Our family

The rainforest at night

I love the symphony of a rainforest at night. The gentle flap of wings as bats unfurl and fly out into the night, the chirping of territorial geckos, the soft coo of an owl hooting and the patter of rain falling on the canopy, all set against the background chorus of insect calls.

Relaxing to go to sleep to, sheltered in our rainforest cabin. Slightly nerve-racking to walk around in, with all the creepy-crawlies; scorpians, toads and thousands upon thousands of spider eyes glinting at you.


The ancient Mayan city of Tikal

Yesterday we hiked through Tikal, the capital of the ancient Mayan kingdom Mutul from ~200 to 900 CE. Mutul was once a thriving kingdom that controlled much of Guatemala. The city contained at least 10,000 structures and had a likely population of ~100,000. At its peak, Tikal was the centre of Mayan culture, art and technology. Tikal collapsed in the end from climate change and environmental degradation, with the land no longer able to support cities, and the civilisation degenerating into isolated villages. What remains of Tikal are largely the temples built of stone, rising up out of the jungle that has blanketed them for a thousand years. We can imagine the lives of the high priests, living in splendor and making human sacrifices in these temples; the lives of the common people of Mutul are much more ephemeral and we may never know what their society was really like.


The civilisation collapsed, the city was retaken by the jungle. A thousand years and more has allowed the forest to return and with it, wildlife. During our walk we saw a pair of spider monkey leaping through the trees, a coati sniffing out bugs to eat, a woodpecker feeding its chick and an Emerald Toucanette guarding its nest.



Our family went ziplining in Guatemala today, and now Hayden has a new passion in life.



Mayan cooking

Leaning how to cook tamales, corn tortillas and hot chocolate from scratch. Turns out it all involves an awful lot of grinding, no wonder the Mayan women all developed arthritis. Hayden became good friends with the local ducks.


Black Howler Monkeys

Black Howler monkeys. In Mayan myth, the gods tried to create humanity three times. The first attempt was from earth, but the new people were washed away during the floods. The second attempt was from sticks, but the people burnt in the fires, creating the black howler monkeys. It was only the third attempt, from maize, that was successful.


St Gilles, Brussels

Our lively and atmospheric neighbourhood, such a great place to live



Future chess master?

Hayden decided that he wanted to learn chess, so he spent the Saturday watching hours of chess tutorials before proceeding to beat me three times in a row. Having recently watched the Queen of Katwe, Lydia and I are not sure that pursuing a career in chess is such a good idea...





Star Wars

Hayden has been getting into Star Wars recently (well... the lego version), so I took him to see the Star Wars Identities exhibit. It was very interactive, allowing him to build his own Star Wars hero, and guiding him through all the formative experiences that create a person's values. Hayden came up with:

Also, I got to see Jabba the Hut before he put on weight

and the most awful early concept art of Yoda



Bavarian snow

Hayden had a ball running around finding snow in the Nymphenburg Castle gardens in Munich.

Lindenhof castle, built in a homage to the Bourbon kings


Oberammer, famous for its Lüftlmalerei (fresco) houses, and the Passion Play it puts on every 10 years, in thanks for God only destroying half the village with plague in 1634. Hayden will remember it as the scene of snow fights.

Neuschwanstein Castle. Built in 1886 by the mad king Ludwig, living out a fantasy of medieval kings. Decorated inside with a fake stone grotto, halls dedicated to the Swan King, and a Byzantine throne room. The guy was insane, but he had style - the castle is the model for the Disney castle, and has become the idealised version of medieval castles in the public zeitgeist.

Hayden and friend jump into every pile of snow they see in Freising.


Israel and Palestine


Welcome to Israel and the occupied Palestinean territories. Military, what military? No, military implies occupation, this just happens to be the military wing of the Israeli police force. Every normal city has police, right?


The old city of Jerusalem, where three religions fight over which set of myths didn't happen at landmarks that have been pretty much chosen at random (but long enough ago they are worth dying for).

Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Built on the site that was randomly selected as the location of the death of Jesus, despite: a) Jesus probably not existing, and b) even if he lived and died, this certainly wouldn't have been the right location. No matter, there are several different "real tomb of Jesus's" that you can visit while in Jerusalem.

Western Wall, the site where Mohammad is said to have left his horse while visiting Jerusalem, despite certainly never visiting Jerusalem.

Unfortunately, the same wall is said to be the wall of the Jewish Second Temple, despite probably not being so. While there was a tentative truce for hundreds of years, the site is now claimed by some Muslim groups as being exclusively Islamic in origin, while some Jewish groups want to see the entire site demolished to rebuild a Jewish temple. Currently the whole complex is controlled by the military arm of the Israeli police, who control the inflow of tourists, Jewish prayer groups and (erratically and intermittently, as we saw) Muslim prayer groups.

View of Jerusalem from the roof of the Austrian Hospice.

View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

The remains of Lifta, the only Palestinean village abandoned during the Six Days War that has not been completely destroyed. The original owners are still not allowed to return.

Old town of Jaffa

New town of Tel Aviv, built from scratch on the sand dunes outside Jaffa in the 1930s.