Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida, Day Two: Hollywood Studios

It was a beautiful morning.  The kids woke up happy, then ate cereal as the grownups foraged for coffee (hint, brew your own in the room, and buy milk in the giftshop/cafeteria).  There is no good coffee at Disney!

The joggers were making their way around the lake and the sun was rising in the morning sky as we strolled to the "extra magic" morning hours at Epcot. When we got to the side gate, our entourage screeched to a halt.  "Epcot does not have extra hours this morning - Hollywood Studios does." So said the security guard.  We harrumphed, reassessed and then hopped into the fortuitously waiting boat to take us across the lake (after a few stops) to Hollywood Studios.

The boat ride was nice.  It really was the golden hour for a family portrait, I barked at the KDLP's and made them pose. For the short (20 min) boat ride, I got to check things out on the iPad, enjoy the view and MM had a chance to have her hair properly combed out.  The view was picture perfect.

When we go to Hollywood Studios, we realized that we were misinformed.  There were no early hours.  And I was about to be introduced to the Disney weekend crowds.  You really need to leave all phobias behind, and plan your attack on the park.  As we stood waiting for the gates to open, a sea of people churning in front of us, and a sea of people swelling behind, we stood, and waited for the deluge to start.  And it did masses and masses of people spilled into the park. 

We strategically separated.  C, V & MM went straight for the Tower of Terror.  I took all of our tickets and went to the fast pass for the Toy Story Ride, and VDLP took P to the animation exhibit.  45 mins later, as we kept in touch via cell phone, I had our six tickets to the 12-1pm Toy Story ride, and VDLP and I decided to take P to the Little Mermaid Show.  After standing in line for half an hour, we were told that the show was canceled.  VDLP turned to me and said "The Curse" yes, I even have an ivy league  Ph.D statistician recognizing "The Curse of Anna Traveling" - all seemed to make sense.

It also worked out, because C & the big kids had a chance to ride the Tower of Terror a couple of times, and then see the very loud pop music show at the Hat.  VDLP and I too P to see the Disney Jr. Stage Show, and all had a good time.

We decided to rendezvous at the Hat, and we feasted on churros and pretzels from a cart. Then we were off to stand in line at the Little Mermaid Show again - oops. We all stood patiently in line for half and hour, and when we got to the front of the line.  (seriously, we were at the chain) we were told that we would not be seated, and we had to wait another 45 mins.  It got a little ugly - but, we were right next to Walt Disney a Man and His Dream exhibit, and I really wanted to see that, so I grabbed V & MM and we headed off, while VDLP, C & P waited at the front of the line for the Little Mermaid.
V waiting to get into
the Little Mermaid Show

Oops.. the Curse struck again.  Just as we were sitting down for the movie, C texted and said - come now, they are seating us.  I grabbed the kids and we ran off to get to the Little Mermaid.  It was worth the wait. And the annoyance. It is a live action multi media/multi atmosphere event.  The kids loved it, and the grownups were happy to be cooling down in comfortable seats.
Next Stop: Toy Story Ride with our fast passes - gotta love the fast pass!  It rocked. We were sitting in our boats/carts within 10 mins.  I scored 103,000. I am a bragger. After the kids got an autograph from a Toy Story Soldier (they didn't want mine even though I was high score with 103,000 - sigh), and a penny from the machine, we checked out the Brown Derby for lunch - NO.  Stopped to look at the amazing Fantasia Topiary, then headed back for the boat.

Half a day on a Saturday @ Hollywood studios was enough for us.  We got on the boat, got off at the Boardwalk for a leisurely deli lunch outside, and then hit the candy store, fudge shoppe.  A sugar high commenced for all of us.  When we got back to the hotel, it was time for the KDLP's to do some laundry at the pool side laundromat. (they were there for a week) The kids put on their swimsuits and hit the pool, when I saw how much fun they were having, I changed and jumped in with them.  We stayed in that over-chlorinated pool until the sun was setting and our eyes were burning.  We were in the "quiet" pool, and we pretty much had it to ourselves.

Then it came time for the Sunset marshmallow roast.  Now this was a treat!  The hotel puts on a bunch of free events for the kids, and I took MM & P down to the beach to roast marshmallows.  It was a great way to end the evening.  And the sunset, combined with the HUGE full moon rising over the shipwreck made it yet another magical Disney Moment.
 Day two started with an amazing sunrise and stroll to Epcot, and ended with a beautiful beach side sunset.

The tired eyes and the
cookie smile say it all.
(ignore the burn from
the roasted marshmallow)
A great time was had by all.

Next: Day Three: Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World, Orlando Florida, Day One: Epcot

A seven year old redhead
outside the Haunted Mansion

It all started in Mrs. Feero's 3rd and 4th grade classroom.  Holly was going to Disney with her parents, and Mrs. Feero was giving her tips.  I was green with envy.

Then it got worse.  Holly came home with amazing stories, pilot wings and exciting travel became synonymous with Disney. I was obsessed with the Haunted House and the hypnotic effect of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color on Sunday nights. I may have even developed a crush on Kurt Russell.

Years passed and my Disney obsession sank to the back of my psyche.  I grew up and traveled around the world but my path never led to Disney.  As a matter of fact, I kind of forgot about it - after all, I don't have children.  But something was gnawing at me... I had never been to ANY Disney Park.  I had been in Pharaohs tombs in Egypt; shopped in Istanbul; eaten countless breakfasts in Paris; been to weddings in both Italy and Belarus; taken a madcap taxi ride around Hong Kong Island; gotten tipsy at the Christmas Plaza in Munich; frolicked in the snow at the Catherine Palace in Pushkin, Russia; taken a train from St. Petersburg to Moscow; swam with Sting Rays in the Caymans... but I had never seen Cinderella's Castle.

Then one day, the KDLP family were planning a family vacation to Walt Disney World and I asked if I could tag along.  All of a sudden, it was like I was 7 years old again (well, a re-do on being 7).  I would be seeing WDW with good friends and their three kids  (9, 7 & almost 4) that I adore.  I cashed in some frequent flyer miles, booked a room at the Disney Beach Club Resort, bought my park hopper passes from Under Cover Tourist and counted the days until I would meet the KDLP's at Disney.

Getting there:  I packed light.  Just a backpack and a shoulder bag.  I took a month's worth of immunosuppresives just in case (when you are living with a kidney transplant you have to plan for disasters), a couple of changes of clothes, a swimsuit, plenty of sun screen, camera, Blackberry and iPad (loaded with Disney apps for wait times and dining).

My first stop was Vino Volo @ JFK.  Two flights of wine, some nibbles, and then I was on the plane for the short 2.5 hour trip to Orlando. We landed at 10pm and because of my late landing time, Disney's free baggage transfer (directly to your hotel room!) was not an option.

Since I traveling carry on, luggage wasn't an issue.  I found my way to  the MCO basement level check in for the "Magic Express" and that is when the "Curse of Anna Traveling" hit. Yes, I am cursed; but, since so much has happened over the years - Buildings being blown up in London `96; sixty two tourists being shot in Egypt `97; Ambassadors being thrown out of Belarus and riots at McDonald's in Minsk `97; closed borders and skirmishes between Ethiopia and Eritrea `98; Mid-Air "Correction" over the Atlantic Ocean `98 (the ONLY time I ever thought I was going to die); Cairo Muslim Brotherhood protest march `05  - well, the curse is more like a badge of honor at this point -  and that is not mentioning the countless delays/diversions/unexpected stopovers/mid air medical emergencies that have happened (maybe I am a thrill seeker after all...).  I am amazed when a trip goes right, and if it seems too smooth, I am always worried about what disaster is lurking around the corner...

I was the only person that the greyhound bus/"Magical Express" was taking to the Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, so I was piled onto an "after hours" bus that was making all stops.  It took well over an hour for me to get to my hotel and I was the last person left on the bus.  I was exhausted and hungry and maybe a little bit cranky.

When I checked in, I asked that my room be as close to the KDLP's as possible.  They were in room 4577. There was much confusion.  The desk clerk "Cast Member" was from Bangalore, and I think that there was some language difficulty.  He put me on the other side of the hotel on the second floor, wrote my room number on my key card and sent me off to wander the halls looking for my room - cheerily calling out "don't worries, they are just a few floors above you!" I was not impressed.

Then I went to wander the identical halls of this 500+ room resort.  By the time I found the room number written on my key card case, I was not surprise to find that my key card didn't work, and my cranky ratcheted up to furious.  In exasperation, I called the phone number on the key card itself, and threatened to set up camp in the hallway for the night.  I was told that the "Cast Member" had written the wrong room number on my key card.  Seriously, the wrong room number. It wasn't even a transposition.  I was way over on the "other" wing of the second floor.  The magic just wasn't happening that night.

When I got to my room, I dialed room service and asked for a cheeseburger and a coke to be sent up.  It arrived what seemed like hours later (but was just 45 mins).  I was shattered, but feeling generous, so I tipped the waiter $5 for a $14.99 cheeseburger.  After he left, I realized that Disney adds an 18% gratuity to all of their room service orders, and a $3.00 delivery charge.  My cheeseburger and coke ended up costing me $30.00. OUCH.

After a good night's sleep, as the sun was lighting up the courtyard, I was texting away with C to plan the surprise for the kids.  They had no idea that I was coming.  I sourced Coffee at the giftshop/minimart, C met me in the lobby and I followed her up to their room.  She went in first, and then a few mins later, I knocked on the door and said "Room Service!"  MM opened the door.  There was squealing. (and not just from me!) My Disney Vacation had begun.

Our rooms were similar, but where my balcony was overlooking the courtyard, the KDLP's were overlooking construction workers.  Poor C & her husband V would wake up every morning to the sound of a hydrolic lift bringing a worker to their balcony. As I sat drinking coffee in their room, I recounted the disasters of the night before and I told them about "The Curse". VDLP is a statistician and he was skeptical.  We laughed, watched the kids eat their morning cereal and started planning our day.  My first stop was the front desk, so that I could try and switch my room to one closer to the KDLP's.

I was told by the front desk that it would be no problem.  I took the kids back to second floor room and I packed up my backpack, we walked back to the front desk, I handed in my key card and gave my backpack to the bell captain to store until my new room just around the corner from the KDLP's was ready.  I was told to check back in that afternoon.  Then we were off to Epcot!

The great thing about staying in the park is that we just a short stroll from Epcot.  How clean Disney is!  Everything was spotless.  Epcot was having a special Topiary/Gardening exhibit that V(9) was anxious to show me.  V & I  have spent many wonderful afternoons strolling through the Columbia University Greenmarket and at Epcot there is a garden exhibit where you can pick things.  V made a quick friend with the man who managed the exhibit,  and soon enough, he was helping himself to some parsley.  (V is a vegetarian by choice). He then spent the next hour planning the garden at Grandma & Grandpa's house in CT, culminating with 30 pounds of vegetables that will feed the family Thanksgiving Dinner AND have some left over to give to charity.

Early mornings were my favorite at Disney.  Not much is open yet, the crowds really haven't descended, and for a brief hour, you feel like you have the park to yourself.  This was the one and only morning that I felt that way, because Epcot was closest to our hotel.  We even entered through a side entrance called the "International Gateway".  although our little Princess MM was drawn to every gift shop that she could see, she was a trouper and skipped along looking at the sights and brightening up the crowd by wearing her Princess Dress from Tuesday's visit to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique.

We had reservations in Italy for lunch, so we wandered around Epcot counter clockwise.  I was distressed to realize that my quest to find Mickey, Goofy and Tigger is more like a military operation with intelligence apps for the iPad and GPS coordination, and then, infinite patience to stand in line for a picture. I am the laziest stalker in history, and although we had the technology, I am glad that none of us had the patience to stand in line for a photo op.

The kids had already "met" the characters at a special breakfast, so stalking was no longer a priority.  I did stumble upon a topiary of Tigger and I snagged a Blackberry picture of Goofy in the "Meet the Characters" pavilion at Epcot.

This is when I have to fess up to not "making the most" of my time at Disney.  I am a lazy traveler.  I would much rather be with people I care about and just soak in the sights around me, than attack anything full force and "do everything".  I don't care about getting my money's worth and I don't want to be wiped out at the end of the day.  We simply strolled, did what we could, coordinated out "must see's" and just had a great time together.  Also, because am living with a kidney transplant, I am no longer riding roller coasters or anything that has a tight lap bar.  My boy kidney is grafted in my lower abdomen and it isn't protected by anything but a layer of fat; so there won't be any roller coaster stories, no "Tower of Terror" for me. 

"Kidcot Fun Stops" are a nifty way for kids to create at Epcot. They are interactive coloring/activity stations sponsored by Sharpie.  Everything is "sponsored" in one way or another at Disney.  The kids had their Epcot Passports stamped at each Country's Pavillion, and they colored in their Bear fan, had their names written on the back of the fan in the native language of each country that we visited.

In one morning, we went to America, Japan, Italy and France. VDLP joked to the kids that this gets him off the hook for a European vacation.  They can consider themselves world travelers now.  VDLP is efficient, I'll say that.
I get teary a lot more now that I am older.  It could be the combination of age and steroids from the transplant, but aside from a few pre-kidney failure crying jags (drive to Bangor`80; Holly & Tim's Wedding`8?; one night in Palmer Massachusetts, `87; Sea World `90; The Secret Garden play, Boston `92) I have always been a stoic (I am shocked that I can count the times that I had cried on one hand). Of course, since I started dialysis, all bets are off.   I am writing about crying now, because when we got to the American Pavilion,  I looked to see the line of drum and fifes, and I lost it. Happy tears... nostalgic tears... just tears.  I had been watching the kids, and thinking about everything that has come before- drums, fifes, history, just to be right there, at that moment, alive, surrounded by faux America while standing in one of the icons of American Culture.  This was one of those "Magical Moments" that Disney promises - but I don't think that those marketing men had my reaction in mind. I am good at stealth crying, and my Sophia Loren sunglasses help to hide my emotion. (Note to self: get meds checked!)

Then we were on to Italy  - I love Italy.  I love an Italian (Hi Tony!). I maintain a wine blog where I have reviewed 41 (and counting) bottles of Italian wine.  We had reservations at the pavilion's Tutto Italia Ristorante.  The kids were troupers and they tried a bit of food outside of their comfort zone, but, in true child like abandon, it was pasta all the way. I can't rave about the food.  But I will rave about the experience.  Each person was Italian out of Central Casting.  From the "prego's" to the "mangiare" to the "Buon appetito" - I smiled to myself and thought "just go for it".   I wasn't transported back to my beloved Pimonte, but I was having an authentic Disney experience.

Japan was sobering for me.  It was just a few days after the earthquake and tsunami.  Just to look at the people who staffed the pavillion and shops, I wondered about them, what they were feeling as life went on, and their families.  Even though they are in America, and this is their home.  Home and "homeland" are two different entities. Home is where you love and live, and homeland is who you are.
C & I gave V a quick lesson in Japanese Manners:  Arigato& the proper bow; we were subdued as the kids played and interacted.  MM & P colored at the sharpie table and V had a quick lesson in origami.  When it was time to leave the Japanese pavilion, we stopped on the bridge to take a picture. Then V showed off his warrior hat origami.

After Japan, we were off to Morocco. This was my favorite pavilion. The weather just suited it: Bright, hot sunshine streaming through the wooden slats and it wasn't very crowded.  MM decided that she waned a henna tattoo and V decided the same.  I preempted P wanting a tattoo by getting him hooked on the penny machines. He collected a few pennies this trip!  : )

By the time we got to France, we were fading. The carb load of lunch had kicked in.  The Florida sun had reminded us that we were 1000 miles closer to the equator than we were, and it was time for an air-conditioned movie.  VDLP, V, MM & I waited in the theater while C & P went to find a bathroom. We watched a beautiful surround movie of aerial views of France, and then we walked back to the hotel.  It was a nice, scenic along the Lagoon, and then we went to get some ice cream.

I had the kids come and hang out with me in my room.  Well, in theory.  The kids were coming to my room, but the truth was, when I went to check into my new room down the hall from the KDLP's, but the whole reservations system for Disney was down. (new computer program) I was roomless.  Steven, the front desk "castmember/manager" was able to get me a key to my new room and he walked me to it. But, when we got to the door, we heard voices.  There were people there.  He knocked on the door, and a man answered the door.  They had been checked into the room that afternoon.  The curse struck again.  Steven was horrified.  Speechless actually.  I went back to the KDLP's room, and waited for him to sort it all out.

A while later, he came back to the room with another key.  Stephen, C and I walked to my new room, and lo and behold, it was mine, all mine. C, being the amazing lawyer that she is, "negotiated" my pain and suffering.  Which came to $120.00 credit (than you Stephen!).  The kids came to help me unpack.  We ordered some room service pizza (shudder) and a good time was had by all while VDLP & C were in the hot tub ; )

Soon enough, the sun was down, and we were all exhausted.  I changed and made my way down to the resort's wine bar Martha's Vineyard sadly my idea of a wine bar does not correspond with Disney's idea of a wine bar.  I ended the night with a Mai-Tai.

Next:   Day Two: Hollywood Studios

Clearwater Festival, Croton-on-Hudson, NY

Last Fall, I was at a dinner party @ Nancy & Yori's, with a fairly radical couple (Judy & Felix) who had fallen in love later in life.  I collect these love stories, I like to live vicariously.  Their story was about meeting at "Clearwater, The Great Hudson River Revival", a Music/Environmental Festival, started by the activist/musician Pete Seeger. Bells went off in my head.  I love Peter Seeger, he has a folk music festival?!? Here in NY State?!? I signed up to be a volunteer for three days in June.

Some of my happiest childhood memories involve music, boats and friends.  My older sisters were `60's protesters, they were musical, and they shared that love of music with me.  I played my "Folk Songs for Children" over and over again. It was my favorite album (until I discovered the Beatles in 1976 - ok, so I was always a little late). My sisters were always singing, so I did too (only to myself and in my mind). Somewhere a long the line I stopped singing.  Just thinking about and planning for Clearwater brought the music back.

Friday Morning, June 18th, 2010.  I was all packed, I had my committee assignment (Communications) and I set off on my latest adventure. I packed like a NYC Camper.  My tent from Amazon.com, my army surplus sleeping bag, my recycled dinner plate from Chinese takeout, my knife for a supermarket in Paris, my fork and spoon from my silverware basket.  I took photos on my Blackberry. I packed incidentals, my ground tarp, air mattress and pillow in a Duane Reade shopping bag, and strapped everything onto a ghetto trolley, tossed on my cancer rated sun hat, and I was set to go!!

When I got to the the camping area of Clearwater: The Great Hudson River Revival (at Croton Point Park) I was greeted by Mark from Peace Keeping as I stepped up to "Immaculate Reception" to check in and get my credentials. He was the first to wink and say hello and he was also the first person to use the word Hippie.  I was at home immediately!  I chose the "Night Owl" Camping area.  My rational was that I had lived through Burning Man, how loud could Clearwater get?  My camp was set up in 10 minutes.  It really wasn't very difficult, and my $9.99 Rite Aid camp chair not only fit perfectly outside my tent, it was portable, and fit inside the tent too!  Camping is GREAT!!

Pretty soon, I was wandering down the hill to acclimate myself to the festival lay out. A really nice volunteer hospitality person pointed me in the direction of the shortcut and if I avoided the poison ivy, I would have a quick path down the hill, through the "Quiet" Camping area and onto the back side of the festival, along the river, and close to the Volunteer dining area.

The festival was buzzing with set up.  The gates and the seven stages would be open on Saturday, and all the volunteers were arriving, setting up camp and going to their areas.  I was assigned to Communications. I saw Mark again, and I asked him where Communications was, he pointed "Right over there behind the Hippie van." I decided right then and there that my Clearwater drinking game would be that you have to do a shot every time you hear the work Hippie.  So far, Mark had me for two shots....  I stopped by to say hello, and then walked around the camp.  I had met another first time volunteer, Jeff, and we went to look at the ships as they were coming in to dock.

I had seen the Clearwater in full sail on the trip to the park, and we wewre lucky enough to see her coming into dock.  The Mystic Whaler was just coming in right behind her.  Clearwater is a sloop, launched in Maine in 1969. She is a wide bearthed beauty, that when in full sail is quite elegant as she tacks up and down the river. Clearwater was Pete & Toshi Seeger's dream actualized.  To see the Hudson River cleaned up, and to return sailing vessels to the waters. 2010 Clearwater was an actualization of those dreams. (although there is still a lot of work to be done)

After touring the boats and meeting some of the crew, Jeff and I got ice cream from a Mr. Softee truck, and went to pick up our official Clearwater volunteer t-shirts.It was amazing to see how beautiful the singnage is at Clearwater.  I was stunned by the Info Booth. Really, the care that goes into making this festival is beautiful.

I walked down the hill to the riverside, where the World Dance Stage had been set up, and the Green Living Expo tents were waiting for their vendors.  The Site Crew were just setting up the world, and the North, South, East, West signs.  It was amazing to see the crew roll the earth sphere along the water's edge and then place it upon it's fragile appearing, yet sturdy base.

After a stroll through the Activists Grove, I took a breather at a picnic table in the shade.  There was a woman setting up her signage for their Activists Exhibit, and we struck up a conversation.  I was trying to write in my diary about the day, but she had a lot to say.  She was from the NYCAMP.org group. Star worked for the Citizens Against Marijuana Prohibition.  If you click on their website, you can hear Star singing their theme song.  She sang it in person for me. It was a great hour.

6:30 and it was time for dinner.  My first meal at Clearwater.  (Volunteers are fed 7 meals for the weekend) This was where I learned about Clearwater time.  I was in line at 6:30, and they started serving at 6:50.  I was happy that I brought my recycled Chinese takeaway box, so I grabbed my dinner and headed off to my first Communications meeting. The meal was DELICIOUS.  Pulled Pork, a baked sweet potato, coleslaw and green bean salad.  The food at all weekend was outstanding.  To drink, I mixed Iced Tea with lemon-aid in my nalgene bottle, and I was set for the evening.

Then it was my first meeting, and getting to know the volunteers at Communications.  Susan, our coordinated asked us to introduce ourselves and say what object we would be to make music. I wracked my brain and though, "violin".  Nope,m that was used by the first person to speak.  Then I thought "drum".  Nope that was the second person's choice.  I was beginning to wonder if I was unlucky or psychic. Then Allison spoke.  And I liked her right off the bat.  She said, "Hi, I am Allison, and I would be a Harmonica so Bob Dylan could blow me."  After I stopped laughing, (and the group settled down), it was my turn. I chose Triangle, and I said it was because I have just one note.  Really, how can anyone follow "Bob Dylan can blow me?!?" The meeting was fun, we went over some procedures, checked our schedules (I was on the 8am - 11am shift) and then we were off to relax before the next all volunteer meeting at the world dance stage.

The sun was setting, and I had found my favorite bench in the park.  It was quiet, and I was at peace.  At this point in my life, I needed as much peace and reflection as I could get.  Clearwater brought me that.  And it is evident by the first Sunset. I simply sat there and let the darkness wash over me.  But I did stop to snap a picture. The mics on the Hudson stage were quiet, the park was quiet, and for the first time all summer, my mind was quiet.  It is GREAT to get out of the city.

After nightfall, I made my way to the solar powered World Dance Stage.  There were a few people sitting at the stage with instruments, and I sat with them.  The next thing I knew, we had burst into song.  It was serene.  Strangers in an impromptu singalong.  We never introduced ourselves, we simply called out a key, or a verse, and as the crowd gathered for the meeting, more and more voices joined in.  We were all there for the music after all. Pete is right "Participation is what will save the human race." For almost 40 minutes, we all sang, and people danced. The microphone was passed for each verse amongst those on the stage, and then after a rousing "This Land is Your Land" , our volunteer meeting started.  We were welcomed, and introduced to the Clearwater Team.  Soon enough, I was making my way back up through the shortcut, u\in the dark, following a woman who had thought to wear a headlamp. I noted to myself to remember to put my flashlight in my backpack before I headed down the hill the next morning.

I got to my tent, and the campground had been filled with tents.  Instruments were out, and the evening sing alongs had started.  I was happy to have chosen the "Night Owl" camping area. I cracked some of my NOT environmentally correct glow sticks and lit up my tent form the inside.  Mine became the rainbow glowing orb. I pulled up a chair, sat by a citronella candle, and was serenaded by strangers singing classic songs of my life. Some Johnny Cash, some Pete Seeger, some Rolling Stones and even some current music.  After an hour, I crawled back to my tent, and fell asleep to the hard core campers still singing.  It was a great way to fall asleep. Until the middle of the night when a young man from New Paltz felt the urge to scream "I am really drunk!" Yes, he was.  I can attest to that.  Then, someone drove up, and their headlights illuminated my tent.  Soon, I heard Mark's voice. He was leading this latecomer to a camping space.  Her name was Sandy "like the beach" She was from Canada, and had borrowed her father's car to come to Clearwater for the weekend.  I never saw Sandy's face, but her 2am voice and her story are burned into my memory. Mark helped her set up her tent, and soon enough camp was quiet for the night.

Morning was cool and refreshing.  I walked to the pool house to use the "real" bathroom (as opposed to the numerous portapotties). I walked down for coffee and breakfast, noted how beautiful the river is in the morning, and then went for my first shift at communications.  The 4 - 8am shift was two Russian girls, their friend an Azerbaijani, a Clearwater Veteran and a recent transfer from Peace Keeping.  I immediately bonded with the Russian Girls.  It was fun to see them on the walkie talkies chatting with Peacekeeping.  I heard about how they entertained themselves during the early morning shifty, and they were anxious to watch the World Cup matches. Soon enough they were off, and I took over the walkie talkie station. I signed out radios, changed batteries, and basically just hung out for four hours.  Communications is a tight knit group of people who have known each other annually for many years.  It was a great community to be welcomed into. Susan our leader and Josh her co-leader were both great communicators.  The explained things really well, and made me feel at home.

More to come.....