Stingrays, Penguins and Otters!

We manage to do a lot in and out of Tennessee, but we have somehow never managed to hangout in the gorgeous town of Chattanooga. Last weekend, we decided to finally make the short two hour trip there and visit some touristy spots. There’s a lot to do in Chattanooga, but there number one tourist attraction seems to be the Tennessee Aquarium. Obviously, we hit ti up first.

The Aquarium is HUGE. It actually consists of two giant buildings: the Oceans Journey and the River Journey. We started in the Ocean and went to the stingray exhibit first. Why??? Because, hello, you get to pet them! I’m just like a child when it comes to animals and I can spend hours and hours in any sort of petting zoo. I was loving the stingrays, but poor Luna couldn’t reach them. We had to wait forever for one to swim up high enough for her to reach and as she innocently splashed in the water I pulled her hand towards the closest stingray and made her pet it. She did not enjoy it. Not at all.

stingrays

The butterfly exhibit was kind of like a petting zoo too. You couldn’t technically pet the butterflies, but they flew where they pleased, and often landed on one of us excited viewers. Luna, however, didn’t seem to notice any of them. She was more interested in  stomping in the flower beds.

butterflies

Penguins are in my top 3 list of animals. They are the coolest! (Hah! Get it? Coolest?) The penguins as the aquarium are all named and labeled with little colored bracelets. They swim, jump and waddle all around and are so stinkin’ cute. Even Luna’s attention was kept for a few minutes.

penguins touch

The most beaitful exhibit in the Ocean Journey is the Secret Reef and Undersea Cavern. These large reef areas are full of giant sharks, colorful fish, sunbeams, turltels and more.

shark

I was excited to show Luna all of the cool undersea creatures, but to be honest, she was happiest just running around and climbing on any steps she could find. I think most of the aquariums seem like a giant TV to her. She didn’t quite grasp that there were real live animals swimming by her.

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jelly

As we were walking through the Undersea Cavern, Husband stared through a small round window for a while and then called me over to point out what appeared to be a dead turtle. There it was…upside down, pale, not moving, missing a leg. It looked so sad and lifeless. After waiting a while, Bella and I decided to tell someone before young children saw it and started crying.

We walked into the gift shop and discreetly told the cashier that there seemed to be a dead turtle at the bottom of the aquarium. She almost laughed and very nonchalantly said, “Oh no, that’s just Oscar.” I explained to her that the turtle seemed very dead, but another employee then pointed to a large display with a sign that described Oscar. He is an injured turtle from the Gulf of Mexico who must sleep that way in order to breathe and keep comfortable. He is not dead. The sign was surrounded by dozens of 3-legged stuffed turtles. Feeling a little stupid and humiliated we walked back to tell Husband the good news, just in time for Oscar to wake-up and swim away.

turtle

The River Journey building has otters!!! Otters are the best, but the aquarium only has three. We need more otters!

otter

The riverside has lots more fishes, seahorses, gators, lizards, frogs, birds and more.

luna

Right outside of the aquarium are little water passages for water play. I stripped Luna down and put on her swimsuit, but most of the kids just played in their clothes. It was a little chilly, but how nice would this be on a hot summer day?

splash water

We had a fun day with the fish, the water, an amazing Latin restaurant and some ice cream, but we will need to make another trip because Chattanooga has so much to offer.

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Cheers!

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TBT: Drive, Play, Fall (Part II)

Here’s the continuation of one of our Albanian adventures that I began sharing a couple of Thursdays ago. These stories were first told on my first blog “Adventures of a Teacher”. Enjoy!

CHAPTER 3: Cave Journey

After our heated night in the hotel room we got up early and headed to the beach to rent some kayaks. We paid an eight year old boy 500  leke ($5) to use the boats for an hour and headed down the shore. Our friend, Erind, lead us to a beautiful cove with a tall cave entrance. The cave was not very deep, but the ceilings were high, and there was a large opening at the top that allowed sunbeams to come through and reflect on the navy water. We immediately pulled our boat on the rocks and began exploring. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t take my camera.)

Our view from where we ate breakfast.
Our view from where we ate breakfast.

I was barefoot so it was a little painful to climb around the coral-like formations, so I decided to take a swim. The water was icy, but refreshing. I swam across the cave to a rock formation where Boyfriend was climbing and kicked something that I thought was coral. However, when I exited the water to examine my foot, I found 4 barbs stuck in my toes from a sea urchin. It really stung, but I tried to laugh it off and talk about how I now had something to blog about.

Walking on the rocky beach before our kayaking adventure.
Walking on the rocky beach before our kayaking adventure.

The rock formation we climbed was about 30 feet tall and provided a window out of the cave and into the ocean. The water was crystal clear and very deep so we all took turns jumping off the cliff. It was a little of an adrenaline rush, and shockingly cold when we hit the water. We were past our one-hour rental time so we quickly got in our boats to head back. I could not stop shivering as we paddled so Erind kindly suggested we stop in another close cove to rest on the warm rocks.

CHAPTER 4: What Goes Up Must Come Down

I laid out on the hot stones to stay warm, Erind went for a swim to find more sea urchins, and Boyfriend, being Boyfriend, decided to start climbing all the rocks around us. After about twenty minutes I heard Boyfriend’s feet stepping through the pebbles as he descended the cliff he had conquered. I turned around to tell him I was ready, and was shocked to find him limping and bleeding from almost head-to-toe.

I frantically asked what had happened, and he just limped past me and fell into the water. His face was pale and shocked, and he continued to ignore my questions. He had obviously fallen, and by this time Erind had noticed and we were both trying to get him out of the water to examine the damage.

Boyfriend explained to me hours later that while he was climbing down, a very large rock broke underneath him and he slipped a few feet down, then the large rock fell on top of his right leg and broke in half over his leg. It was apparently traumatic enough to make Boyfriend very sick once his adrenaline lowered. We had to wait on the little beach for almost an hour before he would get back on the kayak. Once that was done, I rowed the two of us for an hour to get back to where we started.

Everyone on the shore was shocked to find us in such a state. A very kind Albanian woman ran to grab her first aid kit and made Boyfriend lay back while she cleaned up his wounds. Another hour passed and we tried to get Boyfriend back to the car, which just made his leg more swollen and bleed even more. Erind and his friends decided to take us to the “emergency room” on the beach.

Here's Peter putting on brave face as the kind woman cleaned his wounds. I left out all the photos of the actual wounds...you're welcome.
Here’s Boyfriend putting on brave face as the kind woman cleaned his wounds. I left out all the photos of the actual wounds…you’re welcome.

This “emergency room” was more like a clinic you would imagine in a WWII movie. It was very small, concrete walls, little metal beds, and no A/C. The Albanian doctor was very soft-spoken and could not speak English. Luckily, we had our friends to translate.

After cleaning the wounds once more, the doc suggested he have stitches in his leg (and that there was a 90% chance it was NOT broken). This of course led to a local anesthetic which made Boyfriend sick once more. Finally, it was all cleaned and bandaged, and the extremely kind doctor sent us on our way. (He wouldn’t charge us anything so we left him a tip instead.)

doctor

Finally, (after a 7 hour drive), we made it home. We are still exhausted.

At least the drive home was pretty.
At least the drive home was pretty.

Overall, we really did have a great weekend. After only being here one week, we have toured the capital, made many new friends, seen the mountains, kayaked the ocean, and visited the hospital. Not too bad if I do say so myself. Oh, and Boyfriend totally stole the thunder from my sea urchin sting.

EPILOGUE:

Boyfriend is fine and will survive his little mishap, maybe even learn something from it. Currently, he is horizontal with his leg elevated and watching movies. Mostly, he is frustrated that he cannot leave the apartment. I have a feeling, that our next adventure won’t be too far away.

Annnddd 4 years later, Husband is still always finding away to get himself into trouble and do something dangerous. Everyday is an adventure with this guy.

Cheers!

TBT: Drive, Play, Fall

Last week, I shared a little TBT post from my former blog, “Adventures of a Teacher.” It ended with a bit of cliffhanger so I figure I should continue this story this week…and maybe next week as well!

As you may have read, we were invited Saturday afternoon to take a trip to Southern Albania. The entire trip was amazing, and quite a learning experience. I honestly don’t know if I can fit even just the minimal details into one blog. Let’s break it down…

CHAPTER 1: Car Sick

We rode with our friend Erind and his friend Dorian for 5 hours to get to the beach. The conversation was so interesting as we got to know our new Albanian friends. These two guys are so smart and speak English better than I do! Also, they were hilarious. You know a person is truly fluent in a language if they can joke around.

The last hour or so of the trip was spent driving up the windiest road on the tallest mountain I have ever experienced. By the time we got to our hotel everyone of us were carsick. (And I NEVER get carsick.) There was even a woman sick on the side of the road near the top. It was unpleasant.

the view
the view

On top of the wooziness, the roads were absolutely insane. Many of the streets were wide enough for one car and maybe a bicycle. Yet, somehow two cars going opposite directions were driving, and a third would try to pass on either side. Several drivers drove as if they were all having an emergency and drunk. They would pass other cars while driving up the twisted mountain roads, or stop their car just to look at the view.

Speaking of stopping cars….our car broke down on the mountain, on the curve, 4 times. I was scared. Luckily, it restarted rather quickly.

the very windy tiny road
the very windy tiny road

Another interesting fact about Albanian driving and culture is that this trip took 5 hours, but distance wise it would have only taken about two in the U.S. On top of bad traffic, we stopped about 3 times for coffee breaks and 3 more times for bathroom breaks. I don’t know about your family, but I used to reduce my liquid intake on family trips so I wouldn’t have to wait for hours to stop. It’s a different world here. I much more relaxed slow-paced world.

CHAPTER 2: When Mountains Meet Beach

Our hotel (a house that rented out rooms) was on the mountain side and overlooked the ocean. We had the most amazing view. I have never seen any beach quite like this one. The mountains literally run right into the ocean. The shore is not sandy, but rocky…very smooth little rocks.

The view from the balcony.
The view from the balcony.

We arrived just in time to watch the sunset. Our friends took us to have dinner with a group of their friends at a seafood restaurant right on the ocean. The food was great, but the time spent getting to know them was much better. I learned so much about their culture and was really taken back. Everyone knew more about every country (including the USA) than I did. It was embarrassing. They were raised to be culturally aware, and most make an effort to stay up on current affairs around the world. Not only that, but they really care about the issues effecting other cultures. Being raised in a communist country that luckily ended and became a democracy made them all very appreciative of what they have and grateful for their freedom.

After dinner we walked down the beach and sat along the shore to chat. Once we were all exhausted, we of course decided to head back. I could not wait to get a good night sleep right next to the ocean. Unfortunately, there was no sleep. Our “hotel” had no A/C. I have never been so hot!

Enjoying a nice night stroll on the beach.
Enjoying a nice night stroll on the beach.

Finally, the sun rose, and I was relieved to give up on sleep and get ready for our real adventure.

In next weeks episode of  TBT “Adventures of a Teacher” there is a kayak journey which ends in slight disaster. Will the teacher jump off a cliff? Will the boyfriend end up in a hospital? Will anyone ever get sleep?

Tune in!

Cheers!

Girls Weekend!

I decided to take a couple of days off from the blog to spend a girls’ weekend with Luna, my Mom and one of her co-workers in Atlanta for the Apparel Market. My Mom owns a formal wear shop and she was making her orders for prom 2015. After my two fantastic days off I came down with mastitis again. That little devil of an infection had me down for another two days. Now, I’m finally feeling human again, and I am so happy to be back to share all about our girls only adventure in Atlanta! (BTW, this is my first time to open my laptop in 4 days. I feel like I’ve just been through some sort of intense detox.)

Find many more pics like this form daily life on my Instagram!
Find many more pics like this form daily life on my Instagram!

Mine and Luna’s trip began with a 4-hour road trip. I planned to leave early in the morning so Luna would be sleeping, but she decided to stay up half the night. After putting her back to bed for 5th time at 3am I was wide awake and figured 3am is a pretty swell time for a long drive. I got dressed, packed up the car, kissed Husband good-bye as he slept soundly through every single cry, grabbed Luna and hit the road. (We made a couple coffee pit-stops on the way.) We jammed to Katy Perry, Taylor Swift and Iggy Azalea most of the way there because who else do you listen to on a girls’ road trip?

Mom and Alex enjoying some delicious beverages during a fashion show
Mom and Alex enjoying some delicious beverages during a fashion show

We made it to Atlanta just in time to join my Mom and our new friend Alex as they headed to Americas Mart in downtown Atlanta. My Mom’s goal was to find the hottest new trends for next year’s prom. Our girl was to help and enjoy all the treats, goodies, drinks and attention that comes with attending a wholesale market. I’ve been to market and Dallas a few times, but holy cow, Atlanta’s Market is SO MUCH NICER. The building is nicer, the showrooms are bigger, the fashion shows are better, the food is fantastic, the drinks are endless and even the people are incredibly friendly. Plus, everyone treated Luna as if she was America’s Next Top Model.

America's Mart, 13 floors of apparel and accessories
America’s Mart, 13 floors of apparel and accessories
macaroons for days!
macaroons for days!

I’m a sucker for anything free so I happily accepted tote bags, tees, flip-flops, cookies, margaritas and whatever else they threw my way all day long. The only downside was carrying around my loot all day, especially since I also had to carry Luna (“no strollers allowed”) and her over-sized diaper bag. During one fashion show, Luna got fussy so I stepped outside the glass walls to watch the show from the hall. As I bounced Luna up and down to the beat of every pop song that played over the loud speakers we ran into another adorable baby girl. The Mom and I started chatting and overtime I learned that the other adorable baby is the granddaughter Sherri Hill,  of the designer we were currently watching. Luna and I ended up getting to know the granddaughter, the daughter and the designer who were all incredibly nice.

Sherri Hill, Luna, myself, Mom and Alex
Sherri Hill, Luna, myself, Mom and Alex

I have never ever been anywhere were so many complete strangers complimented, played with, touched and literally took Luna out of my arms. Every single person seemed to be baby deprived or depressed because they could not get enough of Luna. She was the center of attention all day and even scored a new bracelet from the Chewbeads exhibit (more on that to come!). Also, the security at the Americas Mart were serious about the passes we received when checking in. Not only were our passes verified at every check point, but so was Luna’s!

She is ready for action!
She is ready for action!

We “shopped”, pigged out and enjoyed fashion shows all day long. I had so much fun with my Mom and am so glad I made the trip to Atlanta to spend some quality time with her. We truly had an awesome time, and even though it ended with mastitis and a fever fueled drive home, it was worth it. Now, I’m back just in time to unpack and repack for yet another road trip! That’s right we leave tomorrow night to drive all the way to Texas! Yee-haw!

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Cheers!

Day Trip to D.C.

While my friend Sara was staying with us we decided to take an overnight trip to Washington DC, because why wouldn’t we have a 24 hour road trip during her four-day NYC vacation? Sara and I had many many road trips during our year together in Albania, which are some of my fondest and most ridiculous memories. (Like the time we found 20 puppies at the Montenegro/Albania border and stopped for an hour to play with them….Or the time we went caving and discovered the most beautiful blue stream.) I have been anxiously awaiting another adventure!

Puppies!
Puppies!
The Montenegro/Albania border
The Montenegro/Albania border
The start of our hike...
The start of our hike…
The end of our hike
The end of our hike

Plus, the main reason for the visit, the only reason really, was to meet up with another friend who we met in Albania! Our friend Meghan was in the Peace Corps in Albania and is now living in DC. We took a 5 hour bus on Friday morning and arrived to our Nation’s Capital with just enough daylight to checkout DC’s most popular attractions. Also, one of Husband’s friends from high school (they haven’t seen each other in 11 years!) lives in DC. Husband’s long-lost friend was nice enough to pick us up at the train station and act as our tour guide.

The Capital Building
The Capital Building
The Washington Monument
The Washington Monument
Mr. Lincoln
Mr. Lincoln

I tried telling the friendly men with guns that I had a coffee date with Michelle, but no one took me seriously…Sorry Mrs. Obama guess we will have to have coffee in New York!

Husband and I in front of the The White House.
Husband and I in front of the The White House.

For dinner, we met up with our friend Meghan and had Albanian food and alcohol at a new Balkan style restaurant! It was not only freakin’ amazing food, but so nostalgic. AND, I ATE SALMON. I have been a vegetarian for almost 5 whole years, but lately I have been seriously craving fish. I don’t know if it was the Albanian rakia or the excitement of the whole day, but I gave into temptation and ordered salmon for dinner. I was sick all night, but it was SO worth it.

3 different flavors of Rakia
3 different flavors of Rakia
Bacon-wrapped prunes
Bacon-wrapped prunes
Of course the meal had to end with an espresso
Of course the meal had to end with an espresso

It was the most fun night I have had in a long time. Husband and I shared a couch that night, but I made sure to get some snuggle/girl talk time in the morning!

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We were back on a bus to NY by 10am. It was a quick trip, but worth every excruciating minute on the bus. Cannot wait until our next reunion!

Cheers!