Finding a Home Away from Home

I am the type of person where I consider “home” to be wherever I am staying for the night. If I’m at school, my dorm room or apartment is home. If I’m in New Jersey, my parent’s house is home. If I’m on vacation, my hotel room is home. I’ve always been one to travel and relatively independent, so it typically doesn’t take me very long to adjust to calling someplace new home.

That being said, that doesn’t mean that I always feel comfortable in a new place from the second I get there, which I think is really natural. There are cultural differences, language differences, and just general differences in daily life. It’s also definitely hard to feel comfortable and adjusted when there are only so many Americans that live around you and all of them are clearly more experienced. There are four missionary families living out in the bush with the Baka currently, and one of them leaves next week. That’s definitely overwhelming—coming into a literal foreign situation being the only newbie. Yes, they two were newbies at one point or another, but that point was over 10 years ago.

All of that being said, I’m here to pose (and try to answer) the question: at what point does a home become a Home when traveling abroad? A home, for me, is the place that I’m staying for an extended period of time, but a Home is someplace where I feel comfortable and like I can relax.

IMG_0478It’s definitely weird coming into the situation living with the Conrods because their home has been their Home for about 13 years now. To an extent, I guess I’ll never really feel totally comfortable just because they have way more control over the environment than I do, but there is definitely a point that I reach some level of comfort where I am more comfortable here than I am anywhere else in this situation/at this point in time.

Anyways, I did promise to answer this question at some point in the post so here I go. I think for me, out here in middle-of-nowhere Cameroon, it felt like Home when we had visitors and I was able to know more about the environment than they did. I was the expert in the situation. The Hares (another family working with a different people group nearby) came to visit and brought their intern, Hunter. Hunter and I had roomed together my first couple nights here and she was the only other twenty-something-year-old girl out here. When I was showing her around, I realized how much I knew about how we ran things and I used terms like “our house” and “my room.” At that moment I had a realization that this was not only my home, like a hotel room in Disney World but also my Home. A place that I had a personal connection to and felt fully relaxed in.

Keep in mind that my idea of both home and Home is completely subjective and I know a lot of people have different perspectives. My dad, for example, sees my home as my parent’s house in New Jersey and makes a point to correct me when I refer to the University of Delaware as home. For Peter, home is his mother’s house, even though he is technically rarely there because of his busy schedule. For some people, even after moving away, home is the place that they grew up. Comment below your thoughts on what home is and where your home is!

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Coffee of Kentucky

Within the past six months, I have traveled to Kentucky twice! My boyfriend’s (Peter’s) brother and sister-in-law (Matt and Becca) live there and his other sister (and my friend), Anna, goes to school there. I first flew out over Spring Break to see Anna at school and then I went again in August with Peter to visit. The majority of BOTH trips consisted mainly of going to coffee shops; and, honestly, I was more than okay with that. Anyway, here is my miniature guide to coffee of Kentucky (well, at least Lexington).

(1) Coffee Times I was lucky enough to get to Coffee Times on both of my trips to Kentucky. It’s located in a little strip-mall not too far from Matt and Becca’s house. It has a really relaxed vibe and the makeshift furniture makes it feel homey in a way. They hadIMG_0434 a wide variety of both drinks and snacks, which is always nice, because I know sometimes coffee places can be lacking on the food selection. They have an option to get either pita or veggies with a variety of dipping options including hummus, spinach dip, and beer cheese! Attached to the sitting area/bar of the coffee shop, they have a little store where you can buy TONS of different coffees or little knick-knacks. They had a wide array of COFFEE MUGS (I may or may not own upward of twenty mugs), which were fun to stroll through. Both times I went there I think I had tea—Chai the first time and a London Fog the second, but from trying Peter and Anna’s coffee I can attest that it is also delicious! If you’re in Lexington, I definitely recommend you stop by; but, don’t count on there being available seating right away!

(2) Chocolate Holler Chocolate Holler is a chocolate and coffee bar that I also had the opportunity to visit twice! One of the things that first stood out to me was the exceptional customer service. Both times I was in Chocolate Holler, the barista at the register was IMG_0431friendly and asked whether we were from the area, how we enjoyed Lexington, and just continued a general conversation. They also had board games and puzzles over in the corner for people to enjoy, which was always a plus with me! I liked the idea that they were really putting forward an environment that said, “Hey, come study, play games, hang out. Take your time!” When you first walked in, they had a “pay it forward” board, where you could donate a cup of coffee and then write something like, “for someone who had a bad day” and then post it on the board. If someone came in and looked at the board, they could pull that note and get a free drink! Such a cool idea! The first time I went I tried a Rose Latte, which was not my favorite (more of the combination than the coffee itself though). The second time I had a Snickerdoodle hot chocolate with espresso that was just perfect! Swing by their location in Lexington and maybe you could even get a free drink!

(3) Daily Offerings Daily Offerings has two locations in the Lexington area. The first one is the roastery, which is located in downtown Lexington. The newer location had just opened up in a shopping center called “The Venue.” Both locations have a very open, airyIMG_0433 feel with lots of windows that allow the sunshine to pour in. They are also animal friendly, which is great for Peter’s brother and sister-in-law who have the most lovable Golden Doodle in the world! The new location has a massive garage door that opens up to an outdoor courtyard area; but, sadly, it was raining when we were there. I really enjoyed taking some time to do work at both locations on my two trips. I’ve tried a variety of drinks, from iced lattes to chai teas and thus far I have not been disappointed. They too have a decent food selection, including a daily quiche that I tried. The only caution would be that they didn’t seem to have a ton of food in the store, so if you’re hungry, GO FOR IT! Daily Offerings is also a family owned business and they view it as “not just as a means to support our family, but also as an avenue to share our blessings.” SO encouraging! Stop by either (or both) of their locations as soon as you can!

(4) North Lime Coffee & Donuts This was my last coffee shop stop on my most recent trip to Lexington. Becca and I spent the morning there chatting and then Peter and Matt IMG_0432joined us a little while later. North Lime has locations in both Lexington and Louisville. They are known for not only their coffee, but also their delicious DONUTS! The donuts are made fresh each day, and whatever is out on display is what they still have for purchase. I tried their carrot cake donut, which I think might have just been a seasonal thing, but either way was absolutely delicious. In Lexington, they get all of their coffee from Nate’s Coffee Roaster. I tried a latte and then also a London Fog. For the London Fog they double-checked it was good, because they don’t often make them. Customer service points right there for sure! The shop itself has a decent amount of seating (although it was still kind of difficult to find someplace to sit). There is definitely more of a family-friendly vibe, with lots of families coming in and out with small children. I would say that if you are looking for somewhere low-key to study, this probably won’t be the place for you. However, if you want to chat with a friend and want some delicious (albeit, not the healthiest) breakfast, definitely swing by North Lime Coffee and Donuts.

If you like coffee, traveling, or find yourself in Kentucky, make sure to check out some (or all) of these amazing coffee shops! Comment if you know of any other good coffee shops in the Lexington area we should check out on our next trip.

The Chaotic System of Cameroonian Driving

From my first full day in Yaoundé, I think the thing I found most interesting was the driving. It definitely seemed chaotic, but you could also tell there were patterns because everyone wasn’t constantly mad at each other. There might not be nice white and yellow lines denoting where the lanes were, but there was clearly a right and a wrong way to use the road. I remember sitting in the car with Jenn and telling her my fascination with the driving patterns or seeming lack of driving patterns. She responded with how there are a set of rules, but most of them are unspoken. A set of cultural norms determine the way the roads operate.

Later that week I was thrilled to read an orientation article discussing more in-depth the intricacies of Cameroonian roads. Here are some of the cultural norms that give insight into how Cameroonian drivers operate.

#1 RIGHTS TO THE ROAD The road is not just available to people driving cars or motorcycles. RoadIMG_20180531_153627 usage isn’t a privilege. Everyone has a right to use the road in Cameroon—including animals, people, bicycles, cars, and trucks. Everyone also has a right to use the road for a variety of different tasks, including walking, herding cows, and fixing vehicles. For example, the other day I saw a dog wearing a shirt and reading glasses riding a motorcycle (with a person, but STILL)! Because everyone has a right to the road, the rules are fluid; the rules are constantly changing based on circumstance and require constant communication.

***Side Note: Motorcycles have exempted themselves from most of these unspoken rules!

#2 DETERMINING THE RIGHT OF WAY Remember, the bigger, the better. If a massive truck is zooming towards you, I don’t recommend pulling out in front of it. That being said, if the front of your car is ahead of another car you have the right of way. For example, if we were all stuck in traffic, but I used the imaginary lane next to me to get the very front of my car in front of yours, you are now expected to yield to me. This is one of the “rules” I first noticed as a passenger on Cameroonian roads. In western cultures, we wouldn’t yield to someone just because they were slightly in front of us! Also, when pulling out into the street, as long as you can pull out and give the other cars coming enough time to slow down, you can pull out. Feel free to cut people off, it’s not culturally offensive…if you do it right!

#3 HORN USAGE I was walking along the road the other day when all of a sudden a massive truck drove past me. When it was directly next to me, it honked! I definitely jumped a couple feet in the air! I hadn’t done anything wrong; it was just their way of saying hello, an absolutely terrifying way of saying hello. Beyond saying hi, there are a lot of other uses for your horn on the Cameroonian roads. Nathan uses his horn on our way to church to alert oncoming traffic that we’re coming around the corner—also making all the children riding on our roof shout happily! Horns can also be used to alert people that you are overtaking them (especially large trucks). Unless you do something really wrong, the horn probably isn’t be used to express anger. 

#4 LIGHTS USAGE Headlights, similarly to horns, can be used for a variety of different reasons. They are often flashed to oncoming traffic to let people know that you are going, whether they are coming or not. I thought this was an incredibly amusing use—“I’m coming, whether you like it or not, so I suggest you stop.” Blinkers are used to IMG_20180718_121929communicate to a car behind you whether or not you should pass. A left blinker indicates that you are clear to pass. This is especially useful when you are approaching the top of a hill or a blind corner and cannot see what is ahead. Oppositely, the right blinker is used to indicate that you should not past, because in their viewpoint it is not safe, even though you might not see it. 

#5 WHERE TO DRIVE Essentially, drive where you can. Nowhere is off limits. Drive on the shoulders, sidewalks, and even the grass if you need to. Some of the roads are in pretty bad shape so you can feel free to go around the overwhelming amount of potholes and torn up the road instead of destroying your tires. Remember those imaginary lanes I mentioned earlier? Yeah, so the slower traffic is going, the more lanes there are. Also, there could be more lanes headed in one direction than the other based on traffic, which is actually pretty convenient. In my novice opinion, one of the most stressful places to drive must be the circles (or round-a-bouts), which have no lanes whatsoever!

So there are some basic Cameroonian driving rules, except for the undefined circumstances in which they don’t apply! Jenn said that the biggest thing she learned was to try to be as predictable as possible when driving. Don’t do anything that people wouldn’t expect you to do, even if it may feel unnatural by “Western driving standards.” I definitely won’t be driving during my four months here in Cameroon, but it’s fascinating to start to piece together the order in a seemingly chaotic system.

 

OCNJ: Early Morning Boardwalk Guide

In mid-August, Peter and I celebrated our two-year anniversary by going down the shore to Ocean City, NJ. We live in New Jersey, so this wasn’t a super far trip, but it was great being able to get away for the day and not spend hundreds of dollars doing so. As many of you know, I am absolutely NOT a beach person. However, the appeal of Ocean City, for me, comes mostly from its boardwalk. Since Peter enjoys the beach, I thought this would be a nice compromise and just a generally fun way to spend the day!

Our plan was to meet at his aunt’s house the night before because she lives about 15 minutes from Ocean City and then head to the beach in the morning for sunrise. After sunrise, we didn’t have much of a plan. I had found a blog post about coffee shops in Ocean City, but that was the extent of the planning we did beforehand.

Sunrises, Bikes, and Breakfasts

The morning of, we struggled to wake-up and get dressed, but we managed. We found a IMG_0236parking spot a couple blocks out from the boardwalk on one of the free-parking streets and then, as we walked closer to the boardwalk, we passed about six or seven closer spots! We for some reason over-estimated how crowded the beach would be at 5:45 in the morning. We walked out to the beach with our blanket and found a place to put it on one of the jetties. Straight out over the water, we could see the sun come up and if we looked slightly more to the left we could see Atlantic City in the distance. We sat there for a while enjoying God’s beautiful. Then we strolled back to the boardwalk, feeling as though we had all the time in the world to enjoy this peaceful morning.

On our drive over I had found a place for breakfast that was actually on the bay side of Ocean City. It was called Dockside Kitchen. We wanted to rent bikes before Dockside Kitchen opened at seven though because that was going to be our main form of transportation for the day. There turned out to be a bike rental place, Oves Restaurant & Bike Rental, on the same street that we parked. When we wandered back there from the beach, it looked like the guy was just starting to put some bikes out. I told Peter to go and ask what time he opened. When he asked him he responded, “I can open now if you want me to.” Perfect! We got our bikes—I picked out a pretty yellow one, and then we were off!

By the time we pulled up to Dockside Kitchen and parked our bikes, the clock had just IMG_0296turned to 7:00! Again, perfect timing! There was nobody standing out front at the hostess stand though, so we just waited until one of the girls walked towards the front and saw us. Apparently, the hostess never showed up, so she took it upon herself to seat us. We had the pick of the dock and chose a table right overlooking the water. It was slightly chilly, but I would also rather be cold than hot. The restaurant was not just known for its view and food, but they also had a really good coffee bar! I was definitely pleased with the meal and the coffee, which I desperately needed if I was going to survive being up so early.

Coffee Shops

Not surprisingly, we made several coffee shop stops in our time riding up and down the boardwalk. We probably would’ve stopped at an excessive amount of coffee shops no matter what, but the fact that we woke up before the sun made that desire for espresso even stronger!

Our first stop was Ocean City Coffee Company. They had two locations on the boardwalk and were the one place on our list that Peter had heard the most about. We went to the first location that we came upon. The wall was covered in different canisters of various coffees. They had a window in the back where you could see into where they roasted the coffee. There were a couple of places to sit, most of which were full. Overall, they had a nice atmosphere and the coffee was good too! I went with a dirty chai—so a chai latte with a couple of shots of espresso. When we finished drinking our coffees, which didn’t take long at all, we hopped back on our bikes and went to see what was up next!

The second coffee stop (not back-to-back, we did do some other things in between) was at a little hut that was attached to an arcade. I actually almost rode past it and Peter had to call me back and repoint out the sign reading Locals, showing me that this was, in fact, IMG_0295the place. By this point in the morning we both felt thoroughly dehydrated, so instead of making that worse with coffee, we opted to go for smoothies! They were good and despite having the sound of arcade games behind us, the place’s design and set-up had us feeling as though we were right on the beach at a little smoothie shack!

Our final coffee stop of the day (four total if you count Dockside Kitchen, which I do!) was Positively 4th Café & Coffee. It was located a couple blocks off of the boardwalk—actually really close to where we parked our car! It was a good last location for us to check out because it was a little after noon and we could no longer ride bikes on the boardwalk. We got lattes and a hummus platter to share. The place was really quirky. There were two main rooms. We opted to sit in the smaller back room where there was a bit more privacy and it had a fan that was blowing directly on us. The only downside of the place was the lack of air conditioning. They had a couple guitars hanging on the walls, which said, “not for sale, but feel free to play.” It was definitely a place set up with the intention of people hanging out for a while and relaxing.

Our OCNJ coffee mission was a success and made a lot easier with the help this article from “I Love Ocean City New Jersey.” We finished the day checking off four out of the six recommended places.

Miscellaneous Entertainment

As I mentioned earlier, drinking coffee wasn’t the ONLY thing we did all day.

We played mini golf at Tee-Time Golf. I had fond memories of playing the same course when we would come to Ocean City as a family growing up, so it was fun being back! The course had a loose theme of childhood stories and nursery rhymes. If you’ve ever been to OCNJ you would probably recognize the “old woman who lives in the shoe” hole, which is the most visible from the boardwalk. I ended up winning the game by one stroke if we added up just the scores. If we did it the “correct” way and based scores on how far we were from par, Peter and I tied, which was less exciting. I preferred adding it the way that I won (shocking, right?)!

We stopped in a couple of classic boardwalk shops. They were those stores with all the cheesy signs and other stuff that anyone with a beach house doesn’t need, but probably wants and will end up buying. Despite not having the intention of buying anything, it IMG_4370was fun to just walk around and see what different things we could find.

The other shop we went into ended up being less window-shopping and more actually shopping. It was a little boutique store called Sand & Stitch. We had ridden past it a couple times before it opened and I pointed it out every time saying, “That looks cute, we should maybe check it out later!” By the time it actually opened we almost had to go in. I saw a couple things I liked but didn’t know if I would ever actually wear. Peter encouraged me to have fun and try on things if I really wanted to. I think that was a statement he came to regret, considering within 15 minutes he had an armful of clothes I had handed him to carry until I made my way back to the fitting room. I ended up only buying a pair of jean shorts, but it was a fun outing. Later, when we went to return our bikes, the guy working there made a joke that “it was a good thing we didn’t get baskets, or I’d probably have triple the bags.” He probably wasn’t wrong.

I was so tempted by the sound of Pacman right behind me when we were drinking our smoothies in the arcade, that eventually I gave in and decided to play a round… or two. Peter and I decided to play a couple of other games while we were at it. We played two rounds of basketball, which I surprisingly lost—I guess after seven years of not playing my skills started wearing off a bit. Then, we headed over to Skeeball where I came out victorious! We ended up with a handful of tickets that we gave to a couple of families that had young kids. I didn’t need any more junk in my room and it definitely made the kids happy!

Final Thoughts

When we decided we were ready to leave, we looked at the clock and it was only about 1:00 PM! The sun was at its peak and it was just starting to get really hot and crowded on the boardwalk. We had spent seven hours in Ocean City that morning and were still able to get home at a reasonable time to take a nap and then enjoy the evening. All in all, it was a perfect way to spend our anniversary! For anyone who loves the boardwalk, but isn’t a fan of the beach and the crowds, I definitely recommend spending a morning in Ocean City, New Jersey.