Sabbatical Year by the Numbers

Ben is a data guy, and here are some numbers he’s calculated in the last couple of days:

1st half (July 1, 2014 through December 31, 2015)

# of days in Vermont – 150
# of days on the road – 27
# of days in Dedham – 5
# of miles traveled – 15,250
# of flights – 10
# of days with Ben & Margot Snyder (ages 94 & 90) – 30
# of countries visited – 2 (US & Bahamas)
# of nights Sarah @ MGH for knee replacement – 1
# of books read by Ben – 27, Sarah – 30
# of courses taken by Ben – 3 (Wilderness First Aid, SCUBA, Intro to Finance
# of courses failed by Ben – 2 (guitar & Spanish)

2nd Half (January 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015)

# of days in Vermont – 18
# of days on the road – 159 (plus another 7 for Ben to Israel in June)
# of days in Dedham – 6
# of miles traveled – 46,825
# of countries visited – 8 (Rwanda, South Africa, Turkey, India, Laos, China & Tibet, Japan, & Israel for Ben)
# of books read – Ben – 25, Sarah – 25
# of flights – 19
# of red eye flights – 8
# of schools/NGOs visited – 20 (RW – 6, SA – 5, TK – 1, India – 1, Laos – 3, CH – 3, JA – 1)
# of consulting reports written – 4 (Agahoso Shalom Youth Village, Kepler, African Leadership Academy, Mtubatuba Football Academy)
# of nights hosted by friends – 66!
# of days with Ben’s parents – 15 (in January)
# of hot showers in Rwanda – 2
# of miles driven across South Africa – 1300
# of photos lost with iPad mini snafu – 400 (Laos, China, Tibet…)

# of journals Sarah finished – 3   


 biggest unanticipated expense – Amazon Kindle!

difference between monthly expenses between 7/1 through 12/30 vs. 1/1 through 6/30 – about 15% less on trip

So I guess we should travel more 🙂

Thanks so much for being interested in our lives these last few months; we feel so lucky to have family, friends, warmth, and love to return to…


Easing back into life after sabbatical…in San Francisco, heading to Boston tonight…

How lucky we are to be in the Bay Area – staying with Ben’s sister, Amy, in Oakland:

Seeing good friends, like Mark & Donata:

Ben Rewis, Melanie Gideon, and their son, Benj:


William Kamkwamba, our host ‘son’ who graduated from Dartmouth last  year and now works in San Francisco:


We also had a beer with Chris Gaither (Nobles ’93) in Rockridge (Oakland), our home for three fun years.  Such a great place for  re-entry: 




Lucky us! 

Sapporo Send Off

We leave this special place so filled with gratitude for our  many welcoming, new friends at SIT. What a lovely send off; first a performance of Stevie Wonder songs by the brass band, ending with a moving song that is a tribute to the victims of the 2011 earthquake by the band and the chorus:


Then a Tea Cermony performed by these lovely young ladies:


And a quick trip to the top of the impressive ski jump of the 1972 Sapporo Olympics:

And on the train to the airport hotel, all of this and more thanks to the diligence and kindness of Mr. Nakamaru:

On the plane in an hour!

Still in Sapporo

How warmly we have been welcomed into this beautiful part of Japan on Hokkaido Island! We are so thankful to Mr. Nakamaru for setting up our exceptional homestays with the Chiba and Takahashi families and our wonderful conversations with Mr. Kimura and Mrs. Sakai and her daughter, Manna. We had a great day hiking with Mr. Nakamaru today.
And Ben and I are loving the Japanese cuisine!
We leave on Friday for San Francisco to see Amy, Ben’s sister, and some friends in the area and back to Boston on the red eye on Sunday night.
Here are a few recent images:
Our new friends, Mrs. Sakai and her daughter, Manna, who attends Hokkaido University::
The Takahashi family:
Our day of fly fishing, hot springs, and delicious food:

Spending time at S.I.T., our partner school in Sapporo:
faculty office area –
In front of their Nobles bulletin board –
In and around Sapporo today:
Lush greenness everywhere:
Stumbling upon a Shinto blessing preparation:

Tomorrow we look forward to a brass band performance and tea ceremony before we leave this special place.
Nearly homeward bound…

In Sapporo now!

So after a China imposed block on all things internet, we are back in communication! What an amazing adventure we had in Beijing, Chengdu, Tibet, and Xi’an – words cannot do justice to all we saw and experienced as everything exceeded our expectations: people, places, food, and everything we learned.

Here are a few images from the last three weeks:



Tibet,  amazing Tibet:

Ben in front of a glacier:


Our kind, generous host, ZhiJun:

More beauty in Tibet:

Our guide and driver, Kelsang and Chuedak:

And now we are warmly welcomed in Japan, by Mr. Nakamaru and the Chiba family, both taking us on fun biking expeditions::

Crazy to know we’ll be back in Boston in a week!

In Beijing

Well, it’s a bit chillier in China than in Laos and a wee bit more crowded. We couldn’t feel more welcomed than by our warm, friendly host from Beijing 57 (a highschool in Beijing Nobles has a partnership with), Cherry, and ZhiJun Li, a Nobles parent, global entrepreneur, and now generous friend. 

In the last twenty-four hours we have eaten delicious food, had engaging conversations, visited the Dandelion School, and seen the National Museum. On the horizon is an evening concert at the National Theater, a visit to the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, a day at Beijing 57 (where Ben will  be signing the formal partnership agreement), a day at Beijing Normal University, the best university for teacher education in China, and then off for an amazing ten days in Tibet with ZhiJun!

All is well in China:             

(a painting in the National Museum)

At the Dandelion School:

ZhiJun with a student from the Dandelion School:


Out and about:  

Stabucks is ubiquitous.

Thanks for looking, reading, and caring about us!

Leaving Luang Prubang

What a place. We will be back. 

Last night included another extraordinary evening at Big Brother Mouse. These young men (and a few young women) are so hungry to learn. After two hours of conversation and a few mini gammar lessons they asked for (adverbs, compound/complex sentence difference, and adjective placement), I was saying goodbye and ended with, “You have been so inspirational to me.” 

Immediately, they all pulled out their notebooks and pens that had been stashed away for the evening, and said, “Could you spell ‘inspirational’ and tell us what it means?” 

I mean…really. Amazing.

What we’ll remember




We’re headed to Beijing via Bangkok. It’s May 7th here, and I’m thinking of my wonderful friend, Cathy, on her birthday. Hope it’s a good day for everyone.

So much to do and see in Luang Prubang, Laos

David was right. We love Luang Prubang. This may be the most friendly, fun city we’ve been to – it’s brimming with temples, culture, delicious food, possible adventures, massage spas, and more. There’s a morning and night market to explore. We’ve loved walking along, eating at restaurants next to, and being on the Mekong River:

The sights we’ve seen include the Pak Ou Caves, filled with Buddha statues:

From the Elephant Conservation Center in Sayaboury (where we had an overnight stay in a bungalow), we learned so much about elephants from kind, committed people who work or volunteer there.  It was flat out fun, too:


And here’s the sunset from the top of Mount Phousi, a three hundred step journey in the middle of the city:


And there are these moments:

We have a trek out to a waterfall and a bikeride/kayaking adventure on the horizon this week before we leave for Beijing  on Thursday. We feel lucky to have found two cool organizations doing good work in this area:  Big Brother Mouse where we’ve been volunteering in the evenings, speaking English with motivated, inspiring young Laotians and Peace Bombs, which makes gifts (that we’re buying 🙂 ) out of the metal of unexploded bombs the US dropped on Laos duing the Vietnam War. To find out the horror of what our country did to this country, click here for a short video, coincidentally narrated by Tracey Samuelson (Nobles ’01).

Thanks for caring about what we’re up to – we miss our family and friends!

What we’ll miss in Kerala…

Ben and I are sitting in the Mumbai airport waiting for our flight to Bangkok (and onto Luang Prubang, Laos) which leaves in about four hours (1:00 am). We are feeling so relaxed and thankful for our many fun experiences in this lovely part of the world. There are many things we’ll miss:

The people: Nibu, our perfect driver for two weeks (and our boat driver behind him) –

Ashwin Advani (Nobles ’03) – such a fine young man, doing good things

 (and his Aunt Shirin, who was so welcoming and generous to us in Mumbai).

Biking in Munnar with Ansal  –  


Maneesha, who runs a great travel agency and a peaceful property, Kayal, on an island in the Backwaters (we had great meditation, yoga, and kalari instruction from her teachers) –

The place: we will miss the beauty and power and uniqueness of Kerala –



 (tiny lights on the horizon are fishing boats)

Off to Laos to see the elephant preserve, caves, waterfalls, the Mekong, and all of the other cool stuff that David encouraged us to see and do!! 


The God of Small Things pilgrimmage and more…

What initially pulled me to Kerala was definitely the novel The God of Small Things. It’s one of the most heart breaking, lyrical stories I’ve ever read – kind of poetry as prose. Anyway, I convinced Ben to go, and he’s recently read the novel; he’s not quite as obsessed by it as I am…big surprise there. Most of the story is set in Ayemenem, a fictionalized version of Aymanam in Kerala, where Arundhati Roy spent a chumk of her childhood. The story closely resembles her mother’s life.

We stayed in a place near by – another lovely spot in the middle of a rubber tree plantation surrounded by thick jungle. Sitting on our veranda felt quite like being in the novel, especially listening to the rain. I could imagine Estha and Rahel slipping away to Velutha’s hut to work on the boat. Mammachi is talking to no one. Ammu has silently moved to her room to listen to the orange transister radio…yes, I’m obsessed.

When we arrived to Aymanam, we were met by a local guide to show us the Arundhati Roy highlights. I was a skosh skeptical when he said, “This may have been her house…or maybe it was the next one.” Or “There’s the haunted house across the river.”

“Do you mean the History House?” I asked.

“Yes, yes…it’s been renovated though.”

Regardless, it was so fun to make a pilgrimmage to see the place where Roy found inspiration for her writing. I am so grateful to Ben for humoring me. Also, Kerala has far exceeded our expectations. Here are some photographs of the day: the church where Sophie Mol’s service was, the river, the pickle factory…

image   image


Enough about my silly obsessions, here are some photographs of what we have seen in the last few days: a jungle walk:

No tigers or elephants, but there was this guy:

And our place in the rubber tree plantation:

And where we are for the next three days – Marari Beach:

That’s Ben (his head anyway) in the Arabian Sea..

We’re having fun learning about everything aryuvedic – cool  stuff!!