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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Day 2 in Morocco and we were on the road again. This time on the road to Fez. Coming down the back side of the Rif mountains was quite the winding road. Charming with little farms all around. Donkeys backs packed full of firewood or produce. I don’t know how they trained the sheep, goats and donkeys to stay off the roads but they did. Some of the hills were so steep they were furrowed for planting. Full of beauty but also full of tight winding roads. The first two hours of the drive were pretty miserable. Both LeAnn and I are prone to motion sickness. Very prone. Every morning Dramamine tablets accompanied our breakfast but it still wasn’t enough. Within minutes of hitting the road we were begging our very confused driver to please turn on the AC, full blast. We would brace our feet against the seat in front of us, hold on tight to the “Oh Shit!” handles on the ceiling and blast upbeat music. This was our on the road anthem blasted from my Bose speaker first thing every morning.
We made it through with out either of us officially getting sick but I think we ate 20 packages of Mentos and dozens of packets of gum. Every time we stopped anywhere we bought more. Our driver and guide were so confused. Once we were finally down the mountain we drove through beautiful agriculture fields. Alfalfa, strawberries, lettuce, artichokes, carrots, tomatoes, even banana trees under tarps. We passed orchards full of blooming cherries, apricots, almond and apple. The air smelled continuously of orange blossom. Cork and olive trees were everywhere. It reminded me so much of California and LeAnn of Ohio. I was lovely. As we got closer to Fez we began to observe an abundance of picnics laid out under olive groves. We passed hundreds of families on blankets and kids playing soccer and climbing trees.
When we began discussing which performance we’d be doing this year, our choices where Mama Mia or Beauty and the Beast, and both of those were shot down. Mama Mia because there is a gay character and the mom doesn’t know who the dad is, and Beauty and the Beast because in the recent movie remake there was a gay character. Looking back I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad this school is so conservative.