Tag Archives: Adventure

keep back!

yesterday i went wall climbing, which happens to be a ways out of town, so that provided some driving practice with friends. i did alright, except when i stalled out 3 times at the same traffic light… watching it go from green… to yellow… and red again. when i finally did go, i peeled out a bit. later in the same day i had a solid 3 second peel-out. you could smell it. i was beginning to think i’d made a huge mistake purchasing a 5-speed vehicle.but today was a new day, and i had to get out on the road. i mean, i HAD to. apparently i left my last name off one of the gazillion forms i signed at carmax, so i had to make the long journey back out there… on the crazy expressway… all… by… my… self. i took a deep breath, grabbed my roll of blue masking tape, and put a big sign across the back of my car that reads “KEEP BACK… i’m learning.” i ventured over to the church parking lot for a bit of a warm-up, feeling my way in and out of that tricky first gear, and off i went.

and i made it! without a single stall-out or peel-out! no one got on my back. i watched in my rear-view mirror as one lady died laughing after squinting to see the fine print on my home-made sign. ah, what a day.
then, on the way back to my house, i put the hatchback feature to good use with a trip to home depot. i needed a big piece of wood (2 ft deep, 4 ft long) to finish making my desk before school starts this week. can i please tell you how easy it is to fold down the seats in my groovy mazda3? oooooh so easy. i slid my desk top in, pulled the door shut, and thought, ‘that, missy, is why you have a hatchback.’ it made my day.

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lauren splats… almost

so much for not blogging…

i got hit by a car tonight on my way to the gym. i was riding my bike on the sidewalk (i’m told this is not illegal and much safer than riding on the road), going against traffic (again, i’m told this is safer), when i came to an intersection. i slowed down, noted the stopped car, checked the green light and the pedestrian crossing, and continued forward into the intersection. i saw the stopped car start into a right turn, realized what was about to happen, swerved, and CRASH. they clipped my back tire, knocking me over, but i caught myself and the bike. i have a few minor cuts and bruises, but nothing major. sadly, my bike will need a little TLC before i’ll be able to ride again (slight problem when it’s your primary means of transportation), but still nothing major. the lexus that hit me will have to get a new bumper, though… yikes. i didn’t get the driver’s contact information since 10% of me was scared i didn’t have the right of way. i can’t afford a lexus bumper. the couple that hit me was more concerned about my ability to walk than anything. i think the little lady in the passenger seat was more shaken up than i was.

anywho… my dad thinks i should get a car.

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almost perfect camping

just about every year, graham and i go camping. this takes quite a bit of coordination, since neither of us have lived in the same state for 5 years now, but we all make time for what we think is important. we’ve camped the beaches of maryland, the mountains of virginia and north georgia, and now we can add north carolina to the mix.

after getting some advice, maps and books from my new favorite outdoors store (it’s local) we decided the 2.5 hour drive to horsepasture river (which runs through gorges state park and nantahala national forest) was a bit far, but do-able. we had plenty to catch up on anyway.

typically, our camping trips, though awesome, have been marked by some kind of drama. usually in the form of rain… once with the added fun of a sand storm. but this time everything was just so beautiful and easy! our gear was ready, the weather was perfect, our pace was good, the sites were well worth the trek. there are 5 falls along horsepasture river, of which we saw two. turtleback falls is about 1.4 miles in from the trail head. it’s easy to see why it’s called turtleback, with a short round slide that provides a 15-foot drop (depending on where you start) for those brave enough to go over the edge. this would be an easy spot for a day trip-and-dip. rainbow falls is just 0.2 miles further, with a 125-foot drop. there’s a swimming hole at the base, which also looked like fun… but we hiked on, leaving everyone else behind. really, i don’t think we ran into anyone past rainbow falls (till the next morning). about 2 miles in, we decided to swim. it was a lot like goshen, va (my favorite swimming spot in the world) and the water was surprisingly warm for a mountain hike. we hiked on some more, thinking we might make it to the 3rd cascade, when we stumbled upon the best camp site ever. the ground was flat and clear, logs were placed as benches around a campfire spot, fire wood had been gathered and left behind… it was almost eerie. a stream about 10-yards away was great for washing up and collecting water. so we stopped, unloaded and set up camp in no time. when has it ever been this easy?!? we feasted on couscous, tuna and chicken noodle soup for dinner. we made a fire. we talked, told ghost stories, got a little scared, told jokes, laughed, and went to bed tired. pretty much perfect.

graham was slow getting up the next morning, so i chilled out on a log for a long time, which is the kind of thing i like to do. once he got up, we went for a swim and stretched out like lizards on rocks. graham wasn’t feeling well at all, and it didn’t look like he’d be feeling better any time soon, so we packed up to hike out. on our way out, we saw lots of people enjoying the various water holes and slides. this looks to be a popular spot in the summer. about 2/3 of the way out, we threw down our packs and sat on the side of the trail. graham waited for hikers to walk past before vomiting directly onto the trail. so much for perfect camping. miraculously, the vomit soaked right into the ground, totally unnoticeable in less than 2 minutes. in typical boot-and-rally fashion, we loaded up again and didn’t stop walking till we got to the car. i drove home, graham rested… and continued to rest till he could drive home the following day. being sick sucks, but being sick while you travel sucks a little more.

still, it was an awesome weekend, and a great way to christen the mountains of north carolina, of which i hope to see a lot more.

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i woke up with a tic

not the facial-twitch kind… but the blood sucking kind. maybe i should have brought my mosquito net to the US after all!

this little guy did not want to let go… even after my dad tried to fry him off my face. stubborn little bugger.


flying dogs

flying back to the US from cotonou, i had a little extra baggage… her name was josie. her papers said she was a lab, but i’d never seen a lab look like josie before. she was born and raised in cotonou and belonged to a missionary family there. because dogs can’t travel (with certain airlines) between may 15 and september 15, the price family (who departs benin after may 15) asked me to bring josie along. this is the story of our adventure together.

josie weighs about 23 kilos. she’s really very sweet, though i’ve only been around her while drugged on sleeping pills (not me, the dog). when traveling internationally with a dog, there are all sorts of hoops to jump through. lucky for me, the prices did most of the hoop jumping. josies shots, papers, and even the little computer chip embedded in her shoulder… everything was meticulously cared for. all i had to do was get her from point A to point B. easy enough, right? eh… no.

it started with check in. the peeps in cotonou insisted that my luggage could only be checked to paris… not to dc. i said, “are you sure?” knowing they were wrong, but they thought they were right, so i let it slide. i was going to have to go through customs in paris anyway to take the dog out for a walk, what’s a little luggage to keep me company?

i arrived in paris. i waited half an hour for josie to appear. in the mean time, i talked to the luggage peeps… three men eager to help. they said to leave my luggage with them while i walked the dog. “you sure?” “mais, oui! of course.” ok.

josie and i got through customs and i took her out for a walk. she was very happy, though not as jumpy as i expected, feeling a bit groggy i suppose. we met a homeless man. there was no grass. she sniffed around for half a hour and was content to go back in her kennel. she even took two more sleeping pills without arguing. easy peasey.

we went back into the aiport, at which point i realized i was screwed. there was no way of getting back to those oh-so-helpful luggage men. i went to the airfrance counter to explain the situation and ask for help. they immediately said it was crazy that my luggage hadn’t been checked all the way to dc. duh. no changing that detail though… so onto the next solution. airfrance lady told me to go to the next terminal, with josie, to check in again. and my luggage? she promised it would make it. ok.

i made it to the next terminal, that was easy enough, and found my place in the longest line ever. at this point i accepted the fact that i was likely not making my flight. oh well.

(side note: in my effort to make this experience less painful, i left one of my carry-on bags with my friend rhett, who happened to be flying with me from cotonou to dc. unfortunately for rhett, he was spot checked twice in my absence, both times insisting that the third bag belonged to his “wife” who just stepped out to walk the dog. rhett and i are not married, nor will we ever be (unless he finds jesus), but half of cotonou thinks we are, so he just ran with it.)

back to me. after half an hour of not moving in the longest line ever, i realized i was in the wrong line… so i found the right line and waited another 15 minutes before someone yelled, “passengers for dc?!” yes! that’s me! i scooted to the front of check-in where i explained the entire situation to the lady behind the counter. thank God i speak french now. the lady said that the previous lady was crazy to send me on without my luggage. she also said cotonou peeps were crazy not to check my luggage all the way through. after establishing these truths (once again), she said she could get josie and me on the plane, but made no guarantees about my bags. good enough. i know people think the french are snobs, but this lady was a gem. 15 minutes later, i was racing through customs.

i ran to my gate and arrived just as they were shutting the door. i was the last person to board. i passed rhett while walking to my seat, at which point he said, “thank God!” (though he probably didn’t really say that since he doesn’t believe in God) and he filled me in on getting searched while carrying my luggage with “girlie” things inside.

i collapsed into my seat.

the funny thing is, josie didn’t even pee in paris. she just wasn’t feelin’ it. maybe she was too sleepy.

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i got mugged… i forgot

i celebrated my 5 year reunion this weekend at the world’s finest learning institution… washington and lee university. you can say your school was better, and for you it probably was, but for me wlu was the best. is the best. in any case, i was catching up with friends, discussing world travels, when suddenly i remembered i was mugged last week! here’s the story…

saturday a week ago i celebrated my students’ graduation and then went to a dinner party for rhett, an american friend of mine who is returning to the US after 9 years of working in africa. i was sporting an african outfit (as pictured 2 blogs previous) and wanted to run home to change before late night activities ensued. so i jumped on the back of a zemi (moped taxi) and at the last minute asked my friend romeo to jump on behind me. this means there were three people on one moto-bike. this may or may not be illegal… technically, no more than two are supposed to be on a bike at once, but i’m convinced no one in cotonou is aware of this detail. so off we go, the three of us on a moto, at maybe 10pm… not even late.

the zemi driver stopped at a light… because it was red… this is normal. out of nowhere, like a flash of lightening, a man runs up to the moto, grabs my bag and runs off. only… he loses his grip. my bag was wedged so tightly between me and the moto driver–mugging man didn’t have a chance. plus, romeo grabbed me and my bag from behind for protection. it’s a darn good thing i opted to travel with the illegal third person!

so i’m okay. no harm done. maybe that’s why i forgot to write about it.

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meat+museum=bloody mess

last week while leslie was visiting, i wanted her to see the wonders of the meat market… it’s definitely not like the deli section in your neighborhood grocery store! so we went to the marché, where i stood in front of a freshly dead cow and asked some young guy to hack off half a kilo to be ground for me. he stuffed the raw meat into a black plastic baggy and handed it to me with a smile. so friendly. leslie and i then walked in a circle to see the rest of the dead animals just waiting to be eaten. i wouldn’t recommend this tour for the weak stomached… or vegetarians.

after our marché adventure, we had about half an hour to kill before lunch, so we stopped into a free art museum i’d heard good things about. we enjoyed looking at the lovely photography exhibit, laughing at some pictures, talking to our guide… and then leslie got my attention–“lauren, you’re dripping blood…” ah! sure enough, my raw meat purchase was dripping all over the sparkling white tiled floor. oops. i turned to the guide and started apologizing and explaining in french, “ah, we just came from the market and the meat i’m carrying has made a mess of your floors!” he smiled and said it was no problem at all, as if this kind of thing happens all the time. in a few moments he returned with a rag to mop up the mess.

and again, i find myself asking… since when did this kind of thing become normal?

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the moment you’ve all been waiting for

remember that little blip about my new career as a professional dancer? well here at long last is the result of many hot hours of practicing what might as well be “the chicken dance” with some extra gyrations thrown in.

the video is about 7 minutes long, and it’s really worth seeing the whole thing. yours truly is “featured” of course, as are ashley and charita (fulbrights). rob is definitely the star yovo, with his tam-tam-tamming and fon-lip-syncing.

and yes, it’s already showing on television here in benin.

this might very well be the most ridiculous thing i have ever done in my entire life. and that’s really saying something.

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jesus jive

when i’m in church here, i miss liturgy. when i’m in church in the states, i’ll miss this…

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i heart city life

i was at metro last night and this girl walked in, probably about my age, with an older lady. they actually fell into the bar. susanne went up to them to take their orders, but she couldn’t even understand what they were saying because they were so drunk. she got the owner and told him she wouldn’t serve them and that he needed to handle the situation, but he took their order and served them instead. the girl then spilled her drink on the table and started lapping it up. gross. she then tried to order another drink, but susanne said they couldn’t serve her any more because she’d had enough to drink. the girl started yelling, “then i’m going to steal this glass. i was already going to, but now i’m really going to.” then she fell. again. then started crying about the war in iraq. then a jack johnson song came on and she started dancing all over the bar… clicking her heals on the floor. i couldn’t tell if she was going for spanish sevillanas or river dance. but she fell a few more times. then we found out that the older lady, who is legally blind, had no clue who the girl was. she was drunk too, but one of the regulars, tom, knew her and took her back to her place (which was right across the street). meanwhile the drunk girl was running around in the street and falling down and several people from metro were trying to help her find her home, but we resorted to calling the cops because she was just such a mess. so then there were like 6 of us holding her down because she kept running away, then kicking and hitting and biting. she also kept screaming “fire!” susanne risked her teeth by taking off the girl’s shoes. the girl then told me she had intended to rob the old lady. what? this was the second time she mentioned stealing stuff. i think we called the cops 3 times before anyone showed up. gotta love the city. they said we caught them on a “shift change.” good thing no one was shot on the “shift change.” the girl kicked one of the cops. they then walked her home, which was like 5 doors down. ridiculous! all on a sunday night.