Tuesday, November 27, 2007

on WE go

Well it was quite a whirlwind in Europe. Thanks again Brittany for putting this last minute idea in our heads to visit Dublin which lead to a crazy sideline trip. Brussels and Madrid really stand out in my mind for a perfect strolling day for sight seeing. Frankfurt will be remembered as the first place I stepped foot in Europe. Republic of Ireland's Atlantic coast and especially the Antrim area in Northern Ireland are completely unforgettable. Visiting our distant cousin, Ivor was a blast!! Gozo Island, Malta was a real head over heals splash. Just another quick thank you to all of our incredible hosts. You all have not only enriched my life but the lives of my family too.

It seemed like everything came together when Skylar walked through the airport doors in Casablanca. We have been waiting a very long time for this reunion and are so thankful and pleased that he has returned home safely to us. At last we are a complete family again. He adds a new element and tone to our laughter and he is always hungry feeding those muscles.

In Rabat, the capital, we ate at the same restaurant three times. Why? Good food and good prices. For a bowl of delicious harira soup (A tomato based soup with vermicelli, garbonzo beans and anything else they can find) for only 4 DH with bread (50 cents), a salad with carrots, sweet onions, beets, cooked potatoes, all diced, on a bed of lettuce with sliced tomato on top for 5 DH and a tajine(vegetable stew) or couscous for 10DH and add a piece of chicken for another 10DH. So a salubrious meal such as this, will only set you back between $2.50-$3.75. Really this is too much to eat, although Skylar has no problem at all.... Ammon too.

So we are getting closer to the nitty gritty of West Africa. We took our last flight to Fes, last comfortable train to Marrakesh, a coach last night for 15 hours to Laaayoune and tonight is our last overnight coach ride to Dakhla, in the former West Sahara. From then on it will be tough, dirty and hot.

Anyone of you worrying about our safety as we head to West Africa can relax a little now that we have added Sky to our team as extra special security. Being a group of 7(with Jake) should also help. It's always good having 14 watchful eyes around. I'm always amazed at Ammon's experience and leadership abilities. We certainly couldn't (and wouldn't) be doing this without him! Carrying a heavy backpack is a challenge for me and I still can't figure out how the girls have coped so well with theirs. I am proud of all of them and look forward to continuing to overcome the challenges and reap in the rewarding experiences together. We are headed to Mauritania and plan to be in Timbuktu, Mali for Christmas!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hospitality and Marrakesh

We had another great cultural exchange day on our last in Rabat. I'd contacted a guy (Fadel) in southern Morocco (actually Western Sahara) earlier and he told me he was actually visiting a friend in Sale, the city across the river from Rabat, and that we should arrange a meeting. Jake and I met Fadel and his friend (Abdullah) while coming back from picking up our passports at the Mali embassy (yes, we are on our way to Timbuktu but that is a future story). Having Jake around is awesome. Not only is he my equal/superior in travelling and we can converse for ever on random topics, but his being a Muslim gets us all sorts of different reactions from locals. It is still tough for him for sure, and there is still a lot of racism in their accepting, or rather, questioning of his conversion but there are definitely a lot of advantages as well. They are not as quick to rip him off, generally show him more respect and some are outright amazingly friendly. If I stand next to him I can bask in his glory and generally have a better experience here too! Case in point, the guys we met in Rabat. I had lined the meeting up but I think it was Jake that got the whole lot of us invited for the following day to go Abdullah's place for a traditional lunch and possible place to stay. Sweet!
The following day we checked out of Rabat and all met up with the 2 guys. It turns out that Abdullah actually lives with his sister and her husband and I think the mother. First we went to an exotic garden a little out of town to kill some time. Not actually the best way to meet a group and get to know each other as this is not a highly socializing activity. Things weren't going too well and I started getting a little worried when they started talking about a possible rail strike the following day (we were continuing to Marrakesh) and maybe we should leave that night. That sounded like a very convenient lie to get rid of unwanted guests but we still had a lunch to go to. I am not saying this to tell you we are bad guests but merely to remind you that while we have had so many amazing hosting experiences, it is totally awkward all the time trying to meet people of different backgrounds and through language barriers when it is not necessary for the local person to really have to deal with you at all if they don't feel like it. It takes time to connect (not something you generally have a lot of) and be comfortable with each other and we are a huge group now which is automatically intimidating. It's hard and I am surprised to think of how often it has worked for us and in so many places too. I kept my doubts mostly to myself and wouldn't make a call on anything until after the lunch and a little more time had passed. Good thing I did. The lunch was amazing. Home-cooked couscous tastes so much better than the stuff we'd tried in the cheap restaurants throughout the country. We were also able to meet the rest of the family and to be honest I can't keep them all straight. I'm not sure I personally met everyone. I met the mother, sister, her husband and an uncle and his wife(?) I think too. There may have been more. Abdullah's english is limited and Fadel's is good but that was it. We spent all the time in the living room area which occupied most of a floor of their 2 floor apartment. The area was subdivided into two parts by a low wall and around the room perimeter were "couches" to sit on. Men ate together on one side and the women on the other, each group from one large plate in which to attack with their spoon (or hands).
I think it was the girls that did them in. The women in these countries absolutely love the girls and it was obvious there was some feminine bonding going on on the other side and there was no question as to whether or not we were staying there. They wanted the girls to stay for ever. On our side Jake was getting all the attention (and respect) from the man of the house to also help our team. It's a bit weird to be the guy in the background now as I am not the "boss" either as that title automatically belongs to dad as the oldest male. I had a great time though. The girls even got up into the kitchen to help cook dinner. It was a three-course meal with the main being a tajine. It was even better than the couscous. It was beef cooked with prunes and spices. Wow! Oddly enough, I feel that I can now leave Morocco and not feel to bad about missing out on other areas I might've wanted to go to because I have had a proper traditional meal and felt the real hospitality here.
The following morning we took the train to Marrakesh (there was no strike of course) and check in to a hotel right on the main square. Marrakesh is the tourist capital of Morocco and was also the capital centuries ago. The old town has a huge square called Djenne el Fna in the middle and this is the highlight and main attraction. Sure, there are palaces and markets and all that to see as well but it is the square which sets it apart from the rest of Morocco. We couldn't had a better location to stay since we had a terrace on our rooftop overlooking all the action and we spent quite a bit of time the first day just looking over it all and watching tourists overpay for everything and get constantly harrassed. There are so many tourists here, and a lot of dumb ones that really don't belong in this kind of culture (you know, the ones with dreadlocks and the party crowd) now that it is possible to fly here for only a few cents from Europe on the budget airlines. Tragic and yet someone (the scammers) is set to profit a ton from all the influx of tourism here. It's possible to see the High Atlas mountains a little further to the east and it is a lot colder here as well. The second day it was horrible rainy weather, just like being in Vancouver at this time of year and we ended up hiding in our rooms playing cards all day.
Today the weather was beautiful and we were able to run around and check things out. The markets and general life remind us a lot of Egypt or any other middle east country we've been to lately with a lot of the same objects for sell (no water pipes though) and lots of scooters zooming by. Again, it is the square that makes the difference. During the day it is not quite as busy as at night. It is mostly fruit stands, snake charmers, touts and empty space with shops lining the sides but at night it turns into a major spectacle as the musicians, storytellers, snake oil salesmen, and food stalls come out in full force. Being such a touristy thing, I am surprised to find that the majority of people in the square at night are the locals. They all form tight circles around the storytellers (from one to several people) listening or laughing at whatever they have to say. We have no idea since it is all in arabic. The little restaurants wheel in their tables and benches just before sunset and again, most of the people eating there are locals. Some sell soup, some sell tea, some the typical little restaurant menu of couscous, kebabs and tajines, others specialize in snails (only Sky, Bre and Jake had a go at those, I'm not going near them), while the most disgusting are the ones with the sheep heads. The sheep head guys don't seem to suffer in their choice of a menu because there are always locals there feasting on everything but the eyes apparently. I didn't stick around to watch it all go down :)
Jake and I have spent a lot of time today wandering around on our own, trying to find interesting things and harrassing random people. Because of our beards we both get called "Ali Baba", which Jake finds offensive and reason enough to hassle them back. It's been great though. Tomorrow we will begin the journey south to Mauritania but it will probably take a couple days. It is over 24 hours direct so we will break it up in Western Sahara on the way down.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Add 2 More

Well, you know now that Sky has finally joined us, thereby completing the family. It's taken a long time but we are now all reunited. Let's hope it lasts a long time. What you won't know at this point is that we flew into Fez from Spain and met a traveller friend of mine, Jake. I met him originally in Amman, Jordan and then again later in Dahab, Egypt. He is a serious travel geek like me and we complement each other quite well I think. He normally flies around the world on constant short trips and this time has decided to join us (or are we joining him?) for a couple months of West Africa. He must be crazy eh? Well, hopefully we won't scare him off too fast. We picked up Sky a couple days later from Casablanca and have since spent all our time in Rabat. It's actually a boring city and few tourists bother to spend any time here but we have been getting a couple visas for the next stretch of the road. It's been a good opportunity to adjust for Sky too as there is little hassle here. The most interesting tourist site here is a tall unfinished minaret from 1199. It would've been the tallest in the world at the time had it been finished but rests alone now at 44m. Apparently there are only 3 towers in the world remaining from that particular dynasty, one in Spain somewhere and another in Marrakesh. Now that we have finally picked up our next visas we should start moving again fairly quickly. Next stop, Marrakesh.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bumble Bree

I know Ammon has been doing all the writing lately and you all must be dying for some variety. heehee So I am going to try and write more than I have been even if they are short ones. I can't believe I have been on 29 flights now in my life, I mean that's a lot right? Cool, I love flying! Time to hit the road Jack! More visas and stamps for me!! Poor Sky, his passport is so empty. ahahah
It's really great having the whole family back together! Sky is Awesome! We all love watching his reactions and hearing his stories because he is so animated and funny! We all never stop talking and laughing. Now he is the Newbie. He is always hungry and asking when the next food stop is, no wonder, he has all those muscles to feed. I am psyched to start traveling Africa! I watched Lion king the other day and got all pumped up! Hahah What can I say.. I love cartoons! Oh and some other new news.. My hair is back to brunette...I miss the blond though.
Talk to you all soon.
Bre Berry!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


From Malta we flew to Girona in Spain. It is a fairly small city about 100km north of Barcelona and a Ryanair hub so we didn't have much choice. I knew nothing about it but I am glad I went. We had to spend two nights there and for the first time in ages, couldn't find anyone to host us and ended up in a little hotel. We'd originally planned to spend all our time and sleep in Barcelona but I'm glad we didn't. We ended up spending the first day (or what was left of it) in Girona and then doing a day trip to Barcelona the following day.
Girona was quite nice actually. It seemed really quiet while we were there but then it might've been that all the shops were closed in the afternoon. The old town isn't too big and we had a pleasant stroll around. There is a small river flowing through the middle and the apartments come right up to the edge. They are also quite colourful so it is an interesting view from a bridge. There's also an intact city wall going around the old town in a semicircle from nearly the river's edge. We walked all the way around it, admiring the view and stopping off to take a closer look at the main cathedral. It is noteworthy as the widest single-nave (one main door) cathedral in the world. It actually looks a little funny because most have 3 doors and this one is a single only so has a lot of empty space on the front.
Barcelona was the surprise disappointment of Europe. Of all the European cities we've gone to on this little side trip, it had the lowest overall rating by our group. Not sure exactly why but it was. I suppose it might have something to do with the fact that there didn't seem like a whole lot to do even though it was so big. The main attraction is art and architecture too which we aren't all that interested in, although we did run around looking at different buildings designed by Gaudi. He's definitely unique, I'll give him that. The Sagrada Familia church was the only work of his that I knew for sure but there are lots of others scattered about town. La Sagrada Familia church is totally bizarre and I have no hope of explaining it here. Most people have seen a picture of it somewhere as it is the most famous landmark of Barcelona. Actually, you'll have to just look it up, my descriptive skills are sorely lacking when it comes to this stuff.
Another famous area is La Rambla street. It's a touristy street in the centre of town full of street performers, outdoor pet shops, flower stalls and artisans. We gave it a walk through too and it was pretty busy but I can't imagine the craziness that must go on during the summer. La Rambla leads down to the waterfront area where they've rebuilt the harbour into an outdoor "park" area with a cinema, walkways and other recreational activities.
Why didn't we really like it? Well, for one thing, it kind of stinks. Something we're used to, but at the same time, not really wanting in a European city. Most of the monuments or sites of interest seemed to be scaffolded so we really didn't feel like we saw all that much. There is also tons and tons of graffiti everywhere! All over the old town, on every door there seems to be graffiti. The streets aren't full of litter but you don't really get the impression that the people care too much about maintaining the beauty. It was pretty dark in there during the day and I wouldn't want to be walking around the old town at night alone. It feels like that kind of town. I don't know the statistics but I have heard that Barcelona is also the pickpocket capital of Europe these days too. I guess it just seemed a little more edgy than other places we've been which might sound a little strange if you look back at our trip and where we've been.
I know others like the city and think it's great. Maybe someday I will go back but at the moment I can only write about what I've seen and felt. The following day we caught a flight (finally our last for a while) onward to Fez, Morocco.

Old business.

Oops, I guess I was a wee bit hasty last blog as I forgot to mention a major point in our encounters with people. As it turns out, the wife of the Turkish couple we stayed with on Malta, Shaide, was in Vancouver 2 years ago for a month to learn English. Of course that means that she was at a school we know but she actually went on a river rafting trip and met dad at some point to pay him at her school. She even showed us a picture from inside our old school bus. Cool. After a while they were pretty sure they recognized each other. What are the odds? Maybe pretty good as we have met someone else with a similar story but not that much. It didn't really take very long either. Life is strange.

Friday, November 16, 2007


It was a strange thing but we had a couple of cool encounters with people while we were on Malta. On our last night in Gozo the founder of Hospitality Club (HC) was also a guest. What are the odds? It was great to talk about the whole experience and his plans for its future. He's 29, German, and a very well travelled hitchhiker. Lots of story-swapping ensued and I guess we were impressive enough because he suggested that we be added to the small group of HC ambassadors, which are unique, long-term travellers promoting cultural exchange. He convinced us to come back with him to Malta for our last 2 nights and stay with a great Turkish couple he knew there. Ah, Turkish hospitality.... That night we went to an HC gathering to meet other members and hangout. Those are always fun.
The following day our itinerary took us into Valletta, the capital. Wow! I really liked it and it is quite unique as far as cities go. It is mostly the work of the Hospitaller Knights of St. John. They started out in Jerusalem during the crusades, giving hospitality to the pilgrims heading to the holy city. The Templar knights are an offshoot of them and they have been the inspiration for numerous other groups including the St. John's Ambulance guys (unofficially) I believe. It started out as a noble thing with knights taking strict vows and all that but eventually greed, power and money got in the way. They took control of Malta in the early 1500s (it was a gift from Spain? I think) and kept it until 1800 when Napoleon took control. He kept it for 2 years and then the English got it. But now I am side-tracked. Anyway, the Knights had lands all over Europe but their capital was Valletta on Malta. It had a handful of palaces and the Knights were quite rich and powerful for a long time. This history is mostly what people can come and see. As such an important capital, it was necessary to defend it and defend it they did. The old city was built on a peninsula jutting out into the sea and defensive walls were built all the way around it and with a large fort at the end, using the natural cliff landscape to its full advantage. The views over the grand harbour are awesome as the harbour has a few peninsulas jutting into it from the other side, each with it's own little fortification on the end. It must've been easy to defend back in the day. I know the city was beseiged in 1565 by the Ottomans but they must've lost, and although it was bombed during the early stages of WWII, it was never taken and remained a very important strategic post for the British. As I said earlier, the British controlled it the most recently and because of that, and the similar climate, I think Malta is most similar to Cyprus. They are similar to Cyprus today in another way too, both countries will switch to the Euro on Jan 1st. We also quickly went up to Mdina, the old capital in the middle of the island. Because of the short days we have mostly just been enjoying the great people we've met and had fun chatting. I suspect that when we get back into Africa the conversations will be short and simple due to the language barrier. It was fun here and I hope to get to Malta again soon :)


Let's start with the conclusion, I really like Gozo and Malta. It's funny how things work out. I've been trying to get to Malta for a while and we had wanted to go from Tunisia via Libya. Instead we ended up there via Morocco and Ireland. Malta is a tiny island in the Mediterranean and is quite densely populated. There are 3 inhabited islands though only 2 are really of note, Malta and Gozo. Gozo is about 12km by 10 km and has only 30,000 people while Malta which is maybe 3 or 4 times bigger has 400,000. We went to Gozo island right after arriving because we'd arranged a host there. The ferry terminal on Malta island is only 30 km away from the capital and yet it takes about 1 1/2 hrs to get there because the traffic is bad and the road is small, hilly and windy. Malta is not a flat rock in the ocean but actually has lots of little hills with small towns usually on top of them, seperated by only a couple km.
Gozo is very relaxing. Unlike on Malta where the coastal towns have all run into each other, the towns on Gozo are still separate little entities. We ended up staying for 3 1/2 of our 5 days on Gozo with our amazing host, Mario. He had other guests staying there at the time too but decided to take us on as an extra challenge. He loves to cook and we love to eat :) There's nothing like good food and good conversation but when done in an old house with stone arches inside, it's even better. Everything is built from limestone in Malta so tends to be the same colour and look the same. They've done lots of recent construction lately and I like the little balconies but the best are the older building with the unique weathering patterns that only limestone makes. They look older than they really are. Either most of these places are summer homes (tourists don't really come in winter) or the locals don't like going outside (which may actually be true). I was also surprised to find that they all drive cars rather than ride bicycles or use motorbikes which would be convenient in such a small country.
Gozo is close enough to Malta (25 min ferry) that most tourists just come on daytrips from the capital and it operates on the Mediterranean system of closing for a few hours in the afternoon so it often felt like we had it all to ourselves. We generally slept in, walked around for the island along the shore for a few hours and then came back at sunset to eat and chat with our host and the other guests. Perfect system. I found myself wishing again and again that we had more than 5 days for the country. Because of the hills, you can get excellent views of the island from the main city of Gozo, Victoria, which has a large citadel commanding the entire island. Because of its important strategic position, Malta has often been at risk of invasion and occupation and has actually been inhabited for millenia. There are many megalithic temples dating back to as far as 3600BC (nearly 800 years before the pyramids at Giza) and the one on Gozo (Ggantija) is the oldest free standing structure ever (or so they claim). Looking out over the island now the first things that immediately pop out are the cathedrals. Most buildings are 2 or 3 stories but the cathedrals look about 10 times bigger. They are monstrous and each town has one. Malta is generally very Roman Catholic and people tend to be more reserved and hide at home, especially on Gozo. We found the bus drivers to be generally grumpy but everyone else very kind and helpful. Nicest people as a whole that we've met in ages.
On our third day it was really windy and had been the whole night previously so when we walked down to Marsalforn, a coastal town, huge waves were being funnelled right up the harbour and up and over the breaker wall. There was sand and rocks and water all over the road and patios along the waterfront. The waves were still quite strong so we just watched them for a long time until dad decided he wanted to get more personal with the waves. The girls were in a shop when dad and I went out to get a picture of him standing beside the wall with the waves crashing in the background above him. That quickly escalated to him standing on a park bench in the line of fire getting periodically sprayed until one totally freak wave knocked him over the bench and onto his head on the pavement. It was so funny and everyone around thought he was crazy. By the time the girls finally got out of the shop dad had gone from perfectly normal (for him anyway) to soaked and bleeding from the head down his neck and onto his rain jacket. He was still laughing and Bre, our group medic, patched him up.
The sad thing is that we really didn't see any signs of wildlife. Not many birds, which is easily explained because we saw a couple locals with shotguns and dogs headed out to hunt them, and not much seashore aquatic life either. Of course the saddest thing was that we had to leave.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Well, I guess we can thank Ryanair for their cheap flights or none of this would've been possible. From Edinburgh we flew back to Dublin, slept that night in the airport, and flew to Bremen, Germany the following morning. Why? Well, I really wanted to go to Malta and that was the cheapest way. Ryanair can be great in that they have lots of flights all over Europe and if you book a couple weeks in advance at the right time of year, you can get a flight for 1 cent. Yep, 1 cent. They even pay most of the taxes. You still have to pay for your baggage (9 euro) and a check-in fee and a credit card booking fee, but it can still be really cheap. It cost us 23 euros each to fly to Bremen and 17 euros the following day to get to Malta. Not bad at all.
The catch was that we had to spend a night in Bremen. Sure, why not? We slept in the airport for a 2nd night in a row but it was actually a pretty comfortable and quiet one. Bremen claims to be the "city of trams" and there are a lot on a very good system. As we arrived at 2pm we took the tram into the old town to take a quick look around. The worst thing about Europe right now is that it gets dark too early so we had only a short time. Fortunately it is pretty small. It was really cold and windy too. Grrrr, or is it Brrr?
I was pleased to see that it has many people on bicycles and also has a huge section of the centre pedestrianized, two things I thought were really missing in Dublin. In keeping with the local style, many of the buildings were quite ornate and painted on the fronts around the main square. The town halls (new and old) and the statue in front are UNESCO sites but we didn't have time for much more than a quick peek into the cathedral. There was also another little section of narrow streets and shops that kind of looked like those little Christmas villages you can buy especially as the sun was setting and the shop window lights were beginning to stand out. Most of our time was spent in the airport trying to catch up on our journals though. I got so far behind in Ireland and Edinburgh because we were doing so much and talking so much in the evenings that there was never any time. I haven't picked up a novel to read in ages....

Monday, November 05, 2007


It may be interesting to note that Edinburgh is one of a very short list of cities I have ever been to twice. It is also one of the first cities outside of North America that I ever went to, back in 1998. One could make a decent argument that it was here that the potential and real interest in foreign travel were first revealed to me. As such, I have always remembered Edinburgh as being a great town of fond memories. Was it to keep that reputation upon a second visit by a now much more experienced traveller? Actually, it was. I really do like Edinburgh. That is helped in large part by our current host Ivor, who happens to be a 6th cousin of mine. He is an amazingly hospitable host and has taken us on very long walks around Edinburgh the last couple days. He has a very strong knowledge base about the history, etc of the city (must be all the editing of textbooks that he does) and has given us brain overload :)
The first night we accompanied him to a meeting of an old club he belongs to and ended up playing skittles at a pub claiming to be the oldest and having started in 1360. There is some debate about that but even so it is old and full of culture. Skittles is really old bowling. There was a tiny area behind what looked like a secret door containing 2 little lanes and a couple tables. We are still arguing about whether or not the lanes are shorter but I think we've agreed they are the same width as currently used in bowling. The balls are the same except they don't have any finger holes and someone had to stand at the back to pick up the pins and roll the balls back. It was great fun.
As the weather has been clear (though really cold and windy) we have spent most of the daylight hours on walking tours led by Ivor through many neighbourhoods and graveyards. The graveyards here are particularly creepy with lots of skull and crossbones carved into the tombstones. Edinburgh seems to have quite a few interesting and creepy stories and the setting just seems perfect for so many of them. It's not very big (maybe 1/2 million people) and not all that pretty (in terms of colourful or lots of palaces) but Edinburgh castle has one of the best settings of any city castle I've ever seen. The castle sits exposed on a rocky outcrop easily seen from everywhere. On one side there is a more gently sloping grade that has been built up. There is a road called the Royal Mile leading downhill from the castle to the royal palace about 1 mile down the hill. The old city is along that road and to the south, while the new city is to the north across from a little "valley" that has been turned into a park. Most of the old buildings are stone block quarried locally but the stone itself had different shades to it so at least it isn't all exactly one colour. The cityscape is great from the new town and there are several hills nearby also with great views, particularly from Arthur's Seat. We also went to an organ recital in St. Giles cathedral (the main one right on the Royal Mile). It was ok but the whole time I was thinking about how much I wanted to hear him play Final Fantasy tunes :) Overall, it has been a brilliant visit though a far too short one. I think we all are interested in geneology now too.


First off, I want to give credit where credit is due. We would't've been able to see Ireland without the help of many people. We wanted to see the country but it is a very expensive one with hostels at ~20 euro/person and B+B's at 30+. We were lucky in that we contacted the church mission office in Dublin and were able to get recommendations and contact details for a handful of members around the country. Ultimately half our nights were spent with members, 2 nights were spent sleeping (if you can call it that) in the car, and a few nights with more excellent couchsurfers. Thanks to all of them we had a great time. Thanks to Johanna (Britt's roommate) we learned the way to sneak up to the observation deck at the Guiness brewery before going to an Evensong service at St.Patrick's cathedral so mom could listen to the choirboys. It was a little strange to be going through a service of a totally different church (anglican episcopalian I think but it is all confusing to me). Didn't have time to do much else and off we were to Edinburgh.


Halloween was wicked and I got to do everyone up in facepaints! Dad was Frankenstein, Savannah was a vampire, I was a cheatah and Britt was an olden day girl that had her throat slit then was thrown into a lake to rot! Ammon, Brittany, Savannah and I went out for the night to see everyone's costumes and have fun. We went to HardRock Cafe where Will works and the staff were all dressed up and the guys were raising money by shaving their heads, waxing their legs, armpits and stomachs! It was GREAT fun for us girls who were cheering and laughing! Everyone got into Halloween! We saw Ronald McDonald, a card, sailors, Bugs Bunny, witches, cats, Santa Clause, lots of men dressed as cheerleaders and hookers, vampires, a box, Mario, Luigi, Teletubbies, a baby, Skeleton, Scoobydoo and the funniest were three guys dressed as terrorists. They painted their faces brown, rapped their heads with towels and wore robes and carried toy guns. I dont think I have ever seen so many outfits at once before. We went into a bunch of pubs and of course had to sneak Savannah in because she's underage. She used my drivers license and I used my student card. It was probably a good thing her face was painted otherwise the bouncers would've noticed how red she turned when they asked for her ID. Hahaha at one point we gave the same guy both our ID at the same time and he didn't even notice that we apparently had the same name and birthdate!!!

Ireland was amazing and is definitely one of my favourite countries so far! I loved staying with my BEST friend in the whole wide world because Brittany is AMAZING! We had so much fun and so many laughs! Her boyfriend, Will, and her showed great hospitality and I already miss their little wiener dog, Peanut! Driving around the countryside was fabulous and the "Stupid Tourist" sign on the back of our car will never get old! Some accents were super hard to understand and I felt stupid not being able to undertstand my own language! Now we're in Scotland and I miss Britt too much already! Scotland kicks butt and I can't stop reciting Braveheart especially when I see the kilts and hear bag pipes! I think the most fun so far was sliding down a huge hill on my stomach like a penguin! The grass is so thick and soft! I love it. Ivor, who we are staying with is amazing and seems to know all the history about Edinburgh and is an amazing guide and friend! We're so lucky to have met him! We keep mimicking his accent and I especially love "A wee while" and "aye". I am more than psyched to see Sky in less than 2 weeks!!!!!! It's going to be so much different and BETTER when he's out here making us all laugh! He's going to whip us into shape!! Can't wait!
I miss DLR.
Bumble Bre!

Friday, November 02, 2007


I am not sure what to say about Ireland to be honest. Maybe I shouldn't say anything and let the pictures speak for themselves. It is really one of the most beautiful and greenest spots on Earth.......if the weather holds. Fortunately for us we couldn't've gotten much better. It was great. The problem was that we were seriously unprepared in terms of preplanning and knowing what there was to see and do and having enough money to do it! Our 7 day car rental (www.autoeurope.com, very cheap) turned into 10 and we still had no time. Shorter days didn't help but we did what we could. Mom did an amazing job of getting us around really.
At the same time I feel that I have not done anything to really get in touch with Ireland. I can honestly say I've been all over and seen a huge part of the country but I haven't felt it. It became obvious very early on that we would have to choose between culture or scenery on our visit. We chose scenery. Why? Well, the weather was good enough for that (which is never guaranteed over here) and because we were in need of some green in our lives. So I feel like a traitor to the country and am afraid to comment on much. I don't know much about the history here and given how strongly they feel about it, I won't open my mouth. My impressions are based on many random things strung together. How could you not love a country with town names like "Killinaboy" and "Knocknahaha". "Kill" (or rather "Cille" in Irish) means "church" and in Ireland that has never been more appropriate. We were a few days in the north and one of our hosts told us how he was killed by a bomb in a church and brought back to life, only to be bombed again in a pub 3 months later. Wow! And they tell us that tons of people have these kinds of stories. I can't imagine.
I also had no idea that it would be so "3rd world" here. Ok, that might seem a little bit stupid to say after coming from the real 3rd world, but I hadn't realized how undeveloped things were until the Celtic Tiger thing that the US did a couple decades ago to build it up. And building up it is, with tons of cranes everywhere, especially in Dublin. Belfast is also building up and almost every shop had a help wanted sign in the window. I know it was bad in the past (Hotel Europa there was the most bombed hotel in Europe through the 60's and 70's) but things are getting better and if you need a job that might be the place to go. Again, we had to drive right through Derry and all the little towns around the country so someday I will have to come back and stop off at the pubs and listen to the music.
It definitely reminded me of the Fraser valley a few times and mom mentioned Ontario a lot too. I guess it was enough of a "home" break that I don't have to come home now :) Our favourite spots were probably around the north coast near Giants Causeway and the northwest coast (Donegal county). The Donegal area is not very touristed and we had the best weather in the north. But it was all good. The only thing we didn't see were the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren area very well because it was really foggy but we are confident that we saw scenery just as good elsewhere. We have a few more crazy detours planned (nothing more than a few days) on our way back to Morocco.


Wow, what an adventure the past 10 days have been. It was a long and hard 3,040km driving on not only the opposite side but on the most narrow, winding roads that must have speed RECORDS posted rather than speed limits. I still can't believe that they expected me to drive an insane 100KM on those roads! Haha, and don't forget I'm the one who drove from Vancouver to L.A. California in 17 hours!I feel I've qualified for another level on my driving record and a reward for returning the car unscratched, dented or otherwise mutilated!! I couldn't have done it with out my awesome navigators. Most of our driving of course was done on the gorgeous, small country roads and a good deal of the time it was only one lane with a line of grass growing down the middle of it. The Irish drivers are very courteous on the back country roads even though they drive like bats out of hell. By the end I was becoming one of them, haha! Ireland is incredibly beautiful with all of the coast line, the green pastures, rolling hills, farm animals roaming in the fields and to top it all, we had amazing weather almost the entire time. Ireland has definitely been a highlight on the trip and I would recommend it for sure! We've met great people through the church and hospitality club. Tomorrow we're flying over to Scotland for a few days to check out Edinburgh and meet a distant relative. It should be fun and interesting. Let's just pray the weather holds up and we don't die of cold before reaching Malta. Sky will finally be joining us on the 17th of Nov in Casablanca, Morocco and we can't wait!!