Archive for December, 2023

Squeee! Penguins!

Sunday, December 31st, 2023
Photo by John – King Penguins

Monday and Tuesday we traveled from the Falklands to South Georgia Island. They kept us busy on board with lectures in the theatre and time on deck with the naturalists looking for wildlife. We arrived at Salisbury Plain on Wednesday and did our first Zodiac boat tour of a king penguin colony – lots of fur seals, too! In the afternoon, we made a Zodiac landing in Fortuna Bay and walked out to a king penguin colony. They are just so darn cute! There were lots of elephant seals and fur seals, too – there were fur seal babies everywhere!

Fur seal babies! Photo by John
Gentoo Penguins – photo by John

On Thursday we arrived in Grytviken and made Zodiac landings at an old whaling station. We went through a museum and sent postcards from a post office, and made a pilgrimage to Shackleton’s grave. The small cemetery has around 30 graves in it. In the afternoon, we pulled into another old whaling station in Stromness Bay and walked through fur seals and penguins about a mile up to a waterfall. As we walked back from the waterfall to the Zodiacs, we were retracing Shackleton’s steps as he came over the mountain in search of help; remarkably, he was able to return to Elephant Island after four and a half months and rescue the rest of his men.

John channeling his inner Shackleton
Shackleton’s Grave
At the waterfall

Friday we moved to Drygalski Ford, but our good luck with the weather ran out. After seeing the amazing mountains at the opening of the bay, wind, snow, and fog moved in. The blue skies were gone in a flash, and our plan to explore in Zodiacs was abandoned. We continued around the south of the island and got an unexpected treat: a close encounter with the D30A iceberg – 15 miles long! It was amazing.

Yesterday was a beautiful day at sea. I bundled up and spent most of it on deck. I saw lots of whales and cool birds and chatted quite a bit with some of the naturalists (they’re great, by the way). And I spotted hourglass dolphins right by the boat – as it turns out, they are very rare to see. I was happy that one of the naturalists was standing beside me to verify the sighting (when I later told another naturalist that I’d seen the dolphins, he looked skeptical and said, “Was a naturalist with you?” Fair question, but, yes, there was someone to back up my story!)

I woke up at 5:15 today and saw the sea was almost as still as glass, so I hightailed it to the observation deck. My favorite naturalist was already there, so the two of us spent two hours by ourselves just watching whales. They were all over the place, most far out but visible nicely with our binoculars. We had three fin whales come close to the ship and we ran outside to listen to their blows – lovely! A little later while there were still few people on the deck, we saw a very rare whale called the beaker whale – amazing!

This afternoon — the last day of the year — we arrived at Elephant Island and piled into Zodiacs for a tour around the bay where Shackleton’s men waited on the tiniest bit of land for those four months. We’re now in chinstrap penguin territory and they are so cute! We saw a leopard seal in the water waiting for a penguin snack. There’s a huge glacier and lots of icebergs around. It really beautiful. The crew said our trek from South Georgia to Elephant Island was incredibly smooth and the blue skies were an added bonus!

Chinstrap penguins – photo by John

All through the week we have had great talks on penguins and whales, as well as entertaining historical talks about Shackleton and Scott. Yesterday we took a tour of the bridge which was interesting (and I saw humpback whale flukes!). We’re just tickled pink with this trip!

I finished Robin Cook’s latest book – lots of fun! We enjoyed having dinner with him and his wife Jean last night.

Fan girl!

And off we go!

Sunday, December 24th, 2023

John and I set off on a big adventure this week! Wednesday afternoon we checked into the Palacio Duhau to join our A&K vacation heading to Antarctica. Thursday we joined a group tour in Buenos Aires and saw an interesting old tenement home in San Telmo that had been restored, as well as the cathedral and Casa Rosada. We had dinner at the hotel after welcome cocktails, then got a few hours sleep before heading to the airport well before the sun came up.

We landed in Ushuaia — the end of the world — three hours later. We went to a hillside resort for lunch, then boarded Le Lyrial. After security and welcome briefings, we had dinner as the ship sailed away.

We arrived in the Falklands this morning (or The Malvinas, if you are Argentine) and went by tenders to shore. We were in a small group of early birds, and went first to Gypsy Cove to see the Magellan penguins and did a short nature hike overlooking the beach where many of them were hanging out and playing in the water. We saw some up close near their burrows, as well — these are the same kind of penguins we saw in Peninsula Valdez in October. The wind was intense but the temperature was around 50 — not too bad until it started raining on us toward the end of the hike.

The rest of the time we walked around the tiny town of Stanley, going to the museum and a couple of shops. Before we went back to the ship we walked down to the hillside cemetery.

We’ve gotten friendly with a few folks on board, the most surprising of which is Robin Cook who writes medical thrillers. I read several of his books when I was younger, but haven’t read much of his work since then. He gave me a hot-off-the-presses copy of his latest book to read and I’m enjoying it. The ship is beautiful and comfortable. We have a small balcony and big picture window. We’re excited about the next stops!

Jacarandas in bloom

Sunday, December 17th, 2023

The photo above doesn’t do justice to the beautiful jacaranda trees blooming all over town – they’re just gorgeous, and I love how the rain created a carpet of their blooms on this path across from the embassy. They’re very fragrant, too!

John was in Rio de Janeiro this past week for a work conference – he had fun and felt like it was productive. He saw lots of people he knew and said he learned a lot.

I noticed a college friend, Cathy, was in Argentina when I saw her posting on Facebook this week and reached out to her – I was tickled that she took the time to stop by to say hello! We had a blast catching up – we literally hadn’t seen each other since 1981! For all of its faults, sometimes Facebook comes in handy!

We had our holiday party at work on Friday afternoon and our Secret Santas were revealed – I was delighted that Lea had no idea I was hers. The party was a fun way to end the week.

I finished reading “Yellowface” – I’m still mulling it over. It was a fun read but the protagonist made me nervous the whole time! John and I watched a bit of “Slow Horses” and “The Crown” when he got back from Rio.

It really got hot this week (up to 90) so I guess summer is here…although today it’s been cooler and very windy and rainy. It caused a lot of damage around town and some folks had their electricity knocked out.

Book club

Sunday, December 10th, 2023

A friend started a “no pressure” book club and we met yesterday at a nice outdoor venue, La Ferneteria, behind the Bella Arts Museum. We talked about Ann Patchett’s “Tom Lake.” It‘s a nice group of women and it was a beautiful day outside.

Last Sunday, we hosted about 20 of John’s American staff for a happy hour – it was a lot of fun, and our visitors Laura Rhea and Lucy got to meet our co-workers after returning from a day at an estancia. Our guests scooted off Monday morning heading to Mendoza.

John flew with the DCM to Montevideo on Wednesday for a quick look at their renovation project. Friday was a local holiday, so I spent a little time in Palermo buying small gifts for our Secret Santa at work. Lots of people at the embassy are involved in the inauguration of the new Argentine president, working with the U.S. delegation from Washington.

John and I are watching the latest season of “Slow Horses,” and we started a Nordic crime series called “A Nearly Normal Family.” Last night we watched the fascinating Greta Lee in “Past Lives,” a slow-moving but really beautiful movie.

It definitely does not feel like Christmas other than Secret Santa at work and a tree in the Embassy lobby. It’s warm and the city doesn’t really decorate.

The vet came on Wednesday to give Flavia an antibiotic shot for a UTI that showed up in her urine analysis. I’m a bit worried because she hasn’t been eating much the last couple of days and has vomited — let’s hope this doesn’t last!

…and she’s back!

Sunday, December 3rd, 2023

Flavia appears to have made a full recovery and is back to normal! The vet thinks she had inflammation in her intestines, something she has had before that we have seen on sonograms. Her urine analysis did not show kidney failure – even the vet sounded a bit surprised. Her kidneys are weaker, but normal for her age. We are thrilled!

Back to normal!

This week an old friend from Hendrix, Laura Rhea, and her daughter Lucy stayed with us while they toured around Buenos Aires. It’s been fun to rehash college days and hear what she’s been up to in the last 40+ years! They have been great guests and we’ve enjoyed having them.

Last night we went to Teatro Colon to celebrate 200 years of diplomatic relations with Argentina. The embassy contracted the national orchestra to play a special program that ended in a moving rendition of Aaron Copeland’s “Lincoln Portrait” narrated by our Ambassador. John and I even made the social page (below). We took advantage of being out to go to a nice dinner at one of our favorite old school parrillas, Criollos.

I’m reading “The Heart,” by Maylis de Kerangal. We finished watching “Santa Evita,” which I really enjoyed.