Heaven knows that as a family we hardly need an excuse to go on an adventure, but this fall break's trip to Arizona was something extra special - this trip was 10 years in the making!
9 years ago, we got a confusing, exciting, perplexing email from a young woman in Spain telling us that she had sponsored our daughter through an orphanage nutrition program. We were completing our final preparations to travel to China and meet WanYing, and once we finally understood what Laura was telling us, we were filled with joy and gratitude for this astounding blessing of a girl who used her allowance to make sure our daughter had the food she needed to grow strong.
Over the years we have stayed in contact through Christmas cards and occasional emails. This summer, Laura emailed that she and her boyfriend Pao were coming to the US for a west-coast driving trip! We simply couldn't miss out on the chance to meet in person, and drove down to Arizona to meet them along the way.
It was a fantastic trip all-around. We camped in the desert, we saw the Grand Canyon, we made a million dam jokes at Hoover Dam, we were stunned by the beauty of Antelope Canyon. But getting to give Laura a hug and thank her for caring for caring for our daughter before we even knew her name - that was what made the whole adventure worthwhile.
When you sponsor a kid, that person is somebody's child, somebody's future parent, the love of somebody's life. One doesn't usually get to thank them in person for the love they showed a stranger and the sacrifice they made to care for somebody they would likely never meet. We were just one of the lucky few who got to express our gratitude in person.
Sunday, November 10, 2019
Saturday, November 2, 2019
So I am thrilled whenever it works out that my family can enjoy some of the perks of my travel schedule. This summer I was planning a trip to Krakow, Poland and asked Steve if he could swing it to travel with me. In magnanimity and wisdom, he suggested that perhaps this would be a good trip to bring Ben on, since Ben was old enough to be on his own during the day while I worked and we could have some fun travel adventures together. My husband is so dang smart.
The whole experience was so great. I mean, when else do you get to spend 9 straight days with your 16-year-old kiddo? We had an amazing trip, saw some amazing sights, and (amazingly) only wanted to kill each other a couple of times.
Traveling with only one kid, and a teenager at that, was a totally different experience for me. The observations, joys, and trials were just so different from either a family trip or an adults outing.
For example, early on in our trip Ben observed that in Europe the sodas are tiny and the beers are huge. This sort of bothered him. I was cool with it.
My requirement was that he needed to be able to break down the unicycle and fit it and his clothing in a single checked suitcase. He did it no problem, so the unicycle went!
Our first stop was Prague. We spent a quick weekend in Prague before heading to Krakow for my work and it was amazing.
Here's Ben assembling the unicycle in our hotel room.
But, you know what? It was all great. Like at home, most people thought the unicycle was completely amusing, and it meant a ton to Ben to be able to enjoy his natural mode of locomotion. Score one against anxiety.
We'd sit in lovely European parks as he awaited a raid. We found fun little alleys and side streets that he saw on his Pokemon Go street map. We talked with tourists from around the world as he traded Pokemon. It was perfect.
|Sights around Prague|
|Views of Prague|
|Prague from the tower of the Charles Bridge|
|Buying candy for the girls' souvenirs (and for ourselves)|
|Downtown Prague (the old part)|
Prague was basically untouched (architecturally) during World War II, so it has both medieval and art nouveau neighborhoods. This is a mall that was built in the 20s with a very unique upside-down horse installed decades after. We were both quite impressed.
|The horse-headed busker was also one of Ben's favorite sights|
|Never fear, we also saw the main historical sights, like Prague Castle (this is the castle cathedral)|
|And we found this random little attic hallway in the castle where you could pay a few crowns to shoot a crossbow|
|Ben kindly did agree to a few selfies|
|The river and castle (and me) at night|
It was the longest 90 minutes of my life.
|Paddleboating (that is, mostly me peddling and Ben catching Pokemon - it was fine, I had to work off my beer calories somehow)|
|Our final morning in Prague we decided to try out the electric scooters we had seen all over Prague.|
|The scooters on cobblestone/brick sidewalks were terrible, but once we got to the paved bike path we had a blast!|
|I had my own luggage porter! Such a gentleman|
Ben decided that even though the ice cream at the salt mine didn't quite match up to the expectation set by the sign, it was still pretty good. The ice cream became a theme for the trip. It turns out that when you go to work and leave your son with his unicycle and some zloty for lunch he will always buy ice cream for lunch. Every time.
Don't worry, though, because I learned on the tour that salt air is very healthy and has many medicinal properties. So salt miners were actually very lucky. Except for, you know, living underground for months at a time. They even had their own hospital next to the mine (which to me begged the question, "if it was so healthy being a salt miner, why did they need a dedicated hospital?"). Still, if I had to be a miner, I guess I'd go with salt mining.
|The miners built these amazing structures underground, including this chapel. The whole thing was very impressive.|
|Me under a salt chandelier|
I have no idea whether or not that was true, but Ben licked basically every wall in the mine. He confirmed that, yes, they were all salty.
|Pokemon hunting near the castle|
|Inside the castle walls|
|Ben was such a good sport with the selfies|
|Sights around Krakow|
|More ice cream|
I really like that kid.