Wichita, KS and Las Vegas, NV:  September 10-22, 2008

In September Barb took a trip back to the States to visit her sisters in Kansas and to visit her parents in Las Vegas.  Two of her sisters, Audrey and Mary, live in Wichita, Kansas and two other sisters, Suzie and Lori, live in Omaha, Nebraska.  Barb writes:

We all gathered in Wichita for a sisters' reunion during the week-end I was there.  We attended a musical production at a Wichita theater one night, gathered at Audrey's the next day for lunch followed by a trip to the nearby Amish country, and spent the following day at Mary and Candy's huge place where everyone pitched in to help them whip up a gourmet meal.  Mary's daughter Janelle and Audrey's three daughters, Stephanie, Michelle and Angie, and their children were there too.  What a great reunion!

Audrey's granddaughter Mackenzie had to take car of a baby doll for the week-end as part of a class she was taking in high school.  The doll has a computer chip it in and records how often she is picked up, how long she cries before being attended to, how often her diaper is changed, etc.  Mackenzie took the assignment very seriously and was a bit stressed out over the ordeal.  I don't think she will be eager to have a baby any time soon. :-)

Barb and four of her sisters (Mary, Suzie, Audrey, Lori & Barb)

Audrey's cute house

The market in Amish country

Saturday market in the Amish country (a bit different than the Caribbean markets)

Amish folks in Kansas don't drive vehicles but can use tractors to pull a trailer

Kenzie is spending the week-end babysitting her doll as part of her school work (to give kids a taste of what life is like as a new mother)


Mary and her daughter Janelle



Michelle, Steph & Suzie working on appetizers

Lori & Michelle

Angie helping with the salad



Mary presenting a bottle of "Two Buck Chuck" wine for Barb to take back to Chuck


Lots of cooks in Mary's kitchen


Niece Stephanie and daughters Bailey & Kenzie


The Carr girls hanging out after dinner

The dolls that Mary & Suzie bought years ago as a joke and that now keep changing homes - Mary is putting them into the back seat of Suzie's car

The next week Audrey and I flew to Las Vegas to spend a week with our parents.  It was a week of birthdays with our father Clifford celebrating his 83rd and our mother Louise celebrating her 81st.  Our brother Dan and his s.o. Candy (who also celebrated her birthday) joined us in Las Vegas for part of the week.  We all went to the Terry Fador show at the Hilton.  I didn't have any idea who Terry Fador was (for those of you who also don't know - he won the "America's Got Talent" competition last year) and was blown away at how talented he was.   He was a great entertainer, a great singer, and a ventriloquist.   My dad is also an amateur ventriloquist, so it was especially fun for him.  Mother likes to occasionally play the slot machines, so we spent a couple of afternoons in the casinos where Mom won as usual and I lost as usual.  But I stuck with my usual practice of stopping when the losses amounted to $20.

While in Wichita I sent in our Dell laptop for warranty work on the screen.  Despite many calls to Dell, they refused to send the computer to Las Vegas after the repair and stubbornly sent it back to Wichita (four days after I left Wichita).   Fortunately niece Stephanie came to the rescue and Fed Ex-ed it to me in Las Vegas.  Of course, I had to pay the freight.  According to the Dell paperwork, they replaced the laptop screen.  When I started up the laptop two days before I was scheduled to leave the States, the laptop screen was black.  Totally black.  I hooked up an external monitor to it and could see that the laptop worked fine - just not the screen.  After I spent half of the night with the Dell help desk, they decided that there must be a problem with the video adapter on the motherboard.  Of course the only solution was to send the laptop back in to Dell.  I checked with several computer repair places and they all said they would have to order the part from Dell and it would take many days.  One guy recommended that I either send it back to Dell or just buy another computer.  Since we so far haven't had to deal with Microsoft Vista, buying a new computer and dealing with all the upgrade issues was not very tempting.  Thus, I had Dad send the computer back in to Dell on September 24th.  Nothing was heard from Dell, so finally on October 7th I called and they said the laptop was in final testing and would be sent out shortly.  By this time I was back from the States and we had left Puerto la Cruz to visit Merida, so it was difficult to communicate back to the States.  We were finally able to call on October 17th and Dell said that they had no idea what had happened to the laptop but would send in an email to the depot and should hear back in a few days (unbelievable).   I called again the next day and was told by that person that the PC had been shipped back to Las Vegas on October 2nd.  They supplied me with a tracking number, and Dad was able to use the tracking number and associated signature of the person who signed for the PC to track it down.  It turned out that the receptionist at the retirement center signed for the PC and gave it to a maintenance man to deliver.  He speaks only Spanish and did not understand his instructions.  He took the box and put it in the center's maintenance room where it sat until the investigation began three weeks later.  When the box was opened by Dad, he discovered a note from Dell that said that the PC had been tested for 24 hours and that they could not find anything wrong with it.  By this time we are on our way to Trinidad, so Dad shipped the PC to us here for $230.  More freight!  Of course when we finally got it on October 29th, the screen still didn't work.  We hooked up our old external monitor to it and within two hours, the external monitor died.  About this time we were ready to pitch the PC (and all things electronic) overboard.  We called some computer gurus in Trinidad and one suggested that we might have a virus -- having recently seen similar problems on other computers.  He suggested that we try to boot it up in Safe Mode (by holding down the F8 key while powering the PC on.)  We must not have held the key down long enough because it didn't come up in safe mode but it did come up with the screen working!   And it has been working ever since.   Maybe because after we could see the screen we used the internet to update all of our virus definitions and to update the operating system?  Computers!  &@*($&#(

Audrey trying her luck at the slots

Mom enjoying the casino (she is the lucky one in the family and often buys us all dinner)

Dad has a great poker strategy (even wrote a book on it) and can play for hours on a few dollars

Audrey and Mom tried to teach me to crotchet



Brother Dan happened to be in Vegas to celebrate Candy's birthday (on the same day as Mom's)

Dad playing computer chess with one of his many competitors around the world

Mom at her birthday dinner