…spoke too soon

Looks like the last post was a little premature because a few minutes before I left the office yesterday, I got a call from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and they offered me the position of Program Coordinator for their valet and community bike build programs.

I know! Wild!

Obviously, I accepted it, because I spend most of my free time working on Cycle Jamaica, and active transportation advocacy and education, as well as transportation research are what I see myself working on as a career. So why not start now?

I start in 2 weeks. I’m excited to be moving back the Bay(bae). But mostly I’m excited to finally be getting paid more than a pittance for once in my life. It has been a STRUGGLE and a half living on $1100/month in California. If I had no responsibilities or hobbies, I wouldn’t need any more than that. But I have credit card bills that need to be paid, car repairs that need to be done, and a dog that sometimes gets sick. And all of that costs more money than I’m bringing in monthly right now.

I’ve decided to retract my earlier statement about leaving the US next year in light of my significant pay increase. Because I got into university in the UK, I realise this is a great opportunity to start paying off my student loans and saving for my master’s degree. So I won’t make any declarations about whether or not I’m leaving in August. When the time comes, I’ll know. And I’ll leave. We will definitely be leaving.

If you’re unhappy, find a way to change your situation. I hate this job and I’m unhappy living in this city. So, I did what I had to do for myself. If you’re unhappy, find a way to change your situation.

 

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It’s the most introspective time of year

I hate this time of year. Those last few weeks in December when you subconsciously and unwillingly start to reflect on the year that’s ending and start thinking about what you intend to do differently next year. You don’t want to make resolutions because that generally doesn’t work out but you know there are things you want to accomplish, so you make a list anyway. Hate it. All of it. Yet, here I am. Making my list. “Planning ahead”. Undoubtedly two of my least favourite things. And I did it a year ago too. I won’t look at that post I wrote a year ago. And once this is published, I certainly won’t look at it again. And it certainly doesn’t help that my birthday was only a few weeks ago. And now, at 26, I’m closer to 30 than 20. And these past few years feel like they’ve been wasted. Because what millennial is entirely satisfied with how their early 20’s turned out.

There’s a lot going on right now. In my head mostly. I hate my job and Chico, but I knew that I’d hate it before I got here. I mean, my choices were Spain or California. Obviously there’s no competition and I’d be happier if I was hopping around Europe now. But, I wanted to spend more time in California and I’ve made some new friendships that I think I needed to solidify here before I moved across the pond and never looked back. So I’m looking for a new job. BUT I’ve been accepted to study a master of science in Sustainability in Transport in Leeds, UK. EXCITING. A much better/safer route to leaving and not having to come back to the US than teaching in Spain. So any job I get I’ll inevitably quit by August. Even if I like it a lot and I’m earning good money, I need to just go and stop flip-flopping on this one. Because a few days ago I said to myself “well, if you really like it you should stay for a year at least.” Nope. I have a ticket out, I need to honour it. Next, I want to make some real changes to Cycle Jamaica. Somehow I don’t think I’ve talked about it here. But I spend most of my free time working on how I can accomplish my goals for this project in Jamaica when I live thousands of miles away. That and watching movies. I challenged myself to write 2 new articles for Cycle Jamaica each week in December. And subsequently failed. I’ve been incredibly unmotivated and unproductive this month. So I’ve been watching movies. I think maybe a quarterly newsletter instead of articles might be the change I need to make with the org.
And as usual, I’m struggling immensely with having to put down temporary roots in cities, apartments, and jobs. I’m exhausted. The thought of having to look for a new place, having to introduce myself and Jax to strangers and try to make a good impression so they’ll let us share their space, having to learn a new work culture and make new work friends (still haven’t made any friends after being at this job for 4 months. It feels as strange as it sounds). I’m really tired of it all. Mostly the house sharing. Jax doesn’t like people going in and out of the front door randomly. It makes him anxious. Which makes me upset. And I don’t like strangers coming and going as they please just because they’re friends with my flatmates. I’ve interviewed for a new job in San Francisco and if I get it I’m wishing, hoping, thinking, and praying that I can find a decently priced studio, granny flat, or au-pair suite. Anything that gives us some privacy.
As for grad school, I’m nervous. A course in the UK is undoubtedly harder than a US grad programme. I don’t like school but I like learning. And I’ll have to work hard to pass my classes. And I fear that I’m not ready or cut out for a challenge of this nature. But I need and want this degree for a few reasons. I’m tired of not being self-sufficient. I need a job that suits my financial needs. I want to be taken seriously when Cycle Jamaica, inevitably, takes off (speaking this one into reality). I want to start my own urban planning/design firm (I’m not cut out to work under others. That’s just the way it is) and I want to be as knowledgeable as, if not more than, the people I’ll be working with. I need the freedom the live anywhere in the world and an advanced degree and work experience are the only way to do that. Unless you have money of course. I don’t have money. And I’m sure there’s more reasons I can’t think of at the moment.
Now for the dreaded list. I believe my list changes very little each year. The items are essentially the same but they’ve evolved as I’ve gotten older.

  1. Leave the US – I won’t even go into details because I feel like this is all I talk about.
  2. Become fluent in Spanish – this has been on the list since high school. It probably won’t go away anytime soon, if I’m being honest with myself.
  3. Run a 10k – this is the most specific “weight loss/get fit” goal I’ve ever had. I think I need it. Something I need to prove to myself again. That is all.
  4. read more – I bought books this year that haven’t been read entirely. I’m ashamed to say.
  5. It would be nice to not be single at the end of the next year, I guess.
  6. Find some direction and not feel like some lost lame duck. I feel like I’m never going to find a job, city, or even country I like enough to stay long term. I’ve been really into reading about Sagittarius lately (looking for some validation as to why I am so “flaky”) and that’s actually helped a little. Just some reassurance that I’m not alone in this.
  7. Travel – obviously. Outside of the US. I think that goes without saying. I feel like I’m done here.
  8. I’d love to see Cycle Jamaica’s membership grow and see the campaign take hold of people. Jamaica needs change. I just want to do what I can.
  9. Work with Jax to earn his canine good citizen certifications. All three – this…will be hard.
  10. And I’d like to work on my temperament – …this is a process…

We moved!

It’s official. We are now residents of Chico, CA. After days and weeks of agonizing over the next move for us, I decided that it was time to take a break from fun jobs and instability to try out a career path. I accepted an 11-month AmeriCorps position with the Geographic Information Center in Chico and I’ll be working on policy implementation and broadband expansion in rural Northern California. Obviously, this position pales in comparison to a year in Spain but after getting denied a visa to Spain I did some serious soul searching and some internet searching for the quickest way out of here and into a new country. But what I found was 1) none of my friends truly understand me the way they claim to, and 2) I love California, and I felt like, maybe I wasn’t ready to leave. So I signed a year lease (haven’t done that since July 2015) and I bought some furnishings (an airbed and a little hanging thing for my closet so I wouldn’t have to get something with drawers) and we’re figuring it all out.

It’s been a week and so far my rear wheel on my bicycle has been stolen from the bike rack directly in front of my front door, I’ve started running again (yay fitness), and Jax found an entire deer leg on our Sunday hike. So all in all a very strange week. I have 2 roommates and our apartment is literally beside CSU Chico and I feel like an old lady around all these college students.

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Said deer leg

I constantly question if this was the right move and I’m still not sure it is. The position is pretty flexible, in that, while I’m doing the work that’s been asked of me, I have some freedom to learn about the field that interests me, which is urban transport planning or alternative transportation. I work really closely with a planner turned grant writer and she’s already helping me get familiar with the field which is really comforting. I was afraid that I’d walk into this and be bored doing mundane tasks every day, and so far I am, but my supervisor and I have talked about what I’ll be doing once the mundane things are out of the way and it’s actually really interesting.

It was really hard to leave the Bay Area. Since my first visit to the Bay in 2016, it’s always felt a little like home. It was so easy to just jump into life there. Both times we drove into Marin after being in Florida for months, it felt like coming home. Strangely enough, Marin feels more like home than anywhere else. If I could afford it, it’s where I would put roots down. I can’t fully describe why I feel that way, but it has everything that Jax and I love. Little hiking trails everywhere, super quiet and safe, cool temps every night, and for most of the year during the day too, just warm enough in the summer, beautiful rolling hills and nature everywhere. It’s a shame only the truly wealthy get to live comfortably there.

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SUP Sunday in Sausalito

Maybe that will be a goal of mine. Until I can afford a house in Marin, I’ll be on the hunt for something similar. Cheaper. And to be honest, maybe Madrid wouldn’t have been it. Everything happens for a reason and things work out the way they’re supposed to. My hope is that at the end of this year I have some clarity and direction so that I don’t continue to second guess all my decisions, and feel like I have something to work towards instead of feeling as though I’m wandering aimlessly through life. Travel and fun are taking the backseat for a while but it’s important for me to save as much money as I can and develop some habits that will benefit me in the long run. And as usual, I’ll update this as much as possible.

So…Spain?

A few weeks ago, I had my visa appointment at the consulate in San Francisco and unfortunately, it went just as I expected. In my excitement to move to Spain I overlooked something pretty important listed in the visa requirements. A valid green card for US permanent residents. I didn’t think it was important when I first saw the list because I applied for citizenship a year ago and figured the process would be over soon. But my expired green card caused me to be denied a visa. I felt helpless and defeated because I had no back up plan and Spain is the only thing I’ve had to look forward to in years. I didn’t know what to do. So on a whim I applied to renew my green card and spent some money on unnecessary things to make myself feel a little better.

After a week of wallowing I got on the job hunt and didn’t even know what I was looking for. A few months ago I tried looking for a job as a backup plan and didn’t apply to a single posting. Nothing could top Spain! What could I possibly do for work that would dull the pain of losing Spain? Nothing. So now that I was forced to find a job here I had some soul searching to do. About a week ago I finally figured it out.

As a sort of recent graduate, I don’t have most of the qualifications listed in the majority of job postings. And even if I did, the fact of the matter is that most employers want to hire overqualified candidates. So I turned to the only source of employment that I knew I’d qualify for but could also provide me with some valuable work experience, the AmeriCorps. In this past week I’ve had several interviews. Each with a positive outcome. But also in the past week I’ve had an appointment with immigration that resulted in the validity of my green card being extended until August 2019. Essentially I can now get a visa to go to Spain. Problem solved!

Not quite. Obviously it makes total sense for me to go ahead and get the visa and never look back. But it also makes sense that I stay here and get that valuable work experience that will hopefully launch a career that I’ll enjoy and make a difference in. I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing. But I’ll be sure to write it all down here.

Our last US road trip: part 2

A sculpture in Jackson that reminded me of Jax and the equine friends he made just days earlier.

So in Jackson Hole I got the Subaru looked at for the 3rd and 4th time. The check engine light came on shortly after I left Minnesota and each mechanic since South Dakota (there are 2 Subaru dealers in South Dakota and I went to both) has told me the car will be fine, turned off the light and sent me on my way. Yet the light kept coming on and knocking out my cruise control. The catalyst efficiency system had been malfunctioning and it is apparently the most common and yet the most difficult problem to diagnose in Subarus. It seemed like the kind of problem that a dealership could help me with more than any other mechanic so I took it to the Jackson Subaru and they couldn’t help me either.

5 minutes outside walking Jax and it was snowing so hard I could barely see.

So I took it to a local mechanic hoping he could help me. He tinkered with it all day and couldn’t come up with any solutions. His own Subaru has the same problem and he said the best thing to do would be to get the car to California and have a mechanic tinker with it for a week. He didn’t charge me anything and I was grateful for his honesty because so far no one else had told me anything but “there’s no way of knowing.”

We celebrated Jax’s 5th birthday in Jackson Hole with a huge treat!

To be honest, Jackson Hole is really boring unless you have plans to ski or something. So we hung out at the Motel 6 for 2 days. Doing nothing. We left early the next day.

The plan for the rest of the trip was to see my friend Paige in Colorado Springs and see Monument Valley in Utah. That left a whole lot of time in between for travel and spontaneous adventures. I wanted to get out of Wyoming as soon as possible (it sucked to be brutally honest) and into Colorado so we could stop at a dog park in Ft Collins that we had visited in 2016. It was fun then but Jax wasn’t in the mood to play when we got there and he sat by me the whole time.

Horsetooth Dog Park

When we were in Ft Collins, Paige realised she had overbooked herself and could only make time for lunch or dinner. This is very Paige. She fills her social calendar and constantly overbooks herself. And while a weekend with my friend would’ve been great, we’ll be working together all summer and so I can’t be selfish or upset. Still, I bought her a day planner for her birthday, which was a few days after I saw her, so that she would avoid more overbooking. We met up for a nice lunch and did some shopping before she had to run to her next engagement.

Before we met up with Paige I wanted to do a nice early morning hike in Cheyenne Canyon. The 7 bridges trail is a good 3.5 mile hike (we did it twice last year when we stayed in Colorado Springs) and it is a part of a longer 6-7 mile trail. I wanted Jax tired for the day but also, we are so out of shape. There was nothing for us to hike in Florida and so we needed all the exercise we could get. Jax is the best trail dog and so far his inner diva still let me take a picture of him every now and again. I have to make sure I get the shot in one take because he will walk away if I’m taking too long. Diva.

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Now we were on our way to Four Corners Monument. We drove through the night because I wanted to get there at sunrise. Turns out that Great Sand Dunes is also on the little strip of highway to Four Corners and Monument Valley so I decided we’d spend the night and get to Utah the next day.

We spent half the day at Great Sand Dunes and had a good time trying to climb to the top. My lungs gave up near the top but I got some neat pictures from the trip. Jax loved the sand and had a blast running up and down the dunes. The next day we finally got to Utah! And our first stop, Four Corners, turned out to be pretty unremarkable and was a glorified pee break on the way to Monument Valley.

Monument Valley was… crowded with tourists. But you can do self guided tours around the park and that’s what we did. But not before a few pictures to show off Jax’s natural modelling abilities.

We took a few pictures in the parking lot and the tourists loved it.
Windswept and annoyed
By the third stop he wouldn’t even look at me.

Best little Subaru that ever was.

It was pretty great. And the fact that we got to do some light off-roading was nice. Highly recommend it if you’re ever in the area.

The view from Artist’s Point

I wanted to drive through southern Utah instead of Arizona because I knew if Jax had to use the bathroom in Arizona, he wasn’t gonna go. He needs some kind of greenery to do his business, but also southern Utah is cooler. So off we went. The drive was pretty dry so when we got to Page, AZ and I saw a very green park we stopped for a few hours to play and let Jax do his business as he pleases. When it started to get dark I looked around for a place to stay and the Walmart down the road was our only option. So we camped out with the other 20 or so campers in the parking lot.

The night was really calm and the parking lot started to quiet down when it got dark so we went for a walk. On our way back to the car when we were maybe 20-30 parking spots away, huge gusts of wind started whipping across the lot. Picking up debris and sand, knocking out lamps and rocking even the biggest RVs. Then it started to rain. We hid behind an RV but the wind still got us. The sand hit my skin so hard it hurt. I knew we had to get back to the car but who knew how much longer this would last. So we ran. As fast as we could. Jax closed his eyes and followed the leash and I just ran with my eyes barely open. When we got in the car I had to wash the sand out of my eyes in a bowl and wipe the sand off of Jax’s fur and face and out of his ears. The car shook so hard it made Jax whimper. This storm came out of nowhere and in a matter of minutes it was over. Likw it never happened. I guess that’s the desert for you.

While I was cooking dinner that night I looked at the map to see what was around and we were literally 3-4 miles from Horseshoe Bend. What luck. So I decided we’d go there for the sunrise. Unfortunately, about 50-60 other people had the same idea. And then once the sun was up even more people came. It was ridiculous. But Jax was being especially well behaved and people even stopped to take his picture before they left.

I will admit i did not get the best pictures of Jax and the bend.
Need a decent camera and good telephoto lens bad.
Good boy.

Because of the rain, stopping to hike a slot canyon would be dangerous so we headed to Kanab hoping to find a place to have lunch. I went to Kanab knowing that Best Friends Animal Society had their massive headquarters there but I figured it would be out of the way and not worth the trip. Turns out it was on the way to St. George and so we had to stop in to see if we could get a tour. Unfortunately, while they do allow dog owners on their tours, they require someone to wait in the car with the dog whenever they make a stop inside a building. Because the property is so big, the group has to drive to each location. So we settled for hiking one of their trails instead. We met a lovely couple who flew in from Maine for vacation and to possibly adopt a dog. Best Friends allows you to spend the day and night with the pet they match you with to see if everyone is a good fit for each other. It’s a great practice and they were having a great day with their possible adoptee.

We tried meeting a few sheep and horses. All of which ignored Jax. I think he was heartbroken. He whined when he couldn’t get their attention and I guess he thought he would make friends like he did on the farm in Montana.

Our very last night in a parking lot. The end of an era.

When we left Kanab it really started to feel like the end of an era. Our last cross-country trip and we fit in as much as we possibly could. I was exhausted and a little sad. While I’ve never really felt like I fit in in the average American lifestyle or society or whatever you want to call it, I’ve enjoyed the last few years (2016-present). Anyone who knows me well has agreed it’s time for me to move on. And I’m so happy and grateful I have friends who understand me and know I don’t feel quite right here. But also they know I’ve done all I wanted to do and seen all I wanted to see. It certainly doesn’t feel like there’s anything holding me back and this move to Spain feels like the right thing for us. I’m ready to start over again and be out of my comfort zone in a new country, culture, language, all of it. Excited doesn’t begin to cover how I feel.

But first…I’ll be keeping track and taking even more pictures this summer as I document the last of our west coast adventures. Stay tuned!

Our last US road trip: part 1

I’ve been trying to write this post for ages and I constantly get distracted by the smallest things. So I finally sat down to get it down and got it done I did.

Savannah, GA

On April 10 we arrived in San Francisco after two and a half weeks on the road. We covered approximately 5,200 miles on this trip so it was definitely the biggest we’ve ever done. As usual, it was not planned. We had no plans set in stone outside of a short trip to Cumberland Gap before we left Florida. I like to let each trip unfold naturally. I learned a long time ago not to make too many plans and have too many expectations for a trip because being let down and having to change plans is the worst. But also when you make too many plans and leave no room for exploration then you can sometimes miss out on the little attractions and activities that you come across along the way.

Our first stop was Savannah, Georgia. It was the one historic city in the South that I hadn’t been to yet and so I figured it was worthy of being the first stop.

Savannah, GA
Savannah, GA
Savannah, GA

We did a self guided walking tour of the city with all 22 city squares in mind. The city is so well-preserved and maintained, it’s easy to imagine people long before my time roaming the cobble stone streets and meeting in the city squares.

We didn’t spend more than a day here because we had to rush to Cumberland Gap, Tennessee to have lunch with one of my dearest friends, Ali. He’s a med student with very little spare time on his hands, and so an afternoon was all I could ask of him. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of our lunch and hike so here are some pictures from the last time we visited Ali. We did the same hike then too, to the tri-state peak.

The town of Cumberland Gap.
Jax sitting at the intersection of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

On our way to Tennessee my friend Emma, who lives in Montana, let us know that we were welcome to come and visit if we wanted to. And since I don’t turn down offers to have adventures, we made our way North from Cumberland Gap. But not before letting my friend AC in Minnesota know we’d be stopping by for dinner on our way there.

Personal Malnati Chicago Classic

We spent 2 nights in Chicago in between Tennessee and Minnesota to redeem my last trip to Chicago. I forgot to take pictures of the beautiful Chicago architecture and took a picture of the tiny overpriced pizza I picked up at Lou Malnati’s on our way out of the city to try and make up for it. Unbeknownst to me, I ordered the exact same pie I had last time I was in the city. When I bit into the delicious little thing I immediately had a flashback to me sitting in my bed in the amazing HI hostel downtown, sick as a dog, having just lost my voice, hungry with no appetite but I knew I needed to eat something, so a deep dish was the only way to go. Lou Malnati’s is pricey and the personal size pizza is no bigger than my hand but they are the number 1 recommended place to get a deep dish in the city and their food is delicious. I give them 👍 because they certainly get enough attention to lower their prices but don’t.

Our night in Rochester, Minnesota consisted of burgers and beers in a dimly lit little eatery downtown called The Tap House. Thanks to Google maps for being creepy and keeping track of everywhere I go because I could not remember the name of that place. I had a great blue cheese and bacon burger and ordered a flight of beer to try a few of their craft beers and 2 stouts I’d never heard of. Fun fact: I really only like stouts and I’ll try as many as there are available. I don’t really have a favourite but I know exactly when and where I’ve had the most memorable ones. Anything lighter than a stout tastes like liquid bread and I can’t name one I’ve had and liked. Because I don’t have a good camera I didn’t even try to take nighttime pictures. I just enjoyed the evening and the company of my good friend. We parted ways in the morning and I picked up some winter gear to prepare for the cold Montana weather ahead at the only store around that still had winter anything in stock, Kohl’s. Every other store was prematurely ready for summer because a few days after we left Rochester, they got hit by another winter storm.

Jax barking at me for making him pose for a picture in Billings, Montana. More often than not this precedes his perfectly posed pictures.

Driving through South Dakota was exhausting so we stopped in Billings, Montana for the night instead of going straight to Livingston where Emma and her boyfriend were. Light snow was forecasted overnight but the result in the morning was closer to that of a winter wonderland. Even the Walmart parking lot we spent the night in was beautiful. Only a few centimetres had fallen but it was magical. We did a short hike before getting on the highway to Livingston. Which was terrifying but was not as bad as I expected it to be. The constant movement from all the cars kept the lanes mostly clear and there were few stretches of roads where I had to worry about staying in my lane. Livingston on the other hand got at least a foot of snow overnight and that meant Jax was about to experience deep snow for the first time. At least deep to him. His reaction was better than expected.

He rolled in it. He bounced around in it. He shoved his face in it. He ate it. It gave him the zoomies. It was fantastic. We were laughing so hard I almost forgot to record all of this to share with everyone. Fortunately I got a few seconds of him chasing snow balls that Emma was tossing around.

Emma and Jax became fast friends.

After all that fun in the park we headed to a farm to meet one of Emma’s friends who was having family and friends over for dinner. It was a farm like any other. They had horses, a donkey, pigs, goats, and chickens. The first thing he did was run into the horse enclosure after they all approached the fence to greet him. The little donkey, who had a history of biting, had fallen in love with him. It was hilarious and terrifying.

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After we got him out of there he met the pig. The pig hates everyone and everything but loved Jax! He came over to the fence and Jax licked his face. It was the cutest thing. The goats and chickens were curious about this dog that wasn’t barking at them but they didn’t approach the fence. All in all Jax had a full Montana experience in one short Saturday and he loved it! Emma and I hit up Chico’s hot springs, which was packed, to soak for a while and catch up. Then we had “dinner” at Taco in Bozeman. I put dinner in quotations because it wasn’t very good and everything about their menu was a disappointment. We don’t recommend it at all.

The next day we went for a hike in Big Sky that really was more of a slip and slide. The trail was so icy we did a lot of sliding down and climbing up. If there was a break in the trail that seemed good for sliding, we slipped and slid down it. Funny enough, we were the only ones doing this. Everyone we passed somehow had sure footing on the ice and calming walked and even ran along the trail. After a late lunch we said farewell to Emma and her boyfriend and headed south to Jackson Hole.

Thus ends week one of our trip.

This post is longer than I expected so I will write about week 2 in another post.

Quick update

Well I’m sure you can guess but I’d like to say it anyway. I accepted the offer from Meddeas and I’m going to Spain in September! I got started on visa application paperwork and I made an appointment at the consulate. I am extremely excited but I haven’t told anyone except my 3 closest friends. I feel like if too many people close to me know then they’ll jinx it somehow. So I’ll wait until I get the visa to make an announcement. But for now I’m secretly very excited and looking for flight discounts if anyone knows of any. *hint hint*

For now though, Jax and I are at it again. We left Florida on Friday and drove north. We are in Chicago and heading to Minnesota later today. We’re heading to Montana this weekend to visit a friend and have some snowy adventures and I’m so nervous for the drive! I know states with snow and ice are pretty good about clearing that stuff and I have a 4wd Subaru. But mostly I’m scared of the other drivers and them doing something that will cause a pile up or something like the Subaru sliding backwards down a mountain pass. I’m gonna be brave and do this because I’ve always wanted to but also it is good to concur fears. No matter how small and trivial they may seem. As usual, I haven’t been the best at taking pictures but here’s a snippet of where we’ve been so far. Instagram is the best place to see updates, so feel free to follow us there!