We are still here in California. Still soaking up sunshine and good company.
We are no longer in San Rafael but have been staying with our Nepali friends in Hercules. To me they represent that the American dream is still a possibility. 5 years ago they lived in a tiny apartment in El Cerrito, now they have a house in Hercules and own several beauty salons (and needless to say Teresa was of course more than interested to go visit those and now benefit from the nicest eyebrows she has had in quite some time).
With success also comes a lot of work and Wednesday we borrowed their big car so we could bring extra kids - Presha and Pratuysh - hiking (our rental car only fits 5). We went to Black Diamond Mines after a somewhat awkward lunch stop at Trader Joes. Our two extra kids for the day most certainly stand out from the rest of the Frikke family and as I was trying to find something that Pratuysh would like to eat, I really felt the stares from other people who probably thought we might have kidnapped him. Seriously! I am really relieved we brought his bigger sister along with us.
The mines were more beautiful than we remembered. There were more rocks, taller hills, and several mine entrances. And the trail was not easy. The cool red refrigerator trees were everywhere still and we had to stop and touch on several occasions.
We also visited the Rose Hill Cemetery, where many of the graves have been restored. It is so sad. Most of the graves belong to kids that died from plaque swooping through the area over and over again. And still this cemetery on the hillside has a beauty and peacefulness to it that is rarely seen in other places.
When we got back with tired legs and tired minds from all the walking/climbing/pinecone hunting we were lucky to have a Nepali Christmas dinner (with not so Nepali chocolate chip icecream for dessert ;-)
Thursday Teresa and Presha went to the salons and then hung out in Sunvalley Mall, where we picked them up before we had a couple of other friends to visit. First we swung by El Cerrito to drop off Ulrik at an old friends place. Then Teresa and I went to get our nails done. We ended the day 700ft above sea level with Lucy and Josh as well as Jack and Birthe (and kids and chinchillas and too much chocolate and portwine). I was of course as excited as the kids to hold the chinchillas and of course one of them escaped as I was holding it. Very embarrassing when considering I am a certified rodent handler……..
Now we are back in El Cerrito, where we got to spend New Year’s Eve with the Phan family and where we will have our few last nights before we will be returning to Michigan. We managed to see the SF fireworks from the hillside and we have spent January first in Bodega Bay, where it was very cold and windy besides the sunshine. We actually wore our Michigan winter coats to stay warm (it does apparently not take a lot of time in California to make you a cold intolerant whimper!). Still I can’t think of a better way to start off a new year than having the old year blown away by salty ocean air.