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Spending the Day in the Virginia Beach Sand and Sun

Fortunately all the rooms at the Belvedere were ocean-facing. Not only for the view of the beach and ocean but the sunrise.

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Arriving at the Belvedere Beach Resort Club in Virginia Beach

With the summer slowly coming to a close, the ladies and I finally made our near annual trip to the beach. This year we chose Virginia Beach and decided to make it more than just a day trip. Initially we were going to pick a cheap(er) hotel further inland, perhaps a Holiday Inn or something. But the thought of having to trek it back and forth from the beach, pay for parking, riding back to the hotel with sand in our butts — we picked a place on the beach.

We left early in the day, before the afternoon rush hour, thinking we would make good time. Somehow, thousands of people thought the same thing and after crawling with traffic our of the extended DC area, we finally made it to Virginia Beach after the sun set.

Najwa, thinking the beach was around the corner, was harassing us, tripping about the sun going down, not leaving us enough time to play on the beach. As the the sky started to darken at dusk, she even told us to turn around because we were taking too long.


The Belvedere - Virginia Beach, VA more…

Walking Around Sultanahmet Square Looking for a Place to Warm Up

After visiting the Blue Mosque, we walked around the tourist area, checking out the other landmarks. In the plaza area near the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, there are these obelisks and other cool structures. One was the Obelisk of Theodosius, an Ancient Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Thutmose III re-erected in the Hippodrome of Constantinople (known today as At Meydanı or Sultanahmet Meydanı) by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in the 4th century AD.

Theodosius Obelisk Istanbul Turkey

The obelisk was first set up by Thutmose III (1479–1425 BC) to the south of the seventh pylon of the great temple of Karnak. The Roman emperor Constantius II (337-361 AD) had it and another obelisk transported along the river Nile to Alexandria to commemorate his ventennalia or 20 years on the throne in 357. The other obelisk was erected on the spina of the Circus Maximus in Rome in the autumn of that year, and is today known as the Lateran obelisk, whilst the obelisk that would become the obelisk of Theodosius remained in Alexandria until 390, when Theodosius I (378-392 AD) had it transported to Constantinople and put up on the spina of the Hippodrome there.

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Who Knew That Kenya Had Such a Funky Jazz Scene!?

Whenever I travel, I’m drawn to the most out of the way adventure I can find. Visiting the sites seen on postcards is cool, I guess, but I like being surrounded by the local, in the locals’ environment, feel how they live everyday with or without the gawkers like me taking their picture.

Nduku, though, I guess wanted to make sure I see the other part of Kenya. The other side of Nairobi. I’ve seen the extreme poverty, drove through Kibera, counted more orphanages than car dealerships, traveled the dirt roads to nowhere, and so forth.

So, we headed out to the other side, to meet up with her friend [the epitome of an adventurist actually; I envy her travels] Vanya at a place called Slims. more…

Getting Around Athi River Traffic on Mombasa Highway on the Way to Kitui

Traffic.

Wherever you go, you can’t avoid it. It’s a phenomenon that when you get on the highway, everyone else gets on at exactly the same time! And when the highway you’re traveling is one lane each direction; you have to share with massive trucks, hundreds of cars and matatus; and it’s Christmas — you best be prepared for anything.

We finally started our journey to Kitui for Christmas. It started off easy enough. Nothing like driving back from the coast [still the worst traffic ever]. We’re rolling, and the sign hung on the walkway over Mombasa Highway just as you get to Athi River should’ve been an omen.

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Within minutes, there’s a line of cars, none moving, stretching into the horizon. No movement moving forward and no cars coming in the opposite direction. Nothing. Everyone’s confused. Traffic can be bad in Kenya, especially Mombasa Highway, but not like this. This was a bad sign considering we just got on the road and could see cars literally to the end of the earth.

As we sat there, I knew it was just a matter of time before Kenyans did what Kenyans do when stuck in traffic. And any Kenyan reading this knows exactly what happens next.

It started with one person, running out of patience and making a break for it.

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Then the fun began… more…

Hanging Around Embakasi, Mlolongo, Nairobi, and Trying Out Naked Pizza

After returning from the coast and a day before heading out to Kitui, we had a day to just improvise. There were some errands needing to be run, but I just go with the flow when the Malombe sisters head out to shopping centers.

We stopped by a shopping center in Embakasi, a division of Nairobi on the east side. Kenya’s main airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, opened in 1958 and was known then as Embakasi Airport. The lady was explaining to me how much more developed it is now than when she was a kid living in the area. What stood out most to me, though, were how many people just hung their clothes on the balcony to dry. Nothing wrong with it; actually, I found it quite fascinating.

Clotheslines in Embakasi more…

Venturing Off The Beaten Path to a Place Called Nancy’s Airfield Cafe

On the way back from our New England trip, we decided to get something to eat. Instead of something cheap and easy just off the highway, we went way off the beaten path until we found a place called Nancy’s Airfield Cafe in Stow, Massachusetts. Nduku found it using an app for restaurants close by to wherever we were at that moment.

Great little place. It’s literally on an airfield — Minute Man Air Field — with planes taking off and landing while we ate. Someone even showed up in his helicopter!

The people there were nice. It’s obviously a close community since everyone had to know each other for us to stand out so much. The owner [I’m assuming she was Nancy; didn’t ask her name] even came out to greet us, welcome us, ask where we’re from and invite us back next time we venture out.

Who knows. Maybe next time in the area we just might stop by again.

Nduku and Najwa at Nancy's Airfield Cafe

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Spending the Night in the 3 Northern NE States’ Largest City — Nashua

The pre-wedding celebration that brought us to New England was in Lowell, MA. But we found a deal for a place to lay our head across the border. And I wanted to say we visited New Hampshire. A little place called Nashua.

See, to us it was little. One of those Anytown USA’s with a Main Street, a Walmart and a sign boasting it’s the first to do this or home of someone we don’t know. So, I Wikipedia’d Nashua, New Hampshire.

Nashua is a city in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, United States. As of the 2010 census, Nashua had a total population of 86,494, making it the second largest city in the state (and in the three northern New England states) after Manchester.

Built around the now-departed textile industry, in recent decades it has been swept up in southern New Hampshire’s economic expansion as part of the Boston region. Nashua was twice named “Best Place to Live in America” in annual surveys by Money magazine. It is the only city to get the No. 1 ranking on two occasions—in 1987 and 1997.

So this little Anytown USA, with its whopping 86,000 people, is the second largest city in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine? And twice named best place to live in America? I became curious. Boston can wait.

So we ventured around and came across this little family restaurant. Roland’s. If I was doing a Yelp review, I’d give it 3 to 4 stars. Nothing fancy but no reason I’d protest about going back to. We just did breakfast. The cheese in my eggs weren’t my favorite, orange American cheese, and the bacon had more fat than meat, but it was well below what we budgeted for and Najwa ate her three Silver Dollar pancakes.

Najwa and Nduku at Roland's Family Restaurant in Nashua NH

Roland's Family Restaurant in Nashua NH

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48 Hour Day Trip to Houston For a Wedding

One of the lady’s friends from high school was getting married in Houston, so we hopped on a plane and headed out to the Lone Star State. It was a really quick, hit-and-run, day trip kind of trip. We did a lot of driving around, marveling at how spread out Houston is. And how we spent more time on highways than anything else to get around.

Welcome To Houston Texas

We flew into George Bush Intercontinental Airport, wondering if it was different from an international airport. We took the shuttle to where the rental cars are. We spent much more time there than we wanted to because the lady’s driver’s license number has already in the system for someone else. Apparently, some states use the same numbering system and the car rental’s system couldn’t sort by state. Backwards.

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First Stops In Kenya: Mlolongo, Kiambu and Wangige

I was so excited to finally be in Africa, to be in Kenya and to meet Nduku’s parents that I couldn’t sleep. Well, maybe if I put my head down, but I was afraid I’d wake up when the city was shutting down. Not wanting to miss a moment, I rolled out as soon as we got in with Nduku’s dad.

Our first stop was in town. Now, my vision of town is a bit different from what town means in Kenya. We went to the business center of Mlolongo just outside of Nairobi and I was shocked to see how un-modern the area is compared to what I’m used to. Dirt and extremely bumpy roads, piles and piles of trash, buildings that look half-built or half-falling-apart, just a level of un-development I wasn’t expecting to see.

But, amid all the crumble, there’s a spirit that I was even less expecting to see. Entrepreneurship. There were market stalls and storefronts and street hawkers and just people everywhere minding their business, literally. There’s a spirit in Kenya that inspires you. People don’t sit around waiting for the government to support them [in Kenya that support might not find you]; instead, they find ways to make it happen. There are so many small businesses selling everything from produce, airtime for mobile phones, barbers and hairstylists, small [and I mean small!] kiosks with everything you need on a daily basis from food and drinks, household supplies and everything else.

It’s really impossible to explain the level of small business owners and how they just make it happen in such an environment. To them, everything is normal. For me, coming from America, it was a shock. I was overwhelmed with how poor the area is, how much commercial and retail activity there was despite the conditions, and how everything seemed so normal to everyone — except me.

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