Category Archives: Travel

#VLOG Travel With Me: 5 Minutes in Germany

I was in Berlin, Germany for a few days as part of a solo trip to Europe and I wanted to share a part of my trip with you all. Special thanks to my gracious host Nik (whose cute apartment is in the background) and my classmate Lokus! Enjoy!

Quick Guide to Seeing South Africa Like A Local

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After coming back from my Spring Break trip with my friend Jennifer to Johannesburg and Cape Town, I was excited to share my adventures with friends and family. It wasn’t until I started comparing notes that I realized we had packed an insane amount of activities into the 3 days we spent in Johannesburg and 2 in Cape Town. I’ve pulled together some tips to help you see South Africa like a local. May they serve you well on your journey!

Disclaimer: This is not a paid review. I just believe in giving credit where credit is due.

1. Stay with Curiocity Backpackers

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The Curiocity guys (l to r: Bheki, Tshepo, and Bonnie)

When I told my good friend that I was traveling to Johannesburg, he told me that there was no better place to stay than at`1` the Curiocity Backpackers hostel located in the Maboneng Precinct. Their website and Facebook page highlighted game nights, clean bunk beds, an in-house bar, and a prime location in an eclectic neighborhood. We were sold. The Curiocity team were extremely helpful at all points of our trip: they arranged for a driver to come pick us up from the airport (Ask for Arnold, he’s our favorite!), Dudu (sweetest girl ever) was at the front desk to greet us with a warm welcome and show us our room. First thing that struck me about the hostel was that it was the kind of place I would see in a cool urban magazine. From the graffiti wall with “Curiocity” scrawled across it to the upper deck attached to the kitchen, there wasn’t a design element the guys hadn’t thought of. The second thing that surprised me was how young the guys are (pictured above). Bheki Dube brought together a group of entrepreneurial friends and merged their ventures into one awesome experience for young travelers.

#2. Explore local neighborhoods

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Sign language sculpture spelling out “Vilakazi”

In my opinion, the best way to see South Africa is through a guided tour with someone who will show you the historical sites as well as the quirky spots in the area. I will admit that upon arrival at Jo’Burg, my main objective was to soak up the sun and eat South African food. So when I signed up for the Inner City walking tour with Bonnie from Curiocity, I had no real expectations other than to have fun.  I’m pretty sure Bonnie took us EVERYWHERE in the city and I’m equally sure he knew EVERYONE in the area. We were always greeted warmly because we were with Bonnie. Most of the pictures from my South Africa photo gallery post were taken during Bonnie’s tour. His extensive knowledge of South Africa’s history and connection to the city of Johannesburg helped us understand the significance of the sites we were seeing. We ended the day on a somber note at the Apartheid Museum (which has a student discount if you present your ID). Our town to Soweto the next day was led by Tshepo. His tour “Sowe2 With Love” took us through historical area of Soweto. We walked on Vilakazi Street, the only street in the world to have housed two Nobel Prize winners (Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu). We also visited the Hector Pieterson museum while we were there. If you’re interested in taking the tours, click on the links above to get more information.

#3. Do something you’re afraid of

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Tshepo just happened to know a woman who tamed snakes

As we were wandering through the streets with Tshepo, my friend Jennifer had the insane idea to stop at a place where you could hold a snake. As you can see in the picture above, I had no chill about the entire situation. I did manage to touch the snake and then warm up to the idea of letting it drape over me. This speaks to how comfortable I was on the tour and how confident I was that Tshepo wouldn’t let me die in Soweto. Because Tshepo is very familiar with the area, we were able to see some great spots in area. Just as was the case with Bonnie’s tour, everyone greeted us warmly and invited us into their stores and their home.

#4. Enjoy the scenic routes

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Street view of the Orlando tours

After our Soweto tour, we headed over to the Orlando Towers. In between the two towers, you can see there is a small red platform for bungee jumping. I really wanted to do it, but after the snake incident I figured I’d had enough excitement for the day. Behind the wall was a great hangout spot called Chaf Pozi where people were eating braai and jamming along with the music. Braai is South Africa’s version of barbeque meat and it is delicious! I was so busy savoring the flavor and enjoying the atmosphere that I don’t remember to take a picture of the inside. But that’s a good problem to have. This was a great people-watching spot where we could see the young and old dancing, eating, and laughing together.

#5. Ride public transportation

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Jennifer and I on our way to Soweto

When we were on Bonnie’s tour, he showed us different hand signs you could use to hail a city van in Jo’Burg. Most of the time, when the van pulled up to you it was typically jam-packed with people. It was a cool way to see local people and feel like you were part of the hustle and bustle of the city. Jennifer and I always went around together and we had the help of our new friends to tell us where we were going and . I do not recommend going on the bus alone. It was a little overwhelming and easy to lose your way. The van pictured above taken during our Sowe2 tour where it was just us, Tshepo and our driver friend. We lucked out and just happened to be the only ones on the tour that day so we had to whole van to ourselves that day. Special thanks to Ayo for letting us borrow his GoPro and selfie stick!

#6. Sample the local cuisine

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Trying “bunny chow” for the first time

We were given a some good food recommendations of things to eat while in South Africa. The top three things were braai, bunny chow, and an ostrich burger. We got to try all three and they were all delicious. It wasn’t hard to find braai, but we had a little difficulty tracking down bunny chow. We finally found it at the Eastern Food Bazaar when we visited Cape Town. Bunny chow is a hollowed out loaf of bread and filled with a stewed/curried meat (chicken or lamb). The little Nigerian girl in me was taken back to the days of dipping agege bread in stew. This meal was genius and I’m going to find a way to have it again in the States.

Here’s a list of the restaurants we ate at while we were in South Africa:

  • Little Addis (Ethiopian food in South Africa. Seemed pretty authentic and spicy…very spicy lol)
  • Cadillac Jack’s Roadhouse (The caramelized onions & sauce with the cheeseburger were perfect)
  • Soul Souvlaki (I recommend the “mixed grill” with chicken, lamb, and bisteki)
  • Fabulous Burger Boys (Try a tasty ostrich burger)
  • Chaf Pozi (Enjoy some great braai and great music)
  • Truth Coffee Roasting (We didn’t even eat here. We just wandered in and sat down. By the time we left, we’d had a deep conversation about race with an American PhD student we randomly met.)
  • Eastern Food Bazaar (Get the bunny chow. Make sure you have a lot of room in your stomach!)
  • Little restaurant attached to Curiocity (I forget the name of the place, but we had breakfast there twice and dinner once. The meals are simple and low-cost. The staff is always friendly and willing to feed you early or late. Great place to eat if you’re in a pinch for time or money.)

Word of advice: If you’re trying to sample as many dishes as possible, I suggest that you and a friend order different things and share with each other. This is Jennifer’s style and since she’s been to more than 20 countries already, I think we can trust her advice.

So now you’ve seen all of my trip to South Africa. I already miss my Curiocity brothers and am scheming to return soon. If I didn’t have the travel bug I definitely got it after this trip. I hope this post helps you see the real South Africa, rather than the packaged tourist version. Cheers to more trips in the future!

In case you missed it, check out Part I: Naturale Chronicles Goes to South Africa.

Naturale Chronicles Goes To South Africa

O N E  D R O P

My favorite purchases from last year were my red Hershel dupe knapsack and my secondhand cafe-brown Levi jeans. Naturally, I brought them with me on my week-long vacation to South Africa last week. The cafe pants a great staple piece in my closet and were very comfy to walk around in through the city. My knapsack held all my essentials (passport, money, IDs, water bottle, sunscreen, etc) and allowed me to explore the city hands-free. I will let these two items tell the story of my trip to South Africa.

JOHANNESBURG (JO’BURG)

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When we first landed in Jo’Burg, the first thing I felt was how much I had missed the African sun kissing my skin.
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There was art and beauty around every corner.
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There was so much to do and see but most of the time, I was content to just sit still and be present.
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Every inch of the city paid homage to history’s greats.
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Each neighborhood reflected the interests of its eclectic residents.
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Depending on where you stood, and from who’s perspective you were looking from, the city looked completely different.
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Despite years of adversity, the African pride could not be smoldered. It was prominent in every space we entered.

 

CAPE TOWN

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A greeting is enough to spark a friendship
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The weather in Cape Town does as it pleases– sun one minute, wind the next.
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The streets were marked so that no one could erase their history.
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I could never take for granted the kindness of strangers (especially the ones letting me take pictures in front of their houses)
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I allowed myself to relax in my new surroundings
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I witnessed the nostalgic blend of the old and the new.
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I experienced the adage that “it’s not the destination, but the journey that changes us.”

Special thanks to Bonnie, our tour guide in Johannesburg from Curiocity Backpackers. Stay tuned for my part II of this post, giving more details about the places I went, things I did, and people I met in South Africa.

Have any of you traveled to South Africa? Leave me a link to your blog post below. I’d love to see what you saw!

(Photo cred: Jennifer Osias)

DC Chilling: Dating Myself Part 1

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I have been in DC for about two weeks now and I’ve finally broken out of the watch-Netflix-in-my-room-all-day mode. I’m not much of a homebody, so that lifestyle got very old quickly. I decided I would make a conscious effort to see the city and all it has to offer. Thankfully, this is my third (and also my longest) time in DC so I could skip the typical tourist attractions. Thankfully, I bought the 7-day Unlimited Metro pass so I don’t have to worry about loading my card with train fare all week. My adventurous spirit often leads me down long rides on the metro to unfamiliar territory. I am mostly always by myself. On the 7:30 train to work by myself, venturing through neighborhoods looking for farmers markets by myself, trekking over to the Intro to Pole fitness class by myself, going to the Made in Hong Kong Film Festival by myself.

I am so accustomed to hopping on a train and not checking my plans for the day with anyone that it throws me off a little when I have to coordinate to meet up with people. I will say that it has been nice to occasionally meet up with friends for lunch or to hear a new band, but it’s also nice to just take myself out on cool dates. That’s how I see my adventures— like me taking myself out on the types of adventures I’d enjoy. I believe spending time with yourself teaches you your preferences and tastes. So far, I’d discovered a few things about myself:

1. My favorite spot in the movie theater is smack dab in the middle.

This weekend, I went to the Made In Hong Kong Film Festival and saw a great drama/comedy called “Aberdeen.” When I first got there, I was the only Black woman in the room. As the lights dimmed, everything around me faded away and I focused my eyes on the English subtitles. I laughed and gasped without shame, as did the movie-watchers on either side of me. And as the credits rolled, I clapped in appreciation. Yes, I’m that girl. I go to movies by myself, sit in the middle of the theater, and if the movie is really good, I clap.

2. I like enjoy a good Ethnic rice bowl.

Rice is the answer to world peace. It can bring together so many cultures . I’m a big fan of Chipotle’s rice bowls and I’m always looking to try out cultural equivalents. In DC, I have tried rice  Tom Yum District (Thai), Roti Mediterranean Grill (Mediterranean), TaKorean (Korean)My favorite, hands down, was the TaKorean rice bowl. I tried it at the Union Market and I fell in love instantly. I was feeling especially carnivorous that day so I ordered my bowl (on the left below) with steak, pork, and chicken, cilantro, sriracha (first time trying this and I loved it), and lime cream. My friend/classmate, who I randomly bumped into at the market, ordered one steak, chicken, and a pork taco. It was hilarious watching people drooling and straning their heads to see what we were eating. You can see why:

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 3. If I go to a restaurant and breakfast is still available, I will order breakfast food (regardless of the time of day)

Pancakes, waffles, french toast, eggs…all day, everyday. That is my idea of a meal. My friend recommended I check out Busboys & Poets, which is a cool hangout spot/restaurant/poetry slam location. The service was good and so was the food. I had a classic french toast with eggs and fruit. I also ordered pomegranate lemonade! (Fun fact: I always get good vibes about a restaurant that serves pomegranate lemonade. It shows they’re open-minded and accommodating.)

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Brunch at Busboys & Poets


4. Bikeshare only makes me miss my Schwinn bike

I’m quite envious of DC bikers. One, because I’m nowhere near brave enough to ride on the road in DC traffic. Second, because I left my beautiful Schwinn bike at home and I’m forced to rely on things like Capital Bikeshare to get the feeling of the wind running through my hair. Don’t get me wrong, the Bikeshare is an ingenious idea and it definitely is a great way to see the city. I just don’t like how clunky the bike feels between my legs and underneath me. The membership fee options are not terrible, if you do it right. I like that you can drop off your bike at one of designated bike rack that is closest to you. Also all trips under 30 minutes are free. It makes biking a very convenient option. I like that DC is training people to get into the biking mentality. If you’re interested in biking through the city, check out the Capital BikeShare website here.

5. Lesser known musicians rock my world

I’m the type of girl who enjoys cover bands and thinks YouTube artists are some of the best musicians because they have a type of drive, raw talent, and desperation that makes a beautiful sound. On Saturday night, I heard a new band called Marlee in the Mixx. Their sound is Neo-Soul/Go-Go groove plus a lot of other stuff too. As I was listening, all I wanted to do is tilt my head back, sway, and raise my drink in the air. But being the musical creep that I am, all I could do was bob my head with wide eyes and sip on my water in appreciation. The lead female singer (Marlee) has a crazy mane of curly hair and she sings and raps. The extremely talented 9-member crew jammed together on the crowded platform. They seemed to be enjoying making the music as much as we enjoyed hearing it. The show was great and the atmosphere was grown and chill.

Click the picture to check out music from Marlee in the Mixx
Click the picture to check out music from Marlee in the Mixx

 In addition to the ones above, this week I also took myself out on a date to Trader Joe’s and to Pole Pressure. My stomach is thanking me for introducing it to Cocoa & Cookie Butter and my neck is cursing me for trying that one move at the end of the pole class. I had a good time. Would I go out with me again? I sure would! I can’t wait to see what I come up with next.

Day 1: Brooklyn Street Art

 

 

For the 1st day of my post-birthday celebration, my brother and I headed over to Brooklyn to check out the sights. We found art everywhere. Enjoy the picture:

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Today was a simple trip, where we spent little to no money. It was nice to just walk around and soak in the city.

Our one regret was that we couldn’t find the Prospect Park Zoo. Everyone we asked had no clue where the hidden jem was. If we come back to the area, we’ll definitely look for it again.

 

Wanderlust: 15 Life Lessons (and pictures) from Puerto Rico

O N E  D R O P

On a whim, I decided to join a group of classmates going to Puerto Rico on vacation. As I mentioned, this would be my first legit Spring Break vacation. This post will be a teaser of some of my photos from the trip. Between my friends and I, there should be over 1000 pictures! We were only there for 5 glorious days but we made some great memories. This was, hands down, my favorite Spring Break holiday.

As I’m reflecting from my trip, I thought I’d share some lessons I learned while I was away:

#1. Be open to new experiences.

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#2. Be comfortable with silence.

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#3. Face your fears.

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#4. Live like you only have one shot at life.PuertoRico_2014_Timi 3648x2432-018

#5. Make time for yourself.

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#6. Strive to put your mark on the world.

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#7. Surround yourself with good company.

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#8. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
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#9. Face your tomorrows with optimism and courage.
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#10. Take one step at a time and don’t get ahead of yourself.

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#11. “Be yourself. Everybody else is taken.” -Oscar Wilde

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#12. If you want it, go after it.PuertoRico_2014_Timi 3648x2432-024

#13. You may bend, but you won’t break.

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#14. Don’t be afraid of where your ambition will take you.

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#15. Find the things that bring you the greatest joy and pursue them.

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This vacation showed me how much I’ve been missing out by not traveling. I shudder to think that I almost didn’t go on the trip, but decided to jump in last minute. It was worth every penny! I have been bitten by the proverbial travel bug and I can’t wait for my next trip (where/whenever it will be).

Oh, The Places We’ll Go: New Orleans

In 2014, I Will…” New Years resolution post, I mentioned that I wanted to travel and make more memories with my friends. I’m excited at the progress I’m making already. In January, I went on a family cruise to Cozumel. At the beginning of February, I went to New Orleans to celebrate my friend Vanessa’s 25th birthday.

I’ve been friends with Vanessa since my freshman year in undergrad. When she randomly told me about her birthday celebration, I immediately said yes. I didn’t even stop to think of the cost or if my schedule would permit me to come. All I knew was that this was an opportunity to celebrate my friend and make memories. I’ve learned to stop overthinking and waiting for happiness to come to me. In life you have to be intentional and purposeful. I know the kind of life I want to have– one filled with love, adventure, and laughter.

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Being at school for the past few months, I haven’t seen my college friends in a long time. In our time apart, I’d forgotten how much I like them and enjoy their company. These people knew me when I was Timi the awkward freshman, Timi the teacher, and they love me just the same as Timi the friend in grad school miles away. I have grown with these beautiful people and I am excited to stay in touch and grow old together.

My trip to New Orleans was only a weekend, but it was enough for me. For this one time, I was content to just be with them again. We honestly didn’t have a extensive itinerary: we ate, we went downtown to Bourbon, we went to brunch, tried some beignets for the first time, had a masquerade dinner, and went home.
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But the weekend reminded me that sometimes it only takes a couple days of fun to remind you to live more fully.
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Special thanks to Vanessa, who orchestrated this whole birthday shindig. It was great and it gives me something to think about for my 25th birthday in May.

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The birthday girl and I

Look out for my next trip post. I’m going to somewhere nice and warm for Spring Break!

Our First Family Cruise- 2014

My family and I just got back from a cruise– our first cruise ever! We had a lot of laughs, ate too much food, and made a lot of memories.

The scenery from the boat every morning was beautiful. Seeing the sun rise and set on the horizon was breathtaking.

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The ship made two stops: the first in Progresso, Mexico and the last stop was in Cozumel:

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Feeling adventurous, I randomly decided to get a henna tattoo of a anchor and an infinite sign. After 30 minutes, I already hated it. It just goes to prove I could never have a real tattoo. I’d get tired of it easily. FamilyCruise 4272x2848-023

My brother, the only animal lover in the house, looks a little too comfortable holding that hideous creature. FamilyCruise 4272x2848-022

Our Carnival cruise ship was huge!
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We went out again to check out the next island:FamilyCruise 4272x2848-004

This pirate told us he was Johnny Depp’s half brother. He was so incredible crusty and dirty, but he was very funny and cheeky. FamilyCruise 2848x4272-001

Inside the ship, we occupied our time with Broadway-like musicals and an unnatural amount of karaoke:FamilyCruise 4272x2848-026 FamilyCruise 4272x2848-008 FamilyCruise 4272x2848-011FamilyCruise 4272x2848-010 FamilyCruise 4272x2848-009

One evening, I got to perform with a live band in front of a live audience for the cruise talent show. I had a blast! I won a plastic trophy and a bottle of champagne. FamilyCruise 4272x2848
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Thanks to my brother Ye’s awesome camera, we were able to take some cute family portraits:
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The cruise photographers were giving us the side eye when they saw us having a full-blown photo shoot by the staircase.
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We dressed up for fancy dinners with our family friends who were also cruising:

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Throughout the entire cruise, we experienced three-course meals, comedy clubs, and     . This was a much needed vacation. It was nice sharing a room and being in close quarters with my siblings again. I’d somehow forgotten how much I love and miss my family when I’m away. As I go back to school, well-rested and perhaps a couple pounds heavier, I am excited to see what this year will bring. Already 2014 has knocked me off my feet.

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Photo credit: Ye

Trip to D.C. & Black Congressional Caucus

A couple weeks ago, I got the opportunity to attend the 42nd Annual Legislative Conference hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation with a group of Teach for America staff and Corps members. I learned so much about being a leader and what I need to do to empower the community in which I’m teaching.

I learned a lot. Here’s a page of  my notes:

When I wasn’t in session, I was enjoying the city. D.C. is so beautiful. The weather was so agreeable that I walked almost everywhere. The bus system was not the easiest to navigate (which one to get on) but the ride was pleasant. The taxis were a little pricey.

I walked by buildings and houses fit for movies

I ate breakfast at The Brown Bag

I went to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

I saw beautiful sites

I saw the cutest play, for free for Saturday Mornings at the National Theatre

I went to a farmer’s market, saw a play, visited the zoo, and had frozen yogurt in ONE day!

I got to see a friend from the summer, Tyler.

I spent time with my brother and some family members

I saw the Awakening statue

I’ve decided that I LOVE D.C. The weather was great; The people were nice; The sights were awesome. As I walked through the farmer’s market, I was struck by the thought This could be my life. The bicycles, the organically grown food, the layered clothes, and mini Coopers. I could definitely see myself living in D.C. one day.