2014 Phoenix Open in pictures

The Waste Management Phoenix Open golf tournament is unlike any other spot on the PGA tour. Played Super Bowl week each year, the tournament drew a PGA tour record 563,008 patrons this year (compared to 82,529 for the Super Bowl on Sunday), and is the craziest tournament on the tour. The focal point of the tournament is the par-3 16th, where they erect a stadium around the hole, and patrons actively boo the golfers that miss the green with their tee shots. For the avid golfer, this tournament can be a little shocking, but if golf wants to attract more people to the sport, they may look to loosen up and have more tournaments like this to change people’s perception of golf as a stuffy sport for old men.

1. Walking In

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2. Our Seats At The Famous 16th

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3. Our View All Week

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4. Thursday Night Birds Nest – Jake Owen Concert

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5. Crowds Walking Up To 16th Stadium

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6. Everyone Standing For Phil Mickelson On The Tee

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7. Friendly Wagering Among Friends

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8. Stay Hydrated

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9. You’ve Got To Own The Outfit

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10. The scene on 18

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11. The Aftermath – trouble finding cabs/Uber

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1/5/2014: Cusco, Peru The Last Few Days, In Pictures

While we’re about halfway through our trip and my posts have been mainly narrative, I’ll try to focus this post more on pictures from the last couple days of our trip. I hope you enjoy.

I feel like these first pictures capture the central essence of why a home stay on a trip like this is so great. It’s like we have a family here in Cusco, with the “family time” centered around meals usually lasting at least two hours. The discussions are varied and random, and can be heated, but always with a lot of laughing. The mostly Spanish discussions have included topics like Peru politics, 80′s music, drug trafficking, rotten mangoes, and mineral baths. There’s a great article by Megan Garber of The Atlantic about the fading art of conversation that seemed appropriate to include here as we had these daily meal rituals. It’s a great read if you have the time.

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These pictures are from our 45 minute hike up the mountains behind Plaza de Armas to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced “sexy-woman”), where there’s some incredible natural rock slides (at least I think they’re natural) and incredible caves. It’s been overcast and rainy, so a lot of the pictures are darker than I’d like. The last picture is on our way back down at Plaza San Cristobal, where it’s raining pretty good on us, but I thought was a cool picture of Nate with Cusco in the background.

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As we were going to dinner the other night, there was a wedding just letting out of the church at Plaza de Armas (Templo de la Compañia de Jesús) and I got this great shot of the bride and grooms first public kiss. Wish I had found out their names.

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Here’s a great picture of us at the Yanapay restaurant with Laura (the volunteer coordinator from Germany) and Miguel (a volunteer from northern Peru, that Yuri hopes will be the restaurant manager soon). As I’m sure you can tell, Miguel is an incredibly entertaining guy.

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Finally, here’s a picture of the Haydee’s house, where we’re staying. It’s been painted and remodeled a bit since Cade and I stayed here two years ago, but still has the same great warmth and charm. I wouldn’t want to stay anywhere else in Cusco.

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1/3/2013: The Project of Aldea Yanapay

Friday was an active day for us, as we had the first volunteer meeting at the restaurant, so we’d be able to meet more people that we’d be working with. It turns out that we’d be working with a large group of 18-year old Canadians, who happen to be from the same school that brought a group here two years go when Cade and I volunteered.

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The meeting was a chance for Nate to start hearing more about the project of Aldea Yanapay, and feel the passion of Yuri and he explained in Spanish the foundations of the project. The name itself of the project is a deliberate combination of Spanish and Cetchuan words – “Aldea” in Spanish meaning small community, and “Yanapay” In Cetchuan meaning help. He outlined three primary issues facing the community of Cusco: 1) Machismo – where men have a feeling of superiority over women, which often leads to violence, 2) Alcoholism – which accelerates itself through the machismo, and 3) Education – the poor public school system, which ranks last in all Latin American countries. The program Yuri has created doesn’t rely on large government grants for support, instead relying on the cash flow from the restaurant and hostel to support the programs. He also enforces a strict policies against handing out gifts, money, or food to the kids, so that it doesn’t support the rampant begging you see on the streets (he cites that a 6-8 year old child can make $20-$40 per day working the Plaza). He’s created a safe place for the kids to come to escape the demons that lurk all around them in Cusco, and looks to reinforce respect for themselves and others in their community.

The two hour meeting ending with a feeling that the Canadians didn’t speak much Spanish, so Nate was likely to be elevated as one of the better Spanish speaking volunteers. We all (Nate and I, Yuri, and Victoria and Irasella from Spain) retired back to the house for lunch with Haydee, where we planned a big dinner party that night and talked about politics and troubles facing Peru. These discussions were likely equally eye-opening to Nate, as we discussed the increasing drug trafficking in Peru, and the difficulty of the government to make any significant impact on the most pressing social issues in Peru.

The night ended with a fun dinner party, where we all as the house guests helped to prepare a big meal for Yuri’s extended family and some of the long term volunteers. Nate and I were assigned nachos and guacamole, and the trip to the market to buy avocados and other fixings with the ladies from Spain was fun, and excited Nate and I. Victoria and Irasella made Spanish omlets, and Yuri and Jane brought a blueberry cheesecake. All was wonderful, and it was great to meet some really interesting people (although few spoke English). I particularly enjoyed meeting a young graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School who’s from Cusco, and also one of Yuri’s relatives who’s a sales rep for EMC in Lima.

A fun night, and good to meet some people. More to come.

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1/1 – 1/2: Moving Day and Laying Low

The 1st and 2nd of January were essentially down days for Nate and I, which was much needed after the initial couple days of our trip.

After seeing Yuri on NYE and talking we him about the problems with the reservation at his mom’s house, he assured me that there was a room for us at the house, and that they’d been waiting for our arrival. I knew that moving to the house (which included all meals, and living with other volunteers) would be much better for Nate. After a long New Years Day lunch at the house with Haydee (Yuri’s mom), Yuri, and the other volunteers living there, i decided that we had to move. So we packed up New Year’s Day, and told Señor Carlos that we were moving to Yuri’s. While I had to eat the full AirBnB payment I made for Carlos’ house, I didn’t care given what I knew would be a better experience for Nate.

The rest of the first two days of the year were spent lounging around the house, as I finished my book, “Wave” by Sonali Deraniyagala, and Nate finished both of the “Haddix” series books by Margaret Peterson books he brought. “Wave” is an account by a lady who lost her husband, two sons, and parents in the 2004 tsunami that struck Sri Lanka. Largely therapeutic for her, as she goes through the tsunami itself, but more of the aftermath of dealing with the unimaginable loss. One that made me think hard about family and what’s important, and helped to affirm the time I’m spending with Nate here in Peru.

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Day 3 (12/31/2013): New Years Eve

The day started abruptly for us, with a blaring phone ringing in our room and startling Nate and I. It turns out that checkout is at 9am – Yikes!, it was already 9:30. That put a major cramp in our day, as our train didn’t leave until 3pm, so what were we going to do in this little tourist town for 5 hours?  First job, find a place to get breakfast that has good wifi. Found it — Cafe Con Pisco, located in the corner of the main square. There, we were able to get some egg sandwiches, and it was able to update my blog.

We hiked around town and along the Urubamba River for a while, which was great, except it was about 80 degrees and most of the time your walking along the road that the buses take people up to Machu pic hi on, so you’re eating a lot of dust).  Just look at the joy on Nate’s face as he’s surrounded by the incredible scenery. And do you think he’d take off his sweatshit?  Is funny that I can’t get him to take it off during an 80 degree day, but he fights me to put in on as we go outside at night when it’s 45 degrees –  teenagers! 
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The Urubamba is an incredibly fast river, filled with these elephant sized pieces of granite that make it impossible to swim or travel on. The power is amazing, as we tested throwing throwing various natural things in to see how they’d fare. It was scary, as the river would just swallow up anything we threw in like a hungry shark, and we’d never see the branch or stick again. Quite scary to think what would happen if you fell in. 

We were finally able to board our train to Poroy ( the closest station to Cusco) at 3pm, and 5 hours later pulled into the station. I’m not sure what the reason, but I don’t think the trains in Peru are capable of exceeding 10mph. I believe it’s not more than 60 miles from Cusco to Machu Picchu, but Peru Rail looks to create “unique experiences”. I will saw that our train coming back was luxurious, so spend the extra $15 a ticket for the Expedition train of you decide to go. 

Once in Cusco, it was obvious that the city was primed for a big night, as people were already letting off fireworks and getting into the party mood. Señor Carlos was nice enough to have some pizza and treats to celebrate the New Year with his guests, but I knew we needed to get to the Aldea Yanapay restaurant. So we ate and ran quickly out to the restaurant. 

After navigating our way to the restaurant through the Plaza, we were quickly greeted by Yuri, the program founder and director, who gave us both huge hugs.  It was great to see him, and he was excited to have us there. We met other volunteers, who were also quick to hand out hugs to Nate and I. It’s such a great feeling to be accepted and part of a big group. We spent most of the time talking to Jane, Yuri’s girlfriend, since she spoke English and enthralled us with her stories. I later commented to Nate that she reminded me of Taylor Swift, and he quickly agreed. 
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We met volunteers from all over the world – Spain, Brazil, Canada, and a number from Peru. It was also great to see old friends from last time, like Jose Luis, a former student who now works for Yuri running much of the restaurant. We were all anxious to get out to the Plaza, but not befor we did our own countdown at the restaurant. 

Once in the Plaza, memories from 2012 came back quickly, as the craziness of having fireworks explode all around you and thousands of people going crazy doesn’t leave your memory too quickly. Sure, there was the obligatory naked guy, and the strange sight air a llama being led through the crowd to take pictures (for a fee) with the drunk tourists.  There’s also images of young kids, may 7 or 8 years old, selling beer to people on the street; or, the one kid who didn’t look more than 6 or 7 shooting fireworks aimlessly into the crowd. 

I could only take an hour of it all, and we quickly split from the group to head back to our house. A ling day for sure, and one I hope Nate doesn’t quickly forget.

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Day 2 with Nate in Peru (12/30/2013)

The morning started early for us, as we were catching a 7:42am Peru Rail train to Machu Picchu. The streets in the morning were much quieter than the night before as we found that being three blocks from Plaza de Armas has it’s advantages and disadvantages. We have a small balcony, so I snapped a rather uninspiring picture of the street scene.

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The train station was filled with tourist, and I snapped a picture for a young couple who traveled 23 hours from Malaysia a few days earlier, and they were nice enough to return the favor.

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The three hour train ride was rather uneventful, as Nate played some games on his phone, and I read and snoozed. We arrived in Aguas Calientes around 10:30, checked into our hotel, and headed out to the ruins. The crowds in the late morning are certainly different than the early morning, as only four others were on the bus that took us up the windy road up to the ruins. Realize that the ruins are at almost 8,000 feet, yet the town of Aguas Calientes is at about 6,700, so the buses take an elaborate switchback one-lane road up and back. These are some of the most talented bus drivers in the world for sure.

I decided to get a guide for Nate and I, so we could learn more about the ruins. It cost me 50 soles each for our two hour tour, but our guide was great and really gave us insights that Cade and I missed the last time. It was great to learn about the construction in the 1400′s, and that about 1,000 people lived there at its height, and that it was inhabited for only about 100 years (which explains why much of the site was left still unfinished). We were lucky not to get any rain while there, although it was cloudy most of the time. I found it amazing the differences in all the people visiting the ruins (one man carrying his newborn in his arms, another eldery Lady from India dressed in traditional dress, and a lady in her high heel boots climbing around on the tiny stone stairs).

My favorite part of the day was sitting on one of the high grassy terraces, overlooking Machu Picchu, and having Nate continually asking when we’re going to leave (the impatience of a teenager who would rather hang out in a hotel room than at one of the Wonders of the World). I lingered a little longer than he wanted, but less than I wanted, so I feel like we both gave a little.

Some pictures are below.

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Peru v2.0

I’m back in Peru again, taking my 13 year old second son, Nate, to the same area that I went two years ago with Cade. I gave him the choice to go somewhere new, but he wanted to see what the Peru trip is all about.

This trip has started quite different from my first trip, starting with our accommodations being cancelled on us 2 weeks before our scheduled departure. It’s hard to tell exactly what happened, but there appeared to be some translation confusion, and we couldn’t solve our communication woes through email. This caused me to go into a slight panic, as I wasn’t sure what we’d do, but I quickly turned to an old friend — AirBnB (featured here before). I was able to secure a home stay in what looks to be a nice place close to Plaza de Armas in central Cuzco. The host, Carlos, was very responsive, and had great reviews, and his availability at such late notice made it a no-brainier to book with him.

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I’m going to count Day 1 as our travel night and first full day in Peru. Nate and I flew all night out of SFO (that’s our plane in the background above), and as I worried, we didn’t get much sleep. After Nate was well into his second movie, I gave him a little NyQuil in hopes it would induce a heavy, drool induced slumber. No such luck. He got about 90 minutes of restless shut eye as we jockeyed for elbow and leg room in our cramped two-person row. Pale, droopy-eyed, and barely able to lift our knees to walk, I’m guessing we looked like a couple of recently bitten Zombies as we stumbled around the Lima airport.

It wasn’t until about 20 minutes after we grabbed our bags and went through customs that we noticed that someone had snapped a lock on the zippers to Nate’s brand new suitcase. We were dumbfounded as to who would do such a thing, or why they had chosen to single Nate’s bag out, but my guess is that this wasn’t the persons first gag with airport luggage. After much staring at each other, and deep sighs of disbelief, we went to the airline baggage support office, only to find it didn’t open for another hour. What do you do? There’s a foreign lock now on your luggage, keeping you from your underwear, toothbrush, and maneyother essentials for two weeks. Well a 13-year old boy knows what do do — you start trying combinations. What an idiot, right? Of course he pulled the whole, “Hey dad, I got it!” But wait, he really DID have it when he tried the combo 0-0-0! Problem averted. Phew!!!

Getting to Cusco later that, we were greeted with heavy rains flooding the streets. We quickly found our taxi man, Luis, a lifetime Cusconian, and he shuttled us to “La Casa de Carlos.” There we settled in, stretched out, and napped. It was Sunday,mane the Packers were playing the Bears for a spot in the playoffs. I remembered where cade and I went to watch football two years ago, Norton’s, so Nate and I went back there. It was packed with travelers, and looked liked the best bar in Cusco. We stole away at halftime and walked to San Blas (pictures below). Is was good to be back in Cusco.

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