August 1, 2011

July 24th cometh and goeth.

As of this posting, Sonia is eight days beyond her due date. Through the last 41 weeks, we have managed to keep the suspense alive, not finding out if Baby G is a little boy or little girl. And now the added suspense of not knowing when he/she is planning to arrive. In the meantime, we're doing all the things old wives tell us to do to encourage labor. Nothing seems to be working yet. But no worries. Had an ultrasound today and it looks like Baby G is content just hanging out for now. Can't say I really blame him/her.

Stay tuned for more updates to Babywatch 2011.

P.S. Any final name ideas?

January 26, 2011

The next adventure.

Coming July 24, 2011.

While there are still 6 months to go, we are feeling overwhelmed with the responsibility of choosing a lifelong name for our future child. So, we are opening up a contest, so to speak, to pick the perfect name for little "X".

If we decide to adorn our future child with the name that you have chosen, then you will receive a really fabulous prize (to-be-determined). Please submit all name ideas to the comments section here, or my emailing them to

Here are our guidelines:

1.) we won't be finding out if it's a boy or girl until the day it arrives, so feel free to explore both sexes

2.) we need a name that works well in both French and English. So please take that into account. Remember, Hailey in French would be pronounced "Al-eh", which resembles the word "aller", or to-go.

3.) all names should go through the standard "how could other mean kids bastardize the name?" So no Chuck, or Richard, or Laird (marde) please.

4.) must work well with the family name Gallagher

5.) name must be unique but not bizarre (Moon Unit?)

6. extra bonus for working in an accent like an umlaut (double dots)

Thank you for your help.
Good luck.

July 31, 2010

Life 2.0

Portland, sweet Portland.

The sun is out, the flowers are in full bloom and the BBQs are grilling. Oh how we missed you Portland, and summertime in the Pacific NW. Our first ten days back were a whirlwind, visiting with family and reconnecting with friends. And worth every minute. But before we could get too settled, we had one more stop to make on our almost-around-the-world adventure: CANADA. No we weren't dodging a draft or off searching for sasquatch, it was time to reconnect with the French/Canadian half of our family. Fleur-de-lis toting Quebecers.

Oh Canada.

Sonia's not-twin sister, Sonia and Ryan (honorary Canadian) on July 1st.

Our first stop was Toronto -- the Manhattan of the Great White North. And just in time for Canada's birthday, eh. We took in the sights of the city, like the CN Tower (Canada's "Eiffel Tower"), and ended the evening on the banks of Lake Ontario (the O in HOMES) to watch a rather lackluster fireworks show. A big thanks to Steve Ng for introducing us to one of Toronto's lil' watering holes.

Canada's Eiffel Tower.

Les soeurs awaiting Canada Day fireworks.

We are not holding hands. But if we were, that would be okay too.

And then to Quebec City (another 250km). It was a great time seeing la mere, le pere, la soeur (et son chum), les oncles, les tantes, les cousins, les amis, les chats, un castor, etc. For almost three weeks, we hiked, we kayaked, we sailed (in solo Lasers), we pedal boated, we swam, we ate, we drank, and then we ate some more. All in all, a great way to end an already amazing trip. Merci beaucoup tout le monde, notre sejour en Beauce s'est tres bien passe. A bientot, on espere!

Sonia's 32nd birthday out on Lake Lambton.


Three girls, a speed boat and a big ol' floating device.

Our little maiden of the mist. Not Niagara. Les chutes de la Chaudiere.

Vieux Quebec, le Chateau Frontenac sur le fleuve St. Laurent.

So we can unpack our bags now? Yes. We're back to Portland, and this time, to stay. We are ready to roll up our sleeves and begin this new post-African reality. Sonia is busy preparing to continue her career as a physical therapist. And Ryan is looking to reinvent himself as a freelance purveyor of all things good. Cross your fingers friends. Once the jobs are are lined up, the rest of the pieces should fall into place.

Thank you for following our journey. It's been a wild ride.

Following this posting, our blog will also evolve to it's 2.0 version. Stay tuned for future updates about life, imbibery and the pursuit of socially-conscious happiness.

June 30, 2010

The rest of the journey home.

Almost-around-the-world, continued...

Since our last update, we have gone back to Africa, briefly passed through the Persian Gulf, discovered a new continent, saw many golden Buddhas, met a new family member, got reunited with an old friend, went back in time and finally returned to North America.

Sonia at the Great pyramid of Giza. Check.

Egypt - Officially back in Africa, but worlds away from the Africa we knew. Cairo was much more modern and bustling than we had pictured. We spent a few days exploring Cairo on foot, mosque-hopping and trying to learn enough Arabic to find the right bus numbers. The highlight, of course, was visiting the 4,000 year old pyramids at Giza. Wow! And confirming that aliens were absolutely involved. We then headed up North to Alexandria, the once powerful outpost of Cleopatra. Now more European than Egyptian, we were blown away by the new Biblioteca Alexandrina, an amazing reincarnation of the ancient library. After a taste of modern Egypt, we headed back to Pharaonic times, taking a night train down to Luxor (once ancient Thebes). Wow, again! This place was somewhere between Indiana Jones and The Mummy. Straddled by the Nile, and about 115F in the shade (thank God we had lots of SPF50), Luxor is an archeologist's Disneyland. Despite the full-on-assault by literally every Egyptian trying to make a buck from a wide-eyed tourist, Luxor was phenomenal. The Temple of Karnak, Valley of the Kings, Ramses, hieroglyphs, camels... That's Egypt.

One-star hotel, four-star view of downtown Cairo.

Walk like an Egyptian.

You pretty much have to take this shot, right?

The coolest biblioteca in the world, Alexandria.

Ancient temple of Luxor. The least impressive sight in Luxor.

Really, really tall obelisk.

Shower of the gods.

Temple of Ramses III (Medinet Habu).

Four hours camel back. Super cool, but about 3 hours too long.

Thailand - Too bad we weren't earning frequent flier miles from Gulf Air, because Cairo to Bangkok was no puddle jumper. After a quick layover in the Kingdom of Bahrain (cha ching), and 10 hours somewhere over Asia Minor, we made it to Bangkok. But with the Red Shirt uprising still simmering down, we made a B-line 800km south to Phuket. Our first holy-crap-were-in-Asia moment came as we walked through the fish market. It was somewhere between "yuck" and "wow". But the food was amazing and so cheap. Looking to get back to the beach, we headed over to Koh Phi Phi, an idyllic South Thai island with no roads and lots of monkeys. It also happens to be where they filmed the movie, "The Beach" and one of the places most devastated by the 2006 tsunami. Lucky all is back to normal and life goes on. While we probably could have been content staying there FOREVER, we took a ferry over to Koh Lanta and almost got stuck there, taking the very last boat of the season back to Phuket. And then flew back to Bangkok. Khao San road was a zoo, kind of a model UN of backpackers from around the world. We only had 48 hours, so we just explored as much as we could on foot, making sure to see the Jade Buddha and 45-meter-long golden Reclining Buddha, as well as eating as much street food as possible (I think we had lunch 3 times in the same day). Needless to say, we LOVED Thailand.

Fancy Buddhist temple in Phuket.

Koh Phi Phi, a little slice of paradise.

Island taxis.

Chowing on a piece of pineapple.

Ride to Koh Hai.

Far from reality.

Little mermaid.

Scary green demon, but actually a good guy.

Gilded stupa, Imperial Palace in Bangkok.


Buddha sandwich.

Japan -
After having to fly through Beijing, we made it to one of the most populous and expensive places on Earth: TOKYO. We were greeted by Ryan's younger brother Nick, who lives and works in the big city. He is also married to a nice Japanese girl named Nahoko and the father of our six-month-old niece, Luna, a.k.a Sumo baby. 10 days went by quickly, each day discovering another corner of the megapolis that is Tokyo. Shibuya (Japan's Times Square), Akihabara (Electric City), Asakusa (the big lantern), Shinjuku (downtown), Ueno (central park) or just hang out in the "pseudo-suburbs" at Shimo Tokaido. Another highlight was getting to see Hiroyuki Kato, an old college friend of Ryan's that just happened to look him up on Facebook (after 13 years). He took us around, introducing us to horse meat, pickled octopus and "monja". Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto. We'll be back to Japan, that's for certain.

Konichiwa everyone. I'm little miss Luna.

The happy family: Nick, Nahoko and Luna.

When in Rome.

Asakusa, with our good friend Hiro.

Crosswalk or free-for-all?

Sushi night.

Giant beer, looking for giant refrigerator.

Uncle Ryan and chubby Luna.

Auntie Sonia.

Two Tuesdays - After flying west (huh, west?) three hours back to Beijing, we caught a LONG flight (12 hours I think) east, crossed the International Date Line and finally touched down at LAX, a.k.a America. Los Angeles, almost home, but not quite. While we had made every single flight going around the world, we missed our last connection to Portland, stranding us in LA for the night. At 9am the next morning, we were finally back in Portland, where this journey began almost 3 years ago. Home, sweet home (at least for the next 10 days)...

May 7, 2010

The long way home.

Almost-around-the-world in not quite 80 days.

On April 1st we said good bye to Burkina Faso, a complicated little country in West Africa that had been our home for the last two-and-a-half years. It was hard, no doubt about it. We had made a lot of good friends and had really became part of our little African-village community. But we were ready to move on. So we said our good byes and began our voyage home. Well, sort of. Here are a few of our favorite pictures from our last couple days as Peace Corps volunteers in the village of Tenado.

Mama Ebou proudly selling her Moringa leaf powder at Tenado's biennial agricultural fair.

Sonia le chat with two little friends from Reo. Meow.

Ryan and his little wifeys giving a goodbye bisou.

At our going away party with two village women who Sonia collaborated with on a series of nutrition workshops.

Ryan with co-workers from the village's union of farmers.

Now instead of heading directly back to the States, we thought it was a now-or-never opportunity to see some new corners of the world. So we started off on our self-imposed sabbatical heading east, not west, on our way back to the USA (although I guess technically we started out by going South).

GHANA - First stop, Burkina's English-speaking and refreshingly more developed neighbor to the south. We spent the better part of four days decompressing on the sands of the Green Turtle Eco Lodge ( It was a much needed break from the heat (oh it was still hot, just not 107F hot). Oh and we rediscovered WATER! Although it's a bit out of the way to get to, we would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a beach getaway. As it were, we were already kind of home-sick from leaving Burkina, so we walked over to the nearest village each day to mingle with local folk and eat street food (the Fufu in Ghana is amazing!) Before we got too used to being beach bums, we packed our bags and bused in to Accra where we caught our first (of many) flights.

Surfs up. Sort of.

The little fishing village of Akwadaa on Ezile Bay.

Coconut that just fell off a tree + Swiss Army knife = free beach side snack.

MOROCCO - We touched down in Casablanca but immediately took the train south to Marrakesh. And the very next day, our good friends Josh and Nicora flew all the way from Portland to travel with us for a couple weeks. We hit the souqs and of course, rocked the kasbahs. Marrakesh was cool, and much more developed that we had imaged. But also WAY too touristy. We heard English far more often than French or even Arabic. After a couple days, we took a bus over the High Atlas Mountains to the awkwardly named Ouarzazate (whar-zah-zat), the out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere Hollywood of Morocco. Apparently, they shoot a lot of desert-looking movies here (Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, etc.) And as we learned, it's also where they run something called the "Marathon des Sables", an insane ultra-marathon through the desert for 6 days and 300+ kilometers. And of course, it was scheduled for the weekend we were there. We opted to leave the running shoes at home and instead checked out the World Heritage site at Ait Ben Haddou. And we also biked to an oasis at Fint. Afterward, we traveled ALL DAY by bus, then train, to Fez (yes, there is an entire city named after those funny little hats made famous by the Shiners). Although all worked out ok in the end, we probably would not advise arriving at 1am, then walking an hour to the Medina with heavy bags (without a hotel reservation). Luckily, the seemingly high rasta-man who guided us down several dark alley-ways actually led us to a pretty nice little guest house in the end. Phew! Fez turned out to be very cool, although we never really got out of the Medina/souqs the whole time we were there. But why would you? Everything you would ever want to do and see is there, and the locals were way less annoying towards tourists than the folks in Marrakesh. Finally, rounding out our Moroccan experience, we headed north to Tangier to catch a ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar, out of Africa and back into the 1st world.

Ait Ben Haddou, really old mud building. A World Heritage site, but really too many gift shops now to be very authentic.

Community fountain in Fez.

Spices. Lots of spices.

Nuts, figs, dates and dried fruit. To-go.

Josh sipping on authentic Moroccan mint tea at Djemaa el-Fna.

SPAIN - Getting into Algeciras at 2am was nowhere near as sketchy as Fez. No one even noticed us. After knocking on a few doors we found a little pension for the night (or morning as it were). After recharging our batteries with a couple hours of sleep (on a bed) and a hot shower, we were back on the road, heading north through the Mesa Verde mountains to Granada. While only in town for a couple days, we had two simple goals: visit the renowned Alhambra and experience the whole "tapas" thing. Check and check! The Alhambra was breath-taking, in a serene indoor/outdoor museum kind of way. The tapas were equally breath-taking. So how this works is you go to a bar and order a drink. Then, magically, food appears. And every time you order another drink, poof, more snacks. And we're not talking bar peanuts or stale pretzels. Real finger food! It's brilliant. Before we over-abused the tapas, we were on another train, a night train, to Barcelona. And it's there that we met up with two more Portlanders, the soft-spoken entrepreneur power-couple, Mr. Jeffy and Jessica. So like hip Spanish urbanites, we rented a cozy apartment for six on the Barcelona Upper-East Side. Then 4/20 arrived. A day with a storied past. And for 32 years, celebrated as Ryan's birthday. The party crew were given their birthday uniforms (no, not birthday suits) and made their way through the streets of Barcelona, making sure to see the sights like Las Ramblas, Sagrada Familia, Gaudi this, Gaudi that, etc. Afterwards the ladies were sent on a shopping errand while the boys toasted their momentary Bro-celona (complete with man-tapas). The next morning, we reluctantly said adios to Josh and Nicora who flew back to America (barely, with all that Icelandic volcano brouhaha) and spent a bonus day in Spain with Jeff and Jessica.

Tapas. Oh how we love our tapas.

Twinkle, twinkle from within the Alhambra in Granada.

Six Portlanders taking a well-deserved breather at Barcelona's Gaudi park.

Ahhhhh. A 420 birthday Guinness. How very happy.

There was no green screen used here.

Gracias amigos!

FRANCE - Originally, the plan was to take the train to Nice and spend a couple days on the Cote d'Azure, revisiting the youth hostel we first met at 10 years ago. But the hostel was closed and we were invited up to the Burgundy region to visit a couple we had met while in Burkina. Jean-Pierre and Elisabeth have a wonderful summer home out in rural Burgundy, not far from the hillside town of Vezeley (about an hour from Dijon). For five days we indulged in French hospitality and incredibly rich foods (a half-dozen kinds of cheese, meat plates, pate, etc.) Their home, built in 1610, came complete with a well-stocked wine cave beneath the house. Our hosts also felt that any visit to Burgundy without touring the vineyards would be a crime, so off we went to the Chateaus at Meursault, Beaune, etc. Gorgeous. We felt right at home as the only grapes grown there are pinot noir and chardonnay, two varieties we know well being from Oregon. While we could have stayed and become French farmers, we had to say good bye and make our way to Milan, in order to respect our rendez-vous with our second plane.

Tasting the best of Burgundy at Meursault's wine cave.

Vineyards as far as the eye can see. A divine renewable resource.

You ever wonder where Dijon mustard comes from? Here.

Ryan working off all that cheese and wine in the garden.

GREECE - After Dijon to Milan on a night train, then a short flight out of Malpensa, we touched town in Athens, Greece. We were greeted with a subway strike (our first sign of Greece's tumultuous little situation). We found a great little hole-in-the-wall hotel called John's Place in the trendy Syntagma/Plaka area. The next day we did the Acropolis (wow) and a few other archaeological gems around town. But before s-h-i-t hit the fan in Athens, we got on a ferry and headed out into the Greek isles, making shore in Santorini. We took a bus out of Fira to Perissa, a little beach town on the east side of the island. Luckily, it was low season and it felt like the island was just coming out of hibernation. Apparently in just a few week's time, droves of tourists will make their assault on the island. This calm before the storm meant rooms were still readily available and relatively cheap. We checked out the Lonely Planet's recommended Hostel Anna, and landed a cozy little double room in a sister property for 20euros a night. We felt pretty sluggish after our gluttonous time in France, so the next day we took the long hike up to Ancient Thera, continued up to the hilltop Monastery and than walked a leisurely 6km home. After a day on the black sand beach to rest our legs, we took to the streets again, on bike, and rode a good 20+km to a lighthouse and a couple beaches. (Side note: the island is basically one rolling hilltop with villages on top, cliffs and then beaches down below. So when you want to go to the beach, you have to bike down, which is fairly easy, but then you have to bike back up the hill which is pretty darn impossible to do without walking or being Lance Armstrong). We enjoyed Santorini a lot, but wanted to check out at least one more island before heading back to Athens. So we set sail for Naxos. We again followed the advice of the Lonely Planet and found a room in Hora (Naxos City) at Pension Irene I. We like this place a lot. So much so, that we extended our stay from two nights to six. We have a nice room with a balcony, a fridge, a kitchenette and cable TV (albeit most of the stations are in Greek) and UNLIMITED FREE WI-FI (hence how we are able to finally update this blog). And the owners are great too (Mr. Stavros chats it up while his monther, Irene, gives us ice cream.) We've been using this as our base camp and taking little day excursions around the island. One such day trip was up to Mt. Zeus, the Cyclade's highest peak at 1004m. A bus dropped us, along with about a dozen other people, off at the base and we spent the next couple hours walking up. Not too bad once we actually found the trail. The view was amazing at the top, but there was a bizarre infestation of insects (flies, beetles and such) that annoyongly competed with the 360 view of the island. So we took a few quick pictures, paid our respects to Mr. Zeus and made our way back back down the mountain.

Live at the Acropolis.

Athens's Temple of Zeus under a full moon. No lightning bolts in sight.

Oia, Santorini. Once destroyed by an earthquake in 1956. Now rebuilt on the same freaky cliff.

Ready for take-off. Oui Caro, j'ai copie sur toi!

No forks. No bowl. No problem. Hat salad!

Waiting for the sun to set from a church dug into a cliff.

Making port on Naxos island.

And this is where our journey continues. Hopefully all will simmer down in Athens by the end of the weekend and we can catch our next flight. Back to Africa we go -- Cairo, Egypt. The pyramids await!

Stay tuned for more updates from the road.