Life Unparalleled

Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 41° 23' N – Barcelona, Spain

Monterey Bay Area


The Monterey Bay area, I had never been there prior to meeting Ben. It is the home base for his mothers side of the family having lived there for generations. He spent many Winter and Summer vacations there while he was growing up in Arizona. 9 years ago his mom and step dad moved back. It is a beautiful area with so much to do and nature to enjoy. Fresh produce grown in the fields just out of town that help supply much of the US with delicious cravable things like artichokes and strawberries. That pretty much sums up our lovely two weeks here. Nature and good fresh food. Although we enjoy our jetsetting it was nice to just sleep in the same bed for a while. Thanks to generous grandparents the kids were lucky enough to enjoy some special excursions and camps.

We spent a ton of time just walking along the beaches. Why are waves so appealing to everyone?

Everett Roger aged over night.Rip Van Winkle anyone?

River walking and play was a huge part of our formative years growing up in Leeds. This creek is just as beautiful as the one down the street from our house was.

We got to take out the sailboat for a nice sunny sail. There was a huge jelly fish bloom and we could watch them swim from the docks and the boat.





Harrison decided a swim needed to happen even though the water was freezing. He got a few other suckers to join him.

Bens reaction when I told him the jelly fish was going to get him. It was still a few meters away but he swam pretty fast.

The rolling hills just out of Monterey are beautiful and sunny which is important to me.

Ben’s great grandmother was a marine biologist in the area back in a time when women didn’t often study science or have advanced degrees. To say we have a love of the Monterey Aquarium is an understatement. The kids even have their own passes with their names printed on them. We never get tired of going.

South African Penguins. I saw this variety when I traveled there 17 years ago. Even though we are “so close” I don’t think we are going to be able to make a family trip to South Africa while here. Oh well the kids can add it to their own bucket list.


Touch pools.

We said good bye at this point to Harrison and Ben left us. They traveled back to Utah where Harrison got to go to a small summer camp with his old Boy Scout Troop. We are having fun in scouts here in Nigeria but his old leader just goes above and beyond. Hats off to Mr. Meismer for the photos. We were so glad Harrison was able to attend. Ben dropped him off, spent one day in St. George saying hello to old friends, family and colleagues then left to go back to work in Lagos. With a suitcase of cheese in tow of course.

Great Basin National Park is one of our favorites. So many cool things there. Here the scouts are showing off their troop numbers. Harrisons and another boy from Alaska.


So much beautiful wild life in Utah and Nevada like this antelope. We have all missed nature here in Nigeria, but I think Harrison has the most. Ok, your right I complain more about missing it.

Harrison feeling ancient history love! Pinus longaeva is a long-living species of bristlecone pine tree found in the higher mountains of California, Nevada, and Utah. One member of this species, at 5,067 years old, is the oldest known living non-clonal organism on Earth.

Leehman Cave is a pretty amazing place to explore. When I was a kid we spent many of our summers camping. One year my mother got into splunkering(as I fondly called it in my youth) and we spent all summer caving. I had mixed feelings about it not loving closed spaces or the dark but this cave is huge and really accessible. I would definitely recommend it. Here we are visiting in 2014.


They visited a fish hatchery and learned all about endangered trout in the area.

And learned about the importance of the Nevada railway in the development of the west. He had a great time and stayed a couple extra nights with old friends until the rest of us could meet up with him.

Back to time spent in California Oliver was finally old enough to participate in the Monterey Bay Aquarium Ocean Explorers program which is a immersive childhood diving experience for kids age 8-11. Oliver has never really liked the water. I joke that he thought I was trying to kill him when he was born in an at home water birth. However, he didn’t want to miss out on this experience that his siblings were able to participate in a few years ago.

Dry suit dab.

Each kid has their own instructor. It took Oliver a bit but he got the hang of it. The kids float and someone as lightweight as Oliver the oxygen canister was so heavy it kept turning him over.

And then really enjoyed his underwater magical world. He says he can’t wait to do it again.

John was kind enough to listen to my pleading and take me kayaking. He had taken the kids several times while Ben and I were in Washington and I didn’t want to miss out. We had a great morning with top notch wild life viewing. Love the Elkhorn Slough. A true gift.

Sea otters by the dozens.

Seals, Pelicans and Blue Heron.


Everett Roger chose to do a week long learn to surf camp. He was all in excited and ready to go every morning. He would rinse his wetsuit as soon as he got home in prep for the next day. He also decided to grow his hair earlier in the year in preparation. You gotta’ look like a surfer man dude!

John was also kind enough to allow me to go with him on his weekly hike. He is part of a men’s hiking group and they hike every Wednesday. Dream! They were such a nice group of interesting guys with varied careers and experiences. I especially enjoyed talking about Africa with a man who pre retirement was a National Geographic cinematographer. We first hiked up a canyon full of redwood trees. Then back down and across the rolling hills along the sea.



How can you not be blissfully happy at a time like this.


Our idealic lunch spot after a perfect 5 mile hike.

Oliver chose to do a Lego Robotics camp. He really enjoyed it and came home with even more Lego enthusiasim, not something we were lacking in the first place in the Gordon household. Here he is very excited to show me his movable creation and purposefully drive it off the table to destroy it.

Ben’s lovely mother Kathy showing off the garnet earrings we send her from Lagos. Mined, cut and set all by a man we know from Abuja.

John was busy busy busy while we were visiting preparing as a coral singer for the Carmel Back Festival. I was able to attend two different concerts that were nock your socks off amazing. I loved seeing the period instruments used by the orchestra.  John is a talented and dedicated singer and always up for a photo. He was in 4 or 5 of the promo photos for the festival. I would definitely recommend attending.

We also saw several wonderful plays. Dannica did a great write up of them all. Please read about it here.

Overall a lovely vacation and time spent with family and rediscovering our American roots.


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