Bend Oregon Trip April 2016! WHITEST PLACE EVER!

Bend Oregon Trip April 2016!  WHITEST PLACE EVER!

Pictures are of Smith Rock

You may have heard of White Flight. White flight is the phenomenon when White people in a neighborhood tend to move out of a neighborhood as more ethnic minorities move in. This is a well established phenomenon. There tend to be VERY few neighborhoods in the US where there are equivalent proportions of Whites and Ethnic minorities within their boundaries. Instead, neighborhoods in America tend to be predominantly one race or another—either White, or a mixture of ethnic minorities.

Bend Oregon has experienced the opposite of White Flight. Bend has what I like to call “Caucasian Invasion”. In my many travels, Bend has got to be one of the whiter places in the World, and I’m not referring to the Cascade Mountains or the ample snowfall there in the winter.

In April 2016 our family was able to fly back to the United States. We had the opportunity—thanks to a professional connection—to spend some time in Bend, Oregon. While there I was able to validate the sheer whiteness of the place. We also spent some time in New York City, which isn’t quite so white. After living in Europe for a year, it was a nice break to vacation in America. I deeply missed America, especially the delicious food.

I had faded memories of a trip to Bend with my church youth group in the mid-1990’s. I remember going into the caves in that region and also hiking to the top of Smith Rock. This time, we had another agenda—a professional one for my husband and a personal one for me— we  got to see my parents.

Central Oregon appears to be a dusty dessert with sagebrush and evergreen trees. I could have sworn I saw mirages with cowboy riding in the distance. The days unfold, initially very cold; and then, when the sun comes up, the entire place bursts into golden warmth and glory. The sun beams feel especially piercing here, like daggers to the flesh. There are so many outdoors activities in Bend: fishing, hiking, skiing. The crime rate is fairly low in Bend and the public schools are decent. Diversity is almost non-existent.

Bend has a tightly knit downtown that cozies up to the Deschutes River. If you enjoy microwbrews, Bend is the place to go. It boasts more breweries per capita than any other city in the world. Bend is also the dog city. Dogs are everywhere imaginable…everyone has a couple dogs or three or four. We made sure to hit the famous Deschutes Brewery.I had a Black Butte Porter—the burgers there are also divine!

We learned a lot about the Real Estate Market in Bend. It is a boom and bust cycle. The house prices in Bend are some of the highest in the nation due to wealthy Californians moving in and “getting more for their money than they would in California”. Thus, with an increased demand for homes in this beautiful region, home prices are pushed to heightened levels. This creates the housing bubble there. I assume a consequence of the high prices for real estate in Bend pushes out the riff-raff–so it is a very safe place to live (according to all the locals we spoke to).

After visiting Bend, I can see why people there just LOVE it.

USED PERSIAN RUGS I bought in Germany~!

USED PERSIAN RUGS I bought in Germany~!

We are off to New York City and also Bend, Oregon for a couple of weeks (it has been almost a year since I’ve been back in the United-States!) but I will leave you with a quick post and show off some of my new finds.

Getting ready for NEW YORK CITY!

As you know, my baby and I have been going on shopping sprees to our hearts delight.  We recently found several incredible flea market/thrift stores which are full of exotic, interesting and vintage treasures.  I bought two area rugs. These are Persian rugs–I was told that one of them is hand-made.  One of them cost 150 euro and the other one was only 40 euro! Unbelievable! After living in Africa, I’m fairly adept at haggling for a good price.

Check these lovelies out! The red rug looked AWFUL at the thrift store. It was embedded with crud and slime. I had it professionally cleaned and now it looks presentable–a little worn, but still quite striking for the right space. I’m quite proud of my finds.

 

Also, I found an old in-table at the same store (very cheap) and I spray painted it blue–just for fun. (Yes, my husband and I have awesome taste when it comes to non-fiction books).

 

Home Decor: Create a space for Your plants!!!

Home Decor: Create a space for Your plants!!!

The other day I realized that our staircase/entry area was quite boring. I decided to make a plant cove in this ever well-lit area. We recently purchased a lovely white buffet table–I thought this would be a nice space for it. I also found some other odds and ends around the house and bought a few plants to weave into the mix. Voila–here are the before and afters for this space.

Before…

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After…

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This is ONLY the beginning as far as the plants go. I hope this area eventually looks like an indoor African jungle. I plan to propagate a bunch more African Violets from this one’s leaves.

Treasures I found at a German Thrift Store

Treasures I found at a German Thrift Store

I’m just now starting to explore our surroundings in Germany. Last year felt like a year from the underworld–constant nausea, ZERO motivation, idea and creativity deprivation, depression and unending fatigue. I never wanted to go out.  This year I’m making a habit of getting out. Kaiserslautern, along with several other nearby cities and villages will be the areas that I try to explore in greater depth. I will be presenting my discoveries on this blog.

German thrift store hunting has become my latest thing. I went to a couple and I definitely recommend Fairkauf at Beethovenstrasse 56 in K-Town. Here are a few of the treasures I found. In fact, I left with a cart full of interesting things–many from Germany, Spain and France for under 20 euros! Some of these items have an almost antique-quality to them. The big brown pottery vase has W. Germany inscribed on the bottom.

 

 

 

….And here they are, at our house. I’m still playing around with displaying them…

 

I LOVE THIS CUTE BOWL I got for 1 Euro!

 

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IN SICILY! (February 2016)

IN SICILY! (February 2016)

My husband and I are still on route to see the world. Now that our baby is 3 ½  months old, we feel more comfortable going on lengthy travels again and boarding trains, airplanes and buses. We spent last week in Sicily, sinking our teeth into olives, looking out into the crystal blue waters of the Mediterranean and even going into a lava cave. It was too cloudy to see Mt. Etna, but we did go on a bus excursion up the mountain and had some espresso in a lodge. During our stay, we enjoyed bright sunshine and comfortable temperatures too.

Having just visited Rome in April 2015, I can say with certainty that Sicily has a very different flavor of social sauce than mainland Italy. Sicilians are so warm and friendly!They have a very family and “child friendly” culture.  Almost everyone came up to our little 3 month old, showering her with attention, sweetness and gentle touches. Even 8 year old boys were aware of her little existence and would greet her with kindness and touch her cheeks.

 

Also, there wasn’t as many heaping piles of tourists compared to Rome. I think we heard one American accent during our entire stay. Not to be dismayed for lack of tourists, we did meet a wonderful Greek couple and an affectionate French lady who offered to kidnap our baby.

 

We stayed at a beautiful hotel, perched on a rocky cliff that over-looked the Mediterranean sea. For 70 euros a night and a free breakfast to boot, we had a lovely, yet thrifty vacation—thanks to my husband’s travel planning skills.

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On one of the days we went to Taormina in north eastern Sicily. Can I just say, outstanding…jaw droppingly beautiful? This village is perhaps one of the most picturesque spots in all of Europe. It’s seated high on top of the rocky cliffs of the Sicilian coastline. You can see islands off the coast and gradual changes in the azure hues of the Mediterranean. We were lucky to have a sunny day so the vista was heavenly.

My husband made certain that we visit the Greek ruins in Taormina and we briefly explored the Amphitheater there. I just loved the adorable village of Taormina–one of the best spots in Europe, hands down!

We traveled along the Sicilian countryside to the cities of Syracuse and Noto. We passed many groves of orange and lemon trees and the terrain felt as though I was back in West Africa. Syracuse is the home of the famous Archimedes. We visited another Greek historic site with incredible ancient Greek ruins and an amazing Amphitheater!

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We wandered around the heart of the city and then found a place for some wine right along the sea.

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For all its beauty, there were many places in Catania Sicily that were quite dilapidated and unkempt. For instance, many apartment buildings needed a new paint job and there was lots of litter along the roads. That said, the vegetable markets and other shops in the central square of Catania were kept quite clean.

 

It is quite difficult going on vacation with a 3 month old. If we can make it, so can you!

What I bought in Sicily? Cool Pottery, of course!

Stay tuned for more travel and baby blog posts as we visit Bend Oregon, New Orleans Louisiana, New York City, Malta, Japan, Barcelona Spain, Southern France and Mauritius this next year!

OUR POLAND (AUSCHWITZ and KRAKOW) TRIP!! (AUGUST 2015)

My husband and I spent the first week of August 2015 in Krakow, Poland. I am very lucky. The first week of September 2015 we will spend several days in the Bavaria region of Germany—so expect another trip blog post coming soon.

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Salt sculpture deep inside the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Poland
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Krakow, Poland
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Chandelier made of carved salt crystals inside the Wieliczka Salt Mine.

In Krakow, Poland we visited a variety of cultural and historical sites including: The Wieliczka Salt Mine, the market Square in Krakow and the Cloth Hall, St. Mary’s Basilica, the Jagiellonian University, the Wawel Castle (and the accompanying dragon’s den below it), the Jewish History museum, the Vistula River, and the park which winds its way through the core of Krakow. We also made a side trip to Auschwitz.

 

Auschwitz Concentration Camp

By far the most emotionally riveting experience was our tour through the Auschwitz Concentration camp; we visisted Auschwitz 1 and the Birkenau concentration camps.

 Prior to going to Auschwitz I was exponentially ignorant of the Holocaust, especially many of the important details surrounding this tragic segment of history. I still have lots to learn. The emotions that came upon me penetrated deeply and stung for the remainder of the week.

We saw the bare, cramped “living quarters” that the victims were housed in. In the buildings of Birkenau, there were 3 tiers of wooden platforms—starting from the floor to near the ceiling—that served as “bunk beds”. There was barely enough hall space between the wooden plank “beds” that were jammed tightly within the buildings. Up to seven people would sleep on each bare wooden tier that served as a “bunk bed”. There were cracks in the walls of these buildings that allowed for freezing cold temperatures to seep in throughout the winter months.

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Many of the Auschwitz victims would live in the concentration camp for as little as three months before they died of hunger, freezing, being shot in the back of their heads, and/or being swiftly ushered into gas chambers. Very few people would live for a year or more. Actually, since many individuals were deemed “unfit” to live, most would be forced into gas chambers promptly upon their arrival.

We walked through one room that displayed mountains upon mountains of shoes. We saw display cases full of cookware and suitcases that the Jews had brought with them to the camp. Many of the Jews seemingly believed that they were just being “relocated” and that their lives and family structure would go on as it was before. Thus, the women brought their cookware thinking that they would be cooking for their individual families.  The Jews would also label their suitcases with numbers, assuming that they would be getting their belongings back at some point during their stay in the camp. Little did they know that they would be forced into a rigidly structured death camp, meant solely for their annihilation.

 We were taken through the gas chamber and the crematorium. We even saw a room full of human hair which we were told was used and sold by the Nazis as “Mattress filler.” The Germans didn’t want to waste human tissues that could potentially be useful or profitable—after all, the victims were already dead, so why waste it? This was their mind-set.

To me, perhaps the most cogent aspect of the Holocaust was the way in which it was orchestrated.  It became clear that this entire morbid enterprise couldn’t have happened so effectively and smoothly without large numbers of people playing different roles in a cold, calculated, incredibly silent and deceptive fashion. While Hitler is most certainly one of the most putrid characters in human history, we must remember that it took an entire nation of people who agreed with him and thought like him for such a feat to take place.

On a lighter note, we truly enjoyed our time in Krakow. We wandered through all the entrails of the city and stopped by the Jagiellonian University (Krakow University)—the place where Copernicus studied. I didn’t know that Copernicus was a polymath. He studied medicine, mathematics, philosophy, economics, astronomy and he was also a Priest (Per our Polish Tour guide who works at the Krakow University). While Copernicus practiced religion, he was still hesitant to share his findings about Heliocentrism until he got much older—and we are all familiar with the reason why he waited: fear of being burned at the stake for suggesting such a preposterous idea! We got to see a copy of his “Revolutions” which is a precious artifact of scientific progress.

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We went on a tour of the Wieliczka Salt Mine—one of the oldest salt mines in the world (1000 or so years old!) Please see the pictures of the incredible salt sculptures.

The dining in Poland was great. When you walk through the city you are assaulted with some of the most delicious smells your brain has ever entertained. We enjoyed many Pierogi lunches and we even tried some Georgian cuisine.

So far, my favorite European cathedral is in Krakow. It is St. Mary’s Basilica. This place has towering ceilings and is full of all kinds of ecclesiastical treasures. There are Biblical paintings, stained glass windows, gorgeous statues and sculptures adored in gold and the interior of the church has this unusual yet striking color scheme of steel blue and gold—very celestial, indeed!

I think Krakow, Poland was one of my favorite places in Europe that I’ve been to. Even though the weather was intensely hot and muggy, we enjoyed our time there—even more than Ireland.

Some of the Treasures I bought in Poland 🙂 These include: A painting from a Polish artist (reminds me of a Matisse), adorable skirt, Polish Pottery and little wooden, hand-made boxes.

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