CnLsnapping


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Duncan Camping Trip 2016 Photos!!

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Hello Everyone!

Here are my pictures and videos from our trip! I am using Google Photos, so if you have a Gmail account, then you can add your photos too. We had a wonderful time hanging out with you all, and hopefully we’ll get to do it again next year!

To add your photos:

  1. Click “Join”
  2. Click “add to album” (in the top right of the screen)

To download photos:

  1. When you’re viewing the album, you’ll see three vertical dots in the top right of the screen. Click that, and then you’ll see a “download all” option.
  2. When you’re viewing a single photo, look for those same vertical dots in the top right as well.

CLICK HERE

 


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Duncan Camping Trip 2015 Photos!

HEY FAM! 

I went through the photos and chose the best ones. We had such a fun trip! There are a lot of good rafting and badminton pictures. Click the link below to view them! You can download all of the photos for free, or you can download one by one. (When you’re viewing the album, you’ll see three vertical dots in the top right of the screen. Click that, and then you’ll see a “download all” option. When you’re viewing a single photo, look for those same vertical dots in the top right as well.) Let me know if you have any issues. Love you all!

CLICK HERE!


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¡Hola España! Part One

Where do I start? I haven’t blogged for almost a year and a half so, needless to say, I have a lot of updates.

As everyone should be aware, we have moved back to the USA from Nigeria. We’ve settled in Camas, Washington near Casey’s parents. I meant to write a separate post about house-hunting and whatnot, but that will have to be done later, as well as many other needed posts. We did buy a house in fact, but now we’re abroad again for an indefinite amount of time!

Preface: We visited Valencia, Spain three years ago for a friend’s wedding and had a wonderful time. Since then, Casey has been [more or less] avidly teaching himself Spanish. I, on the other hand, had been learning Italian, so we’ve had many a debate over which language is best. Spanish won out in the end, and so we decided that a trip to Spain was needed. We’ve wanted to go back many times in the past three years, but never made the time for it. You can always think of excuses not to go on a trip, like a lack of time or money or something else taking precedence, but we decided to just go for it and make it work this year! Casey was in Nigeria at the time, so I was left in Camas to lock up the house. We decided to fly separately and meet in Spain, and that’s right where this journey begins.

We both left our respective countries on September 21st and traveled the whole day. I went from Portland to Dallas to Madrid, and Casey went from Lagos to London. Coincidentally, we both took a picture of our luggage before departure. After traveling so much, we’ve developed a fondness for our bags, and we think they look quite cute, like they’re lining up and smiling for the photo. 

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Casey had much more luggage than me because we brought bikes to Spain. That’s another discussion for another post, but suffice it to say that we both have Brompton bikes and they each take up one suitcase. Below is a cool photo I took on my way to Dallas. The clouds looked just like popcorn! They were all over the sky. Really impressive.

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All of my flights went well, and I decided to take a picture of my dinner on board from Dallas to Madrid because it looked pretty good. Usually you’ll have two options for dinner; I chose chicken with mashed potatoes. It looks small at first, but they really give you quite a bit with all of the sides added up. The “BBQ” sauce on the chicken was quite weird, but everything else was decent. You always get some kind of bread, and then either a green salad or a pasta salad, etc. The desserts are always the best. This time it was a snickerdoodle cookie, but I’ve also had brownies or small pieces of cake. Of course the meal depends on which airline you fly and which country you are in, but I’ve been satisfied about 90% of the time. Dinners are better than the breakfasts, in my opinion, so I try to eat up the “night” before.

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Finally, the next day arrived, and we landed in Spain. Through a series of fortunate events, Casey was able to fly from London and meet me in Madrid! Smile He got there about 20 minutes before me and was able to wait near the gates so we could go through customs together. It was such a pleasant sight to see him! We got a classic Spanish sandwich to eat for lunch. It’s called a bocadillo with Spanish jamón (thin dry-cured ham), tomato slices, and cheese on a baguette. Casey absolutely loves jamón, so he was thrilled! I like bread, so I was happy too.

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We were in terminal 4, and the design is really cool. It’s basically one, huge rectangle and the ceiling and columns change color gradually. All you can see here is the yellow section, but it changes color like a rainbow. Very pretty. I snapped a photo of the elevator because the translation made me laugh. Salida means “Exit,” but here they translated it to “Way Out.”

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The next flight to Valencia was very short at about 45 minutes. Our friend, Abel, was eagerly awaiting our arrival! He works with Casey in Nigeria, but he flies the 737. I’ve gotten to know him really well throughout our stay in Lagos, so it was great to see him again! Thankfully, he had a big enough car to fit all of our luggage. We packed it up and were on our way.

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Abel took us to our apartment so we could drop off our bags. His mom owns an extra apartment in the city, so we are renting this place from her. It’s only a few blocks away from Abel’s apartment, so the location is great. We freshened up a little and then proceeded to have lunch at a lovely restaurant called Las Lunas – “the moons.” They have a new lunch menu every week and the selections are really tasty. We’ve gone back a few times already. You get an appetizer, a main course, dessert, and a drink for a great price! The first two pictures are appetizers (salmon with leeks and toast with fried tofu), then our main courses (spinach ravioli and the most tender pork you’ve ever eaten in your life), and then dessert (spiced cheesecake and chocolate mousse tart). Yum.

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Right before dessert, Abel left to go pick up his 3 year old daughter, Martina. She takes a really nice charter bus to and from preschool, so he walked a few blocks and got her. We never met her before, so she was quite shy at first and didn’t want us to look at her. (Finally, here is a photo of Abel too!) We finished lunch and went back to our apartment to rest. Abel and Martina came by a couple hours later to get us, and she warmed up to us after we played with her. She took an immediate liking to Casey! She even wanted to hold his hand, aww.

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We went back to his house to visit with his wife, Maria. We’ve only hung out with her during the week of their wedding, but she’s so sweet and friendly too. For dinner, we met up with two of their friends, whom we met at the wedding as well. We had Spanish hamburgers! The only real difference is that they use fancy sauces and toppings that aren’t typical in the US. They were very tasty.

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One of my favorite things is Martina’s bed! It’s an adorable house! With tiny pictures on the wall and a little door! And flowers under the window! I just love it!! I want one!

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And so… that was our first day in Spain; however, we are actually in Sweden right now for Casey’s recurrent simulator training! I wasn’t able to write as much today because his class was much shorter than usual. The first day is ground school and the second two days are in the simulator, so all he did today was practice tests on a computer. They allot eight hours for this ground school, but it never takes that long and he was done in two hours, so I didn’t have much time at all. That being said… I intended to write a much longer post but decided to post this one to give you something to read and tease you into reading more! Per se. I will write more tomorrow!


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Day 126: Keep Moving

Well, we spent a lovely two and a half week vacation in the states visiting with family, but CnL are finally back in Lagos. What a trip it was to return though! When we arrived at the airport in Las Vegas, we discovered (only too late) that our flight was delayed by three hours. Oy. Casey and I were not pleased to hear about this, but there wasn’t much we could do, so we walked around the new Terminal 3 and grabbed a bite of lunch.

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The flight to New York was fairly quick and uneventful. We sat in an exit row so Casey had lots of leg room. We were initially scheduled to arrive around 7:45 PM eastern time, but ended up getting in around 11 PM only to find out that the shuttle bus to our hotel stopped picking people up from the airport at 11 PM. Needless to say, we took a cab and got to the hotel around midnight. There weren’t any food places open near our hotel, so we ate snacks that my sister had given us a few days earlier. Luckily, we both weren’t too hungry. We woke up early and took the shuttle to the airport with plenty of time to spare for our flight. Check-in to Arik Air was smooth. We always see the same lady who checks passports/visas and the same man who supervises the show. He gave us a free pass to the lounge that day, which was really nice of him, so we got to chill in comfy seats for an hour or so.

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This was the first time the flight from New York to Lagos was in the afternoon, so you can actually see the plane clearly in the daytime. I always snap a photo, but it’s been at night, so the light reflects off the window and you can hardly see “Our Lady of Perpetual Help.” We got much better seats this time around: a two-seat row with a window and an aisle seat. We were also behind the exit row, so Casey had more leg room again. I was quite comfortable here. I prefer to sit on the side of the plane because we can get two seats together, and then I can lean on Casey to sleep, which is comfy to me. The real test of comfort, though, is if Casey is comfortable, which he was with the extra leg room and reclining seat, so this location was a winner. We started out the ten hour flight with a movie called “Never Let Me Go.” It’s apparently after the book with the same title by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I haven’t read but would like to read. Casey played some games on his laptop, we slept for a little while, and ate a couple in-flight meals. Somehow ten hours flew by and we were ready to land.

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We usually sit on the plane for a while and let everyone de-board, since baggage takes so long to come out, but this time we left early. Our luggage had priority tags on them, which usually means that they’ll come out faster than others, but that wasn’t the case this time. To our disappointment, they actually came out last. Sigh. We had to wait about an hour for them, but it’s not like we had anything better to do. I took some photos of the mobs of people from our flight, and I tried to take a panorama photo as well. It didn’t work out perfectly, since the right side is doubled, but you get the gist.

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Having left in the afternoon in New York, we arrived around 4:30 AM in Lagos. It was nice driving to our apartment in the early morning hours with cooler weather and less traffic. The unfortunate thing is the AC unit in our room and in our kitchen both stopped working at some point while we were gone. The AC in the kitchen had a frozen pipe, and the unit in our room needed a new electric panel and to be cleaned.

You may be wondering what happened to our car during this whole time. Well, it finally arrived to our complex when we were away! The housekeepers received it and held the keys for us. We were so excited to see our car! It was like Christmas opening it up and seeing all of our goods inside. We were very tired by this time, but it’s best to stay awake and try to get on Lagos time again. Casey suggested emptying out the trunk of the car and bringing all our stuff inside to the kitchen. We had much-needed shelves, a table, and chairs! I was waiting anxiously for that dining room table – an inexpensive fold-up model. We had been eating our food in our room, which is on the second floor, and we are SO happy to be able to eat in the kitchen. Sure, our bedroom is only one floor up, but it’s so convenient to cook and eat in the same room. We don’t have to put everything in Tupperware and carry it upstairs, and then back downstairs to be washed. Casey’s been sweet and does the dishes since I cook.  We are now loaded with food which will last us for a while. Yay!

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And here is our vehicle! A lovely Ford Escape. Oddly enough, the inside was very dirty when it arrived. I’m very curious as to how it got so dirty since all the windows and doors were closed. Anyone have any ideas?? Casey thinks there was a little bit of mold on a couple plastic surfaces, which I can understand if the car was a bit moist when it went into the container on the ship. But how did dirt and dust get everywhere? Granted, dust finds its way everywhere, but it was dirtier than I expected. Anyway, I cleaned the inside as good as I could with Lysol wipes (amazing stuff), so at least it looks better now. I could have used a vacuum and my Mama’s help cleaning the bedroom, kitchen, and car. She is a cleaning machine.

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We didn’t have a license plate and registration yet, but the car was desperately low on gas, so Casey convinced me to drive with him and get some. I didn’t want to stray too far though in case the police spotted us without plates. Luckily, the gas station was close by and all went well. We took one of the housekeepers with us to be safe. Locals have told us to always be careful when getting gas. Sometimes the attendants don’t reset the meter to zero to make you pay more, so Casey was extra observant and watched the meter closely. We always plan to take a local with us so that the attendants don’t feel like they can cheat us since we’re foreigners. We also don’t mind driving in a small radius by ourselves, but if we go somewhere farther, we plan to take a Nigerian or two with us to be safe.

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The photo above on the right was taken the next day when the AC guy came to fix the unit in our room. He had to clean the box on the outside and needed a taller ladder. Casey and Janti, the main housekeeper here, were trying to balance the ladder on an empty dumpster, but it still wasn’t tall enough, so we drove to the pilot compound nearby to get a taller ladder. Casey is posing below with one of the security guards, and I am posing with Kingdom, another housekeeper. Everyone here is very nice and friendly, so it was really fun to hang out with them. We all usually don’t talk too much, but it was nice to chat, joke around, and take pictures. You can see that the complex is surrounded by a wall with barbed wire and there are always security guards, so the cars are safe. Even if we’re not here, we know that our car will be fine.

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Casey’s favorite item in the car was his TREADMILL! Of course! Yay! He’s been waiting for that thing for months. We brought it inside to the gym with the help of a few other people (that thing is heavy) and hooked it up. It worked beautifully. Here we are after our first workout session.

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And here we are with our license plate!!!!!! We’re official!!!!!! I feel so much better having the proper plates and paperwork. We drove to Goodies Market that day to buy some cold food items. We had been avoiding that store since it is on the expressway/highway and there are more policemen around there, so it was really nice to finally drive there and not have to worry. It was also great to not have to wait for a taxi once we were finished. We could buy frozen items and immediately go home. The simple pleasures of life!

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We bought a sunshade in the states and it came with two mini window shades, so Casey was trying them out.

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The title of this post comes from a sign I saw somewhere. We were buying cell phone credit and this sign just tickled me. “Hawking” refers to the selling of goods on the side of the road. The sellers, called “Hawkers,” walk right in the middle of the road and up to your car to sell you things, so you often see signs saying “No Hawking” around buildings and such. I just loved that it said “Keep Moving.” Who says that? And this anonymous “Management” is always present, like Big Brother.

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CnL are back in Lagos and must keep moving… keep advancing through life to reach our goals. I must keep trying to stop thinking and rest my overly active mind on occasion. Casey must keep flying and rack up those hours. But we must also keep having fun and enjoying ourselves in this strange and unique country that we find ourselves in.


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November 22: We Made It!

Isn’t there a phrase that says, “What can go wrong, will go wrong?” Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly felt like it when we tried to leave the country! First, our flight was cancelled so we had to wait two days to leave. Then the flight was quite full, so we didn’t get dealt the best seats. I will never understand who came up with the four-seat row. Two people get stuck in the middle… how uncomfortable! The flight itself was uneventful and went by fairly quickly. Casey and I were able to sleep decently, so that was a relief. When we landed in New York, the other passengers wouldn’t let us get off the plane, even though we were in the front of the plane. They just kept coming and wouldn’t give us room to step into the aisle. Casey eventually had to yell “WAIT!” so they’d let us out. We hurried to customs because we had a flight to catch, but the line was super long. A lot of other flights had just landed, so we couldn’t rush through the line. Finally, we reached the end and moved on to baggage claim, but our bags took forever coming out! The carousel kept stopping too, for reasons which I’m not aware of.

After waiting for a long time, we got our bags and hurried to the AirTrain, only to find that it wasn’t operating in the direction we wanted to go! What’s up with that?! We were in Terminal 4, the international terminal, and we wanted to go to Terminal 3 for Delta. That’s one stop in one direction, but the tram would only go in the opposite direction. We asked an employee what the easiest way to get to T3 was and he said to walk, so out we went into the cold, lightly jogging to keep ourselves warm and to get there quicker. We hurried into the terminal and were greeted with more bad news. They wouldn’t let us get on the flight! We still had about fifteen minutes before it departed, but that wasn’t enough time to check our bags, and they wouldn’t let us send the bags on a later flight. We had to go with our bags, so we missed the flight. Nooooo! It was so disappointing. The next flight left in 2.5 hours, but it was full, so we booked ourselves on the flight leaving in 8 hours. Meh!

Did I mention it was Thanksgiving?? Yes, this American holiday wasn’t greeting us very warmly. The ticketing agent was nice though and put us on standby for the earlier flight, just in case there were no-shows. We took our time getting through security (which was very quick) and got some breakfast. Then we made our way to the gate and waited a couple hours for the standby flight… which we didn’t get to go on. Sigh. We barely missed it too, but they overbooked by one. So… we waited… 6 hours… for the next flight. The one fortunate thing was that we were together. Two years go, I visited Casey in Lagos for Christmas, and I had to fly back by myself on New Year’s Eve. I missed my connecting flight to Las Vegas as well, and I had to sit in the airport for 9 hours, alone. It was terrible! I didn’t have my cell phone charger, and I could not find a charging station for the life of me! On the verge of tears, I finally found an electronics store but they didn’t have the kind of charger I needed. Two, nice employees gave me one that they were using and I was so relieved. After that experience, I was much happier to wait in the airport with someone!

We sat in the Delta SkyMiles lounge and relaxed for a few hours, then got something to eat, and eagerly boarded our plane. That flight went by kind of slowly. Maybe we were just anxious to arrive. FINALLY, WE MADE IT! My mom was waiting for us at baggage claim, and it was so wonderful to see her! We hugged, grabbed our bags, and went home to enjoy a warm, Thanksgiving dinner. (We had already missed the big meal the day before when my sister and brother-in-law were in town, but this meal was lovely nonetheless.) Exhausted but excited, CnL finally made it to Vegas.


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Day 48: Modern Pioneers

Well hello again! I apologize for the long delay in writing, and I assure you that I have a good reason for the interruption. Shortly after my birthday, I wasn’t feeling well so I went to the doctor and found out that I had malaria! I took medicine and stayed in bed for days. All of my energy was gone so I really didn’t feel like blogging. At any rate, I am back! Hopefully I won’t have another long hiatus again but, if I do, let’s hope the reason is different…

The title of this post was chosen by Casey. He called us “modern pioneers” last week because we found ourselves in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey! We were planning on flying to the US on September 14th, but that trip had to be postponed since I still had malaria. You’re not supposed to travel, of course. Luckily, it only took a few extra days to get healthy again, and we ended up flying to New York on the 19th. Everything happened so fast, otherwise I would have written a quick post to say that we were leaving. Anyway, we felt that the reference to pioneers was appropriate because we are trekking across the globe, seeing new country, and living a different lifestyle than the typical American one. Our rental car also felt like a heavy, covered wagon after we were done stuffing our recently purchased items into it!

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But more about that later.

The 11 hour flight to JFK was smooth, even though it was in the afternoon rather than at night. We tried to sleep so that we wouldn’t be dead tired when we landed. We arrived super late  (10-11pm), picked up the rental car (a “luxurious” Ford Crown Victoria), and drove to Connecticut (where we stayed with Casey’s aunt and uncle). After a long drive (and a midnight stop at McDonald’s – the only place still open), we pulled up to a beautiful, classic colonial-style, New England home! I had never been to Connecticut, so it was exciting to see the architecture and soak in the posh atmosphere. Casey’s aunt was so thoughtful and waited up for us into the wee morning hours. We said hi, quickly took our bags upstairs, and went to sleep!

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I must say that we had a very good night’s sleep! The bed was super comfy, especially after getting used to our firm mattress in Lagos, and Casey fell in love with their Tempur-Pedic pillow (so much so that he ended up buying one for himself). Besides updating the stamp for my visa, the purpose of this trip was to stock up on items that we can’t find or are too expensive in Nigeria. Almost everything costs more here since it has to be imported, but the main thing we wanted was FOOD! There are a lot of familiar brands here, but there are still things that we can’t find. Casey wanted Boboli pizza crusts (which thankfully keep in the freezer for up to six months) and LOTS of old-fashioned oats, raisins, and brown sugar. His “Mama’s Oats” are a breakfast staple. I wanted packaged side dishes, like Pasta Roni or any pasta/rice side. For me, side dishes are often harder to make than the main dish. We focused on canned goods and boxed items that would keep for a while, as well as non-food items. We bought a small desk and chair, bathroom shelves, pantry shelves, dishes, pots/pans, and other miscellaneous stuff. We’ve never purchased so much at once, so the bill was quite high, but we had to remember that we were stocking up for six months or so. By the end of the week, the back seat and trunk of the car were packed full with boxes and bags from Costco, Walmart, and Stop & Shop. It was insane.

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To top it off, during all of that chaos, we were car shopping too! Casey decided that he wanted to buy a used car and ship it to Nigeria. Yes, ship it. The vehicles here are two to three times more expensive than in the US, so we actually save money by buying it in the states and shipping it. Then, when we’re done with the car, we can sell it in Lagos and make a profit. So, after countless hours researching cars online and visiting an extremely stereotypical used car dealership in an equally shady part of New York, we found a wonderful vehicle! We bought a 2005 Ford Escape in great condition for a reasonable price! Yours truly got the honor of driving it as well, and it handled beautifully.

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The main reason we want a car is to have a little more freedom and improve our quality of life, as Casey says. Right now, we either have to call an Arik driver to take us shopping, or we have to take an okada (motorcycle) or a taxi. We can only use an Arik driver if they’re free, the okadas don’t hold very much, and taxis get pricey. With our own vehicle, we can go to the market when we please, which would be a huge advantage. If we want to go around the city, hiring a driver gets expensive too, so driving ourselves would be better. Overall, we think this is a good decision, so hopefully it will work out well once the car arrives! It doesn’t leave the US until the middle of October, so we won’t be seeing it until the beginning of November.

Casey found a company to ship the car, and the man who worked with us was a Nigerian who lives in the US and ships cars for a living. He was so nice and happy to hear that we currently live in Lagos. We dropped the car off at his warehouse in New Jersey, but not before we bought a treadmill! (It would be an understatement to say that we bought a lot of stuff.) We found out that Sear’s Outlets sell used or display items at a fraction of the original price, so we got a good deal on a semi-new treadmill. It took FOREVER to try to take it apart, which didn’t work in the end, and then it took FOREVER to get it into the back of the Ford Escape, but we finally fit it in and stuffed boxes of food around it. We are shipping the car in a container so we are able to put tons of stuff inside the vehicle and ship it too. Quite convenient. Most of our purchases are in the car, but we were able to take some things with us on the plane so we could have them immediately, like Casey’s new pillow.

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Long story short, it was an incredibly busy week, but we enjoyed ourselves. It was a business trip, more or less, so we weren’t really able to relax and sightsee, but we had fun regardless. We’ll be able to do the tourist thing eventually. We treated ourselves to good food that we craved though, and it felt nice being back in the US. Looking at the pictures below makes me hungry now!

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Our final meal before leaving the US was BBQ!! Yum. We were both overwhelmed at the amount of food we ordered, but we surprised ourselves by eating all of it. We try not to order beef in Nigeria, so this was a real treat for us. Although I guess we didn’t eat any beef anyway since we had pork ribs and a pulled pork sandwich. Alas, the pork was delicious! And the onion loaf, the cornbread, the baked potato… yum.

The familiarity of the US was comforting, but it surprises me how different the west coast is from the east coast. You wouldn’t think they’d be that different, but we really noticed a dramatic change of pace in lifestyle and in the design of the cities. I thought “California drivers” were bad, but these east coast drivers are at a completely different level. Everyone went at least 20+ over the speed limit, which actually reminded us of the drivers in Lagos. The streets in NY and CT also bothered us because they rarely have middle turn lanes. We’d be driving on a four-lane road (two-lanes both ways) and the left lane would be stopped due to people trying to turn. I wonder why they like this design. At one point in NY, we went under a river! We didn’t even realize this was happening until we were in the tunnel. It was a crazy feeling. Our GPS lost the signal, but you can see that the road goes straight through/under the water. Eek! I have to say thank goodness we had a GPS! It was a lifesaver. We couldn’t have possibly navigated around the cities without one. Sometimes it didn’t work properly though, and we still made MANY wrong turns, but overall it was invaluable.

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After a very long day (6am-9pm), we made it to the airport with all of our bags. We had more luggage this time (nine pieces total: five suitcases, two boxes, and two totes), but it felt like a lighter load than when we moved here initially. Probably because we didn’t have that long piano to carry around!

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We checked in and found out that the flight wasn’t very full, thankfully. We were able to get free checked bags too because Casey is staff. We wanted to treat ourselves one more time before departing, so we went to McDonald’s (again, the only place open) and ordered two apple pies. We wanted ice cream, but the machine wasn’t working. The pies were a tasty second choice though. We slowly went through security, walked to the gate just in time to be the last people to board, and found an empty row for us to share. It’s not easy for two people to lie down and share four seats, but we’re getting pretty good at it by now. We each had an incident where we opened the bathroom door to find someone in there (Nigerians don’t care about locking the door, it seems), but the rest of the flight was uneventful.

We landed in Lagos around 2pm on Thursday, picked up all of our bags, and came back to House 69. Everything was still in good shape! They turned the AC off in our room because no one was watching it and they were afraid it would cause a fire, but other than that, everything was fine. Now, a few days later, we have received our refrigerator and have been cooking quite a bit with our new ingredients! We made pasta with frozen veggies, fish sandwiches with mac’n’cheese, and I made banana bread! Tasty tasty tasty.

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Casey also did a beautiful job recaulking our shower! He removed all of the old stuff, cleaned it thoroughly, and placed a new, smooth line of caulk around the edges. I was impressed! I have learned that Casey can do anything well if he wants to do it and sets his mind to it. I’ve also been battling with the corners of the shower trying to keep the water inside the tub, so I made little walls out of duct tape, plastic, and caulk. It’s certainly not the best plumbing job, but hopefully it will hold up for a while. We’d love to remove the whole tub and install a self-sustaining, stand-up shower (like those below), but it might be difficult since Arik doesn’t own this building; they’re just leasing it. I doubt the owners want us to remodel the building in that manner. So we’ll manage for now with our current tub. At least we bought a waterproof shower curtain in the states, since I couldn’t find one here. We also bought a new shower head, so that’s nice.

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So yeah! We’re back! We’re getting settled again. Casey has started flying again, and I have time to blog. All is well!


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Flashback: Wallowa Mountains and Hells Canyon

Before Casey and I arrived in Nigeria, we spent a month in Washington visiting his parents, Chuck and Barb. The four of us went backpacking in the Wallowa Mountains in northeastern Oregon, and then we went rafting at Hells Canyon on the Snake River. I’m writing about this trip as requested by my dad :) The photos below were taken by yours truly, Casey and me, and also by Chuck! I’ve divided the blog post into sections, so there are four different galleries to match their respective days and activities.

August 4, 2012: Two Pan Trailhead to Mirror Lake

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We got up super early and left WA in order to reach the trailhead the same day. The drive was 6-7 hours, not including stops. We ate breakfast in Hood River, OR then lunch in La Grand, OR. During our drive, it occurred to us that we still needed to find a proper toilet to bring on the rafting trip. Some trails/rivers allow you to use the woods, others have outhouses installed, and others require you to bring a toilet or approved bucket and carry out your goods. The Snake River is one of those rivers. So therein commenced our quest to find a toilet! Casey called various sporting/rafting shops on our route, but none carried the item we needed. Chuck wanted to get the bucket, but we couldn’t find that either. We stopped in a few cities and “did it live” in store but, still, we found nothing. Finally, we found a portable toilet AND the twist-top bucket at – you guessed it – Walmart. Casey tested it out in the parking lot, per se.

Feeling a sense of victory, we drove straight to Lostine, OR where we stopped at the Blue Banana for a treat. (They make a great frozen hot chocolate, by the way.) 17 miles south of the coffee shop, we found the trailhead. Casey and I had been packing, and repacking, all week, so we were pretty set to go. After some last minute adjustments, we set off on the Two Pan Trailhead. The beginning of the trail was deeply forested and followed the river fairly closely. After a gradual two mile incline, we reached a set of steep switchbacks up the mountain. I was testing out our new trekking poles and didn’t like them at first. They felt awkward and in the way, but I got better over the next couple days, and they certainly helped on the descent. Once the switchbacks ended, the trail opened up into a wide meadow with Eagle Cap Peak looming in the distance. It was a beautiful sight! Our initial plan was to reach Mirror Lake in one day, but it was just a little too far for our schedule, so we decided to stop and camp in the valley. Since we got a late start, the sun had already fallen behind the mountains at this point, so it was getting dark and chilly. Chuck and Barb hike faster than Casey and me, so they picked a campsite by the time we caught up to them. We hiked about 5 miles total from the trailhead to our first campsite that day.

The evening came on us quickly as we set up our new tent. Casey picked out the Tarptent Double Rainbow for us which uses trekking poles as support. (That’s why I am learning to hike with them.) It’s a nice tent! Very easy to set up, spacious, and only one piece of fabric. You don’t have a separate footprint or rainfly. The only downside is that condensation can be a problem if you’re in a humid location, but it wasn’t too bad. We also had new sleeping bags and sleeping pads from Big Agnes that we adore. Oh, and a new backpack for me! Casey and I match now with our Gossamer Gear ultralight backpacks. And I can’t forget about our amazing Patagonia down jackets! Barb and I each got a new jacket since they were on sale, and we ended up getting matching colors. I also ordered one for my mom, in the same color no doubt, so we’ll be triplets if you see us in a cold climate together.

August 5, 2012: Morning finally arrived with the sun beaming down upon our meadow. We ate, packed up, and took some group photos on a small bridge near our campsite. What a gorgeous day! We had a great view of Eagle Cap with the sun shining on its peak. The wildflowers had just bloomed recently too, so it was really a lovely sight. It made us think of Switzerland…

Chuck and Barb shot off toward Mirror Lake, while Casey and I took our time snapping photos. We only had about three miles to hike today, so that was a nice surprise. After some switchbacks up another ridge, we saw a familiar red shirt hanging on a tree. We had a custom shirt made for Chuck with his nickname on the front and a quote from him on the back. We turned right at the shirt and found our groupies relaxing by a crystal blue lake. Casey was brave enough to take a dip in the icy water! I barely got my feet wet.

Since we arrived so early, the three of them decided to go on a day hike to Glacier Lake. I felt like relaxing, so I stayed at camp, took a nap, and worked on my cross-stitch. I posted the photos of their hike to and from Glacier Lake as well. They said they had a great time! Casey also said the hike was very strenuous, so it was probably for the best that I didn’t go. We ate dinner and enjoyed the multitude of stars above us. The moon was very orange and pretty on the lake. I was surprised at how bright it lit up the night sky.

August 6, 2012: Day three was supposed to be spent hiking to Eagle Cap, and then the next day we were going to hike out, but we had a change of plans. At some point during our trip, I got bit on the arm by something and my arm started swelling up. There were lots of mosquitos around, which bit me all over, but I think something else had to have bitten my arm. Barb wanted to be on the safe side and get me to a doctor today to make sure it wasn’t anything serious. It was disappointing to leave early, and I’m still apologetic to the rest of the group! But I know they don’t have any hard feelings. We had a lovely time while we were there, and the eight mile hike back was quite pleasant. We took a slight shortcut through the valley and were able to avoid some of those switchbacks near the lake. Chuck and Barb were waiting for us when we arrived at the trailhead, so we quickly tidied up, threw our stuff in the car, and drove out towards Lostine.

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Upon reaching Lostine, we stopped at the Blue Banana again and asked for the nearest urgent care (and got more treats). We were told to go to the Winding Winds clinic in Enterprise, OR, which wasn’t far at all. Once we got there, I was in and out and at Safeway waiting for my prescription. The doctor felt that the swelling was caused by an allergic reaction, so he prescribed a strong antihistamine.

We didn’t stay long in Enterprise because we had a room reservation in Joseph, OR literally ten minutes away. Barb booked a two-room cottage for us; it was so quaint! We especially enjoyed showering and getting cleaned up after our three-day backpacking trip. I’m a real stickler for hygiene, so I’ve been trying to come up with an easy, lightweight method for staying clean on the trails. Maybe I’ll write about that one day! We had a nice dinner at a local restaurant, and then walked around the very small town. Casey and I took a photo inside a teepee, and he snapped a photo of a very authentic-looking auto-shop called Mike’s Garage. Joseph is also known for its bronze sculptures, so you can see a really cool eagle we found as well.

August 7, 2012: This was our freebie day, since we weren’t supposed to arrive in Joseph until today. We slept in, but still got up early, and went to Wallowa Lake to ride the tram! (Barb was looking forward to this.) It was a good fifteen minutes to get up the mountain, so that was neat. There wasn’t any ventilation in the gondola, so Casey stuck his head out. At the top, there was a restaurant and short hiking trails. We hiked one which looked to the west towards Eagle Cap Peak, where we just were. I took a couple panorama shots to try out our new, point and shoot camera. Then we ate a good lunch at the restaurant before hiking another trail and heading back down the mountain.

The lake was close by, so we stopped to feel the water and play some frisbee. Chuck and Casey went in the cold water too! Those Rose boys are brave. The day was relaxing, and we got back to town early in order to pack for our rafting trip the next day. We also went back to Safeway in Enterprise to go shopping for food. Dinner consisted of some tasty pizza from another local restaurant before we hit the hay for another day!

 

August 8, 2012: Hells Canyon, Snake River

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The groupies go rafting! We got up very early again for the three hour drive to the put in at Hells Canyon Dam. We stopped at Scotty’s, a gas station, to meet with the lady in charge of the car shuttle service. She runs the station too. We made a reservation, but she likes to inspect the cars before she agrees to shuttle them. Boy, she was a pistol! Definitely a power-house in disguise. We had planned on eating breakfast at a café, but there was nothing on the way, so we had coffee, hot chocolate, juice, muffins, and a bagel from Scotty’s.

We drove to the dam and, within an hour, the raft (who we call Big Red, Rosie, or The Beast) was pumped up and ready to go. Casey was kayaking, while the rest of us were in the raft, with Chuck at the oars. Right after we pushed off, a large, yellow and black butterfly flew by us and landed on the raft. It was so pretty that we all stopped to look. Little did we know that he would follow us throughout our three-day journey. Every morning when we took off, he was flying nearby, and every evening at camp, he’d fly by again to check up on us. It was really very sweet. Casey nicknamed him Honest Al. Chuck was quick enough and snapped a picture of him!

The first day had two, decent-sized rapids to watch out for, so Barb and I were eager to spot them. I had the gps in my lifejacket, so I was monitoring our location and pace. We’d stop beforehand and scout them out. The first rapid was near an old cabin, so we stopped and looked inside. I think it was built in 1901 or something, so very old indeed. Luckily, the water level wasn’t that high at the time, so the rapids were not as big as we imagined. If you look online, the most popular pictures of Hells Canyon are when the water level is really high, so that’s what we expected. You have to realize that no one posts calm photos, but we were very relieved that the river was gentle to us. I’m surprised that the river fluctuates so much since it’s fed by the dam, but that’s how it is.

It was nice and warm, so Casey often hopped in the water to cool off. Since he was kayaking, he wore his dry-top to seal the water out if he flipped. The rest of us didn’t wear such warm gear, so he was the hottest. You will see many photos of that man swimming happily in the river. Our first campsite was called Bernard Creek Camp. We fixed a late lunch on shore, and then set up our tent. None of us were too hungry, so we had a late dinner and had to prepare in the dusk. Zip packs were delicious for dinner on our charcoal briquettes! The stars were so abundant and vibrant, and we had a contest of who could spot satellites. (The satellite conversation was also a long one that I’m sure none of us will forget. How many are there? Is that really a satellite in the sky? Etc.) We stayed up super late until about midnight but had a very fun evening watching the sky and shadows of bats. I had the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had in a sleeping bag/tent too. The weather was perfect so I didn’t have to get all the way in the sleeping bag. The ground was even. It was lovely.

August 9, 2012: Breakfast was Mama’s Oats! Traditionally known in Nigeria as Casey’s Oats, we had old-fashioned oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins. The nice part about rafting is that you have the ability to bring WAY TOO MUCH FOOD. It’s a privilege, but we must keep this in mind for next time and try to remember how much four people can realistically eat in three days ;)

I don’t have any photos of the toilet, but it was a treat to have such a nice facility on hand. Believe me. Anyway, we set sail again and had a nice, leisurely stroll down the river. Barb took over steering for a while, and then Casey did. I finally took a dip in the river, and Casey towed me with his kayak. At one point, Barb jumped in the water, then Chuck jumped in the water, so Casey jumped in the water. Who did that leave manning the oars? Yes, me! (It had the classic signs of a setup, but they claimed it wasn’t hehe.) Those oars are heavy, and that raft is heavy, but I managed to steer it towards shore, which just so happened to be our campsite for the night: Dry Gulch Camp.

On the other side of the shore was a grassy landing strip. Casey and I kayaked over there (I sat on top of him) to check it out. It was very dry, very hot, and very unmaintained. It was a grassy landing strip, simple as that. There was another old cabin that we took a look at too. There wasn’t much to see, but it was cool nonetheless. Maybe one day we can land there. Casey towed me back to our camp after we were finished, and we changed and relaxed. Chuck decided to swim over there before dinner to see the landing strip, but the current was quite strong when he tried swimming back to us. Casey threw him the throw rope to tow him in.

Dinner was spaghetti with Paul Newman’s sauce. Finally! Chuck loves this sauce. We all ate too much, they drank wine, and I had sparkling apple cider. It was delicious. We didn’t stay up as long this night, but still long enough to look at the plethora of stars, question the satellites, and wonder about the boiling temperature of water. (Did it increase or decrease at a higher elevation? What about cooking times? These were heated conversations.)

August 10, 2012: Day three. The final day of rafting. Chuck was up early and prepped the cooler to make omelets for breakfast! You crack some eggs in a ziplock bag, add veggies to taste, seal it up, and drop it in boiling water. After about 10-15 minutes, you have a moist omelet! It actually was very tasty. I’m not too fond of eggs for breakfast, especially too early in the morning, but I was impressed.

There weren’t any big rapids to worry about today, so we drifted across the green water and bonded. Casey wanted more action for his kayak, but nothing much happened, so he eventually came to sit in the raft with us. We did make a stop at the Kirkwood Ranch museum though. That was kind of neat to see that people really did live on the river before. What a hard life that must have been. Pretty soon, we were at the take out, and our rafting trip was over. Sigh. It really was a wonderful adventure.

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We unloaded, deflated Rosie, packed up the trailer, and headed out of the canyon. We didn’t have any plans or reservations, so we “did it live” and drove to Lewiston, ID. We decided we liked WA better, so we crossed the river and were in Clarkston, WA in five minutes. Motel 6 was the accommodation of choice, so we booked it and showered up! It feels great to shower after you don’t for days, as you can imagine. We went to Rooster’s by the river for dinner. Casey and Barb ordered the wine tour, so they each sampled five different wines. Afterwards, we treated ourselves to some ice cream at Baskin Robbins. Casey was really craving a banana split, so we ordered one with mint chocolate chip, cherry, and Reese’s ice cream instead of the traditional flavors. It was tasty.

August 11, 2012: Time to go home! A whole week flew by so quickly, we were surprised, but we all had a fantastic time. We stopped by Chuck’s work on the way back, which happened to be next to a cornfield, and I got so excited because I’d never been in a cornfield! Everyone was nice enough to let me out of the car so I could run inside. It was thrilling :) And much more claustrophobic than I imagined. Casey agreed that no wonder horror movies always set the enemy in a cornfield. It could be scary! The rows are much closer together than I thought they would be too. I also got to pick some wheat! Another first for me. The little things that make a person so happy…

 

I hope you enjoyed reading about our vacation! All of us had a really great time. I’m very pleased that we were able to spend so much time with his parents doing some very fun things. We have more backpacking and rafting trips ahead of us, that’s for sure!