Road Trip Preparations

My good friend Gayle and I love to have adventures, usually day trips or hikes or going to a trampoline park on my 40th birthday.

Gayle loves a good road trip.

Gayle is a lifelong Girl Scout.

Gayle’s great-niece, Frances, and my daughter, Eva, are in the same Girl Scout troop. Both girls have a birthday next week. Frances will be 16 (ack!) and my girl will be 14 (double ack!). Their girl scouting days are coming to a close and Gayle wanted to take them to see the birthplace of Girl Scout founder, Juliette Gordon Low, in Savannah, Georgia.

We leave on Sunday.

We found our Moscow joint

M and I are infamously cheap. We went for our morning constitutional and the weather was warmer then we anticipated. By the second mile, the need for water piqued. Last night we had a delightful dinner of shawarma at a street food vendor near our subway stop, Kunestky Moct. The meal of chicken c0st us about $7 American for all three of us and we were stuffed full.

Best part: A liter of water cost 50 rubles.

The man who served us was very patient with each of us depicting what we wanted on our “sandwiches.” Even scraping off cabbage from child’s sandwich and making sure every stitch was gone. He must have children.

So when we wanted water today in one of the pedestrian tunnels, and they wanted 80 rubles for a 16.9 ounce bottle of water, I said no. And we walked an extra mile for water.

The current exchange rate is 64 rubles per U.S. dollar.

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“Our Man” by Kunestky Moct

Coffee and St. Basil’s

It is so wet in Moscow today.

We have been drenched to the bone several times already. Sigh.

So after our morning adventure, we decided on a cup of coffee and found a delightful shop with good looking pastry and the word that we recognized as Russian for coffee.

We speak a total of five words of Russian yet someone managed to order coffee and juice and cookies and a delicious poppyseed loaf. And a chocolate muffin cupcake thing.

After that it was more struggling with the rain… And dear daughter losing the hotel room key and the 500 rubles spending money I gave her.

IMG_3968Of course, I took a picture of her in the Moscow streets with her inside out umbrella.

And St. Basil’s was delightful. Gorgeous architecture. Art students drawing in the halls. Ancient coins and tools. Great music. Various examples of metal work and religious art.

 

 

The Amazing Lives of Camels

Our second day in Somalia featured some excursions outside of Mogadishu. We visited… for lack of better terms… a camel dairy farm.

Apparently we arrived at just the right moment as two of the camels were mating. We were told that camels mate for four hours, and we had arrived in time to see the camels finish. (I posted a video on my Instagram account: angelackerman.) A baby camel gestates for 13 months and will have an average life span of 25 years.

Camel milk is touted for its medicinal properties against cancer, HIV and other diseases. We tried some fresh out of the camel (from a communal African bowl) and it was sweet and had an almost vanilla-like taste. I kept comparing it to almond milk in my mind.

They gave us some in a plastic sandwich bag, tied at the top in a knot, to take home. The armed guards in our contingent and our other staff also took some, but they bit the corner off their bag and drank it right away. We put ours in the hotel fridge. After dinner, M bit the corner off the bag (not as eloquently as our Somali hosts) and we poured it into our water glasses.

I mixed up the glasses and M corrected me. At this point I reminded him that we had shared a communal bowl with a bunch of random Somalis and he was concerned about switching our glasses…

We both decided that cold it tasted like milk. We were disappointed as neither one of us likes milk. Maybe you have to drink it warm.

 

 

The Coffee Lady in Mogadishu

On our first day in Mogadishu, we were driving back to our hotel, Hotel Sahafi, when the traffic slowed and a gendarme told us that the white car a few car lengths ahead of us contained a bomb. Apparently, a suicide bomber had made it this far (about two miles from our hotel) when authorities noticed the bomb and the bomber-to-be deserted the car and ran.

As a result, the road was closed and we were rerouted until the car bomb could be diffused. We were returned to the hotel and locked in for the night. While our driver and guide were getting information from the gendarme, I noticed this woman making coffee and started taking photos. Since I don’t speak Somali more than “Yes,” “No,” “My name is…” and “Move,” I didn’t realize at the time that we were so close to a live bomb.

Of course I used the time to snap street photography from inside our vehicle. These photos were taken on the outskirts of a makeshift village of refugees who left their homes in flight of the rebel group Al Shabaab.

 

Arrival in CDG

I have a love-hate relationship with flying. I love packing my suitcase. I love airplanes. I love the airport lounges. I love the physics of take-off. I love the first four hours in the air. Then, my ears clog. My butt hurts. I realize I can’t sleep. I have slime on my face. The plane always seems cold and the dinner gross.

That’s me at 12:30 a.m. my local time, after 6+ hours on the plane and only a one-hour nap after rising at 4 a.m. to start my traveling. And the other photo is my first plate of croissants in the CDG arrivals lounge. I grabbed the last pain au chocolat.

My travel companionIMG_7487, M, and I spent yesterday in his apartment in D.C., catching up while he packed. We had lunch at the nearby Cava. My pita had braised lamb.

We headed to Dulles Airport by bus-metro-bus and flew out on a Boeing 777-330 in premium economy.

Despite a rather disappointing dinner, only getting to watch one-third of the Little Prince movie and an episode where I nearly took out a flight attendant with projectile applesauce, I suppose it was a nice flight.

I normally have issues with my ears when flying and this time was no exception. My left ear is clogged severely and both ears gave me pain and discomfort during landing and even while on the ground. Let’s hope it clears up quickly.

It’s 9:15 a.m. Paris time, 3:15 a.m. Pennsylvania time. We hope our hotel will let us into our room early. M booked a room for the day so we can nap. Our flight to Djibouti leaves at 12:30 a.m. tonight and we have no plans for Paris other than to relax and run errands.

Haunted Gettysburg Homestead Orphanage

For our evening activity, the family and I went on the Ghostly Images Haunted Orphanage tour, which is based in their facility in the former Gettysburg Homestead Orphanage.

Basically, a tour guide told us the true story of the orphanage, had us sit in the dark in the basement and took us for a short walk while telling local ghost stories.

It might have been fun if it weren’t for the idiots in our group with us. They talked a lot, and we spent way too much time waiting for everyone to stop taking photos. My personal favorite was when some of the people on the tour kept whining that they wanted to stop for drinks.

So here’s the summary…

During the Civil War, the property that is now the Ghostly Images office and gift shop began life as a field hospital. People would lay in the streets outside and where now a quaint shopping village rests, there was once a pile of human limbs since surgeons would amputate and toss the refuse out the window.

After the war, the property became a facility for war orphans. For the first five years, it was a happy place but when the headmistress got married and a new woman took her place, neglect ensued. Shackles. Locking children in the outhouse or the basement.

It’s been featured on the big ghost hunting TV shows and is one of the top 30 haunted buildings in the world, #2 in Gettysburg, on the top 10 for Pennsylvania.

Next door to the orphanage is a Subway, a building that our tour guide said was gutted when the franchise took over the location. The tour guide said she had spoken to the owner to see if the remodel had removed their ghosts. The owner said she believed the ghosts were angry because for the first two weeks of their business, they couldn’t print receipts from the register. Then, suddenly one day they all printed out at once when no one was using the register.

My daughter had grabbed a sandwich at that Subway.

The receipt jammed and wouldn’t print.