Sprocketts by the Bay

Sprockett family adventures as California residents

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First trips to Africa: Morocco & Ethiopia

This fall I had my first opportunities to travel to my 5th continent, Africa, to present work my nonprofit is leading. But this post is about the fun stuff I got to do around the work stuff while in Morocco (September) and Ethiopia (November).

I first arrived to Casablanca, Morocco. With about 22 hours to spend in the city, my time was limited to eating delicious food and visiting the Hassan II Mosque. The Mosque is the largest in Morocco, holding 105,000 people for worship (25,000 inside and 80,000 outside), and the 13th largest in the world.


I can’t say I loved my visit to Casablanca, but it did remind me, as a public health professional, why road traffic accidents are so high on the global burden of disease. (So I guess that’s good?) I still laugh about getting into one taxi and, by force of habit, reaching for the seatbelt. The driver didn’t speak English and my French doesn’t extend beyond a few basic “getting around” and “eating” words, but he turned to me, shook his finger, and said, “No.” At first I’d thought he was telling me he wouldn’t take me to the destination I’d named. But he was happy to take me there, he just wasn’t going to do it if I insisted on putting on my seatbelt.

Arriving in Rabat was a welcome shift. The taxis were newer, cleaner, and used meters. The streets were wide and multiple times I saw workers out sweeping trash. There were even well-maintained sidewalks. It was a city I felt perfectly comfortable walking around in, even the time I walked myself well out of the way of my destination.

While in Rabat I visited the ruins of the medieval town, Chellah, Mohammed V’s tomb, the Hassan Tower, and the Medina Market.

The most frustrating part about my time in Morocco was that the government had limited the use of VoIP services, meaning Skype, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts were not an option for communication. That serves a bit of a problem when you’re both trying to keep in touch with work and your husband. But the amazing food helped ease some of that annoyance.

About two months later I headed off again for work, this time to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I had a chance to shop for the silver jewelry they’re famous for in Addis (and, if my finances had matched my desire, would have brought home a suitcase full). I also visited the underwhelming National Museum of Ethiopia, which houses the incredibly impressive remains of “Lucy.” Lucy, a famous early human ancestor, was a tree-dwelling australopithecine who lived ~3.2 million years ago.


I was thrilled to visit these two very different countries (plus, you know, the whole point of accomplishing productive work outcomes there, too) and look forward to continuing to explore this amazing world we live in. I just hope Dan can come with me next time!


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Los Angeles

We’d been planning a birthday trip to Los Angeles for about six months. No concern to us that the only time we could travel there to celebrate my birthday was 3 months after the actual date (who doesn’t like to be celebrated and wear the birthday crown a little longer?). So November was the plan, heading down for a quick weekend on the Saturday and Sunday before Thanksgiving.

As we started to plan, we learned that our Portland family was also heading to LA for the week of Thanksgiving, so we had to plan a surprise “run in” on the Santa Monica Pier. Dan’s sister was in on the scheme, but her kids were horrified when she walked up to a “cute guy” on the pier and started talking to him. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have been facing away such that we could see them approaching but they only saw our backs, but we found the approach creative and hilarious.


We were so happy to spend the afternoon and evening with our family — talk about a bonus to your birthday weekend!

The next day was a rainy LA day (a rarity, but we happened to hit it just right) so we opted for indoor activities, starting with a tour of the Warner Brothers’ Studio in Burbank where favorites like Gilmore Girls, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and many others are filmed. The tour took you through sets (indoor and outdoor), costumes, the prop house, and the WB Museum. At the museum we got to see the Central Perk set, learn how the forced perspective shooting was done in the Hobbit, make our own Harry Potter green screen action, hold an actual Oscar, see well-known props used in movies and TV, and learn more about filmmaking magic. I’d definitely recommend the tour for older teens and adults.


With the rain, we opted to visit the Getty Museum after our WB tour. We enjoyed the audio tours provided at the museum before sitting down for a free drawing class, at which Dan excelled and Andrea, well…we all have different talents.



One weekend in LA is not nearly enough time to see everything we want to (eventually) see, but we knew that in our planning. Now I’m eager to plan another trip down to SoCal, getting more time in Los Angeles and maybe sneak in a trip to the San Diego beaches.

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Camping at Yosemite

Since moving to California, Dan and I have talked about going camping in Yosemite. After finally figuring out the reservation system and we tried (unsuccessfully) a few times to get a campsite during the summer months when, if you’re not on your computer at 12:01 am when the sites open up you won’t get a place…and even then it’s dicey. So we put camping at Yosemite on our “to-do-when-we-have-more-mental-capacity-to-figure-out-dates” list.

And then I casually mentioned in an email to my brother and sister-in-law our desire to go camping this summer, who casually went to their computer to check out what the options might be, and found a mid-October weekend that was available. In the Yosemite Valley, October is that time when campfires feel especially wonderful, you wear a stocking cap in the morning while you’re eating breakfast, but you don’t need a jacket by the afternoon. In other words, really great weather for camping. Not more than a few hours later my brother had emailed back saying, “Guess what? We’re going camping…in Yosemite.” Talk about excellent timing and a fun surprise!

We loaded up our cars with gear and did all the traditional camping activities: campfires and storytelling, s’mores, cooking over a tiny camp stove, cooking over the fire, and hiking among these stunning mountains. Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt, for your foresight to preserve so many spaces as national parks.

Dan suggested I label these photos, “Majestic vista,” “Majestic vista,” “Photo of a tree,” “Majestic vista”… But I’ll just let the pictures speak for our trip.