Saturday, March 28, 2020


March 13-14, 2020

On Thursday night (March 12), after we had gone back to our hotel and gone to bed, my brother Dave was contacted by the Church's legal counsel in Argentina. He said the government had drafted a proposal that would call for an mandatory 14-day quarantine of visitors to Argentina from high risk countries: China, Japan, Iran, South Korea, all of Europe, and the United States. The proposal could be formalized at any time, meaning that we would be in quarantine, unable to travel and possibly unable to leave the country. He advised that we get back across the border into Brazil as soon as possible and that we catch a flight from there back to the United States.

Major bummer.

Dave shared this information with us at breakfast, and while we sat at the table together, the Joneses and we booked one-way flights for later that day that would take us home. At over $1,200 a ticket, it was an expensive decision, and we doubted that we would be able to recoup any of our losses on three other flights we would no longer be able to take--to Buenos Aires, to Patagonia, and back to the USA.

The disappointment was immense, but our decision would turn out to be the right one.

Our incredibly patient, tolerant driver agreed to take the four of us back to Brazil, and then drive back to the Argentina side of the border to take Dave and Bonnie to the airport to travel to Buenos Aires on the flight we were supposed to join them on.

We said a tearful good-bye to Dave and Bonnie, the three Kenison siblings in tears (it's genetic), grateful for the very short time spent together and mourning the lost shared experiences that should have been ours during the next few days. We would have a great story to tell, but we would rather have had the trip we had planned.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


March 12, 2020

Iguazu Falls is considered by many to be the world's most spectacular waterfall. For its curving cliffs and multitude of individual falls (there are 275) and beautiful surroundings, I would have to agree, although I think Victoria Falls, which we visited in 2018, is definitely more powerful. There is a story that when Eleanor Roosevelt visited Iguazu Falls, she exclaimed "Poor Niagara!" By any standard, Iguazu Falls is magnificent.

The Falls are located on the border between Brazil to the north and Argentina to the south, about halfway between Rio de Janeiro in Brazil and Buenos Aires in Argentina. Approximately 80% of the falls are located in Argentina and 20% in Brazil.
Map from here

Here is a close-up:
Map from here

Since we had slept in Brazil, we started the day on the Brazil side of the falls. After breakfast, our driver deposited us at Helisul Helicopter Tours. For $100 per person, they take tourists on an 18-minute air tour of the falls. Here is a scan of the postcard they gave us:

Because this is fun only if you have a window seat, we self-sacrificing wives decided to let our husbands go alone so that they could all have a window. Besides, $200/couple for 18 minutes seemed like a lot of money at the time. However, Bob did spring for the video the photographer made of their take-off:

Friday, March 20, 2020


March 10-11, 2020

I still have a few more posts to write about a trip we took last June, but I have to record last week's adventure while it is still fresh in my mind.

We put months into planning a trip to South America, starting with a flight to Iguazu Falls on the Brazil/Argentina border, continuing on to Buenos Aires, and ending in the Patagonia regions of Argentina and Chile.  My brother and sister-in-law are humanitarian missionaries for our church. They are based in Buenos Aires but travel all over Argentina as well as occasionally to neighboring countries. They help with the fitting and distribution of wheelchairs to low-income individuals, providing medical equipment to hospitals, creating and distributing school kits, etc. They have been serving eight months, and we were excited to spent the first half of our trip with them.

Unfortunately, we were set on a collision course with the COVID-19 pandemic, which began quietly three months before our trip when the first patient infected with a previously unknown virus entered a hospital in Wuhan, China. On January 21, 2020, the first case of someone with the same virus was confirmed in the United States. Preventive measures began. On February 5, a Princess cruise ship with 3,600 passengers began a quarantine in Yokohama, Japan, and eventually 218 of those passengers aboard were diagnosed with the virus.
An image of the COVID-19 virus from here
On February 11, the disease was given the name COVID-19, an acronym for Coronavirus Disease 2019. The total number of cases had risen to 44,653 in 24 countries.

On February 24, the US had 35 confirmed cases and no deaths. On February 26, Latin America had its first case, a Brazilian man who had recently returned from Italy. On February 29, the US had its first death and announced restrictions involving travel to and from Italy and South Korea. On March 10, there were 259 cases of COVID-19 in the United States.

And that gets us to the day we were scheduled to leave for our Argentina Adventure. Things were crazy in China, South Korea, and Europe, and cases were just beginning to pick up in the United States, but South America was almost virus free, with just a few cases and no known community transmission. There were no travel warnings or advisories regarding any of the places we planned to go. We weren't cavalier about making the decision to go ahead with our plans. It seemed that we would be okay, and the prevalent thought was that COVID-19 would not spread in South America because it was summer there.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


June 26-28, 2019

On our first evening in Warsaw, we ventured out to see what was within a short walking distance of our apartment, and within minutes I loved Warsaw just as much as I had loved the other cities and villages we had visited in Poland.

To think that this is ALL a reconstruction of what was destroyed in World War II is mind-boggling.

This elderly lady was sitting on the city wall and enjoying an ice cream cone. The Poles do love their ice cream.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


We continued our Walk through Warsaw alongside these old brick walls that enclose the Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery, established in 1806. 

Covering 83 acres, it is one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in the world. 

A map of the Ghetto and dedication plaque are affixed to the gate.

The cemetery has over 250,000 marked graves and an untold number of unmarked graves. The section closest to the entrance has been more or less restored.

Friday, March 6, 2020


June 27-28, 2019

The story of Warsaw's Jewish population is perhaps one of the saddest and most reason-defying stories of the Holocaust.  Before World War II there were over 400 synagogues in the city. Only one of those synagogues survived.  At the beginning of 1939, there were about 400,000 Jews living in Warsaw, and less than 10%, or about 35,000, of them survived. Of the survivors, many barely made it out of concentration camps like Auschwitz. 

The round-up of Warsaw's Jews began in November 1940 when several hundred thousand (or 30% of the city's population) were forced into a 1.3-square-mile area that became known as the Warsaw Ghetto. As you can imagine, conditions were terrible. An average of 9.2 persons were crowded into a single room. 

The ghetto was demolished by the Nazis after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of May 1943 (not to be confused with the Warsaw Uprising of 1944). Today, some of the area that used to be the ghetto has been replaced by the business district, and the wonderful Polish spirit of resilience is evident even there.

The curvy skyscraper on the left was designed by Daniel Libeskind (b. 1946), a Jewish Polish-American architect whose parents were both Holocaust survivors. He also designed the Ground Zero Tower in New York City and the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Our guide Pawel sees this 52-story mixed-use building as a symbol of a new, strong Warsaw rising from the ashes of the ghetto.

It is so much easier to talk about this skyscraper than to go back to the 1940s and the physical, moral, and emotional detritus of those days of horror. These Holocaust posts take the most psychological effort for me to write of any that I have done.

So here we go.

There are bits of the Jewish Ghetto scattered around a small area in Warsaw, and this is one reason we were grateful for Pawel's encyclopedic knowledge of the history of his city.