July 2011

Amsterdam: Our Week In Pictures

Canal At Night

Week 26 of 52

We’re at the halfway point in our year-long adventure and we decided we’ve done enough talking (at least for this week)! We love this wonderful city; it has beauty and interesting buildings, canals, people and lifestyle everywhere, so this week we tell our story mostly in pictures. (Click on any photo for the complete slide show.)


First Amsterdam Dinner Party

Back row: Cathy, Sape, Sharene, Karin, Harrison. Front row: Hanneke, Frank, Connie, Brenda.

Of course our week would not have been complete without a dinner party! Being in one of the world’s most interesting cities is incredible, but sharing an evening here with friends makes it even more special. Our dear friend Cathy from San Francisco came to visit us this week after a week in Paris, and Brenda is here from Boston visiting her sister, Karin. We invited them along with Frank (see last week), his friend Hanneke, and Connie and Sape, who all live in Amsterdam. Most were strangers to each other when they came in the door; all were friends when the dinner party ended. It was a great way to end the first half of our adventure.

Aunt SueOne very sad note this week: Harrison’s Aunt Sue passed away Friday at the age of 94. Sue was the youngest sister of Harrison’s father and the last living relative of her generation on either side of Harrison’s family. We had a wonderful time with Sue and another family friend when they visited us on the Big Island back in 2002. We’ll miss you, Sue.

We’re settled into our Amsterdam apartment and getting comfortable with the city. Cathy’s visit ends on Tuesday and we’ll be on our own for several weeks until our next guests arrive.

A hui hou and tot ziens!

Harrison & Sharene

Flip Flops are Out… Clogs are IN!

Wooden Shoes

Week 25 of 52


Our friend Frank… he makes our life here better!

Aloha and goedemorgen! We arrived in Amsterdam safely after a 7-hour train ride from Basel, Switzerland, last Tuesday. As we stepped off the train at 10 pm our dear friend Frank was there to meet us; it was great to see a familiar and friendly face to help us with our luggage and get settled. He helped us get a taxi (and in traditional Dutch style he rode his bike!) to our new home. He gave us such a warm wonderful welcome; he armed us with loads of information that he had collected for us, showed us where to go shopping and told us not to make an important purchase without checking with him first! This is a guy who first and foremost wants to be sure we have a great experience while we are here.

How do we know this great guy? We met him two years ago through craigslist (Sharene’s answer to everything)! We traded our Maui condo for his Amsterdam condo, and over the past two years through the exchange we became friends. We are so grateful for his help and friendship; he even spent all day Friday showing us some of the famous windmills and took us to the cheese market in the little village of Alkmaar — a charming town that dates back, oh, about 750 years… another reminder that we are not in America anymore!

Among his many talents, Frank is also a tour guide for hire (complete with canal boat!) and authority on Netherlands history. If you come to Amsterdam and want a personal tour, he’s your guy! Let us know and we will put you in touch.

Why Amsterdam? It is one of Europe’s unique and most fascinating cities with beautiful canals and architecture, first-class museums and culture, and a very liberal approach to politics and civil matters. No need for a car; you can walk, ride your bike, or take public transportation everywhere, and who doesn’t love windmills and tulips and cheese? Yes, you can smoke pot and pay for sex and both are legal, but the main reason we wanted to spend three months in Amsterdam is that it offers two things other European cities do not: most people here speak English, and the Dutch are a very welcoming people. Unlike the French or Swiss (our dear Swiss friends and family excluded!), people in Amsterdam are happy to have you here and have no expectation that you should know how to speak Dutch. That’s a good thing… because it’s hard! A simple HOW ARE YOU is hoe gaat het met u. PLEASE is alstublieft. Another one we seem to need a lot is I’M SORRY: Het spijt me! (And how are you supposed to pronounce that?!)

Grocery shopping has been an interesting experience. We are thankful for fresh fruit and vegetables and pictures on boxes. We already bought lard when we thought it was butter. Yes, we know, there’s an APP for that… and we just downloaded it. As long as we set aside a couple of hours for grocery shopping we will be OK! Since Amsterdam entertains so many nationalities, you often see LNP on events, which means Language No Problem!

When it comes to paying for things, the Dutch have their own unique banking and payment system, so except for establishments that cater mostly to tourists, don’t bother bringing your VISA, MC or AMEX — they don’t accept them. We can’t set up a Dutch account in the time we’re here, so for us it’s mostly cash. That means we are daily customers of the local ATM; odd but we’ll get used to it. It’s really not too bad — we are old enough to remember when the only way to get money when traveling was by cashing a traveler’s check.

So, why Amsterdam? The city offers diversity at its best and a true melting pot of colorful, warm, friendly people who, like Frank, show their own version of aloha to outsiders, insiders, and just people like us who are passing through and want to learn another way of living.

With Frank in ZaandijkSpeaking of a different way of living, Holland was ahead of its time a few hundred years ago. Windmills were the state-of-the-art industrial parks of the 17th century, with over 700 in the Zaandijk area we visited. They produced paint, milled grain and wood, processed oil, and did much more using wind to turn the machinery. Some of the mills ground down rock to produce other needed minerals — guess you could call this the Silicon Valley of its day!

Bike BridgeWe’re excited about what the next few months will bring. We have so much to do and see and learn, and thanks to modern technology, we can share it with all the people we care about.

Once again heel erg bedankt (thank you very much) for coming along for the ride!

A hui hou and tot ziens!

Sharene and Harrison

Swiss Hospitality

With Jon and Regula

Week 24 of 52

Switzerland has Alps, castles, lakes, culture, world-class historic cities, glaciers, and some of the best hiking in the world. And except for a few wonderful long walks and a day at one of the famous baths, we didn’t see or do any of those things! Week 24 has been a week of our extended Swiss family spoiling us with dinner parties, lots of laughs, rounds of Bananagrams and lots of great food!

Hans and the Twins

Hallie and Isabel with their father, Hans, in 1987

Jon and Regula (top photo, left rear) invited us to their beautiful home near Baden for a traditional Swiss grill of Bratwurst and Cervalat. We raised our glasses to Hans, who passed away about 11 years ago and who brought this group together. Hans and Harrison met on his first trip to Europe in 1982. Hans introduced Harrison to his American wife Sarah and the three became life-long friends. Hans and Sarah had three beautiful girls: Amelia and the twins, Isabel and Hallie, who all light up the room wherever they go! Later Hans went into business with Jon, Harrison married Sharene, and they all got to know each other. Hans was a true gentleman and we honor him for enriching our lives and allowing us to be part of his legacy.

Our friends Maxine and Maya invited us to their country home southeast of Zurich. We took a quick 3-minute walk from Sarah’s to the train station, and before we knew it we were out enjoying the Swiss countryside. Maxine met us at the train with a huge smile and a big hug, whisked us away to a little outdoor cafe where we had coffee and the best pastry Sharene has had in her entire life, then drove us to their home in the little hamlet of Adletshusen. We had a long wonderful walk around the Luetzelsee, a lake with Swiss Alps and cow bells as our backdrop (we half expected to see Julie Andrews or Heidi appear as we rounded each corner). This little area is home to a couple of hundred storks who come here each spring and summer. The farmers put out food and places for them to nest to attract them.

Maxine is a Swiss Julia Child, and Maxine and Maya’s house has a big herb and vegetable garden. Maxine put us to work picking beans and peas out of her garden while she started preparing an (almost) entirely “bio” meal for us to feast on. Maya prepared the grill and assured us the meat was “happy meat.” Bio is the word they use here for organic; happy meat means the cows were treated humanely. All we know is that it was very fresh and delicious! They were both gracious hosts and the day just flew by. Another memorable day in Week 24.

Bad Zurzach

The pool at the top right is the one with the current like river rapids… fun!

One non-food highlight of our week was Bad Zurzach. Think of a Jacuzzi tub on steroids and you get a good sense of what these thermal baths are about. For a small fee, you can spend the day here and go from one of the five pools to another. Each of the pools has a different temperature but most have jets about five feet apart around the perimeter that are strategically placed to work on different body parts; it’s like getting a massage from your toes all the way up! One large donut-shaped pool has a strong current that pulls you around and around like you were traveling through river rapids, others have waterfalls to wash over you. You can relax in a recliner in the water with gentle jets swirling around you, or you can choose a more gentle “zen” pool. inside they have massages and quiet rooms. Yes, we know, we are very spoiled.

Patrick and ChantalPatrick and Chantal form another wing of our Swiss family near Baden not connected to Hans. Patrick was a high school foreign exchange student who lived with Sharene’s aunt and uncle in California. Even though he doesn’t look much older than he did in high school, that was over 20 years ago and we have remained close. He fell in love with Chantal in 1992, and we did too when we met her shortly after that. They’ve come a long way in the past 20 years. They are both successful young professionals; Patrick works for Credit Suisse, Chantal for KPMG, and they just moved into their chic, contemporary home (we could have done a newsletter on their kitchen alone!). They graciously invited us, Sarah, and “our” girls to another Swiss grill Saturday night. We are so proud of these two; they are smart, successful, and so much fun to be around! It’s a wonderful coincidence for us to have these two Swiss connections who live so close to each other but who didn’t know each other until we brought them together.


Hiking with Sarah

Sharene, Harrison and Sarah on a hike above Neuenhof

As you can see, we were spoiled all week from dawn until dusk and we are so grateful to have these dear friends in our life. Sarah is a perfect host and we have loved being with her these past two weeks. The Alps might be amazing but they can’t hold a candle to our Swiss family.

Tuesday we take the train to Amsterdam to begin our next adventure. We’re reading a book called The UnDutchables to figure out how life works in the Netherlands. Wish us luck… we’ll probably need it! Next week you’ll hear from us in our Amsterdam apartment. Until then,

A hui hou and auf Wiedersehen!
Sharene and Harrison

Happy Anniversary To Us!!!

At The Rossli

Week 23 of 52

Sarah On Her PatioAloha and Gruetzi!

After our Boston-Newark-Dusseldorf-Zurich flight, our Swiss family welcomed us with open arms, sunflowers, lots of love and a few bars of Swiss chocolate! Jet lag? We hardly felt it.

Our mornings start on our dear friend Sarah’s terrace (patio? deck? balcony? lanai?) with lovely views out to the hills. As you can see, she spoils us at every turn.

Pictured at the top is Sarah along with our dear “adopted” daughter Amelia and her brilliant and handsome husband Phil. We’re dining on the terrace at Landgasthof Rössli, a restaurant and inn owned by Phil’s parents that has been in his family for five generations, since 1863. The property itself has been around since 1293 (and we thought the North End of Boston was old)! We dined as their guests two years ago and — lucky us — we were invited back a second time! The ambiance of the inn reminds you of the days of Shakespeare but the food is as fresh as can be. The service, the wine, and of course the company was phenomenal. We had a very special evening and it was a wonderful way to start our European adventure.

As ever, we stayed busy during our four days here so far. We started out Thursday evening with a visit to Amelia and Phil’s chic new apartment right in the middle of Baden with a theater and gym and public transportation right outside their door allowing them to live a very urban life. The next day we saw Amelia’s office (she is the acting managing editor for a medical journal AND going to college); she has more energy than anyone we know. We couldn’t be more proud of her.

We enjoyed beautiful days of sunshine in Zurich and Baden. On Friday we strolled down a park-like walkway to one of Zurich’s many town squares and walked the cobblestone streets seeing wonderful shops, amazing buildings, churches, and lots of clock towers. On Saturday we went to the local farmer’s market in Baden that has as many flowers as fruits and vegetables. Everywhere you look, you are amazed at the craftsmanship in these centuries-old buildings and the gardens and flower boxes that adorn every property. These Swiss know how to capture your heart with beauty and we haven’t even gotten to the Alps yet!

Hallie and IsabelOur other charming “adopted daughters” are Hallie and Isabel; Sarah’s twins and Amelia’s younger sisters. We met these two beautiful young ladies when they were 2 years old, and now here they are at 25! Isabel is an auditor for the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and Hallie is in college studying psychology, and they are both accomplished musicians, lacrosse players and world travelers. They are so much fun to be around; no matter what we’re doing, we find lots to laugh about. Here they are on Sarah’s terrace, after dinner and before some lightning rounds of Bananagrams!

In ZurichTwenty years ago today we were married on the Big Island. Sarah, a poet and artist among her many talents, designed our wedding notices for us, so we can’t think of a better way to celebrate such a special day than with her and her beautiful family.

There are sweet surprises where you least expect them. We just returned home from an evening walk in the hills behind Sarah’s home where we were serenaded by someone playing the alphorn in a meadow.

We’ll venture out a bit more this coming week and will report back faithfully next Sunday. Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer in places new and old.

A hui hou and yoda-lay-hee-hoo!
Sharene and Harrison

P.S. Harrison’s cousin Beth was also married on July 10th two years after we were, so we send Happy Anniversary wishes to Beth and Bob!

Boston Celebrates July 4th In Style

Fireworks Over Boston Harbor HotelPhoto courtesy Boston Harbor Hotel

Week 22 of 52

There’s no more exciting place to be in the US on the 4th of July than Boston, and what a fitting way for us to end our “USA TOUR.” This is a city that celebrates the birth of our country in style! We’re staying a short distance from where the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time, a couple of blocks from Paul Revere’s house, and near the historic Freedom Trail, so we see a lot of tour guides dressed in period costumes walking around. There will be a lot of Star Spangled Banners, Yankee Doodles, and 1812 Overtures playing over the next few days. The fireworks started on Thursday and will continue until the big finale on July 4th with the live nationwide telecast from the Charles River Esplanade of fireworks accompanied by the Boston Pops. We decided not to share that special event with 800,000 of our Boston neighbors on the Esplanade and opted instead to go up to the rooftop garden of our apartment building and watch the festivities from there. In the meantime, even though we’re packing up, we’ve tried to make the most of our last week here in New England.

The Girls with Fran

Sharene, Cathy, Ann, Kate and the adorable southern belle, Fran!

One nice thing about living on the East Coast is the ease of traveling to another state. Maine is just a quick drive from Boston, so while Harrison stayed in Boston, visited MIT one last time, and did some consulting work for our old company, Sharene got together with her best friends Cathy and Kate (from San Francisco) and Ann (from New York) to stay at the home of Kate’s mom, Fran. Fran is a cribbage master and a beautiful, lovely lady who welcomed the four into her home in Saco, Maine. Kate, whom Sharene has known for almost 20 years, was raised near Boston, and Sharene only associates her with New England and San Francisco. Imagine Sharene’s surprise when Fran greeted the girls with a lovely, gentle, southern accent and Sharene found out she was a southern belle from Atlanta GA! Where did this come from? Kate has southern roots? Goes to show that even your best friend can surprise you! As always, the girls played lots of cribbage, had lots of laughs, and loved listening to Fran’s lilting, soothing southern drawl. They took a drive and saw lighthouses and sailboats, and they ate at the famous Lobster Shack on Two Lights Road, which has been around since the 1920s. (They all agreed, the onion rings were worth the trip!)



One benefit of graduating from a great university is the ability to meet and sometimes mentor talented recent graduates. Harrison got an email a couple of weeks ago from Dori, a young Iranian woman who just finished her degree at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. Her career interest is in tourism and hospitality, not a common focus of MIT graduates, so when she saw in the alumni database that Harrison was in Hawaii and involved with tourism and hospitality, she emailed him for some career advice. She still lives on the MIT campus, and when she found out we just happened to be in Boston for the month, she invited Harrison to lunch, and they spent a couple of hours at Sloan talking about her fascinating life and her past and future career. Dori studied engineering in Iran, founded and ran a management consulting firm there for 10 years (yes, they have those even in Iran), then came to the US to get a City Planning degree from Rutgers University and now her masters in Strategic Management from Sloan.

Talking with someone from Iran is enlightening, because many Americans stereotype Iran as a desert sheikdom run by radical Islamists out to destroy America, not to mention any of their own people who disagree with them. As with most stereotypes, the truth is far more complex. The vast majority of Iranians live fairly typical lives going to work or school, living in modern housing, and spending time with family and friends in what is, in many places, a very beautiful country. Many of them strongly dislike their leaders just as many Americans sometimes strongly dislike our own, and they aren’t taken out and shot. They’re really not so different from us, and it makes you wonder, to paraphrase Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

At the Green Dragon

Harrison and Sharene having lunch in downtown Boston at the Green Dragon Tavern, established 1657… NO KIDDING!!!

Our month here in the North End has gone by way too fast, but it’s been a wonderful time. Sharene has fallen in love with Boston and Harrison has been able to see it with a new appreciation; Boston was pretty gritty back in the ’60s and ’70s when he lived here as a student. Staying in a beautiful apartment hasn’t hurt, either.

We leave Boston on the 6th for Switzerland where we will stay with our dear friends near Zurich for the next couple of weeks before going on to Amsterdam for an extended stay. Our “year of being homeless” continues to unfold in amazing adventures and we’re pretty excited about Part II.

Thanks again to everyone who made Part I of our trip so much fun and to all of you whom we get to share it with each week. Have a wonderful, safe, fun 4th of July and we’ll check in from Europe as the journey continues!!

A hui hou,
Sharene and Harrison

P.S. A number of you have asked us who writes these updates and how. Actually, we don’t write them ourselves — they’re ghost-written by Garrison Keillor, which is why they’re so incredibly amusing and well-written! Just kidding!! Seriously, Sharene usually starts them… she can take a blank page and fill it up quickly with all sorts of interesting stuff, and she’s in charge of the camera so she looks over our photos from the past week to remind her what happened. Then Harrison takes over as editor, wordsmithing until it seems fit for publication. By the time you read them, they are truly a team effort and it’s often impossible to say who’s responsible for what. We’ve received a lot of comments about how much goes on each week, and we’ve surprised ourselves with all we have to write about. We often feel they’re too long even after we leave out some pretty interesting material. But we’re glad you seem to like them, or maybe you’re just too tactful to take your name off the list!