise. My feelings of disappointment quickly turned into those of absolute resolve. I was determined to find the paradise I envisioned and with help from our new friend from the ferry, Damien, this vision would soon become a reality. 

While traveling from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi Island we had the opportunity to review lists of hotels and hostels and make a selection. While reviewing the hotels we befriended a Frenchman named Damien who was traveling solo. The majority of the hotels were located right on the main strip. After passing a couple of places along the shoreline we decided that our options were certainly sub-par. Damien mentioned that he saw one that seemed pretty nice and reasonable – Tropical Gardens. The only drawback was that Tropical Gardens was a 25-minute uphill walk into the

Island. To me this sounded ideal. As we walked further and further into the island the crowds diminished and our surroundings became increasingly tolerable.  We arrived at Tropical Gardens and took a small tour of the grounds and reviewed a few rooms. Paradise Found!!

The small hotel consisted of several private bungalows built up on stilts a good 15 feet above ground. After taking a walk up a smooth stone staircase to the platform of the bungalow we were welcomed by a hammock tied up on the porch.

The teak exterior opened up to a sweet room, complete with rattan rugs, bamboo furniture, low lying pendants for ideal lighting, an indoor/outdoor bathroom with intense water pressure and a bamboo roof to boot. After settling in I ran up to cool off at the hotel pool and came across a lagoon-like pool area, complete with Buddhist statues, relaxing waterfalls, meditation mats and a poolside fried rice and beer stand.

It felt just right… in a biblical sense. After pinching myself I dove right in, head first.

Michael and Damien quickly followed suit. Smiles were gleaming from all of our faces. We splashed around in the pool, trying to take in how perfect our surroundings actually were. I swam up to the grub hut and ordered a large platter of chicken fried rice. After three minutes it was ready and I swam the platter and a few Singh beers to the other side of the pool where we all dug right in.

Lesson learned: When traveling, do not give up on your vision of paradise. With a bit of hard work and determination you will surely find it!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Lahu Tribe and our incredible Guide; Homie.

One of the most alluring reasons to travel to Chang Rai, a tiny morsel of a city, is its proximity to the various Hill tribes of Thailand’s northern forest region and the opportunity to experience them. When planning this type of overnight trek it is critical to have a tour operator and a guide that not only knows the area but can offer intimate experiences with the tribes (often done by speaking the elusive hill tribe languages).  Information about the history of the region is always a welcomed bonus. Upon settling in at the modest yet comfortable Golden Triangle Inn in Chang Rai, we set out on foot to interview the various tour operators and see which one fit the bill. 

After interviewing two tour operators who seemed to be more reluctant than eager to book our tour (not the best sign) we came across “Tourist Informations”, a Family-owned and operated tour service with the clever tag line, “We are honest in servicing & everything possible!”.  After speaking with Ane, the niece of the owner, we had a good feeling about the legitimacy of the tour. Ane allowed us to choose from two tour guides – Luu Niem, a young, vivacious and adventurous 25-year-old tour guide, or Homie, an experienced and incredibly knowledgeable 64-year-old guide who spoke the indigenous hill tribe languages and has been doing tours for 30+ years. We instantly connected with the idea of having Homie as our guide. Undoubtedly his pace would be a bit slower but that sat just fine with Michael and myself.

Our instructions were simple,: Bring a small bag with one change of clothes, bug repellant, some snacks, a bathing suit and flip-flops.  When asking Ane, “Are you sure there is nothing else we need to bring?”, she responded, “Well, yes… be sure to bring your heart.” At that moment my excitement solidified. We were about to wander the forests of Thailand and meet native tribes…finally!

We took off the next morning at about 10am and drove two hours outside of Chang Rai. Homie decided to take us up the back route and make a stop at one of his closest friend’s restaurants along the way for a home cooked meal. Who were we to argue? After

trekking for a few hours, we came across the roadside food stop, owned by Homie's friends, young couple who had their newborn baby along with them. She quickly whipped us up some delicious chicken fried rice and allowed me in the kitchen while she cooked. Michael and I fueled up and took to the road once again.  

Just a few hours later we arrived at the Lahu village. We entered an incredibly modest home 

and placed our backpacks down. The Madam of the village, also our hostess, welcomed us with a bucket of frosty beers and chilled water. We were eternally grateful. Homie suggested that we take a walk around the village to soak it all in while he take a small break from our trek. 

The sights were simply overwhelming. The village consisted of several small huts built up on stilts and covered by thick, woven bamboo roofs. Homie told us that if built correctly, the bamboo roofing could last close to five years.  Livestock, consisting of chickens and their young chicklets,

pigs, and family dogs all shared the same space as the children, teenagers and parents.  Hens sped across the paths protecting their black-tailed young as we wandered around. We received a mixed welcome from the members of the village. Some villagers seemed curious as to why we were there, some acted celebratory and others seemed flat out irritated, snarfing at our attempts to say hello. An extremely friendly woman who was in the midst of

preparing her banana tree leaves in bundles for next day's market wanted to take a picture with us. One glance at her T-shirt and and we couldn't refuse as it read, "New York, I love you but you're bringin' me down."!!! You simply can't make something like that up.

**As an aside, we completely understood the villagers varied responses to our presence, after all its not every day that someone walks into my apartment, says hello in a language I do not recognize and asks to take pictures of my daily routine.  We were careful to be as respectful and sensitive of their privacy as we possibly could. 

After moseying around the village and meeting just about everyone we headed back to our hut to prepare for dinner.  I took a glance inside the hut’s kitchen and immediately wanted to dive in 

and help!  I asked Homie if I could assist, he found this request rather odd.  I explained my love for cooking so he (a bit reluctantly) started to give me small tasks, peeling and chopping fresh cucumbers, onions and tomatoes. The kitchen smelled delicious. A raw fire was burning straight in the middle of the room as wrought iron pots and pans slowly brought oil and water to a sizzle and a steam.  My chopping board was a raw slab of tree trunk chopped perpendicularly.  The smell of the wood permeated each slice of vegetable. I had died and gone to heaven. After an hour or so of prep work Homie insisted that we take a break. Sounds of children playing right outside our hut

made the transition painless for me and I gladly agreed. I exited the kitchen to a view of the most precious kids I’ve ever seen!  Smiling and glowing faces, pure child-like joy, imaginations unfettered by afternoons in front of televisions, computers or video games, bounced up to say hello.  We played for what seemed like hours, never tiring of games such as low-five, high-five and three-rocks.

When we finally worked up a good appetite, dinner was served.  We dug into several dishes, consisting of fresh eggs with chopped chicken, tomato/cucumber/onion garnish, “American"

French fries, fried lima beans with a salty crust, chicken wings with spicy Lahu sauce and a boiled potato/onion dish. The tastes were indescribable! The family gathered round and we all dug in. The children gobbled up their food and the wives and husbands laughed as they took breaks to take sips from their beer and drags from freshly rolled tobacco cigarettes.  We were surrounded by love, happiness and delicious basic food and drink. It was one of the best meals of my life.

After about three hours 'round the dinner table it was time for bed. I could hardly wait for the morning. The thought of being woken up by the sound of a rooster and a crackling fire burning in time to prepare breakfast brought a smile to my face. Ane was absolutely right. We brought our hearts to the village and certainly left a piece of it behind.