Monday, December 31, 2012

The World Is Ahead


What a year!

I've traveled far in many aspects. Physically, I've been to quite a few places this year. Mentally, I've learned much. Emotionally, I'm relearning balancing school, work, and that extreme lack of social life that comes with that balance. Spiritually, I've had to trust in God and His plan for my life more than I ever have.

I miss traveling. A lot. (I'm already planning trips for Spring Break and that little summer time I've got off between Summer School and the Fall Semester).

But I would not trade all the trips in the world for going back to school and following the Lord's leading. It is not for me to question or even understand why He called me back to school. It is for me to follow and trust Him to provide for my needs.

And He has. Abundantly above all I ever asked or thought.

So, what will 2013 hold? Lots of school. Lots of work. The many woes that come with those. Perhaps, the Lord will return!!! A few trips as time permits.

No matter what comes, I am looking forward, learning from the past, and forging ahead into new territory. Because, as Gandalf told Bilbo:

The world is ahead.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Travel Withdrawal

It has officially been a month since my last trip.

And I am going through some MAJOR withdrawal.

I dream about traveling. I daydream about traveling. I think about traveling. I am planning trips for every possible spare minute I have off from school. I even wonder about what would happen if I just up and hopped on a plane. (besides failing school and losing my job)

So, this is my apology for not writing. Because, honestly, I haven't had anything to write...and may not for a couple months.

But never fear! I am working on a couple guest posts (hopefully!) and, once the first 2.5 weeks of October (when every teacher has assigned papers/projects) are over, I will continue posting tips and other random travel-related things.

For those of you interested in what my past month has consisted of:


And what a crazy journey going to Grad School is turning out to be!

Not that this will mean much to many of you, but nursing grad school is NOTHING like nursing undergrad school. Lots more writing. Fewer tests (praise the Lord!).

One of the main differences is that I am expected to find my own clinical sites. Next semester I will take 2 clinical classes: Developing Family (aka OB/GYN) and Adult (aka teenager-geriatrics).

Without boring you by discussing the multitude of crazy details surrounding my attempts to find doctors' offices for both classes, I will say that the Lord truly is faithful (despite my lack of trust at times). And I am constantly learning that no matter what state I am in, I must be content and praise Him for what He has done, is doing, and will continue to do in me!

So, until later :)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mangos, Braids, Hail, and Coconut Trees

Destination: Wallondri, St. Raphael, Haiti (and back)
Total Miles: 1410 miles (on the road in USA...not including air miles)
Total Cost: Under $600

The ending of trips and the coming home always stirs in me mixed emotions.

I am almost always sad to be leaving wherever I am, but I am also happy to return home and excited to start planning another trip.

Except this time...the new trip I am planning is going to be a 2 year long journey through graduate school that is going to test me in ways I had no wish to be tested in again.

"Ou sonje Kreyol anpil sa ou panse." (translated: you remember more than you think.)

Only going to Haiti for a week was challenging for me in many ways. This was my fifth time visiting Haiti, and to date, my shortest visit. On 2 prior trips, I have had the opportunity to take Kreyol lessons from a Haitian pastor, Pastor Chavannes. And, while I feel that much of my grasp of the language is lost each couple years that I am gone, he (and other my Haitian friends) think that I really do remember more than I think I remember. Which is extremely beneficial!

The last half of my week in Haiti was filled with loads of activities.

Carrie and I went to the marche (market) after the surgery on Thursday morning. We were able to see the new market (which is huge!) and get a glimpse of Dr. Anne's new property.

Friday, we had clinic in the morning and language lessons in the afternoon. Then some more clinic. Oh, and playing futbol (soccer) with a couple of our Haitian friends, Johnny and Jerry. In the evening, we spent time sitting around outside talking and discussing while eating mangos (Carrie and I enjoyed them the Haitian way...peeling the skins off with our teeth).

Saturday morning, again, we had clinic. But that afternoon, Serena convinced Carrie and myself to collect some avocados, banans (plantains), and a coconut from some of the trees around the house. It was rather comical to watch, I'm sure! We both only made it a couple feet up the coconut tree. (Trying to climb a tree, in a skirt, takes more talent than I possess.) We ended up going out to the courtyard of the Bible school and, while Serena got a video clip of a singing group, I was able to talk with one of the security guards about this and that.

Sunday was, of course, church. I love music. And I especially love listening and watching people sing who have the joy of the Lord on their face and are singing at the top of their lungs. And Haitian church always has lots of singing! After church, one of the ladies volunteered to braid Carrie and my hair Haitian style.

Sunday evening brought a wind from that south that blew in a massive storm. I have seen my fair share of Haitian storms...but never have I seen one that resulted in hail! We figured it would be a bad storm as soon as we felt the temperature drop and saw the storm cloud in the south. I ended up pulling out my sweatshirt, the temp drop was that significant. After the storm, we went into the yard and collected more mangos than I could count!

Monday went by way too fast! Clinic last all day, with a break halfway through for a Haitian meal of beans and rice, banan peze (one of my favorites!), and grenadine juice. I am not sure how many patients we ended up seeing in the clinic, but it was a full day! We saw multiple babies, lots of patients with amoeba, and some unique assessment-type stuff (including a lady with gross hepato-splenomegaly).

Tuesday was upon me before I could say "Bonjou!" Isaac came and picked me up around 7 am. The storm on Sunday had knocked out our internet connection which made it impossible to know what time I had to be at the airport to catch my plane. We decided to wing it. I enjoyed my last views of Haitian scenery, and once we had reached Cap Haitien, I convinced Isaac to stop for lunch (at 10:15 am).

Good thing I did, too. He and his brother, Prospere, dropped me off at the airport (where I met up with the group I had flown in with...they had only stayed a week too) at 1045. The one day my plane was late in coming to pick us up...we did not board until 2:45pm...and once you're in the airport waiting room, you're not supposed to leave. During my wait, I met several other groups that had been traveling, and I enjoyed hearing about the different missions trips others had gone on (some even shared a handful of chex mix with me to supplement my twizzlers).

The plane ride back was uneventful. I sat next to a family practice doctor who goes to Haiti several times a year in order to give seminars. He and his family live in North Carolina, near Asheville.

Customs took awhile (as usual), but I was so happy to see my friend, Joel, waiting on the other side with Mr. Darcy, I almost cried. It was raining, but Joel drove...and we went to Chipotle for supper.

I drove back Wednesday (an exciting 10 1/2 hour drive that included a stop at a very redneck-looking gift shop (the places I go just to get a bumper sticker). All in all, a great trip, and one that has me prepped to work with the broader range of patients that I will be seeing in Nurse Practitioner School.

I don't know when I will be traveling again, but I will keep you posted on both school and any mini-trips I take!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Flight of the Bumblebees

Destination: St. Rafael, Haiti
Total Miles: roughly 1,200
Total Cost: $510*

The title has both literal and figurative meaning. Se vwe (truly).

As you may have noticed from the blog posts, I have been traveling quite a bit the past couple weeks. What you may not know, is that in addition to my many travels, I am in the middle of preparing to start my Masters at Clemson on August 23rd.

So, I have been figuratively running around like the proverbial "chicken with its head cut off" attempting to get my ducks in some semblance of an order (forget the "in a row").

The drive from South Carolina to Fort Pierce was relatively uneventful. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, traffic was moving, and I made excellent time. I am very thankful to report that Mr. Darcy enjoyed the pleasant trip.

I spent the night at a local hotel (dropping off Mr. Darcy with my friend, Joel, who lives just south of Fort Pierce), and I was picked up in the morning (before dawn! at 0530) by one of the Missionary Flights International (MFI) employees.

After checking in my luggage, paying my airfare, and waiting for a few minutes for everyone to get sorted, I boarded the Douglas DC-3 plane (if you've never seen one, think WWII era planes).

There were 17 passengers, and while I initially had a window seat, I gave it up to a missionary family so they could remain seated with their small children. This ended up placing me next to a very polite gentleman who was traveling with a painting crew.

We talked almost the whole flight about this and that, etc. It was his first time to Haiti, and his first time on a missions trip. He and his wife are hydrogeologists. And they are also beekeepers.

While he described himself as a "passive beekeeper," I still peppered him with questions regarding the proper keeping of bees.

Fascinating stuff! I think, perhaps someday, I would like to attempt to keep bees.

Upon arrival in Haiti, I met up with my friend, Isaac, and his brother, Prospere. After waiting forever for Customs to approve some packages they were picking up for various missionaries, we headed to a local restaurant for some lunch.

What should have taken a few minutes to prepare, turned into almost an hour. I am almost certain they had to go out back and kill the chickens!

The ride from OKap (Cap Haitien) to St. Rafael was uneventful...I almost fell asleep!

Since arriving, I have been kept fairly busy. Between helping prepare meals, working in the clinic, taking Creole classes, visiting the new market, and assisting with a minor surgery, life has been anything but dull.

Currently visiting with Dr. Anne Livingston (the doctor I help in the clinic) are nurses Serena and Carrie. Madame Brent (aka Miss Serena...Mrs. here go by Madame + their husband's first name) has been a nurse for many years in North Carolina, but she has spent several months this year helping Dr. Anne. And Carrie is a recent nursing graduate from Maranatha. She is in the middle of a 6 week stay in Haiti.

More details will follow, but for now, there is a storm coming in from the South and internet is a spotty affair.

*cost breakdown: $450 (round trip ticket from Ft. Pierce, FL to Cap Haitien, Haiti); $60 for gas from Travelers Rest, SC to Ft. Pierce

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Are We There Yet

Destination: Washington DC/Philadelphia/Surfside Beach
Total Miles: 2,150 miles
Total Cost: approx. $700

People have called me crazy, insane, obsessed, a travel-freak, adventurous, etc.

And perhaps, if their definition of those words is "Taking three children (not yours) on a road trip for a week," then I am most definitely (in their books) and correctly labeled as crazy.

In my book, I am your typical 26 year-old, single RN, who has 3 siblings ages 11, 9, and 7, who loves to take them to places they might not otherwise see. (not that you nor I know of anyone else who is a single, 26-year-old, with young siblings). But I am normal. Most of the time.

This post is mainly to wrap up the remainder of my trip with the LPs (and Christy, who is NOT an LP but still one of the 4 youngest members of our family). tie up any loose ends...let me see...

Friday, August 3rd, 2012:

We had approximately 1.6 days to drive down to Surfside Beach (south of North Myrtle Beach?). The plan was to visit either Jamestown or Yorktown, and at some point, visit my friends, Laurie, Matt, and baby Nate.

Being the flexible person I am, I opted to leave Friday closer to lunch time (negating the opportunity to go to Jamestown or Yorktown). This gave everyone (aka Christy and Chenie) the chance to sleep in. Which was going to be needed more than even I planned.

But I digress.

We drove down the Eastern Shore of Maryland, stopping in the middle of the Bay Bridge Tunnel to get pictures and get everyone out of the car for a few minutes.

Supper was a most excellent affair! We met at Laurie and Matt's, then drove over to a family-friendly pizzeria. The pizza was amazing, and the cannoli was even better!

I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them, and the kids loved Nate! After completely wearing everyone out, we headed to a gas station and hit the road.

Laurie and Matt had offered for us to stay with them, but since there were 5 of us, I decided against it.

Mistake Number One.

Thinking it would be easy as pie to stop along I-95 for a hotel...well, that was Mistake Number Two.

Five stops later, and literally everything was booked out for the night. The one place I found had only one room left-a smoking, king-sized bed only, room was all they could offer. And the little elderly lady who had arrived before me but had left her ID in the car with her husband...well...they looked like they could use the room better than all of us. And, she was kind enough to inform me that they had been to every hotel between a certain number of exits and had been unable to find a hotel room.

Enter McDonald's Large Coke.

I was set to go for several more hours, and at that point decided to just drive until I absolutely could not drive any more. Which mom and dad found out about, and began their quest to find us place. I am not even sure how many places mom called before finding a room about 20 minutes from where I was.

We came very close to having to drive through a town labeled as "Tar Heel" (I kid you not! I was so scared for Mr. Darcy, who was proudly displaying his Duke license plate, Duke Girl bumper sticker, and Duke Basketball license plate holder). Thankfully, we bypassed that town!

The short of the rest of the trip was that we got to the hotel at 2:50 am. Everyone fell asleep rather quickly, and we were able to journey on the next morning.
The beach was relaxing, enjoyable, and of course, we all received varying degrees of sunburn. 

So, my tips when traveling with kids (particularly long distance):
1. Get a hotel room in advance, especially Friday nights.
2. Brace yourself for the "Are we there yet?" question.
3. Come up with clever answers to aforementioned question:
     -"Does it look like we have stopped?"
     -"Did you count to a million yet?"
     -"In your own opinion and in 10 words or less, tell me what you think."
4. Never refuse offers of free rooms. Ever.
5. Do NOT be stressed. They can sense it and will feed off it.
6. Have plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of options of things they can do with the travel time.
     -fun music
     -quiet time
     -memorization stuff
     -something new (music/DVD, etc)
     -brochures about places your going or have been
7. Make sure they have good shoes. Kids with blisters=occasional episode of whining.

This was one of the most amazing things I have done. Period.

Do I regret the money spent, the things not seen, the millions of questions, the tired feet, the tired Charise?

No way. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.


Friday, August 10, 2012

The Little People On Tour

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012:

Today, the Little People and I went somewhere I have never been! Philadelphia.

I had originally planned to take them to Williamsburg, VA for a couple days, but after researching some of the costs and realizing that the more cost-effective way to see Williamsburg is visiting for over 3 days (and not having 3 days worth of time), I opted for visiting a new place...that was only an hour and a half from my aunt and uncle's house.

If you have followed my blog for any length of time (or read a few of my past posts), you have hopefully begun to realize that I love history.

And's jam-packed with history!

We started out the day by parking under the Visitors' Center. As of this trip, I am now a huge fan of parking garage's. Leave Mr. Darcy in one place for an entire day...a place that is NOT the side of a busy street...yes, I think I will!

Since the Liberty Bell was right across from the Visitors' Center, it was the logical first stop. Thankfully, there was no line to get in (in the time it took us to leave, the line stretched around the building!), and we were able to view the bell without too many jostling people.

FYI: There are security guards here too...(which I had read on the website)...I had made the LPs empty their bags prior to leaving the parking garage!

We enjoyed strolling through the exhibits, but of course, the main attraction was the Liberty Bell.

Our next stop was Independence Hall. The LPs said they really did not want to walk through it, so I did not bother getting tickets...however, if you ever visit, make sure you obtain tickets at the Visitors' Center in order to gain access to Independence Hall.

Of course the most logical choice to stop after walking past Independence Hall is the restrooms. But following that, we voted to go visit the Christ' Church Cemetery.

Even though I had researched the Cemetery, I had not found out that one must pay to gain access! After paying the attendants $2 for myself and $1 per LP, the guy tried to point us in the direction of Benjamin Franklin's grave.

He was rather taken aback when we said we weren't here to see Franklin's grave but asked instead to see our ancestor's grave, Benjamin Rush.

We walked through the cemetery, stopping to read various tombstones and markers. The kids were very well-behaved, and we enjoyed the stroll.

On the way to the cemetery, we had been accosted by several people asking if we would like to take a tour of Philly. I had already been planning on offering the kids some options for tours, and after they heard my options, which do you think they choose?

1. A carriage ride tour.
2. A duck-boat tour.
3. A double-decker hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

My savvy little people decided to go with option number 3!

We sat on the top of the bus (of course!), and I got sunburned. The bus tour was great! They drive past multiple historic places. The tour guides are very informative and even got the kids involved by asking them questions.

And the best part? You pay one fee...then ride as much as you want, getting off as much as you want, and just hop back on at one of the 27 stopping points. All day.

Mind you, the only place the kids wanted to get off at was the zoo (which did NOT happen). But we were able to see and learn about Philadelphia...and one tour guide even showed me one of the better areas to stop off to feed the LPs!

Oh, and I introduced them to a delectable new food (to them): The Philly CheeseSteak.

All in all, the tour of Philly was loads of fun. I can't wait to go back and visit the city (and spend more time hopping on and off).

One more post to go for this trip: Are We There Yet? will wrap up the road tripping adventures of last week, and it promises to include some awesome tips about traveling with kids!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The LIttle People Go Undercover

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012
Having walked the children's feet off (or at least walked them enough to give them all blisters, a discomforting experience I have never myself experienced) on Tuesday, I decided to something a little less strenuous and a fraction more relaxing on Wednesday. 

1343841582721.jpgThe Spy Museum is one of the coolest museums out there, and well worth the price of tickets. I had been to the museum my senior year of high school while on my Senior Trip to NYC/D.C. and had visited again the summer immediately after high school. No matter what age you are or your kids, there are activities and exhibits at the Spy Museum that will captivate the whole family. 

The LPs enjoyed the museum and loved the Spy Store (where they spent some of their hard earned money on spy gear that was reasonably priced). 

And the pictures above? They were free! (I hate going places that take your picture then charge you an arm and leg for the souvenir photo.)

After we had learned all we could about the art of spying, we decided to go back to the Air and Space Smithsonian. Thankfully that crazy security officer was NOT there.
And yes. I had the Little People empty their bags, checked their pockets, and allowed them only to take their Brita water bottles, wallets, and messenger bags on Wednesday and Thursday. No more armed LPs in Washington that week!

We had around 45 minutes to fly through the Air and Space museum. And fly, we did!
Little known fact about myself: the only thing I ever wanted to be when I was a child was an astronaut. (I did NOT want to be a least not until the Lord used my parents to direct me into nursing between my junior and senior years of high school). 

So, obviously, the first exhibit we went to was the Apollo section. After a brisk walk through, we headed to the Wright Brothers exhibit, ran through a couple more, stopped for pictures at the Amelia Earhart exhibit, tried out a few gadgets at the How Things Fly exhibit, and (last but not least!) stopped for some purchases (including space food and souvenirs) at the museum store. 
Someday...when I have tons of time (yeah, right), I will go back and take my time at one of the coolest museums (in my opinion). 

Check back for our final stop on this tour: The Little People On Tour; and then one final blog post about road trips (containing tips about traveling with kids): Are We There Yet?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Little People Go to Washington

Destination: Washington D.C.
Total Miles: (tba)
Total Cost: (stay tuned)

What do you do when you've promised the Little People a road trip to the Grand Canyon but don't get enough time off work to make it out and back?

Take them to Washington D.C. and Philadelphia!

Sunday, July 29th, 2012:

After the morning service at church and a delicious lunch at one my favorite restaurants (Chipotle), I packed up Christy, Thomas, Charles, and Chenie into Mr. Darcy, and we headed off to Maryland.

As mentioned in my other DC posts, my mother's sister and brother both live on the Eastern Shore in Maryland. We made it in to my aunt and uncle's around midnight. The plan was to stay the nights at their house and spend the days fitting in as many sights as we possibly could manage.

And that's exactly what we did.

Monday, July 30th, 2012:

Having worked 4 nights during the week, and having driven for almost 11 hours on Sunday (including a couple of stops for food and restrooms), both Christy and I were ready for a rest day.

Monday provided the perfect in-between-traveling day.

The LPs (true to form) did not sleep in past eight. A concept that required some adjustments to my night-shift schedule.

We were able to spend Monday visiting relatives. In the morning, we visited with my cousin, Rachel, and her kids. Chenie especially loved spending time with the girls (who are close to Chenie's age), and I ended up leaving Chenie with Rachel for the afternoon. In the afternoon, we headed over to my uncle's. Their family lives in a wooded area, and Thomas and Charles had a great time playing outside with their cousin, Layton (who is in between their ages).

After a delicious grilled supper, the boys gathered wood and made a campfire...which of course led to a roasting of marshmallows. The s'mores were amazing (even if the marshmallows were SO big we couldn't fit them into our mouths).

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012:

This was my "See Everything Possible and Go Everywhere" day (also known as: "Walk the Children Until They Have Blisters" day).

After an hour and a half drive, we parked Mr. Darcy in a parking garage up from the Starbucks I visited last trip. It was 9:30 a.m., and the city was coming alive!

First stop was to the National Archives. We waited in line for awhile before finally seeing some of the most important documents in our nation's history: The Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution of the United States of America. We were also able to see the Grand the Archives! (even though we weren't supposed to use cameras, I couldn't help but take a picture since we were supposed to be in the Grand Canyon that day anyway)

FYI: The National Archives contains some interesting footage of some of our presidents.

After voting, the kids decided we should go to the Library of Congress next. We walked up past the Capitol building, making sure to get pictures the whole way around it. By the time we neared the Library, little voices started telling me their tummies were hungry. We made a detour over to Union Station which houses a massive food court. Subway was the pick of the day.

We finally headed back to the Library of Congress. Charles, Chenie, Christy and I went through security just as we had at the Archives: no problems. Thomas, however, was turned away because of a pocket knife he had in his bag. So, Christy waited outside with him while the rest of us ran through the Library, visited the giftshop, then ran out to meet them. I then waited outside with the offending bags and let the 4 of them tour.

FYI: The Library of Congress was ''birthed'' on my birthday, April 24th.

After Library of Congress, we opted to head to the Smithsonian: Air and Space. Which not only had us waiting in line for 30 minutes to get inside, but also made us go through security (same as the other 2). This time, Charles was stopped for having a "tool" in his bag. The security officer yelled in my face (no joke) to inform me that she wanted us to we did. Who knew that the "Right to Bear Arms" did NOT apply to Washington D.C.

FYI: Frisk your children and run them through metal detectors before visiting DC.

Having been violently turned away from that Smithsonian, I opted for visiting a place that required NO security: Arlington National Cemetery. This meant getting Metro tickets and introducing the kids to their first (that they'll remember) subway ride! They loved it.

We rode the Metro to Arlington then got a bus tour of the cemetery. This included a stop at JFK's grave, visiting the Eternal Flame, watching the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown (in the monsoon-like downpour), seeing other famous graves, touring Robert E. Lee's house, and driving past the Nurses' Memorial.

FYI: I would highly recommend the bus tour. Give your kids (and your) feet a rest while still touring.

After a scare getting back on the Metro (Chenie missed the step between the platform and the train...scraped up her leg a bit but managed to hang on to her croc), we headed back to the Mall. We then walked over to the Washington Monument and visited the Rangers' Station. I LOVE the Junior Ranger programs provided (for free) by the National Park Service. The kids fill out booklets with questions about the place, then have a ranger sign saying they completed it. They get badges and a stamp...note: we didn't finish them in DC, but it's still a great learning tool.

While filling out the booklet, we sat around the base of the Washington Monument, resting our feet. With supper time fast approaching, Christy and I decided to take everyone back to Union Station for supper then pick up Mr. Darcy. There is plenty of free parking behind the Lincoln Memorial, and Mr. Darcy had to be picked up before 11:00 p.m. (we didn't want to push our time and end up stuck in D.C. for the night without a car).

I love free parking.

    We marched up to the Lincoln Memorial, visited the restrooms and discovered an information area underneath the memorial!

We then walked around past the Vietnam Veterans Wall and discovered a small section dedicated to the signers of the Declaration (it was on an island in a pond near the Wall). We found our ancestor's signature on one of the first stones and took some pictures.

After walking through a few bug clouds, we visited the WWII Monument. After walking around it for a while, we headed back up the hill to the Washington Monument (which looked really cool in the dark).

By now everyone had blisters (except myself...I've never had a blister) and everyone (including me) had sore feet. We sat with our feet in the cool grass, taking in the monuments and memorials, before heading back towards the Lincoln Memorial for the last ranger talk of the day (scheduled at 10:00 pm).

After a final climb of the Lincoln Memorial steps, the LPs and I listened to the ranger talk, learning important facts about not only the Lincoln Memorial but also the Washington Monument.

The footsore clan headed back to Mr. Darcy for a ride back to the Eastern Shore. Approximately 15 minutes after stopping at a McDonalds for a snack, all three Little People fell sound asleep in the back seat.

We did not get back to the house until well after midnight, but I don't think they cared too much.


Stay tuned for Wednesday's return trip to Washington D.C. and Thursday's road trip to Philadelphia (my first time in Philly!)...