Saturday, January 14, 2017

National Aquarium, Baltimore, Maryland

Did I already tell you guys that I am way behind on pretty much everything?? 

Because I am.  

Way behind.

On pretty much everything.  

Which is why I'm sitting in a dirty house with a mountain of laundry while blogging about our trip to Baltimore... more than 3. weeks. late.  

I mean, things have been super busy for me & Eric these last few weeks.  I'm not trying to make excuses, things really have been so busy for us.  Just as we were getting settled into our new life here, the holidays hit and I hyper-focused on getting everything ready since I was already behind thanks to our giant move across the ocean.  And, we had visitors for 12 out of 19 days over break.  And our Brew came home to us after 3 1/2 years being fostered with the best foster family in the entire world!  But then he had two seizures in one day and Eric and I about lost it and spent the next day and a half babying him like there was no tomorrow.  And then, a snow storm dumped a foot of snow on us and all of Virginia lost there ever lovin' minds.  

But I'm here now, and ready to catch up on my blogging! 

Isabelle spent Christmas with family out of state this year.  It was a big deal for a few reasons: 1) she wasn't going to be with me on Christmas.... for the first time in her entire life, 2) it had been a long time since Isabelle got to see this side of her family.  They sacrificed their time and moments spent with her so that she could go off into the world and experience things that most people never will.  Eric and I are confident that their sacrifice was worth it, and we think it shows in how cultured Isabelle has become, but we know that this doesn't make hearts hurt any less when they're missing a precious part of their family, and 3) because Isabelle was going to fly across three quarters of the United States in order to see them.  Alone.  
It didn't matter that I was a complete wreck thinking of my girlie not being with me on Christmas morning, or wondering what she would do if she saw a funny cat video on Instagram and I wouldn't be there for her to show me like she always does, Isabelle was very excited to visit her family, and was not worried about any of the things that I was worried about.  Once again, her calmness and maturity astounded me and Eric, and helped to relieve my anxiety about her going so far away for the holidays.  At the end of the day, I had to take a step back as a mother and trust my daughter.

Isabelle is a passionate animal advocate and animal lover for all animals, even the creepy crawly kind that make most every one else squeal.  Spending the day at the Baltimore National Aquarium is a perfect kind of day for a girl like mine!  Eric &  I were not about to let Isabelle miss an opportunity to explore a place she's never been before, so since she was flying out of Baltimore, we decided to spend a day and night exploring the city! 

And the aquarium seemed like the perfect place to start!

The National Aquarium is a non-profit organization located in Baltimore's Inner Harbor - both the aquarium and the Inner Harbor were parts of the city we were excited to see.  The aquarium was huge, offering so many different kinds of exhibits, a 4-D theater experience, a shark alley, and is also currently the home to 8 bottlenose dolphins (6 of which were born in the aquarium, 1 acquired from a different aquarium, and 1 taken from the ocean in the 70's).

A blurry picture of a turtle. 

The Rainforest exhibit.

Looking down a giant waterfall!

So, I love documentaries.  I could watch documentaries on Netflix all day, every day.  My favorites, and the ones that absolutely changed my life are: Blackfish, Finding Home, and Living on One Dollar.  But How to Die in Oregon is another really good one, and I can not wait to see White Helmets.  For me, watching documentaries and traveling are the best ways to learn about the people and world we live in.  They help me to see how the world operates, good and bad, and force me to see outside of my very teeny tiny perspective.  I truly believe that by interacting with the world around us, no matter how uncomfortable it might be, broadens a person's ability to be compassionate and empathetic.  It's because of those life changing documentaries that I was introduced to the Fair Trade industry.  
And now, I spend a lot of my time doing a LOT of research on ethical treatment of people and animals, and ways that I can help by simply buying the products that I love and use regularly from fair trade certified companies ("certified" being the key word.  Don't let labels saying only "fair trade" fool you).  Since Isabelle is deeply connected to the ethical treatment of animals, her and I have been researching together and now no longer buy certain foods or eat at particular food chains (KFC & Tyson, just to name a couple).  Instead, we buy our produce and poultry from farming co-ops.  Also because of our research, Isabelle will never step foot inside a Sea World ever, and why I regret every time I ever took her to a circus.

The National Aquarium did not have killer whales, thankfully, or we would not have even gone to the aquarium in the first place, but they did have dolphins.  As we sat down to watch the show, there were a couple of ladies sitting in front of us with their children who were talking very loudly, enough for everyone sitting around them to hear their conversation, and one of them said that the way that the trainers get the dolphins to perform tricks is that they starve them until show time, after the dolphins do each trick they get a fish, motivating them to do more and more tricks because they've been starved.  This obviously broke Isabelle's heart into a million pieces, and she became emotional.  I have no idea if what that lady said is true or not, or if it's true about these particular dolphins, but it did ruin all of our experiences during the show, which only lasted about 15 minutes and was very educational.  I appreciated the part where the trainer helped the audience to understand the importance of recycling plastic, and how just the simple act of recycling can save thousands of water animals ever year, in particular, the sea turtles because they mistake plastic bags floating in the water for jellyfish, their food source.  But what the lady sitting in front of us said, stayed in the back of our minds throughout our time at the aquarium.  I have encouraged Isabelle to do some research on these specific dolphins living at the Baltimore National Aquarium and will let you all know what she finds.

Time for the dolphins! 

The National Aquarium sits on Baltimore's Inner Harbor, and we could see out the windows how gorgeous the harbor was and how amazing the day looked.  The aquarium was so big that it kept us busy for the entire morning and early part of the afternoon, so once we had seen every creature the aquarium had, we set out to see the harbor and find somewhere to eat.
It was too cold to do any sort of harbor cruise, which would have been a really cool way to see the entire area, but they did have covered water taxis!  It's just that we didn't know where to go that our feet couldn't take us, so we didn't take a water taxi ride either, but I think that would have been cool too!  Instead, we walked around the harbor and took pictures.... our favorite way to enjoy our surroundings.

We walked around the harbor and were getting hungrier by the second when we stumbled on a Christmas Market!!!  With glühwein cups!!!!!   It was just like we were in Germany again!  It was the exact same sort of market you'd find in the smaller villages all over Germany, except that everything was in English.  They had crêpes and glühwein, and all the same types of things that you wait until Christmas time to buy at a Christmas Market!  It was the best surprise, and why we like to explore as much as possible!  You never really know what you're going to find, or who you might meet.  

But get this.... so we have the stupidest window in our living room that shines blinding sunlight all damn afternoon over the entire room, and no matter where you sit you can't see a gosh damned thing.  On cloudy days I can see how the whole concept of the stupid window is aesthetically pleasing, but when I'm just trying to watch TV and upload pictures and I literally can't see anything, so I have to constantly change positions, or put my hand up as a visor so that I can see the computer screen, it makes me want to scream!   Especially when I move my chair to try to get out of the sunlight a little and forget that the hard drive is still connected to my computer and everything crashes to the floor, bending the thing that plugs into the computer so badly that it is no longer functioning, trapping all of my pictures inside the hard drive with no way to get them out until I buy another cord.   So I wasn't able to upload the rest of my pictures to show you all about the Christmas market. 


So you'll just have to take my word for it on the Christmas market in Baltimore.  And please ignore my frustration in the meantime.  Ugh!

For a late lunch Eric decided that he wanted to go to Dick's Last Resort restaurant - a restaurant that makes it a point to be as rude as possible to you, and also makes these goofy looking hats for you to wear that the purposely rude waiter writes something embarrassing on it for you to feel extra humiliated throughout your entire meal - another aspect of our day to make us feel like we were in Germany again!  Hahaha.... no, no, I'm just kidding.  Germany is full of rude people, but they don't make you wear hats. ;) 
But, just like the Christmas market thing, all my pictures at the restaurant are trapped inside my hard drive until I can buy another cord.  And my poor laptop is barely hanging on by a thread.

Between moving across the ocean, trying to settle into life in a new State, hating the house we live in, being behind on everything, welcoming visitors, watching documentaries, a dog with a seizure disorder, and letting my daughter fly a million miles away to visit family all by herself, I'd say I'm barely hanging on by a thread too.    

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