Thursday, December 30, 2010

zoo lights

Throughout December, the National Zoo set up lights and scenes throughout the park. Stephanie called me up and we decided to meet up on the metro and check them out!

It was bitter cold and I was glad to have toe warmers on (birthday present from dad!). Some of the buildings were open, but since it was late a lot of the animals were sleeping. We were able to see more of the reptiles than the mammals and Stephanie made me go into the petting zoo. It smells too terribly, I hate going there. But, I did survive. They did have an alpaca named Ziggy, which I laughed at because it's the nickname for my 8 yr old nephew!

We received light sticks that blink various colors and proceeded to play with them throughout the rest of the zoo and on the metro ride home. My favorite part, besides the sticks, was the dancing trees! So talented those trees with lights. I was impressed by the many animals and scenes that were created with lights. Despite the cold we had a lot of fun exploring the zoo at night. The only disappointment was that the invertebrate exhibit wasn't open. That building has THE creepiest animals alive. For some reason it's my favorite part!! It just means we'll have to go again, but probably closer to spring when it's warmer.

I put all my pictures from the zoo lights in my gallery.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

all i want for christmas, is you

It was decided that Christmas would be spent up North again. This time however I would not have to drive up alone! Brother and I set out and ten hours later arrived in CT. This was the first Christmas in five years we had the entire family in CT for Christmas. Aunt Trisha, Uncle Roger, KC, Paul, Connor, Maggie drove up and Mom and Gram flew up from FL. Brother and I drove up from VA to spend the holiday at my Aunt Laura's house. The house was packed with people, which is the way I like it! Every room had something interesting/entertaining going on. There's never a dull moment when the Loughlin clan is together!

We watched a few movies, played games, and ate a lot of food throughout the weekend. The adults were up before the kids and forced us all awake and out of bed/floor/couch/air mattresses to open Christmas presents. At some point it switched and now the adults wake up before the kids, it's terrible! Luckily, we all could go back to sleep once presents were opened. We watched The Other Guys, which was much funnier than I was expecting, and played a few rounds of comedy movie scene it. The boys were undefeated.. for now. After a huge and delicious Ham dinner, for dessert we had birthday cake! Mom picked up an ice cream cake (my favorite) AND a red velvet cheesecake (my 2nd favorite). I had to have large pieces of both! I recorded my birthday song from the best family I could ever ask for :) It's pretty horrible, everyone is off key and loud of course. I wouldn't have it any other way!!

The day after, brother and I headed to NH for Christmas with dad. Unknown to me, Andrew was going to catch a ride up with us! I have a tiny car, and we were packed in tight! It was great to see Aunt Frances when she dropped off Andrew, I only wish we had more time to visit with her before we had to go. We decided to drive up to NH at the start of the blizzard so it took about 4 hours to get to dads. Luckily we reached a point where we were ahead of the storm, and detoured around the traffic. We arrived in NH and waited for the blizzard to catch up, and it did! Glorious white Christmas, round 2. Dad decided we were having lobster for dinner, which was awesome. I hadn't had lobster in a long time, so delicious. Uncle Kelly made us watch The Box after dinner, and it was a terrible movie. Don't. Ever. See. It.

Brother had to leave early Monday to head back down to DC. He had a flight Tuesday to Africa for his hike on Mt. Kilimanjaro. Of course we had driven my car, and of course it was still snowing heavily, so it made for an interesting drive. But luckily he made it back safely. I stayed an extra day in Portsmouth with Dad and we went to the mall to shop for Christmas presents. I got a bunch of new clothes and boots!

I was very lucky that my flight only had an hour delay, otherwise I didn't have any other issues getting home. I sat patiently and read my new Nook! the entire time. There were a lot of other flights that had problems thanks to the snow, but I made it home without any problems and before midnight. It was a great Christmas - I got to see a lot of my family and relax. The best Christmas present would have to be receiving my Master's degree :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

free time

So I immediately decided to take advantage of my new free time. Instead of sleeping, I wanted to go play! After work Stephanie and I met up at the Portrait Gallery in DC to see the Norman Rockwell exhibit. First we had lunch at Vapiano! and meandered our way over to the gallery when we were finished. Unfortunately, we're not allowed to take pictures of the art work, but that just means everyone has to get over to the gallery before it ends on January 2nd. Also, this doesn't mean that I didn't want to try to take pictures anyway. Stephanie didn't want to get kicked out the museum and forbade me to take pictures too. I personally think that would be a funny story, getting kicked out of a museum, but I behaved. The works were lent by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas from their personal collection. It was neat that the exhibit included some of their reasons for liking the work and why they purchased particular paintings. I really liked the sketched painting of the girl on the stairs and the one with the mother in the teal nightgown and her daughter at the dressing table. (I tried to find these online but gave up quickly. You'll just have to go to the exhibit and see them yourself).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Apparently this is the first year that George Mason offered a winter graduate reception. I decided I would go because, why not? Unfortunately, this stupid reception was scheduled for a Monday night from 4-530pm. Thanks George Mason for scheduling this event at the most inconvenient time ever.

Luckily, Stephanie offered to pretend to be my family and join me at the event. Dave had also graduated and he had decided to check out the event too. I'm not sure if I convinced him to go, but I was glad that he and Angie came. There was a lot of food and people at the reception. They had alumni pins for the graduates, and that was it. GM encourages all its graduates to participate in the spring ceremony for graduation, which I haven't decided yet if I'll go. I hope to have my glorious diploma in my hands before then anyhow. The President and Provost gave nice little speeches, and we wished there was alcohol available to really enjoy the reception, hehe. Afterward Stephanie and I had a mini-celebration. There will be more celebrating after the holiday season!! Until then, I'm DONE. :D

Monday, December 20, 2010

i are MASTER of history

After what seemed like an unending semester, it actually ended. And with it, I received my Masters degree in History. I spent months of my life in constant company of the witches of Salem and the works of the men that lived and experienced the hysteria. I had written a 40 paged paper on the changing perception of people in Salem and how these changes mimic the 5 stages of grief. I am incredibly proud of my work and that I received an A- in the class :D (If anyone is interested in reading my final, let me know! I promise it's not boring, heh)

Random fun facts: the Salem witch hunt lasted around 9 months and all of those who were executed for witchcraft were hanged, not burnt. European witches however were burnt at the stake, leave it to Europe to make punishment more terrifying.

I finished my time at George Mason with straight As, and kicked it in the face! An A for my internship, and A- in Clio Wired, to go along with my A- for my research seminar. It feels SO good. It's really hard to describe. I'm still realizing that I've finished and that I don't have to go back to class and homework next month.

What's next? A lot! But at least now it's on my schedule and my time. I think first I'll try to catch up on all the sleep I've lost in the past year. And then lots of celebrating! I think this is the best Christmas present I can give myself :)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

here we go

I finally finished my internship AND my internship blog!!

Thank you to everyone who followed along. I hope you enjoyed reading through my experience as much as I enjoyed living it and writing about it.

Now it's back to classes and homework! But at least it's my final semester as a Grad student at George Mason University :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

have iPhone

With brother's move to VA, we decided to change our cell phone plan. As of today I am no longer on verizon and am an AT&T customer with a brand new iPhone 4!! Who doesn't love new toys??

This means I have a new phone number, despite my protests and numerous wasted hours of attempts to keep my Rochester phone number. After living in VA over 5 years I suppose it's about time. So if you can't reach me, but you want to, let me know and I can provide my new digits!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

here comes brother!

It's official - Brother has a job and is living in VA! He moved down Sunday and into an apartment very close to work and close to me! I think this is more of a benefit for me, as I love getting to spend time with him. I think he enjoys it too, but might not admit it.

Welcome brother, I couldn't be happier to have you living in the DC area with me :)

Monday, August 2, 2010


I finally finished a long summer of class and Billy asked me if I wanted to get lunch with him on Friday to celebrate. He isn't often in the Tyson's office so I was very excited to have this chance! I metroed home from work and he picked me up and we headed out to lunch. I asked him "so where are we going for lunch?" and he said "I really want to go to Panera." Well, I've never really known anyone to really want to go to Panera, but I hadn't been in a while and I don't hate their food so I figured ok, sounds good! It's probably a really good thing that I'm not too picky (maybe sometimes). I could've really been difficult for Billy if I didn't want to go to Panera because apparently there was a specific reason he wanted to go.

We walk into Panera and head toward the counter. Billy takes out his phone and selects camera and starts to record a video. I said to him "why are you recording a video?" and then this happens:

Amy and Nora flew down to DC to surprise me for a long weekend!! With the help of Billy, they sneakily created an elaborate plan to surprise me. Well after the end of a summer semester and not having seen my bestests since December, I was clearly, emotional :P They had planned the entire weekend. Billy had bought them tickets to come with us to see Legwarmers that night too!

We had lunch (not at Panera, we ended up going to Noodles and Co) and then Billy had to go back to work. We ended up going to Ballston, I had a hair appointment set for a few weeks and they were very nice enough to let me keep my appointment, while they wandered around the mall looking for outfits for the concert. Afterward, we got all dressed up in our 80s garb and headed out for dinner and a show! We were all pretty tired after a long day (esp since they had a long travel day that started early and with delays) but we still enjoyed the concert.

Nora and Amy had booked a hotel in Tyson's for the weekend so we all had a mini get away! Saturday we had breakfast at Silver Diner and ordered giant milkshakes, great way to start the day with a sugar high! We spent the day shopping, pampering ourselves with pedicures, and dragged Amy to see Eclipse! Amy shook her head and laughed at us the entire time, and we bought her a giant slushee for being a good sport.

They had to leave early afternoon on Sunday so we took our time relaxing and walking around Old Town Alexandria. The weather was sunny and gorgeous and not too hot! We actually took some pictures of the 3 of us (which we always forget to do - Amy tell Mike me wants le pictures!) and then headed to the airport where we had big hugs and sad goodbyes.

It was THE BEST SURPRISE and I had an amazing weekend with my ladies. I'm so lucky to have such a sweet (and sneaky) boyfriend and fabulously wonderful best friends!!!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

school's out for summer

I am incredibly excited to be done with my summer class. I finished with a B, which is the lowest grade I've gotten thus far. All I can say is, it is really difficult to do homework over the summer. Incredibly glad that it's the last summer class that I will ever have to take.

I have plans to do, absolutely nothing! Other than finish my internship, work, and enjoy my freedom! Until it all starts again in the fall...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

midterm grade

Some how I managed a B+ on my midterm - I think the professor was being generous, but I'll take it!

Now only a class presentation, critical review, and a final exam left before I can enjoy my summer. (Which includes unpacking and finishing moving into my new apartment, despite that I've lived there over a month now.. and fun. I will definitely have fun before fall semester starts!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

jonna have birthday

To celebrate Jonna's 26th birthday she organized a wine tour in the VA countryside. The day started warm, muggy, and rainy. But as the limo drove us out of the city and into the middle of no where, the skies cleared and it became sunny, hot, and gorgeous.

We had the limo packed with drinks and snacks, which helped pass the time. We stopped at 4 different wineries before we had to head back to Arlington. Most of the wine wasn't very good unfortunately. The second place we stopped was probably the best. We were able to taste a wine they hadn't released yet, which is the only bottle I bought. We had a picnic lunch here as well and enjoyed the sunshine.

They continued the party after the tour ended at Alicia and Robin's apartment, but I had to be a lame responsible student and go home to finish working on my outline for class discussion that week. Overall I think Jonna was disappointed because the company that she arranged the tour through hadn't been truthful about some of the pricing and options. But we managed to have a lot of fun despite the set backs and drank a whole lot of wine!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

legend of n3il

After lots of waiting and patience, after the amazing discovery of seasons 1 and 2 almost a year ago, the long awaited return of link is near!

Watch the trailer for Legend of Neil season 3!! Unveiled July 24th!!

And if you haven't experienced the first two seasons, do it now.

Friday, June 18, 2010


Wednesday night I had attempted to drive back to Arlington to meet up with Jonna and pick up mail from my old apartment. However, I didn't make it very far. I felt incredibly dizzy and my vision was blurry. I managed to slowly drive home and park and went straight to bed. All of Thursday I didn't feel any better so I went to the health center on campus. Apparently I had an inner ear infection, joyous. The only good thing about that was the doctor told me not to go to class that night and rest. So I went to bed around 6pm and it was glorious.

The ear infection made life complicated for about 5 days. I couldn't drive anywhere and it was really difficult to focus and concentrate without feeling sick from the motion and dizziness. While medication is helpful for my ears, it also made my Crohn's flare, which is typical. Increase of white blood cells causes increase of stomach pain and other lousy symptoms. I'm grateful that Billy was willing to pick me up, drive me around, and take care of me while I was sick. Hopefully it should pass quickly and then I'll be able to deal with my continued hectic schedule - at least be able to drive again!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

please excuse my lack of free time

Everything is incredibly busy. The move went really well. Jonna, Varun, and Billy are amazing for helping me move in such a short amount of time. I'd be completely lost without them! However, I am now living in a land of boxes. I unpacked most things, but left a lot still to be moved and unpacked. Thanks to school, work, internship, homework - life! I probably won't really get settled into the new apartment until August.

My commute to work has increased about 30-40 minutes which also means I have to wake up and head out earlier. I wake up between 4:30-5am and leave the apartment no later than 6:10am. I stroll about 10 minutes to the metro where I wait about 4 minutes for the train. 25-30 minutes later I arrive in DC and walk 10 minutes to work. The schedule seems to work out pretty well. Ever since I've moved I've been on time or early to work! It does make my days longer however. Three times a week I have my internship after work from 1-1:30 until 5pm and twice a week after that I have class from 7:20 - 10pm. Long days! I'm looking forward to August.

Monday, May 24, 2010


As part of my internship I'm required to document the daily events of my experience. I've decided to document it through blogging. I created an additional blog that's devoted specifically to my internship and my path to becoming an archivist.

For your reading pleasure - intern heavly!

I will be updating it daily (at least I'm supposed to be). Some days might be boring, others might be interesting. Hopefully more will be entertaining. Suggestions or ideas are welcomed as well.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Well the grades are in and I think I've managed pretty well!!

B+, A and A-

Check me out :)

2 more semesters to go until I'm a MASTER (have a Masters, whichever) - I can't wait!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010


I finished and handed in all my finals Monday night - now I'm just waiting on grades. Rather impatiently I might add.

The end of this semester is a big deal because it's the last time I'll have to take 3 classes at once. I can't WAIT to have only two classes to handle. I've heard the research seminar is hard work like taking 2 classes for the price of one, but at least its the same topic and professor.

This week I'm catching up on life, like bills, laundry, cleaning, and getting ready for the summer semester and moving. Ugh, moving. Oh and playing Plants v Zombies, which is only one of the best games ever.

Next week I start my summer internship which means I'll be working from 7-5pm. But at least from 1:30-5pm I'll be doing work that I love! I've been able to continue my internship at GW Special Collections Research Center working on the Riggs family papers. Until then, I will take advantage of every free second that I have being carefree and having fun!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

car update

Its been 3 or 4 weeks since I picked up my car and almost 500 miles which meant time for an oil change. With a baby engine I have to take very good care of my car, and most importantly ensure that I can maintain the warranty.

What I had noticed the past few weeks was that my engine was running hot. Sometimes while driving I've had to blast the heat to cool down my engine, which makes for a warm spring drive rather uncomfortable. Not only that, my check engine light decided to say hello for a day and a half and my coolant light joined in on the fun.

Luckily, no problems! The mechanic said there was an air pocket in my coolant and they flushed that out, changed my oil and ran a diagnostic on my engine and discovered a sensor they didn't replace was bad. All for zero charge! I like free. The engine is happy and so is my car :)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

i want a dragon

A much deserved break was in order and Billy and I went to see How to Train Your Dragon in 3D on IMAX!

Highly recommended movie, esp in 3D. The main character Hiccup reminded me a lot my of cousin Connor. (He's such a nerd - love you Con!)

Of course there are amazing flight sequences that you know eventually will be implemented as a ride at some theme park, but the movie is entirely thrilling and exciting.

And now, I want my very own dragon to fly around on. I could be this chick, yaaah :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

bridal expo

My classmate and friend Stacey recently became engaged (congrats Stacey!) and asked that Tywanna and I join her at a bridal expo that was being hosted on campus at the Patriot Center. The wedding will be next summer and in Texas, so she was mostly curious and wanted to go to look around for ideas. Unfortunately Tywanna wasn't able to join us, but Stacey and I went anyway. She had scored 2 free tickets, which rocked even more!

We were only there about an hour, checking out booths and tasting cakes. She didn't want to look at or try on any dresses since she has a lot of time to browse and think about what she'd like. It wasn't as packed as I thought it was going to be, or filled with any crazy brides. I wasn't expecting many men to be there, but there were a bunch. We had a lot of fun walking around and checking out bridal details. I really liked looking at the different invitation designs, and the photographs, but mostly enjoyed eating the cakes. There are some pretty good bakers in the DC area. Hopefully it didn't stress Stacey out more. Luckily, she has a lot of time to get things settled and soon will be back home in Texas for a bit with her bridal party and fiance where she can get more accomplished. Not bad for a first bridal expo experience, we had fun and got some delicious treats out of it!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

have car

I finally, finally was able to pick up my car today. Of course the day I could, it was raining. And not just a little raining, a lot of raining. So that made the drive less enjoyable and more frustrating. I have to get used to the new clutch and am a bit more cautious and paranoid now. Hopefully soon I'll get comfortable with my car again. Happy to have my car back though. Free to go where I like :) Yay for happy me and happy car!!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

connor's 7th grade trip to DC

My cousin Connor lives in Tampa FL and his 7th grade class took their required field trip to Washington, DC. My Uncle Roger, played chaperon to the kids for the few days they were exploring VA and DC. They called me up and we arranged to meet up when they had a few free hours to explore on their own. I metroed after work to the Smithsonian stop and hung around the National Mall waiting for their bus to arrive. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom and I got to enjoy the magnolia's as well at the Smithsonian Castle garden. The day was chilly and windy, but the sun made it a little warm and tolerable.

My uncle had a few kids in tow along with him and Connor and they decided to check out the Air and Space Museum. There were thousands of people wandering around the National Mall and inside the museum. Everything was a fight, to push and shove in order to play/read exhibits. There were a few new exhibits since I had been last, which was neat to see and explore. They had a section about flight attendants from the 1960s and 70s and the requirements to be one of these beautys in the sky. The kids wanted to play on the flight simulators, so I hung out and played on Connor's DS while I waited. Those things make me so sick to my stomach! Connor bought some freeze dried ice cream, which is still just as gross as I remember, and some dog tags. He got "Connor Jaynes Playstation Master" on his tags, which is super lame and I made fun of him for getting it.

I left around 4:30pm because I had to metro home to have dinner and get ready for class. It was fun to see my cousin and uncle and play around in the museum :) I didn't have to pay a thing to visit with my family - I think they should come to visit me more often!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

relaxing night

Sometimes it gets lonely sitting alone for hours on end doing homework. I always love it when Jonna asks me over to do homework and have dinner. This night, she made my favorite dish!! Spinach pasta with curry,tomtoes, apples and chicken. All the flavors together are just so delicious, and the apples crunch adds a little zing!

That same night some of my Grad friends were getting together for happy hour at Rockbottom. I got out of my internship late and vouched for doing homework at home instead of trying to rush over, when Jonna called me and invited me over. Stephanie was hoping to meet up with people late, but when she arrived no one was there! We're not sure if they left early or what, but instead we invited Stephanie over to Jonna's and the 3 of us enjoyed dinner and great company, while I managed to also get some homework done. Relaxing Friday nights are pretty awesome after a long work/school week :)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

portrait gallery

I've never been to the National Portrait Gallery in China Town, but I have walked past it many times. Stephanie has been interning at the gallery and invited me to come visit when she was done with work to give me a tour! Also, I hadn't seen her since the end of fall semester, which is a stupid long time, and we needed to hang out!

I met up with her around 3:30pm, stuffed my coat into a locker and we were on our way. She gave me the full and complete tour! It was a lot of fun seeing portraits of people from our history, and actually knowing who they were and why having their portrait hanging in this museum was notable. She told me stories about some of the people, and we talked about the project she's working on. We made fun of the modern exhibits, because we don't appreciate them and their ridiculousness, and I saw all the portraits of our American Presidents. She was very excited to show me a specific portrait of Charles Peale. Anyone who had museum studies with us last semester knows - that I hate him. So she was entertained to share that with me :) And even though I hate him, I did appreciate the sentiment heh.

After we were finished with my private tour, we went to Vapiano (vampire) for dinner. We chat, chat, chatted for a few hours before I had to get back to homework and she was ready to head home and do nothing! (Having the schedules we have, doing nothing is the best anyone could ask for!) I'm working on bugging Stephanie more. It's less convienient now that we don't have any classes together, and she thinks she's so smart graduating this spring. BUT I'm hoping she gets a job in the DC area so she can stay local and move closer to the city!

Friday, March 5, 2010

cuppycakes with varun

While I was in Morocco, Varun found a new cupcake bakery. He knew that he didn't want to go alone, and patiently waited for me to come back from my trip to take me along! We decided to also have dinner, which was Chipotle, which sometimes is exactly what you want. I drove to his apartment and then we headed out to Fairfax. It was quite the journey for cupcakes from Arlington.

The bakery is called Cupcakes Actually. I honestly think it's an odd name choice, but there it is. Varun bought many cupcakes to share with April and Mikaela after I went back home, and I bought 2. I bought red velvet and chocolate dipped in chocolate. Varun and I split the red velvet and it was OK. I think since was just before closing it was just good, and not amazing. I saved my other cupcake for the next day, but Varun shared his flourless chocolate cupcake with me. And let me tell you, that cupcake was amaaaazing. It melted in my mouth! I didn't know it was possible for cupcakes to do that! We decided we will have to make a trip out to Fairfax again to try more flavors, as they were apparently worth the drive.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

internship processing

I officially started my internship, and jumped right into it!

I'm learning the steps to processing a collection and started by creating a list of the items I found in each of the 10 boxes. The boxes range in size, and contain a wide range of materials. My favorite part of this collection are the correspondences. There are numerous letters that were written during World War II, and it's just amazing to read and hold these letters. Most of them were written in 1942-1945 and are in pretty good condition. Some of the letters are caked in dirt, and knowing that they were a part of the war is amazing to me. I haven't tried reading those yet, since they are dirty. I have to figure out how to salvage them from the dried mud. The oldest item I found was an accounting book from 1783. It was crumbling and falling apart, but I managed to get through some of the book and read its contents. There were also a series of diaries written by Thomas Riggs ranging from 1903-1913. He wrote normal every day facts like, I have the chicken pox and mom has quarantined me to my room. Read such and such book today. Saw these people, and went to town, etc. It's fascinating how something as simple as a diary can be so valuable and interesting.

The next steps involve creating a processing plan, and then figuring out how to store and preserve all these items. Wish me luck! I'm having a blast :)

The neat thing about being an unpaid intern, is that I can read anything and take my time. I can lose myself in the letters and photos and enjoy every moment processing the Riggs Family papers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

tangier 02.19-21.10

We started our day with excitement. We were headed to our next destination! Had a delicious last breakfast in Fes, grabbed some cabs and headed to the train station. And then we found out, the train isn't running to Tangier. It had been raining sooo much, that the train tracks were flooded and covered with mud and dirt and debris. After some translating and maneuvering, we determined that the train was running as far as Kenitra and from there we could take a bus the 3-4 hours further to Tangier. At this point we were mostly concerned with making it back to Marrakesh the night of February 20th in order to catch our first flight toward heading home early the 21st. We decided to risk it, and figured we would take the bus from Tangier and hop the overnight train at Kenitra and pray we make it to Marrakesh on time. Worst case, we buy new tickets and fly from Tangier. Eric and Brie were the masterminds while Janine and I went along for the ride.

We hop the train, and play Harry Potter style again. It was raining, of course. But the sky was so dark on one side of the train, and incredibly sunny on the other. The landscape was absolutely amazing, and we even saw a rainbow. The train moved incredibly slowly, as the water level was high and there were men manually digging out the train tracks. We kept ourselves busy, had snacks, and then it was time to get off the train. Well, so we thought. Apparently Kenitra has two stops, and we ended up getting off at the wrong one. What happened was, we rushed to get off the train. The train started moving before we could get off. Eric hopped off, Janine hopped off, the train is speeding up, I hop off, take a few steps and completely fall and slide along the train platform, and of course after me Brie hops off and lands perfectly. I completely suck! I felt like a huge idiot. My knees had already been impairing my ability to keep up I really didn't need cuts and bruises to add on to it. I blame all the heavy bags I was carrying and that I was off balance. I know that Eric took a picture of me afterward, and Janine was being a mom and cleaning my wounds. It was an experience and one that only I could pull off! So after my trip (har har) we hopped on another train, to get to the next station that we should've gotten off at, and I successfully got off that train without any incident.

We caught the bus which amazingly ended up being not that bad. Also, there wasn't a bathroom on the bus, so another good reason to dehydrate hah. It was packed with people, but it wasn't incredibly smelly or gross. It was rather comfortable, although tiny. Also, apparently the bus driver will pull over and stop if you are hungry and have left your sandwich in your bag under the bus. Because that's what he did, pulled over so this lady could get her sandwich. She was thrilled, the rest of us were confused. We arrived late in Tangier and caught a cab to our final hostel. It was gooorgeeeoousss, and warm. Had clean bathrooms, and showers with shower curtains! (all the others were just a drain and a slight ceramic tiled base. It was really interesting trying to shower without getting everything wet. Also because most of the shower heads weren't attached to the wall. And I think that the shower in Fes was electrocuting me because every time I adjusted the water temperature my entire arm was pins and needles and felt odd. Probably also bad that I was standing in a puddle of water.) After we ran around the hostel and took pictures, we were famished and decided to go hunting for food.

Tangier is the most modern of the 3 cities, so they have places open late and alcohol. We wandered down by the pier for a while and eventually found a place to eat, and by that point we were so hungry we ate everything we could think of to order. We didn't get back to the hostel until around midnight and we immediately crashed. Our final day in Morocco was going to be incredibly busy because we had to see anything and everything in Tangier before we headed home.

I woke up and showered in the most amazing shower, and headed to the top floor for breakfast. It was a gorgeously amazing day. The sun was shining, the weather was warmer (going to be in the 60s again, with some rain. Brie said "partly cloudy" to which my response was "that means it'll be partly sunny!") and we had an amazing view from our table. We met with our guide in the lobby, his name is Mustafa (Mufasa- ish. It always made me think of the Lion King). And he had an action packed day planned for us. Mustafa was incredibly nice, had a great sense of humor, and by the end of the day we had all bonded with him. He even gave Eric his own scarf that he had admired so much, it was very sweet. We started driving around in a van and saw a few mosques, and local houses. Tangier is actually very similar to California. It's on the coast and just incredibly gorgeous. We went to a lighthouse that doesn't have electricity. There is a family that lives there and has to manually light a fire at the top of the lighthouse for boats on the water. Pretty crazy. The view from the lighthouse was looking out over the ocean. It was breezy and sunny and just perfect. Afterward, we got to RIDE CAMELS! (be careful, they spit!) Brie was incredibly excited as she didn't expect to get to ride camels or even really see any (other than the one Eric ate). We all got to ride camels and have a walk along the beach. It was really bumpy, and when the camel stood up or laid down, it was like going up and down on a seesaw. We went to Hercules' Grotto, which is a cave made mostly by water over a long long time. Mustafa took us to the local Casaba (rock the casaba!) which is mostly just businesses and residences and a few shops. For lunch he took us to a local place, that tourists would never go. The food was absolutely delicious. Everything we ate in Morocco was amazing, and also amazing that none of us had gotten sick during the trip. We went to a museum where they had significantly better preservation methods. They also had the best presentation of artifacts. We went to the Continental Hotel, which supposedly was where the movie Casablanca was filmed after. They even said they had the piano from the movie there, but I'm not entirely sure. I'll have to watch the movie again to verify. That evening we had coffee on the roof of the hostel, enjoying the view and relaxing before we began our trip back home. Mustafa joined us and we chatted with him about Morocco and what he thought of his home.

Luckily our entire trip home was pretty uneventful. Loooong, as over 24 hours long, but at least uneventful. We took the bus to Kenitra and got into the train station around midnight. Our train left at 2 or 3AM, and all we could do was sit around and wait. It was chilly and uncomfortable, but we entertained ourselves while we waited. Once we got onto the train and found our sleeper car, Brie and I changed into PJs and sprawled out. I'm pretty sure I fell asleep almost immediately. I'm pretty lucky where I can fall asleep just about anywhere. The train ride was at least 7 hours, and I did actually have to use the bathroom on the train this time. BUT luckily, it wasn't as bad as I feared. It even had toilet paper! Our train arrived around 8am in Marrakesh and we rushed (and I managed not to fall off the train) to catch a cab and get to the airport. The airport was really annoying. We were tired and people were being pushy. We had more luggage going home and Eric was trying to not have to check anything. We ended up having to check a few bags and I was stopped at the security gate because they thought my bag was too big. In reality, I'm just small and my bag was the perfect size. I told them 3 times that I wasn't going to check my bag and they were going to let me through, and they finally did. Then through security they searched through my entire bag and asked me if I had fire. Really, fire. In my bag. Of course I didn't have fire in my bag, and they eventually let me through. Again at the gate, to get onto the plane I was stopped. By this point, I really wanted out of Morocco. She told me I had to check my bag, I told her no I didn't, 3 times. Apparently repeating something 3 times is the magic number in Morocco because she let me through. Finally we boarded the first plane to Barcelona, and on the way onto the plane I notice Mike was in front of me. Mike was our friend from Ireland who also stayed at our first hostel in Marrakesh. He also ended up sitting next to Eric, small world! We caught up with him (and my bag fit perfectly on the plane mind you, like I knew it would) and enjoyed a slightly turbulent flight to Spain.

We had a few hours in Barcelona before we had to board our next plane to Paris. We got food, and it was amazing. Even for airport food, by that point we were so hungry and my snack supply was low. We also, washed our faces and brushed our teeth. It's the little things that make life good. And, being able to drink from the faucet was also refreshing, having clean bathrooms, toilet paper and soap! I ended up sitting in business class to Paris, and had the entire row to myself. It was comfy and I did more reading for class. Eric came up to visit with me for a bit, and there was a baby in the seat in front of me, but she was cute and almost quiet. Went spent probably about an hour in Paris, which was so sad. Soooo close! And most of that time was spent walking to the gate and getting our bags searched about 3 times before getting on the next plane, where apparently my seat was in business class, which might as well been first class honestly. I had a giant seat that reclined, a special dinner and champagne and drinks and you name it I had it! I felt kind of badly because Brie, Eric and Janine were all the way in the back, and I was lonely without them. I found that when you spend so much time with people, being alone again sucks. At least the guy who sat next to me was really friendly and we had fun chatting and watching movies. During some of the flight to NY I snuck back and hung out with Brie, Eric and Janine. Brie and Eric were drunk and dressed up as super heroes! using blankets and eye covers and it was a lot of fun. Once we landed in NY I had to run off the plane and through customs, I had less than an hour to catch my next flight to DC. My knees were screaming in pain with every step but I managed to make it onto the plane. I slept the entire flight home (which was only about an hour). The moment I got home I threw out my sneakers, put all my clothes in my hamper and showered. I slept about 3-4 hours and showered again before heading into work. It was amazing to be back in a clean shower, clean clothes and in my bed!

This was an AMAZING FABULOUS WONDERFUL trip and I had the best time. I can't believe how well everything worked out and how well the 4 of us managed to get along. We laughed soo hard and soo often throughout the entire trip, my abs were incredibly sore. I love all the pictures and the memories and am incredibly grateful I was able to go to Spain and Africa with Brie, Eric and Janine.

View more pictures from Tangier here! and Brie ROCKS (the casaba) for helping me with corrections!! D8>

Friday, February 19, 2010

fes 02.17-19.10

We spent most of our time in and around Fes. The train ride took 7+ hours from Marrakesh to Fes. We were Harry Potter stylin' (again) on the train. It wasn't nearly as nice as the Hogwarts Express however, and occasionally we had to share our car with random people. I got yelled at in French once by a women who was angry that I put my feet up on the seat. I should've thought about it more with the differences in cultures, we're pretty sure I insulted her. So I think whatever it was she yelled at me was probably deserved. She said it so fast and stern I couldn't pick up anything. I also blame getting up at 3:30am for my lack of thinking. Besides that, the train ride was uneventful. I slept some, listened to music and played DS. I managed not to use the bathroom on the train at all! (which we tried to avoid as much as possible - using bathrooms. The end result was that the 4 of us pretty much dehydrated ourselves silly. But if you saw the bathrooms and smelled the things we smelled, I'm pretty sure you would too!)

Once we arrived in Fes we cabbed to the Medina. Luckily at this city, they send someone from the hostel to meet you and bring you back. That way, no one will harass you and it was greatly appreciated. We instantly liked Fes waaaaay better than Marrakesh. It was cleaner (except for donkey droppings all over the place), the people were much less harassing, still a lot of people and bikes on the roads but NO motorcycles. It is amazing how much more relaxing and enjoyable Fes was just because of not having one mode of transportation continually buzzing around you. It had rained the entire first day, which was our trip on the train and getting settled into Fes. It was decided that once we got to the hostel and got settled in our rooms, that I was going to stay at the hostel while Eric, Janine and Brie went to explore Fes. My left knee was feeling really painful this day and really needed a rest. I wasn't going to be missing out on a lot since we were planning on hiring a guide a few days later. Of course our room was on the 3rd floor, and going down stairs was entirely painful, it took me a few minutes usually, but slowbot always made it down!

So Eric, Janine and Brie went to explore Fes, in the rain. I did homework (seriously, I did. I brought some reading along for my classes) and then took a very nice nap. The 3 returned after a few hours and brought snacks! They found delicious pastries on the street, and cornbread cut in half slathered in honey and cheese - it was amazing. I would eat this everyday for breakfast while we were in Fes. Warm, fresh baked bread mind you, oh yes. That night we found a local "club" more like a bar. But the 4 of us were sooo happy to go. It was clean, warm, they actually had alcohol, food and a European flare. We each felt a little like we were back at home, and after a long day of traveling and being in the rain, we were happy to have that little bit of comfort. We spent the rest of the night in Eric's room; relaxing, filling out postcards, listening to music, watching tv and I made it rain Durhams (Moroccan monies).

We claimed a grand taxi for all of Thursday to explore the area around Fes. Our driver took us first to Meknes, then to Moulay Idriss and finally with the gorgeous setting sun and end of our day trip, Volubilis. Meknes was a bit more modern and filled with people. We saw a giant gate to a mosque and explored a museum. This museum was slightly better than the ones we saw in Marrakesh. I believe they did however use thumbtacks, THUMBTACKS, to pin a very old hand written Koran to a billboard. Yah. Heartbreaking! We didn't spent much time in Meknes because we really wanted to get to Volubilis before dark. Moulay Idriss is a small town built kind of in a mountain and 5km (less than 5 miles!) from Volubilis. We hired a guide to take us on a tour of Moulay Idriss, where they really had the most amazing view. The only downside, we had to climb up a lot of stairs, a lot of stairs. Remember my knee? Right. Going back down was a slow process for me. Janine was sweet to be my human crutch and help me walk down the hundreds of stairs, and Eric and Brie had amazing patience for my slowbot-ness. And of course documented it, they love me. The guide offered to get me a donkey (although I'm sure he wasn't serious) and told me not to worry because Volubilis was very flat, hah. He bought us some fresh oranges from one of their markets to take with us when we left. And finally, the place we were all waiting for, Volubilis.

What IS Volubilis? Well, it's ancient Roman ruins. A brief description: It is a North African archaeological site, located near Fès in the Jebel Zerhoun Plain of Morocco. Under the Mauretanian king JubaII in the 1st century bc and the 1st century ad, Volubilis became a flourishing centre of late Hellenistic culture. Annexed to Rome about ad 44, it was made a municipium (a community that exercised partial rights of Roman citizenship) as a reward for supporting Rome during the revolt of Aedmon, and it became the chief inland city of the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana... in other words, these ruins are OLD. And amazing. We really couldn't have asked for a more perfect day. It was sunny and the warmest we'd felt yet (mid 60s). We hired a tour guide who told us the history of the mosaics and the ruins, and made jokes. He was pretty funny, catering to us crazy Americans. We were able to get the best pictures with the sun shining and the sun set. Our drive back to Fes was in the dark, but we'd had a very long and amazing day. Once we were back in Fes, we decided to head out for dinner and went to Cafe Clock, so Eric could eat a camel burger. It was giant and he let me taste some, and it tasted a lot like venison. Cafe Clock is very European, so it was clean and the food was amazing. We spent a few hours that night enjoying the food and warmth, and finished the night on the roof top admiring the view of Fes at night and enjoying delicious desserts with mint tea. We also made friends with a stray cat (there were many cats everywhere) and named it after the only Moroccan word we learned which was cactus (don't ask me to spell it in Arabic, because I can't)

On Friday we arranged for a tour of Fes, our last full day. Our tour guide Aziz strolled by the hostel with his American fiance (who was entertaining. She was really demanding and always calling Aziz and yelling why wasn't he done touring and with her instead!) and we arranged to meet up once we'd gotten some breakfast. A girl who was staying in our hostel from Finland (I think..) and now I can't even remember her name, awful! Joined us for part of the tour. It was her first day and our last, so she quickly got bored of our antics and Eric's desire for shopping. I feel like this day was a whirlwind. We walked a lot, and I did my best to keep up, and saw a lot. Aziz made sure to show us the real Fes, and we met a lot of people. Eric bought 4 teapots from this one guy, who kept offering us tea and snacks, which were pretty good. Aziz's aunt hosts international students in her home, and he brought us to her house for a deliciously amazing home cooked lunch. We bought all kinds of things on our tour of Fes, blankets, ceramics, leather bags and of course the tea pots. We saw a tannery, which smelled AWFUL. There were mint leaves that Brie found that didn't even help mask the disgusting smell (even when inserted directly into nose). Our trip to see ceramics was one of my favorite parts of the day. We got to see the entire process for the pottery they make in Fes, which is the best in Morocco. Once we were in the ceramic shop it was really difficult to decide what to buy! There were soo many gorgeous pieces. It was a really really long day, and Brie and I were glad when the tour was over. We were hungry and tired, desired warmth and dry clothes. It was always raining! We went to Cafe Clock again that night to enjoy some food and relax. We decided that instead of waking up early to catch the train to Tangier, we would sleep in a little and take our time, have a delicious breakfast, say goodbye to Fes and gear up for our final destination in Morocco.

For many more pictures from our adventures at/around Fes, Brie has them all posted in 3 albums here!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

marrakesh 02.14-17.10

We were immediately thrown into the thick of Morocco. We hopped into a cab and headed over to the hostel we were staying in. Of course the roads inside the old city were much too small for the cab, we had to walk the rest of the way to the hostel. Immediately we were swarmed by men who wanted to help us and show us where to go. But this, is what maps are for! (and also maps don't demand money when you've reached your destination). The 5 of us are carrying our stuff, which results in drawing a lot of attention from the locals. We are already obviously tourists, hello blond hair, but the bags just make it worse. Two dudes followed us around for a while "guiding us" and we try to avoid them. Doesn't work. Brie had her blackberry and we used GPS to find our hostel. We ended up not having to pay the two dudes, but the entire first hour of being in Morocco was a bit stressful. It was nice to be inside the hostel and away from the pushy people outside. This hostel was called Equity Point. It was really gorgeous and large. Janine, Brie and I had almost a private suite. Our second night we had a guest, Andrew from Australia, who seemed friendly and nice. Unlucky for him the next day we left at 3AM and made a bunch of noise, but at least he was able to sleep once we left. Brie and I slept upstairs, and Janine took one of the beds on the first level. Everywhere we went there were stairs. This proved to be a nightmare to my poor knees, and the creation of slowbot!

We were starving and Eric had gotten better local maps and directions, so we were ready to head out and explore Marrakesh. We took pictures of the hostel and of the way to get back to the hostel for when we were done exploring. But even though we did this, both nights we got lost. The second night wasn't as bad as the first night though. We wandered foreeevvveeerr. I honestly don't know how long, but we walked back and forth, up and down, left and right, these souks are like a maze and incredibly difficult to navigate. A lot of the souks look the same, which didn't help us either. What also made Marrakesh difficult was on these tiny roads in the city there are cars, vans, donkeys, cats, motorcycles, bikes, people; all moving about in every direction. It was seriously amazing that none of us were hurt. People zoom past with 1-2 people per tiny motorcycle, push carts filled with crap into everything, we were constantly pulling at each other to ensure we weren't in the way of passing traffic.

The food was pretty good in Marrakesh. They had delicious and interesting shakes, like Avocado juice. Which was creamy and yum. Looked kind of like bad eggnog or something, very odd coloring. For dinner the first night we tried a pastilla - with squaaab (pigeon) - and it was amaaazing (the only weird thing is the bones were still on the squab, so it made it interesting to eat). A pastilla is a pie which combines sweet and salty flavors; a combination of crisp layers of the crêpe-like dough, savory meat slow-cooked in broth and spices and shredded, and a crunchy layer of toasted and ground almonds, cinnamon, and sugar. I think pastilla was my favorite dish. I had another one in Tangier, but with chicken, and it was so sweet and flavorful. The pastries we got from the street were mostly good, a few were meh. But the coconut, chocolate, pistachio was delicious. The next morning we had an amazing home made breakfast at the hostel. There were doughnut type pastries, bread with cheese and jam and delicious fresh squeezed orange juice. We were very disappointed we couldn't enjoy another breakfast at Equity Point. We left far too early the next morning. Our second night we ate in the main square with some people from the hostel, Mike, Vladamir, and Corrin. Brie and I shared chicken and veggie kabobs and Eric ate pancreas with Ed and Corrin. Grooosss. This was also the night that Mike was told "you are everything that is stupid!" by one of the vendors because we were ignoring them. We used this phrase often throughout the rest of our trip, and even upon returning home. It's pretty amazing, it includes anything and everything. How can you argue with that?

We spent a lot of time wandering the souks and contemplating buying things. I did buy some spices for Jonna and a pashmina for myself. It is orange and has a very ornate design. We decided to wait to buy more items since we still had a lot of time left in Morocco. In the market we also saw a snake charmer, which Brie was very excited about. I took her and Eric's pictures with the snakes, but was content to take pictures and watch.

In Marrakesh we saw a lot of really old buildings, tombs, museums and a school. Brie took many pictures, which are amazing, of everything that we saw. I of course, don't remember the names of things to share. The best part of Marrakesh was the university. It was incredibly detailed and old, and it was the best because we were able to run around and take fun pictures. It was like Harry Potter at Hogwarts, and we pretended to be schoolmates. At one of the museums there was a tile "well". It wasn't a real well because it wasn't deep, but we played The Ring, and pretended to have 7 days. The museums mostly made me sad. They were really neat, because most of them were in old homes that used to be palaces. They were really interesting themselves as a building, it was additional bonus that there was history included inside. What made me sad, was the method of preservation and the state of their collection. Everything is just sitting out, maaaybe in a glass case. And even then, it's definitely not temperature controlled. It does get ridiculously hot and gross in Marrakesh, and just thinking about how these pieces of their history are actively being destroyed. Obviously they have limited means and knowledge in how to best preserve and maintain a museum, but still.

We were pretty tired of all the rain and the pushy people and the souks, so we were glad when it was time to move on to Fes. We packed up everything and headed out around 3:30AM to head to the train station to catch our 7+ hour train ride to Fes!

For many more pictures from Marrakesh, Brie has them all posted here!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

the beginning: barcelona 02.11-14.10

The snow created some problems for the beginning of my trip to Barcelona and Morocco. My flight on Thursday was canceled, of course. This was a very big deal. Eric came to my rescue, and made a bunch of phone calls and managed to book me on a new flight to JFK. Unfortunately, this flight was from BWI (just over an hour from my apartment). The metro and buses weren't running to the airport, and my car was completely buried from 2 consecutive snow storms, and I wasn't about to try to shovel it out (I left for my trip with my car completely covered and trapped, and when I returned there was only a slight pile of snow left that took me less than 30 minutes to clear). Billy saved the day! And got permission to leave work to drive me to BWI to catch my flight, he said he'd do anything I needed to get me to my flight :) We made it to BWI without any problems and I was off to JFK.

Wandered around that airport to board my next flight to Barcelona. This was a red-eye flight, and I watched The Invention of Lying before napping for the rest of the flight. I woke up a few times, but overall the flight was uneventful and uncomfortable, which makes it a good flight. I arrived in Barcelona around 7AM (+6 hour time difference). I expected Brie, Eric and Janine to arrive a few hours after me, except they didn't. After waiting around for a few hours and trying to figure out where the hell their flight was, I decided to call Brie's cell phone and hope that she had it on. Luckily, she did! They were in Madrid, and were expected to arrive in Barcelona around 2:45PM. At this point it was around noon, so I had a few more hours to myself, in the airport. I made some friends with people who worked at the airport, had lunch, napped and played Legend of Zelda on my DS. I found the gate they would be arriving and FINALLY they arrived!

And we were off! We left the airport and found the bus that would take us into the city, so we could find our hostel for the next 2 nights. We found it pretty easily and once we got settled, set out to explore Barcelona. First, it was colder than I was expecting. I was glad I brought my hat! I hadn't had much time before leaving to do as much research and preparing as I should have, thanks to school (and the fact that I was blowing off class for a week, and my trying to keep up with each class schedule so I wouldn't be behind once I was back home) but I managed just fine. We mostly walked around that night, ate tapas for dinner and started our montage of pictures. We explored also to a local bar with a live jazz band, which was pretty hoppin'. I had forgotten that we are spoiled Americans, and everyone in Barcelona can smoke wherever they want. By the end of the show, we all smelled of delicious cigarette smoke and beer, but was worth it as we all really enjoyed the music.

The next morning I woke up last and had to rush to get ready. Eric and Brie told me they forgot to wake me up, and I sleep really soundly so I didn't hear a thing. But they were nice to wait for me before heading out to breakfast. I didn't pack my rain jacket to bring with me as we headed out for the day, and this turned out to be a really bad idea. It was drizzling, but not too badly initially that I didn't think I'd need it. We set out for a full day of walking and exploring of Barcelona. I bought a new pair of hobo gloves that were only 1 euro. We explored churches, parks and buildings. We bought delicious food at this very large outdoor market. I had a warm and toasty crepe with some sort of meat, cheese and tomato. By the end of the day it started raining more consistently, and my left knee started being a pain, literally. We decided to try for a restaurant that had been recommended to us and hopped the metro. There was a parade in honor of Carnival at the metro stop, and also wintry mix - sleet, rain, etc. This is where I really wished I had my rain jacket. Limping to the restaurant, I am now soaking wet and irritated with my knee, and we find the restaurant is closed. Not only that, but the metro is packed from people watching the parade and wanting to escape the awful weather. More hobbling along to another metro, we finally make it back to the area where our hostel was. We ate deliciously warm foods, as we were starving by this point, and were glad to be back inside with warmth and dry clothes. We had to get up early to head to the airport for our flight to Marrakesh, so we stayed in and prepped for our next destination.

We decided to get breakfast at the airport and arrived pretty early. We had delicious fresh orange juice (yes, at the airport!) and croissants and fruit. I bought a pretty red watch from the airport, as I had extra euros and I wanted it (at the time I didn't realize how loudly this watch "tick, tocks" I guess that makes it a successful watch?). The flight was pretty quick and we excitedly landed in Africa! I wish I had spent more time brushing up on my French skills before we went, but I think I managed well enough to get us by. Upon leaving the airport, we quickly began our next destination adventure!

For many more pictures from Barcelona, Brie has them all posted here!