Spring Break #2

Sometimes the school year stretches on forever.

Sometimes you have an influx of really challenging students that makes you want to run away.

Sometimes your assistant is going to Disney World and you don’t want to be alone with the children.

Sometimes you have personal days to use up.

Sometimes you go on Spring Break #2.  

Yes, I realize that second spring break happened over a month ago.  So walk down memory lane with me to hear a bit about me and Rachel’s trip to Portland. Photo 5

I loved Portland.  I don’t have any plans to move there, but it is one of the few places I’ve been where I didn’t just think, “You are nice to visit” but thought, “I could live here.”  I think that is because Portland is kind of like Minneapolis’ cousin.  They have a lot of similarities.  While still being different.  (Thanks for that obvious insight, Laura!)

We left for Portland Friday after work and arrived late Friday night.  As we waited in the taxi line, our first observation was: Taxis in Portland are Priuses.  Of course they are.  Photo 17

We took a taxi to our hotel, and as we got closer to the city, we were greeted by this sign (Imagine that it is all lit up at night.  I liked it.) Photo 3

In a very untypical move for Rachel and I, we didn’t actually have anything planned for our days in Oregon.  I had a couple of blogs and websites with ideas of places to visit and things to do, but nothing actually scheduled for each day.  I guess that is what happens when we do our jobs instead of plan our leisure time.  Sure am glad I’m on summer vacation now!

Baseball in the Capitol

I meant to tell you that I broke down and bought some ridiculous/awesome clearanced mittens while we were in Georgetown.  The tips of the mittens are neon.  So so neon.  Sometimes I would get dizzy waving them in front of my face.   Here’s Rachel and I at the Air and Space museum.  Let’s be honest.  You can’t really see much in this picture other than my mittens.  So neon, right?photo-12

Ok, so moving on to Friday.

We went to a Nationals baseball game!  It was only an exhibition game, but still exciting to see a new (to us) ballpark and to take in our first baseball game of the season.  And it was against the Yankees (booooo).  So it was pretty clear which team to cheer for.

Highlights of the Nationals Stadium:

image_3

  • Walking in an immediately meeting presidents.  Awesome!

photo-13

  • Reading about the history of baseball in DC (seriously, what was up with the way players posed for their pictures?

photo

  • Eating cupcakes at the stadium.  Seriously an inspired idea.

image_1

  • In Minnesota, mascots do the race to target field.  In DC they have the presidential race.  It filled our hearts with much joy.

image

 

Lowlights:

The wind.  It was out of control.  We were beyond freezing.  And desperate times call for desperate measures.

image_4

Oh, and we meandered by the white house in the morning.  That will be a much cuter ending to this post.  Here is me and Rachel. And you can even kind of see the white house behind us.  Oh selfies.  (Fun fact, I recently learned that selfies is a thing the people say.  I was on a photo scavenger hunt and I used context clues to figure out what it meant.  Because I’m hip and with the times.image_2

Georgetown in Space

I wasn’t really sure of when I’d finish up blogging about DC.  Kindergarten has been kicking my butt and my brain is generally fried at the end of the day.  But lucky you (well, mostly lucky me) my school actually called a snow day today!  It is a true Christmas miracle.  I stared at that email for a long time in confusion and disbelief.  I tried to go back to sleep, but since I’d already showered and gotten dressed, I couldn’t quite get back to dreamland.  Since then, I have cleaned, vacuumed, set up our new cable technology and activated it, curled my hair, made lunch, caught up on Parks and Rec, and the only thing left is to finish packing for my church’s spring retreat.  But I hate packing.  So I decided a better use of time would be to share more pictures of DC with you!

Day 3 of our vacationing fun was a morning in Georgetown and an afternoon at the Air & Space Museum.

This was probably my favorite day of the trip.  We spent the morning meandering through little shops in Georgetown.  Which by the way is adorable.  Not only did we get to hang out with Claire all day, but we also had the chance to check out our friend Tim’s delicious recommendations.  Following Tim’s advice was the best decision we made all trip.

We started our morning at Bonaparte – an incredible creperie & cafe.  I can’t decide if I have actually ever had crepes before.  But I definitely want more of them in my life!  Rachel and I shared some food, so I was able to experience both the savory ham and cheese crepe as well as the sweet and oh-so-good nutella and banana crepe.  I’m jealous of myself as I write this – I could totally go for some nutella and banana right now! IMG_5057

We also checked out Baked & Wired – a super fun and absolutely incredible cupcake shop.  The slightly ridiculous part is that we hustled back to our car because our parking time was up, but ended up driving back to virtually the same part of Georgetown to the cupcake shop.  And I’m pretty sure our walking was faster than the route we drove.  Tim said that Baked and Wired had the best cupcakes he ever has tasted, and I wouldn’t argue.  We didn’t have time to stay and indulge, so we bought some for the road.  Rachel picked up a carrot cake and a red velvet cupcake.  I selected a lemon cupcake with raspberry frosting and a banana cupcake with peanut butter frosting.  We sampled them that evening and then Rachel had the brilliant idea to bring cupcakes to the Nationals game we would be attending the next day.  She is my most genius friend.

The three of us girls spent the afternoon at the Air & Space Museum, with an emphasis on the Space part.  Because really, space is way cooler than air.  Our highlight is when we went back to check out the lunar landing (thing?) and a museum dude was there telling us awesome historical stories about its planning and use.  We loved it so so much.

In summary, this was our most delicious day of the trip.

Oh, and p.s. I almost forgot the most exciting part of our day: we saw our first almost blossomed Cherry Blossoms!  (sadly this spring has been too cold and the trees weren’t actually in bloom when we were there.  we mostly just had to use our imaginations)

photo-11

Washington DC. The land of much history and much wind.

I mentioned yesterday that Rachel and I stayed with her friends Claire and Andre.  They were the world’s best hosts. Not only did Rachel and I each have our own room and bathroom for our stay, but they made us delicious meals, were super fun to hang out, and made me feel so welcome and a part of things even though I had only met Claire a couple of times and it was the first time I’d met Andre.  AND they have an incredible movie room with tiered couch seating and a giant projector wall with surround sound.  I’ve seen home theaters before, but nothing like this.  It was the most incredible thing ever.

Anyways, Rachel and I decided to use the first night to catch up on sleep, and set out around 9 in the morning.  We drove to a park and ride and took a train into DC.  We had gotten a helpful app for our phones that included a map of the mall, self guided tours, and lots of historical information about everything.  Our plan for the day was to hit up the main monuments/sights on the mall.

These plans were temporarily post-poned when we saw a carousel.  #forthewin

image

After a whimsical ride on a colorful pony, we started walking toward the Washington Monument.

We took in the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, and the Lincoln Memorial.  We both loved the Lincoln Memorial the most.  And we also agreed that a lot of things in DC will be so much cooler in the summer months when the fountains are turned on.  But we were so glad we could see all of these places.  At this point, we were both hungry and cold.  Like, really cold.  We did not anticipate how windy it would be and we both were mostly frozen through.  In a moment of desperation Rachel even bought a moderately ugly headband thing to cover her ears.  (For the record, I didn’t think it was that bad!  But I will agree it was cuter after she ripped off the weird plastic flowers).  image_1

We turned to our phones for insight into where we could eat dinner, and ended up wandering onto the campus of George Washington University, where we relived our college years (or just found lunch and then moved on).  For the afternoon we sought refuge in the American History Smithsonian.   One highlight for both of us was seeing the actual flag that had been flying at Fort McHenry during the war of 1812.

We headed home early-ish because Claire was making a delicious dinner.  Dinner was followed by watching a movie in the theater.  It was a blustery but good day.

Spring Break: Nerdy Teacher Style

A couple weeks ago, I had a week off of kindergarten crazyness.  God bless the person who invented spring break.  It was so needed.  I came back to work feeling refreshed and ready to teach.  (That feeling quickly faded.  can we have two spring breaks??)

Anyways, my friend Rachel and I went on a trip to Washington D.C. over spring break.  My co-workers went to places like Florida and Jamaica.  I went to the nation’s Capitol and did a lot of learning.  Nerdy Teacher Spring Break.  So, other than my love of learning, why DC?  Well, turns out Rachel and I had both wanted to go there at some point in life (I went there on family vacation when I was younger, but had wanted to go back as an adult) and airfare was super cheap.  So we could afford to go there 🙂  And as an added bonus, Rachel’s friend Claire lives just outside of DC and we were able to stay with Claire and her husband, who might just be the world’s greatest hosts.  But more on that later. image_2

We flew into the Baltimore airport and rented a car.  (Rachel may have spent weeks singing, Good Morning Baltimore” to me in preparation for the first leg of our trip.  If you know Rachel, this doesn’t surprise you.  At all).  We then spent the day in Baltimore.  We didn’t really have much of a game plan except to head to the harbor (which we heard was the safest part of town) and go to the visitor’s center and come up with a game plan there.

If you are ever in Baltimore, do yourself a favor and go to the visitor’s center and ask for Bonnie.  Ask her to plan your day for you.  She is probably in her 60s.  And she will probably have an impressive amount of make-up on.  But it suits her character.  And she is a character.  She is exuberant about life and really excited to help you make the most of your time in Baltimore.  She’s the best.

She approached us and asked where we were from and how long we were in Baltimore.  Then she said, “Alright, here’s what you’re gonna do.  You’re gonna go out front and catch the bus to Fort McHenry.  It is a free bus and will take you there.  Fort McHenry is where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner.  BUT (dramatically looks at watch) it closes at 4:45, so you have to go NOW.”  We said that sounded good and asked where we should park our car.  She said, “You have a car??  Ok, you are going to DRIVE to Fort McHenry.  Parking is free.  You are going to follow the bus.  On your way back, you are going to stop at the American Visionary Art Museum.  They have an amazing gift shop.  You can buy anything there.  I bought this ring there for $3.  When I was in Greece, people were amazed it was only $3.  Then you will go to Fell’s Point.  You girls will love it there.  There are men.  There is drinking.  So you will have a little bit of history and a little bit of fun.  You will love it.”  Later I asked Rachel what part of our appearance (Cardigans and scarves) gave the impression of “partier”.  She then basically shoved us out the door.

We snuck over to the harbor and took in the pretty view before sneaking back past the visitor center and to the car.  We though Bonnie would be disappointed in us if she saw that we did not leave IMMEDIATELY.  We then stopped at Chipotle for lunch.  Clearly we were rushing.  But how can one fully appreciate history if they haven’t eaten lunch??  That’s right.  They can’t.  image

Turns out we actually really loved our entire itinerary that Bonnie gave us.  Our mantra for the day was, “Thanks Bonnie!” and “Bonnie knows us better than we know ourselves!”

Fort McHenry was pretty cool.  Did you know that the Star Spangled Banner was written during the War of 1812?  I’m pretty sure that Mrs. Schostag taught me that in 4th grade music class, but the details were a little fuzzy in my memory.  And if you don’t remember much about the war of 1812, don’t feel bad.  No one else does either.  image_1

We watched a video that was a dramatic re-enactment of the battle at Fort McHenry.  In case you don’t remember what you learned in your American History Class, let me tell you the most basic of facts:

  • The British had just burned down the White House.
  •  Their next stop was Baltimore.
  • Fort McHenry was the only thing stopping the British from reaching the city.  All night the battle waged.
  • Our pal Francis was a lawyer and he was out in the harbor perhaps negotiating the release of someone??  It is hard to say for sure.
  • The battle waged all night and then in the morning, he could see that a flag had been raised above the fort, but at first he couldn’t tell if it was the British or the American flag.
  • Then through the fog/mist/smoke you could begin to make out the stars and stripes.
  • Oh, and the flag was giant.  30×42 feet.  And it was so big it had to be sewn together on the floor of  a brewery.

The highlight was at the end of the video, the screen rose and reveal a giant window and through the window you could see the flag waving at the fort.  It was very patriotic.  We loved it.  Well done, Fort McHenry!  Well done, Bonnie.

After wandering around history for a while, we stopped off at the American Visionary Art Museum.  (That may or may not actually be its name. But I’m feeling to lazy to confirm these facts via google).  Bonnie was right.  The gift shop did have everything under the sun.  She would probably be sad to know that we did not buy anything.  We did however find out that if you wait until 45 minutes before closing, the museum entrance fee changes to donation only.  Amazing!  We enjoyed the museum, but were glad that we donated $5, rather than paying full price.  image_2

Then we headed to Fell’s Point.  I was a little nervous it would be some seedy night club area.  Turns out it was actually an adorable historic area of town with cobblestone streets and cute shops.  We browsed some shops, ate some dinner, and then headed off to Claire and Andre’s house.  image_1

Rachel parallel parked our car on this tiny tiny street.  Let's all just take a moment to applaud her.

Rachel parallel parked our car on this tiny tiny street. Let’s all just take a moment to applaud her.

It was a terrific beginning to our spring break adventures.

Africa Part 2

If all went according to plan, I went in to work early this morning and got to skype with my little Ugandan children.  I’m so excited to see their sweet faces.  Thanks technology!

But you know what I’m more excited for?  To see their sweet faces in person.

That’s right folks – I’m going back.

Africa Part 2: coming summer 2013 🙂

Image

London Layover

Friends, if you haven’t had the chance to visit London while jet-lagged, low on sleep, emotionally unstable, and in the middle of the summer Olympics, you are missing out!

We had a layover in London this August on our way back from Uganda.  Rachel and I had both been to London before, but it was a new adventure for Jessica, and I had only been 10 years ago in the winter, so it was mostly new to me as well 🙂

We dropped off our stuff in the yotel in the airport (which was awesome) and headed in to see some fun olympic-ness.  Mind you, Jessica and I have been in Africa for 2-3 months at this point and have seen no Olympic coverage.  In fact, at one point when the Olympics were starting, we asked the Ugandan staff if they ever watch it on TV.  They responded, “The Olympics are on TV?”

London was super visitor-friendly during the games (not that it isn’t otherwise – I just thought they did a great job for the Olympics).  There was plenty of clean sign-age and plenty of friendly Brits ready to help you.  We walked to the Olympic park and see it.  We couldn’t get into the actual park area because we didn’t have tickets to any events, but we could still see the stadium from a short distance.  We also are pretty sure that we saw some Russian athletes.  So that’s neat.

We enjoyed gazing on Big Ben while eating our first non-African meal of… McDonalds (we tried for something else, but we had no cash and no one else wanted our credit cards…)

We also rode on the London Eye, which was cool for a lot of reasons.  First of all, when I was in London back in college, the London Eye was closed and so I have a picture looking sad with it in the background.  Secondly, it has beautiful views of the city.  And thirdly, we discovered that we could see down into the beach volleyball stadium!  I mean, obviously we were too far away to really see anything, but it was still exciting.

To round out the adventure, we headed to the Tower of London to see the Tower Bridge with the Olympic rings on it. We were SO tired at this point that we didn’t think we could make it (I envisioned crawling to our destination at one point).  But I’m glad that we did, because it was the highlight of our evening in London.

With much more effort than we’d been led to believe, we made our way back to the Yotel, showered, and got a couple (literally a couple) hours of sleep before catching our flight back to America.

And thus, Africa Part 1 is officially concluded.  Thanks for coming along for the adventure!

Nature Walk at Lake Mburo

We were told that in the morning we would be going on a nature walk.  We weren’t really sure what that meant.  All we knew is that we really really wanted to see zebra.

Turns out what it meant was awesomeness.  Awesomeness at sunrise! IMG_3101 copy

We went out in the grasslands (I have no idea if that is the correct term for the type of land we were on, but it seems closer than swamps, mountainous region, or desert).  Anyways, we went out on foot and walked amongst the animals.  We had a park ranger/guide/animal poop tracker to lead the way.  It was us and a couple from somewhere in Europe maybe?

We got close to lots of animals – warthogs, bushbuck, waterbuck, topi, impala, etc.  We enjoyed our walk, but mostly we just kept thinking, “Where are the zebras????”

Because we had to wait until the end for that, I will also make you wait to see the zebras.

Here are some pictures from the rest of our walk!

What a beautiful morning!

IMG_3103 copy

Mihingo Lodge

After gorilla trekking, we spent one more night at our lodge in Bwindi, then got up at 7am and headed out for Lake Mburo – the final national park of our safari.

Roadtrip highlights include:

Seeing the Spaniards from our gorilla trekking group along the way – we waved at them as we passed them, then they waved at us as they passed us – and on the leapfrog game went.

We had been told that Lake Mburo is the land of hoofed animals.  We were so excited to see zebra, and perhaps envisioned our van barely able to drive because of the great number of herds of zebra we were surrounded by.  This was not quite the case, but we did see some hoofed animals on our game drive in to our lodge.

We saw zebra, monkeys, impala, topi, and many other antelope type animals on our drive.

Eventually we arrived at our lodge.  A really great girl who’s name I’m forgetting (after 5 months, who can really fault me for that) met us at the van and showed us to our room.  This was a really unique lodge.  It’s layout was up a hill and at the bottom of the hill was a watering hole that you had a great view of regardless of where your room was.  At the top of the hill was the main room of the lodge, which was open air with a thatch roof.  There was a fancy swimming pool and of course we were greeted with fresh juice and warm washclothes.

Our lodge-lady told us that we were staying in Buffalo Tent.  Yes, our rooms were like tents, but in a permanent structure sort of way.  We were at the very bottom of the hill.  The lodge-lady wished us luck on our journey back up, saying that previous guests had likened it to the Inca Trail.  The prize is that we were closest to the watering hole.  AND we had the best water pressure for our shower.  So there is that.

We were also told that we should not keep any food in our tent, as the naughty monkeys would find a way to break in and find it – even if it was at the bottom of our suitcase.  We also needed to lock the tent because the monkeys had figured out how to open it.

We arrived at Mihingo Lodge in the early afternoon, and spent the afternoon sitting on our deck, watching the watering hole and reading.

We saw warthogs, impala, topi, waterbuck, and water buffalo (and more) during our afternoon of leisure.  We got a lot of great use of dad’s binoculars.

That evening we hiked up to the lodge for a delicious dinner.  In my journal, this is the last day I wrote about, and my last line of my Africa journal is, “I had so many vegetables!  It made me really happy.”

Next up: our “nature walk” at Lake Mburo – don’t worry, this one actually involved nature, not people groups.  Not to spoil the ending, but I’m really excited to share my zebra pictures with you!