2003 Annual Letter from Kurt & Marieluise Riegel
Click on small thumbnail images for bigger ones; click on underlined hyperlinks for more info. Although we can resonate with a view that electronic letters don't fully match the spirit of the season, we've succumbed nevertheless to convenience - and admit to some pleasure over fiddling with this techno-stuff.
It was a super year - we have much to be thankful for and we delight in being able to pass along this brief digest to you, not only to celebrate the happiness in our lives but in hopes that we will hear from you soon and often.
Life has its compartments. Below we've set out some that are particularly significant to us, just to organize the reportage of our year's events.
Sailing became a really, really big thing for us this year. We pin most of the rap for this on our good friends Ed & Linda Gray, who first exposed us to their sailing lifestyle and then got us involved in the Tsavo Syndicate which owns and races a 25-foot sailboat. This description is a mix of useful fact, lies, and statements that may leave you scratching your head wondering which category they properly fit in.
We had a wonderful summer on Tsavo, sharpening our sailing skills, hosting friends & family for day-sails, and taking a nice 4-day cruise across the Chesapeake Bay for overnight stops in Oxford and St. Michaels. We sailed homeward one night under full moon - just beautiful!
In a moment of crazed irrationality we ordered our first cruising sailboat, a 36-foot Beneteau sloop, announced here. We're looking forward to our first season with her, mostly learning her quirks and capabilities. Our plans for the first year include extensive shakedown and practice on the Chesapeake, a southward voyage to the Carolinas, and a northward voyage to New York and New England. If all goes well, next year we'll do longer voyages. Caribbean? Europe? Who knows!
Crafts &Home Improvement
Marieluise's artistic accomplishments this year were prodigious. She designed and nearly single-handedly remodeled our master bathroom, an undertaking more
daunting than the building of the Great Sphinx and, in some of its
phases, equally mysterious. The finished result cleanses the soul, and more.
Her next project was to design a new trellis and pathway leading to the house entry door, complete with plantings to complete the picture.. The trellis adds charm to the house and was finished remarkably quickly.
She also added a nice window to our formerly darkish kitchen. Poking a hole in the side of the house, she had a window installed to brighten things up. Then she hand-painted it with details that capture the nice things in our life together.
Kurt could do little better than to Photoshop a vista from our Canada travels into the window for this letter. Pretty lame, eh?
Too numerous to mention are the random acts of beauty that Marieluise executed throughout the year, from magnificent landscaping improvements and relocation of many plants, to design and sewing of mittens & hats donated to the needy and to oncology patients.
Travel and the Great Outdoors were exciting this year:
Park City, Utah was our ski destination, and we had a great time. Marieluise avoided any recurrence of the bad fall and broken bone she experienced in Davos, and Kurt advanced his skiing skills slightly although he tore up a shoulder rotator cuff during a whiteout. Our ski week coincided with the Sundance Film Festival, so our affections were badly torn between two attractive activities. Skiing won out, and we had to ignore all the film stars and other luminaries seemingly everywhere in town. It would have been great to ski the first week, and then stay over the second week to gorge out on films, but it was not to be
We chuckled at hearing the Park City locals refer to the invading movie people as "PIBs." Sure enough, a quick scan of the crowd confirmed that virtually all attending were, from head to toe, "People in Black." It's a New York - Los Angeles thing, I guess.
Brazil.. We cruised on the Olympic Voyager from Ft. Lauderdale to the Orinoco and Amazon rivers and back, with many stops: in the Caribbean and Venezuela. Kurt had been hired on as an enrichment lecturer, talking mostly about astronomy but also working in some material from his environmental work. The lectures went well - he was gratified to see the audience grow with each successive lecture, really packing 'em in toward the end.
In return for a little gab, we had a fine stateroom, way too much good food, excellent on-board entertainment, and tours of Tortola, Barbados, the Rio Orinoco to Puerto Ordaz, Devil's Island, 1000 miles of the Rio Amazones to Manaus, Devil's Island, Trinidad & St. Thomas. All-told, the world's fastest cruising ship, Royal Olympic Cruises' Olympia Voyager, carried us about 8000 miles during our 16-day voyage.
Arriving at the mouth of the Amazon, only the brown water gave a hint that this was not the ocean any more, for no land was visible. We sailed hours up the river before it narrowed enough to see land, eventually coming to the confluence of the Rio Negro and Rio Amazones. The stable mixing boundary between the brown Amazon water and the black Rio Negro water persists for hundreds of miles because of slight differences in salinity & temperature.
We visited a small Indian village and took excursions in small boats on tributaries of the Amazon to go piranha fishing. There was wonderful nature, from anacondas to sloths to caimans and enormous trees. We sadly confirm that, indeed, deforestation and slash and burn agriculture continues apace in Brazil, with an enormous gulf between written law and actual practice.
Germany & Austria were our summertime destinations, both to visit Marieluise's parents in Hannover, and to tour the Tirol region of Germany & Austria. We had a nice family visit for a week up north, and then spent 3 weeks in the south hiking up alpine peaks and passes, camping, and enjoying superb cuisine. Because the climbing is so demanding physically, we felt scant guilt over enjoying the food and drink. Also, we quickly fell into a routine, alternately climbing one day and then taking a Ruhetag the next for more restful tourism.
Initially skeptical, Kurt was finally persuaded to buy a pair hi-tech walking sticks (virtually every Austrian uses them.) To his surprise, he found that they helped greatly to reduce leg muscle climbing effort, to reduce shock on knees when descending, and to maintain balance on slippery slopes strewn with granite scree.
Kurt taught his course at Johns Hopkins University on Environmental Compliance even during the travel described above. How was he able to do that, you ask? This semester, for the first time, he delivered his course via the Internet, so distance just didn't matter. He plans to do so again next year, perhaps also developing Hopkins' first on-line Environmental Policy course.
We had the rainiest year ever, so much that ground water systems and surface reservoirs depleted by drought of the past 3 years were recharged. We had a dandy hurricane, Isabel, keeping us and our sailing buddies hopping in fear that sailboats, piers and houses might be demolished. It was a close call, but we pretty much got through unscathed.
An 80 year-old woman was so excited about her mammogram appointment that she made an abrupt 270-degree turn from her position ahead of Marieluise's Jeep, broadsiding it. Both cars were totaled, but miraculously neither driver was injured, apart from some sore muscles.
Kurt presented his advisory panel's report on university environmental education to the Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources. It's been a good experience, with some solid ideas being advanced although the state's poorhouse condition has sidelined substantive action for now.
Our Children Delight & Astound
Tanya continues as editor of NBC’s American Dreams, a wonderful TV series that serves out nostalgia while capturing the social significance of the ‘60-70s era, during the heyday of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand.
Going somewhat overboard in her zeal to avoid resting on
laurels, she trained rigorously and then bicycled a distance of
585 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles in support of
Aids/Lifecycle, hardly breaking a
Sam and fiancé Quyen formalized their engagement in a ceremony at her parents' house in northern Virginia. In a convergence of cultures, the parents introduced their families to each other, presented platters of traditional foods, and generally got to know one another. Families participating were Tran, Riegel, Engelmann and Passman families plus friends.
Kurt formally asked the Tran family to authorize the couple's engagement. The Tran family caucused among themselves in Vietnamese, keeping all in a state of suspense, reaching a happy conclusion - it is a very good idea that these two nice people should marry.
Meanwhile, Sam & Quyen moved from New York City to Westwood CA. Sam has plunged into left coast showbiz and Quyen is immersed in UCLA's cinematography program. Ironically, they are living just a block from Dad's old place.
Eden has become a real star, appearing regularly as a principal on ABC’s All My Children. We marvel at her disciplined attention to all details, from diligently preparing her lines each day, to sustained excellence in Tae Kwon Do and diet, to her many public appearances. Florida and California seem to be frequent destinations, and she is a frequent guest on TV talk shows. She even seems unbothered at being recognized nearly everywhere she goes these days.
Pasha has established a successful Yoga Studio and provides personal training to the rich and famous around Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. In addition she teaches little girls’ ballet class and recently started the first Children's Theater in the Lakes region.
She and Scott are
wonderful parents to grandchildren Joshua and Emily.
Tonya graduated in May from Rhode Island School of Design and Mark graduated from UMBC with a degree in psychology.
After spending the summer helping their father with a challenging Baltimore townhouse renovation, they strapped their mountain bikes to the back of the car and left for a cross country trip. Many miles and adventures later they returned from the West coast.
Tonya left for a masters program at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, and Mark, after experiencing the vastness and beauty of this country, decided to return to UMBC as a "Super Senior" to pick up a second, Environmental Sciences, degree. It's a treat to have him home for an extra year! He remains in tip-top physical condition, maintaining a garage full of high performance bicycles and working them as hard as he works himself.
Fielder Cook, a long time family friend and film director, died unexpectedly during the year and we'll miss him - he was terrific.
We still have no rooster or dog, but remain ever-hopeful, even though the task of finding suitable critters has become more complicated. You see, they must now also become good sailors. Maybe we'll acquire the world's only yachting rooster this year?
We wish you the very best for the