Life Unparalleled

Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 6° 27' North- Lagos, Nigeria

September 2, 2019
by Ben
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Kenya 2019

After spending a fantastic week in Malawi, our next stop was Kenya. We are very fortunate to have friends literally all over the world, who are willing to open their homes to us when we come visit. These trips would be much more difficult for us to do with our family of 6 without this (free) hospitality. We wanted to get in a bit of a safari type experience on this trip, while we’re in Africa, and we did great in Kenya! We looked at days/week long safari’s in the bush but they were so expensive and with several family members who get severe motion sickness bouncing around on dirt roads for days on end just wasn’t going to cut it. We were also really realistic about our amazing kids attention spans. They are up for just about every type of adventure but just as we would never schedule a trip with day after day of nothing but museums we knew too many days of animals, no matter how amazing, would be pushing their attention levels. So we made plans to see as much as we could with as little cost and driving and maximum time in the outdoors.

We had made arrangements with a driver to provide all of our transportation needs, including airport pickup, and 4 wheel drive vehicles when needed for the game park. Nairobi National Park is right in Nairobi, not far from the airport, and many species of animals can be viewed there, for far cheaper than the safaris in the Masai Mara and other wilderness areas.

We were very fortunate, and saw lots and lots of animals, including some which are apparently not frequently seen in this park, including black and white rhinos.

Many many species of grazers.
DyAnna loves guinea fowl. We had a pair back home in Utah with our chickens – they were the most effective protection against raccoons that we found.
Yes! We saw lions!
The down side to a safari in Nairobi National Park is that lots and lots of other people are doing the same thing. This was at the location where we saw the lions.
We stopped at an overlook with a view, and this cute little guy was looking up at us from down below on the cliff.
We were shocked at how wide this baboon’s mouth opens when he yawns, and at the size of his teeth! We later found out that this is an intimidation tactic they use, not an indication that they are tired. It worked, I was intimidated!
The kids thought this photo was hilarious, nicknaming the bird the “Angry Bird (TM)”

Our second day we went to Karura Forest, also in Nairobi. They had adult size bikes available for rent, and an Embassy family with kids was kind enough to lend us some kid sized bikes, and we had a beautiful bike ride among the trees and monkeys.

The next day we visited the giraffe sanctuary, and went on a nice little hike there, then visited the elephant orphanage. At the giraffe sanctuary, we purchased bags of feed and were able to hand feed giraffes, to get very up close and personal. Some of the kids got VERY up close and personal, getting a “kiss” from the giraffes as they fed them pellets of food out of their lips.

Dy’s favorite animals were the hedgehogs. We later learned that “pumba” in swahili means stupid. Poor cute pumba!

The elephant orphanage cares for young elephants whose parents have been killed by disaster or by poachers. They spend much of the day out roaming in an open area of the park, and then in the evening they all come running down this path to the stalls that they stay in at night and to be fed milk and hay. It was shocking how fast they moved!

How else to feed a bunch of hungry young elephants, than a wheelbarrow full of milk?

The following day we drove to Naivasha for an overnight and to spend time at Lake Naivasha and in Hells Gate National Park. Lake Naivasha is full of many many birds, and home to Crescent Island. Crescent Island was where the film “Out of Africa” with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford was filmed. Several varieties of herbivores were imported for the filming and were left there. With no natural predators on the island, their populations have exploded, and they are very accustomed to having humans wandering among them, so again we were able to get very close views of them.

Note: we were very content NOT to have an up close and personal view of the hippos. These were taken with a zoom lens.

Once again we rented bikes for a ride through Hells Gate National Park. It was beautiful!

There was lots of obsidian laying around, some pieces as large as a beach ball! Dy’s father had taught her how to flintknap, so she took the time to show the kids this skill. They were very impressed!

Unfortunately, dispite our warnings about how sharp obsidian flakes are, Oliver then demonstrated to us exactly how sharp they are. (it did cut through the piece of grass he was testing it on, and then into his finger)

After riding the dirt road through the wider canyon, we reached the gorge itself, which called for a hike.

It turned out to be a slot canyon. Very reminiscent of the hiking back home in southern Utah, except much more lush and not as deep.

My love is drawn to hotsprings like iron to a magnet.

Our last evening back in Nairobi we went with our friends to an escape room. This was the first one our family had done, but it won’t be the last! It was super fun, each part of the group contributed to solving at least 1 puzzle, and there were some very creative puzzles to work on. Team “Major Lifestyle Changes” has been our trivia team name since we were in training, and so it was good to reprise that team name with one of my colleagues from training. We made it onto the leader board for the Inventor’s Workshop at Escape Room Kenya!

August 4, 2019
by Dy
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30 Things I Will Miss About Lagos Nigeria

Well it has happened. Our time in Lagos Nigeria is complete. The boys and I have been back in the USA for the last two weeks and Nigeria is already starting to feel like a fuzzy dream. I shared 30 things(really 31…why didn’t anyone point out I did #22 twice) that I would miss about Lagos on Instagram and Facebook. I decided I wanted to compile them all together here. A part of my heart will always be in Nigeria.

Things I will miss about Lagos #30 the kids have life experiences here hard to replicate anywhere else. Here is Roger enjoying his lesson on how to drive the boat they ride for their school travels. Just in case of an emergency the older kids are taught how to take the wheel.

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July 7, 2019
by Dy
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Malawi 2019

We live such a fortunate life. One of the benefits of being sent to a post like Lagos is that we get to take some R and R (rest and relaxation) flights. A post might have an attached R and R when it is a harder place to live in or if it is a very far, expensive or complicated flight from the United States. Lagos currently has 3 R and R’s in a two year tour. The only places whith more tend to be places where the employee can’t bring any family along because of safety or war torn countries. Most of Europe and Asia don’t have R and R’s. We will not have any when we are in Spain for example. With our R and R only our flights are paid for and only to a certain amount. All living expenses once you land are on your own. Because of our large family size and so many moves in a couple of years we don’t have much of a travel fund built up but we still have been able to do some amazing trips.

Our first was to Denmark and Sweden followed by time spent in the USA, Utah,Washington, California

We economized by staying with gracious friends and family.

Our second R and R was to Germany (Lechbruch, Munich) and Austria( Vienna and Salzburg) with some of Ben’s family. His mother and step dad kindly paid for our portion of our AirB and B’s as our Christmas gift which helped to diffuse much of the cost for that adventure.

For our third R and R we wanted to explore more of Africa. Kenya is the go to place for safari and we are fortunate enough to have friends from Ben’s A-100 class posted in Nairobi. They were amazing and said they would be happy to host us. In southern Africa Ben had a cousin who lives in Mali. Jessica is Ben’s grandfathers cousins grandaughter. So a distance cousin but both the grandfathers were only children so they were raised more like brothers. Ben and Jessica spent time together at family events while growing up in California. After graduate school she traveled to Malawi to work for a NGO, fell in love and now 8 years later has a beautiful life and two amazing daughters to show for her troubles. Ben thought it would be wonderful to reconnect with Jessica and explore more of Malawi, a less known African country. After she and her husband Clayton kindly offered to host our huge clan including use of a van(AMAZING!) we booked our tickets.

Harrison got to celebrate his actual birthday in the Nairobi lounge during our stopover. Breakfast crepes with nutella hit the spot.
Play station is a genius lounge idea. We have spent so much time in airport lounges the last year. Our favorite credit card, Chase Sapphire Preferred includes lounge access so if we have any type of a layover we make ourselves at home. I estimate our family has saved $500-$800 in food costs as we never have to buy food at airports when we travel.
Just reading a book.
Almost all flights out of Lagos are red eye flights. It gets exhausting. Some lounges have reclining chairs but Dannica made do with what we had.

Lilongwe is the most adorable little airport ever. It reminded me of flying into the St.George airport. They just have a handful of flights a day and people can watch the take off and landings from a viewing deck. The population of Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital city is about 650,000 people. so Lagos is approximately 30 times larger.

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May 30, 2019
by Dy
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South Africa- Happy 18th Anniversary!

Ben and I have been married 18 years and been together for 21 years. Our relationship is now old enough to get married and drink! It really has been a magical ride and even though it is cliche we really love and enjoy each other even more than we did years ago. We have always made making a big deal about our anniversary a priority and have done some really great dates (more about that in another post). We knew we wanted to do a trip to South Africa as soon as we were posted to Lagos. I visited 20 years ago and fell in love with the country. Ben was eager to get his chance. We hoped to take the whole family but other vacations used our available time and money and SA got pushed to the side. We have been aggressively working to pay off the consumer debt we acquired through all of the recent changes in our new life so we had decided that sadly an anniversary trip was off the table. Ben decided to check into how many credit card points we had accumulated- it was enough to cover our tickets. We reviewed our Marriot Hotel reward points- it was enough to cover a couple of days of hotel. Ben had been working so much overtime that he had leave time he needed to utilize because it would be forfeited once we moved. Margaret our housekeeper and nanny could stay with the kids. We were assured over and over that SA was very affordable and that food and transportation would be a lovely surprise. It was a perfect storm of wonderful and we made our plans.

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April 24, 2019
by Dy
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Morocco Girl’s Trip- Marrakesh

We were now on the road from Ouarzazate to Marrakesh. Today, back in Lagos I was watching the movie Queen of the Desert with Nichole Kidman and recognized some of the places from the film which was filmed in Marrakesh and Ouarzazate. So cool. Marrakesh is a desert city. Much of it is just like any city but it has a beautiful medina in the center. Our raid was in the medina. Luggage hauled in by cart past venders and restaurants. It was quite the maze.

Our riad, Riad Slitine which was 200 to 300 years old.
Breakfast by the pool with the best OJ
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April 19, 2019
by Dy
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Morocco Girls Trip- Merzouga and Ouarzazate

After a long day of driving we arrived in the small city of Merzouga. I don’t know what it was but Merzouga reminded me of a college town. Hotels full of young people who were completing various treks across the desert and much of Africa. Coffee shops and kitch shops focusing on the abundance of fossils in the area. I truthfully didn’t read up enough and had no idea this was such a fossil heaven. Harrison would have loved it. The shops were pretty cool. In my dream house I would have a sink made from these fossils. Also date orchards everywhere, there are over 100 varieties grown in Morocco. Such a cool country.


This photo of Driss Fossils & Minerals Shop is courtesy of TripAdvisor

We left our cushy van and met up with a four wheeled drive vehicle which then proceeded to drive us the long way around through the desert to our camp site. Seriously this was unnecessary which we didn’t know until we got to our campsite and saw not far in the distance a paved road. It was fun none the less.

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April 18, 2019
by Ben
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Check your Glove Box

A public service announcement: Check your glove box. I understand the desire to keep your passport in the glove box. I used to love the idea of spontaneously deciding to go somewhere fabulous, and just driving to the airport and being ready to go. All of my actual travel has been much more deliberate. However, if you do keep your passport in the glove box, or the center console, or any other part of your car, please make sure you get it back out when you dispose of the car. We’ve had 2 U.S. passports brought in to the consulate by people who had purchased cars at auction and had them shipped to Nigeria, and then found the passports in the glove box (today was the second one). I’m glad that these 2 passports ended up in the hands of people who weren’t inclined to do nefarious things with them.

If you do leave your passport in your car when you sell it at auction, you should contact the State Department to report it lost. You can do it online, no muss, no fuss, here. If you lose your passport when you’re overseas, you should contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate. We can print you a temporary passport on the spot.