One of the most ironic things in my life for the last 6 years has been my degree in European Studies.  Why? Because I had never been to Europe.

I guess I can’t make that joke anymore because we just spent the most amazing week in Italy. Ronnie even surprised me with the plane tickets as a sort of 5 year anniversary present. Best present ever.

If you know anything about my life growing up, you’ll know that I was homeschooled and that everywhere we went, there was a lesson to be learned.  I had  been to more historical sites, State parks, National parks, etc by the time I was ten that…well that it’s hard to stay interested. Let’s just say that history was is my least favorite subject. There are millions of dates and people and places and events that I should have memorized, but I don’t.  That being said, I was a bit ashamed when we went to Rome and more than once I said, “Oh! I didn’t know that was here too!”

I stand by my statement that I went to Rome to eat good food and drink good wine. However, there were some other interesting things as well. Rather than bore you with any historical details (that I don’t know), here are some photos.

Our airbnb was an adorable “loft” with a kitchen. We cooked several meals there because there was a Carrefour a few blocks away with amazing Italian ingredients.  It was a bit far away from things, but it was nice to see what an actual Roman neighborhood looked like instead of all the touristy stuff.

My mother asked me what my favorite part was…besides the food (she knows me too well). I didn’t really know what to say, but now that I’ve thought about it, I think it was going to see the Symphony.  There’s not much I like more than sitting and listening to live, professional, classical music. I’d say it gives me goosebumps (which is true), but it’s much more than just goosebumps.  And it’s weird because it’s a completely different feeling than being in the symphony playing the music. Enough sappiness. It was excellent.

The pasta making class was also super fun and educational. The problem is that it was the night before we were leaving so when they had all these suggestions for where and what to eat, it was a bit disappointing. However, we had plenty of good food thanks to Facebook and Pinterest.

We didn’t get to many things that we would have liked to see, but according to legend, if you throw coins in the Trevi Fountain, you’ll be back.  I wonder if it matters that we threw in Egyptian pounds…

I know the last two blog posts that we’ve written sounded like we were depressed being in Egypt. But it isn’t really all that bad and I think we were both pleasantly surprised at how we were relieved to come back to something familiar.




I have to squeeze in the traditional annual review before January is over. Our 2015 theme was adventure and opportunity.  As I look back on my posts from last year, I realize how much happier we are.  We hadn’t even dreamed of living out of the country last January and in February I was looking into getting a masters degree of some sort, possibly in TESOL. It was a relief to have a reliable and consistent source of income from my job at Lewis and Clark Elementary, but teaching there was stressful and not enjoyable. Not only was the job hard, the whole state was upset with teaching, resulting in the walkout.

I was part of an after school club that empowers girls to be confident and teaches them the importance of living a balanced life. This was probably a highlight of my year teaching at Lewis and Clark, getting to know more of the students and inspire them with physical exercise.

On top of finishing off a stressful school year, there was more stress with finding another job. A phone conversation with an acquaintance who works in Spain convinced us that teaching out of the country is doable.  It sounded crazy and impossible, but she was very reassuring.  So, I began to apply for jobs out of the country.  It all went very fast from there.  Within a week of finishing my application, I had people asking for interviews. My first interview in Kyrgyzstan offered me a job within a day. Not long after I had my interview in Egypt. People ask “Why Egypt?” and a very good answer would be that Egypt was more interesting than Kyrgyzstan.  So, my incredible husband and I have been here since August experiencing not just one, but several new cultures.  We’ve been slacking off on posting recently, but check back to pretty much any post since August if you missed out on those experiences.

Speaking of Ronnie, that brings to mind the musical side of our lives. The year started off with the Planets. Ronnie got to play a bass oboe and it was easily one of the biggest productions we’ve done.  Then for the final concert of the season, we played Beethoven 9. These were both amazing to participate in.  Other shows included Cats, Guns of Ireland, and the Music Man. In Egypt, we have both been involved in the Bibliotheca Alexandria Library Orchestra.  It’s a smaller group that is just starting up, but it has been a great experience so far.

We took a trip to Seattle to see the tulip fields during spring break and several overnight stays in Walla Walla. Plus there was a summer trip to Lake Chelan where we stayed in a friend’s house.  Our travels in Egypt have included the Pyramids, Hurghada and the Red Sea, as well as various sights in Alexandria.

We are sad to have left behind a wonderful community of friends in Washington, but it has been a invaluable experience living in Egypt.  There has only been one time (the second day) that I regretted this decision.  There’s nothing we can’t live without, but most importantly we’re both happy with what we’re doing.

We’re looking forward to more traveling and adventures in 2016! And for everyone who said this would be an amazing experience and wonderful opportunity?

You were right!



Music: A Supplement

Rule #1 for living in Egypt: “Expect nothing”.

That is, everyone else’s expectations can be sky-high, but you must resist the urge to form any expectations of your own.

(This is a continuation of the main Music post, so if you’ve happened to land on this one first, go read that.)

Now, before I start, let me say that we’ve met and befriended a large number of Egyptians recently, so I really don’t mean to offend anybody, but these are some of our experiences of being musicians in Egypt.

I consider myself very lucky to have found an orchestra to play with at all, so any complaints I have, I will continue to swallow and move on. But things can be very frustrating here. In an effort to not complain too much on Facebook, we’ve kept a lot of stuff to ourselves. You’ll have to forgive the negativity, and the disjointedness of this rant, which is basically a hastily compiled and un-bulleted list.

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Before moving to Egypt, approximately a hundred people asked us if we’d find a symphony to play with. Our research online suggested the answer was, “Um, pr-probably not?”. The “Cairo Symphony” has a website that looks like it was built in 1996 and then swiftly abandoned, and I’m not sure why an opera house would want us. (To be fair, it appears that the Cairo Symphony actually is a thing, but their website could use an overhaul.) There was no hint that there existed an orchestra anywhere else in Egypt.

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2014 Review

2014 started out with a lot of frustration. Our living situation wasn’t ideal and jobs and money were lacking.

Now, as the year ends, I can only think about all of the blessings and support we have received from all sorts of people.

Henry joined our animal hoard in March.  Due to our the previously listed situations, I was not convinced that getting a dog was a great idea, but we have absolutely loved having him. He’s adorable and funny and tiny. He likes to play with big dogs, loves going on rides in the car, hates water, and is like an annoying little brother to the cats.

As for the music side of our lives, we were both thrilled to be a part of Mid-Columbia Musical Theater’s production of Les Miserables.  Aside from the regular symphony season, we did three shows with MCMT, West Side story for a high school, and the Nutcracker.  We also played with the Washington Idaho Symphony for their summer concert in Moscow, ID.  Mahler 5 with 8 horns definitely a highlight for me.

After a few months of waiting, my teaching career finally took off.  My certificate showed up in March and I subbed until the end of school in June.  I was very excited to get started and really wanted to quit my job at the hospital, but then I thought about what I would do in the summer and realized that it probably wasn’t a good idea quite yet.  Early in August, I got a message from Sylvan, a local tutoring center.  I had turned in an application 8 months earlier and they needed teachers.  Finally, after three and a half years, I said goodbye to Kadlec Regional Medical Center and customer service jobs. After they trained me as a tutor, I got hired as a 4th and 5th grade teacher.  I’m sure you will hear plenty in the future about that.  That’s pretty much my portion of the year…besides the two foolish self inflicted injuries.

In April we moved into a duplex in Richland that happens to be right around the corner from my school so my commute consists of bundling up (for now) for a three minute walk which leaves the car available for Ronnie.  We spent our summer doing housework and gardening.  The floors were replaced by the owner, but we cleaned out the front garden, painted four different rooms, made a garden, as well as many other miscellaneous projects.

As for traveling, we took one trip across the mountains and managed to fit everything in.  Of course we would have loved to take more trips…perhaps in 2015.

Ronnie also had an exciting year.  His symphony involvement increased quite a bit.  Something I don’t believe that I’ve blogged about is that he was a driving force in getting a youth symphony started.  From getting the approval from the board, to holding auditions, to being the contact in town, he’s been involved in every step.  The first rehearsals are set to start this month.  While he’s not one to show many emotions, I believe he’s pretty excited to see this succeed.  He also started teaching private clarinet and oboe lessons.  Other miscellaneous things he’s done are work at a local bakery and house/pet sit.

So far in 2015, we went to the park to run with a group of people to start off the new year right!  It was a total of 23 degrees, but Henry, Ronnie, and I all bundled up and took a stab at a 5k.

We’ve been having fun with my family over break, but I think I’ll save that for a different post.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


(I thought this picture was pretty good for wrangling three animals and getting a timer set up)

Check out my instagram. I’m still working on my 100 days.

Platinum season

It’s been a while but I’m still alive and kicking! In fact, last week was the first week I didn’t set foot in the school over the weekend. I made it through parent conferences and the holidays are rapidly approaching! But I’m not here to talk about school, I’m here to talk about the first concert of the 70th season for the Mid-Columbia Symphony. Our first concert this year was Halloween themed. We played a lot of scary music, and hosted a phenomenal piano soloist and guest conductor.
Before one of the rehearsals, I hosted a horn sectional at our house. We practice our instruments on occasion and don’t feel too bad about the noise, but three horns make quite a bit more noise than just one (Ronnie wisely abandoned ship before we even started). If you’ve ever been to a sectional, you know that things get repeated over and over. The fourth (or fiftieth) time through Tam O’Shanter’s fast triplet melody, Henry got jealous of all the noise we were making and pulled out his snake to squeak along with us. I know I appreciated the comic relief.
I can’t guarantee that I’ll be back any time soon, but maybe during the holidays I’ll find time to blog. ‘Tis the season for winter music. The fall musical opens this weekend, then right after Thanksgiving rehearsals for the Messiah and Nutcracker start.


Mahler and my pets

After 14 days straight of working, I think I deserved to party until 3 AM and sleep in til 11 AM today.  I worked at the hospital on the weekends and had subbing jobs everyday (except for one day when I was being picky about the schools and stayed home to work on some of our projects here).  Yesterday was the season finale concert for the symphony, thus the staying up past 2 and drinking more than one glass of wine…that’s about as crazy as I get.  There’s so much to tell you!  Perhaps I’ll have to write more than one blog.

Let me start with 8 French horns playing Mahler 1.  Being a horn player, I’ve always heard about how amazing Mahler is and how everyone wants to go to the MahlerFest, but not being a professional musician, I had never really gotten into it.  In college I believe I played the 7th part and I wasn’t impressed because I spent more than half of my time counting rests.  I also wasn’t originally very excited about this performance because only two of the seated horn players were going to be there and you can never be 100% sure that the people who get hired to come in will play well.  Turns out three of the eight horn players went to Hanford at some point and I felt a tiny bit of “Falcon Pride”.


So how did it go?  It was the most excited about a symphony concert I’ve ever felt.  No, I didn’t play perfectly, but I can’t even remember the last time I felt like that after a performance.  I got pretty close when we played 1812, but you can’t beat playing with 7 other fantastic horn players and blowing the audience out of their seats.  Mahler wrote in that the horns should stand up on the last page of music.  Seems cheesy, and reminded me of high school marching band.  But, there was a audible, Whoa, from the audience when we did it.  I was all shaky from adrenaline and nerves afterwards and had the feeling of working as hard as I could to produce something awesome.


Other symphony news…my own dear husband has been elected the president of the Mid-Columbia Symphony.  Mr. Vance gets to vote on the board now and  I’m sure he will do an excellent job of representing the symphony.

So last night when we got home from our party, we were horrified to see that the gate was wide open and Henry was not there to greet us with his incessant barking.  Of course something like this had to happen at 3 in the morning.  Thankfully, after calling his name a few times, he was just in the neighbors yard and we were able to find him by his usually annoying bark.  This is the third time we’ve lost our animals in this neighborhood.  Each time it was a new animal and we are so lucky that they’ve all come back.  2014-05-03 19.52.54

Sophie got lost in the basement for a day or two, but she showed up eventually.  We didn’t worry about her too much since she wasn’t outside.  Samson was left outside one day when we were painting and wanted him out of the way.  I kept checking on him because I knew it was just a matter of time before he found a way out of the yard.  Cats are sneaky that way.  Well we finished painting and closed the door and forgot about him.  I don’t know how he got out, but he was gone for several hours.  He got out at the last house once and came right back before we could miss him, so we were concerned but hopeful that he could get back.  Sure enough, a few hours later, I got a text at piano lessons that he came back and was sitting by the big shed.  He’s not allowed outside anymore without constant supervision (this makes us sound like terrible pet parents).  Then this happened last night with Henry.  I’m not sure if the gate just didn’t latch very well when we left, or if someone decided that his barking was too annoying and let him out of our gate, but I sure hope it doesn’t happen again.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that we are all home in one piece.

Stay tuned for more about home improvements…