We have a lot of things on our bucket list when we are here in America. Last weekend we got to cross two big ones of our list,

Gospel

Thanks to Evas connections at FIU we got invited to attend a “real” gospel show. The church was located in the middle of a ghetto in Miami, and the neighborhood was rough to say the least. But just because the neighborhood is rough doesn’t mean that all the people in it are rough to, and the church was a true testament to that. Once inside we were welcomed by kind and warm-hearted people that where all there to support the community and make people happy.
Joining the show was gospel groups from different churches in Miami, and they all had there own unique sound. Some were really good while others was ...well not exactly pitch perfect, but had all an amazing enthusiasm about what they were doing which was admirable. One thing that was sad to see was that the age among the singers and the audience was way to high, in average it must have been around 60+, which means that gospel is slowly dying in this place.

We all left the place with a smile on our face and an experience richer!

American Football

One of the big sporting events we just have to experience while here is America Football.
Once again FIU helped us out by offering $1 tickets to watch a game with the Florida Panters. We arrived a little late so we missed all the pre game entertainment, but just in time to enjoy the half time show. If there is one thing the Americans really know how to do it’s entertainment. The halftime show was packed with fireworks, marching bands and cheerleaders even though it was only a college game. The game itself was way more exciting than I thought it would be. There was not much time between plays and the quality of the playing was really high, or at least I thought so. Our kids however didn’t really enjoy the game, but they got to see fireworks and eat popcorn so it couldn’t have been to bad for them!
Me and Eva really enjoy the game and we will most definitely try and catch another one before leaving. Hopefully that time we will be in time so we can experience the pre game entertainment as well!

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Irma has passed and it is time to go home. Since it was a long drive, there was most likely a lot of traffic and we had no idea if the gas stations would have gas we decided to do the trip in 2 days.
The first day we drove to Orlando. Traffic was ok, despite a loot of smaller roads being closed due to debris which meant more cars on the bigger roads. Traffic slowed down some as we got closer to Tampa but there was no accidents where we were driving and no complete stop along the road. The gas stations had gas, the car didn't break down, nothing caught on fire and we arrived to Orlando only 2 hours later than scheduled... With the trip in the opposite direction fresh in our memory, this was almost a boring and restful trip.
When driving from Orlando to Miami on day 2 was in that respect even worse. Nothing extraordinary happened!
Felt good to be home though!!!

The Hammocks we left was not the Hammocks we came back to however! Sure, the center of the hurricane missed us, thank god!, but that didn't mean it really missed us. The winds didn't seem to have been strong enough to wreck houses, but it has pushed over a whole lot of trees and those trees have caused a whole lot of damage.
It will take time for this area to get back to normal...

ps. The car below use to be a mini bus. ds.

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Hurricane irma is approaching miami and it's a big one. She is supposed to hit this week end so the school in miami is closed on Thursday and Friday. Since our house isn't hurricane proof we decide to leave on Wednesday for Orlando to beat traffic an have time to visit Disney land before traveling further north and out of Irmas way.
We rented a place in Orlando for 2 nights through airbnb and set of early Wednesday morning. Traffic was really light and the trip was easy, once in Orlando we filled up the car with no cueing at the gas station. Great start!

Disney land was a blast! We visited the Magic Kingdom, and it was really great! Even though the entry fee was kinda high($416) we didn't really spend any more money than that since we brought our own lunch and water. All rides was free so at the end those $416 was an ok price for one day filled with rides and shows. We were lucky to have the opportunity to go on a week day and in September because the cueing to the rides were all pretty short (10-20min in average). The down side was the weather, it was burning hot. It wasn't really a problem when we were on rides or standing in line because there is a lot of places to get shade or ac, but when standing on the street waiting for the big parade!! OMG! We were burning up! We hade to see it though otherwise you really haven't been to Disney land.
The kids loved it but after a day packed with rides under the scorching hot sun, even they were relieved when we said its tome to go home.

After Disney it was time to keep moving north since the hurricane hadn't made the early eastern turn that we all were hoping for. This time it wasn't so easy to find housing since the forecast now showed that Irma would hit the center of miami and go north through florida which meant allot of people fleeing. Since the forecast still predicted that Irma would follow the east coast, we decided to head north west. The choice fell on the beautiful white beaches of Panama City Beach, which for the time being was outside of the warning cone of Irma.
Pushed in the location on google maps, 6 h 30 min. Sweet, that shouldn't be too bad. We left early so that we once again got a head start on traffic, which turned out to be a smart move. After 2 h of driving google maps was still showing us that we had 5 h 30 min left to go! Ok, thats not too bad at least we will get there today. Seconds later the engine warning lamp turned on! Damnit, not now, we have a hurricane coming and were 5,5 h from safety. We stoped to check the oil in both the engine and the transmission and it all looked ok. We got the address to a mechanic but when we started the car the engine light was off. Sweet! Since we didn't want to stay here we just kept on going, and the light never came on again, phuu! We have to check that later, when were safe!
We kept on going for a little while longer before stopping for something to eat. While doing that I thought it would be a good idea to fill up the car, not because we really needed to right now but we hade to do it at least once to be sure we wouldn't run out of gas. All pumps where out of gas! Damnit! Started checking all the gas stations we passed while driving north. 20 stations later, still no gasoline! They are all out!! Starting to feel a little panic. Then by a stroke of luck we happened to pass a station that was receiving gasoline from a truck, we pulled in and started cueing. When it finally was our turn the manager came out and put a bag over 2 of 3 handles. Luckily the third was also gasoline and not diesel, so we filled the car and now had enough to take us all the way to safety! Awesome!

Since traffic was bad on the main roads we decided to use smaller roads, which was great. It was really great to see all these small country towns with farms of different sorts and a lot of old houses, small churches and relics from a different time and a different way of life. We stopped and had a really excellent meal at Graves drive in and had a chat with the locals. It was just like being back in a small town in northern part of Sweden. Same kind of friendly, multi talented, everybody knows everybody kinda people that we love! The only thing I thought I would se more of in this kind of towns was people carrying guns, but we didn't get to see a single one! Well, maybe next time!

We finally arrived to Panama City Beach on Friday. The place we rented was located beautifully with a lake outside the window on the back side of the house and the ocean with it's white beaches on the front side of the house with just a small road in between us.
The kids loved it! We spent the Saturday by the beach learning how to boggie board and making friends with the locals. We still couldn't relax however since Irma still hadn't turned north, so there was still a possibility she would choose to come crashing into this place instead of west Florida. The locals was good at calming us down, reassuring us that there was most likely nothing to worry about. Irma would choose west Florida and by the time she gets this high she'll be nothing more than a breeze in this place.
That night we finally felt a little safer and was really looking forward to a good nights sleep!
Did we get it? No!!!
Just as we were falling asleep we started hearing some banging outside and something yellow flying by the window. It turned out that our neighbor had managed to set fire to a palm tree just 50 cm from our house, and the strong winds had quickly turning it into a giant torch. The banging was he's desperate attempts to put the fire out. While Eva evacuated the kids I had to try to put out the fire, or at least keep it under control and hindering it from spread. Putting out a fire 5 m up a palm tree in strong winds with just wet towels and buckets of water turned out to be an impossible task, the wind made the fire to hot. Luckily the fire fighters arrived before it got out of our hands and could easily put it out.
So there we now stood, dead tired, a hurricane on the way, terrified crying children and a smoke filled apartment full of soot! Not the greatest day in our lives!

Luckily the company we were renting from had a 24/7, even though we rented from airbnb, so the could offer us a new apartment just 5 houses away instantly. So after moving over all our stuff we were finally able to get a well needed nights sleep!

Waking up on Sunday we were glad to see that Irma finally seems to follow the predicted path which for our sake is good! She will then miss us by ~250 km which means that we only get that breeze the locals was predicting.

Well, it not over till it's over and we still have to get back home through the path of Irma. But thats in the next chapter...

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So after a couples of weeks of snorkeling training in the pool to be sure the kids would enjoy the "real" thing it was time to head out to sea. There is a lot of places you could go snorkeling in miami but the place everyone is recommending is Key Largo and specifically John Pennekamp, so thats where we went.
When arriving you have to pay an entrance for each person to drive down to the "beach". It turned out to be a super nice place with 3 different beaches you could go snorkeling if you didn't want to take a boat out to the reefs. We tried cannon bay where they hade cannons from a ship wreck on the ocean floor which attracted a some cool fishes to look at. The people working there was professional and really cared for preserving the reefs and its inhibitors, after talking to them we decided to take a 2 1/2 h snorkeling trip to one of the reefs. Once onboard the boat that would take us to the reef we where all issued an inflatable lifejacket, some thing everyone had to wear while snorkeling due to insurance rules. It turned out to be a really great thing to have when snorkeling with kids because you could inflate and deflate to your own choosing. So the kids had all the floating help they needed to feel safe and we grownups had some help then fixing the masks and snorkels on the kids once in the water.👍🏻

The reef wasn't big but good enough for a first snorkeling experience and we got to se some really cool fishes. Unfortunately I hadn't the equipment to take any great pictures, but my gopro caught a couple of pictures worth showing!

I can really recommend John Pennekamp if you want to go snorkeling in Miami. They have great service and really good prices (for miami)! 👍🏻🙂

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So this is the day, the day when our kids take the first step towards learning english. It's scary enough for us parents to leave our kids alone in a classroom where there is no one that understands them, and I can't even imagine how it must have felt for our kids!
But first let me tell you about our preparations.

Starting school in a Miami was a whole lot more work compared to starting school back home. Much of it is of course due to the fact that we need to get the kids in to a new "government" system, which we don't need to back home because they have been slowly emerged in to the system since the day they were borne. First of, we needed a physical examination of the kids plus all the vaccines they needed (even if they have all the shots needed it has to be put in to the computer system), and it needed to be done this week! I thought that this would be an easy thing, and I was half right!
The procedure was easy, finding the "right" hospital was not. There was no answer when calling phone number we got from the school for booking vaccinations for the kids. So I called the state hospital to try and get some help, but the answer I got from them was to just keep on trying the first number I got. After 50 attempts over 3 h with no answer I gave up! Luckily we had just got enrolled to a health insurance plan via Evas job so I figured that if I could only get hold of a hospital connected to that insurance plan then they should be able to help us. We had all the papers from people first, sweet this should be a piece of cake! 2 h later I realized that It's not!
As it turned out peoples first is not a provider of the actual insurances, which wasn't really clear for an outsider. Our insurance was through Florida Blue, but I hadn't yet got any numbers from them so I couldn't log in to there page to find what hospitals that are connected to the insurance. Gaaaaa!!!
Instead I had to navigate automated help desks like a ninja to finally get to an actual human being that could help me find a hospital! Great I have a hospital to call! Wohooo!
We were able to booked a time for the kids the same week. Sweet! Once at the hospital everything went really smooth. We had all the journals from Sweden with all the vaccines the kid have. The physical was no problem but when we found out that My needed 2 vaccine shots and Petter 3, the kids started to get a little anxious. The nurse was however great and fast so it was all over before the kids really knew what happened. 2 h after we arrived to the hospital we were done!

We now had all the documents needed so the next day after the vaccination we were hanging on the door to school to enroll. The documents needed was,
- Mys complete school history, since shes the only one who's been in school
- Passports for the whole family
- One electrical bill to the address in the Hammocks
- The lease for the apartment
- The physical exam from the doctor
- The vaccination papers from the doctor
- The 6 documents/kid we got from the school to fill in!

Since we had all the documents the enrollment went pretty fast! My was to start the third grade, she was simply put with kids her own age. Petter was put in Kindergarten despite that in the American system, age vise, he should have been in first grade. This was due to the fact that we had no documents that he had past kindergarten (which he hadn't) and since kindergarten is mandatory to pass in Miami he was put there. It was no big deal for us, or him, since it will probably be the best place for him to learn English anyway.

So we're done, can the kids start school now! Well yes, you just have to open your wallet first!

Oliver Hoover has, like many other schools in America, a school uniform. They have to wear a school polo on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. A school t-shirt on Wednesday and a yellow school t-shirt on field trips, and then there was a bunch of regulations on the pants, shorts and skirts to be worn. We ended up with 3 polos/kid, 2 t-shirts/kid and 4 bottoms/kid. So are we done? NO!
Now it was time for the school supplies, all the disposable material each kid needs for the whole year in Miami they have to buy and bring them self. And that was no short list! And then there was a list for donations to each school!
Before we knew it we had spent $400 on school material! There wasn't any use whining about it since we didn't really have an option if we wanted to put the kids in school, but I must say that it was an bigger expense than we had anticipated!

Finally we where ready for school and the kids had their first day today! They both took it really well even though they didn't like being left alone in a classroom with no one whom could understand them. It's going to be a tough first week with a lot of tears and hard work for the kids. All me and Eva can do now is to give them all the love and support we can so that they have the energy and curragh needed to get through this and also start enjoying it!

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After one month at the Flamingo, exploring south beach, we have now entered the second face of our adventure. While south beach was nice it all felt more like a holiday resort than a place where people actually live (yes I know that some normal people also live there, but you know what I mean). We wanted a more quiet area where we didn't have to be worried that the kids would be run over by a car or get lost. We also a place where "normal" people live so that we might be able to be a part of the American society and get a feel of what thats really like.
After some googling and talking to people our choice fell on the Hammocks, or more precise Cascades at the Hammocks. It seems like a good area with a good school and we got a ok price on a 2 bed room/ 2 bathroom apartment at ground level near the community pool, which is what we wanted.
Hammocks is located in West Kendall which has a LOT of hispanics which made us hesitate at first because we think that learning two languages might be to much for the kids. But after talking to people and now lived here for a couples of days we have learned that all kids speak both English and Spanish, and that English really is the preferred language among the local kids. The grownups is a different story but since that won't really effect our kids we don't see it as a problem.

We have now lived here at the Hammocks for almost a week and we just love it! We have a pool, a walkway around the lake and it's close to the supermarket! Life is good right now! 🏊 ☀️😎🤘🏻

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X-treme rock climbing is not what you go to miami for. But since Eva is still an active climber and we both still enjoy the lifestyle we just had to pay a visit to the local climbing gym. Judging by the size of the gym climbing is not big in miami, and thats not so strange since is crazy hot and totally flat! But still, climbing is a good way of working out and indoor climbing has really evolved to it's own beast with amazing indoor gyms popping up here and there. And here we are, in a city that is swarming with hipsters, surfers, tree huggers and crazy well trained people whom throw them self at the first best reason to take there top of and almost none of them has realized that indoor climbing is there sole purpose in life. Strange!
Never the less, they have a climbing gym. And it's ok! Compared to having no gym it's in fact amazing!
They have ~10 m high rope walls with different amounts of over hang and the ability to lead. They have a boulder area and they have a "gym" area. Basically all you need to become a really good climber or if you just want to stay fit and enjoy your self.

The gym was not super easy to find since they didn't have the biggest sign, but just turning in to the parking lot we knew we where at the right place. Because just as certain as you can be that there is a guy with a guitar and a wooden neckless if you go to a surfer place, you can always find a climbing mobile at a climbing place. If you're a climber you know what I'm talking about, that cheep old car macgyverd into some kind of mobile home. It's always a dead giveaway that there is climbers in the area!🤘🏻

The gym had really friendly people running it and since Eva and the kids enjoyed it, we will most definitively be back for some more climbing!

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Time for another adventure! This time we went to the miami seaquarium to see some dolphins and killer whales!
The miami seaquarium is located on beautiful island of Virginia key, just driving over there was worth it because of the beautiful view of the ocean and Miamis costal line.
Once at the seaquarium we bought yet another annual pass because we thought this was a place we would want to visit again, and as it turned out we where right about that. The place was awesome and the kids loved it!
When entering the complex you get a map and a schedule for the day. The shows are ok with a lot of great information about the animals and how to help protect and preserve them. Animals in captivity is of course never the ideal situation, but here they at least seems to genuinely care about the animals and are working to make the world a better place which we gladly would like to support!
The shows are scheduled so that you have time to eat, drink or se some other animals in between shows.
We where there when they opened and that was a smart move because there was not that much visitors at that time so it wasn't that crowded. At 2 pm when we where ready to go home the place was really crowded, which made it harder for the kids to see all the animals. And we got great seats for all the shows we attended. We got to see manatees, stingrays, sharks, penguins, sea lions, seals, dolphins defying the laws of gravity and of course the killer whale to name a few. The killer whale being the most awesome one to see, it's truly an amazing animal!

One thing we didn't do was to swim with the dolphins which is just a must while we are here in miami, so we will definitely return ant that time with our swimming clothes!

If your ever in miami and want to see some great animals, this is a must to visit! You won't regret it! ❤️

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If you like street art then this is definitely the place to go! Is basically a place where the worlds best street artists have gone bananas, it's a truly amazing place to stroll around in! Visit thewynwoodwalls.com/overview for more in depth information.

Trends is a really mysterious thing. The difference between whats hot and whats not can some times be so small that really hard to tell them apart. Wynwood walls is a true testament to that! It's an isolated area in the middle of a "ghetto" area where the line between filthy rich hipsters and homeless people are razor sharp. Sure you have that on other places also, but here it doesn't really show on the buildings. Instead you see it on the street art when you drive in and out, suddenly it starts going from your normal "tags" and graffiti to fully painted buildings where the artists haven't had to do the work it in the cover of darkness. But the buildings still look kinda the same on the outside but I'm guessing that very few "normal" people would afford to live within the Wynwood wall area and on the other side of the street very few people would want to live. It really goes from Bugatti cars to people living in shopping carts in just a few meters! The trend is apparently to live ghettoish. Ghetto living with only filthy rich neighbors with top notch apartments and a fancy cars, close to expensive restaurants and exclusive night clubs. I'm guessing its the same people that climb mountains in helicopters with mini bars! 🤔😉

Newer the less Wynwood walls is definitely one of those "must visit" places if you're ever in Miami!

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One of the places begging to be visited if you live on south beach here in Miami is Jungle Island! Easy to get to, and it seems to have lots to look at. So of we went!

When arriving we were faced with the decision of paying a one day pass for the family for ~$140 or an annual pass for the whole family for ~$220. We eventually chose the later because it might be a nice activity for the days to come since its so close to where we live.

Once in the park we were impressed by the junglie feeling the park had. There were lots of green, wild animals and parrots, all together a nice environment.

A lot of the animals seem to have a good time living on Jungle Island, especially the really wild ones. Unfortunately the bigger the animal got the worse they seems to have it, there just wasn't enough room in the cages. As a viewer you got a really good view of all animals, because they simply didn't have anywhere to go. It was indeed mixed feelings seeing the mighty lion, cheetah, alligators and big monkeys. It was awesome seeing them but we didn't really feel the joy we had hoped for when seeing the small cages these impressive animals have to live out there final days in...

Don't thing well be back even though we unfortunately got an annual pass.

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